By SGN | 28 May 2020
From healthcare to the economy, the COVID-19 crisis has left an indelible impact on the lives of many. It is also often the disadvantaged and needy that tend to bear the brunt of such negative events. Hence, urgent action is needed to ensure such groups in our community are not left behind nor neglected.
With COVID-19’s impact unlikely to ease any time soon and with resources stretched, charity and non-profit community initiatives are a key source of support for the less fortunate. We met the people behind three, of the many, community initiatives to understand more about their COVID-19 efforts.
Project Stable Staples
Started by a group of individuals who actively volunteer with other initiatives and organisations like I Am Talented and Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (BLESS), the members of Project Stable Staples (PSS) are no stranger to the difficulties faced by the less-privileged in Singapore.
Gillian Peck, Communication and Beneficiary Engagement representative for PSS notes, “Not being able to turn a blind eye to the personal crises of these families, we decided to come together to launch PSS to help as many households as we can tide through this precarious period.”
Financial proceeds from the public and PSS’s other partners were channelled to supply $10 NTUC FairPrice vouchers for each member in these disadvantaged households every fortnight for three months. Many in the rental community have lost their jobs due to the enhanced Circuit Breaker measures and with it, their ability to put food on the table.
Gillian enthuses that it was touching to witness the strong #SGUnited spirit which enabled PSS to reach their initial target of $60,000 within just two-and-a-half weeks of the project’s launch. The money was enough to support more than 200 families living in rental communities.
At press time, Gillian revealed that they have since enrolled 266 families and 1287 individuals from all over Singapore into PSS — the majority of whom were referred by Social Service Offices or other social service agencies.
The circuit breaker measures also meant PSS volunteers couldn’t conduct door-to-door outreach. Thankfully, technology came to their rescue — enabling wellness checks to be carried out via phone. Gillian explains, “Instead of handing the vouchers to them personally, we also had to mail the vouchers, along with an advisory slip to encourage them to think about saving some money and using the vouchers for purchasing groceries.”
How you can help
PSS is still raising funds to meet its target of about $140,000 in order to support another 1,500 individuals from over 500 families. Otherwise, Gillian also advises you to look out for neighbours who may need assistance and ask them to reach out to any of the social support groups. There is also a large group of beneficiaries who are unable to access or afford essential items like milk powder, diapers, and masks. Hence, corporate or personal donors who are willing to donate such items should reach out to PSS.
While most community initiatives may face obstacles posed by the enhanced circuit breaker measures on their outreach efforts, Gaurav Keerthi, Co-founder of Better.sg and Civil Servant, points out that COVID-19 has been a “tremendous silver lining for tech for good initiatives [like Better.sg].”
Better.SG is an online platform which hosts useful tools created by other users for public use during the pandemic. The platform also serves as an outreach channel, bringing together professionals from various segments of the tech industry, from developers to engineers and designers. It has always been part of Gaurav’s — and his fellow co-founders — Dominic Soon and Chan Chi Ling’s goal to make Better.sg different by design.
The team set out to transform the ‘binary’ nature of volunteering — that you either sacrifice time as a volunteer or not volunteer at all. Gaurav explains, “Our [volunteer] work can be done remotely and in bite-sized chunks of time, which allows busy professionals, parents, and others who have the desire to help but may be time-constrained to also participate.”
Volunteering can also be as simple and light as sharing your domain knowledge with a team working on a project in your area. With Better.sg, Gaurav wants the wider community to feel empowered to help support tech for good initiatives in their own little ways.
During this COVID-19 outbreak, the team saw a demand for tools to support healthcare professionals as they interacted with migrant workers. One of our accomplished tool-developers, Jason Leow, worked with Shaina Tan and a team of illustrators to develop visualaid.sg, a graphic-based communication tool.
This, Gaurav enthuses, is a clear example of how the tech for good community is keen to connect and solve problems together. “We also saw the community come together organically to build tools to help smaller F&B establishments survive the CB, tools to help hawkers connect to delivery riders so they continue business despite the lower customer traffic.”
How you can help
Visit the Better.sg website and use the tools available. Provide your feedback to help improve them. If you would like to offer your skills in app development or other domain knowledge, you can also sign up to be a member of the team. Finally, do share the tools and updates from Better.sg on your social networks to help the movement drive greater awareness.
If the pandemic is confusing for us as adults, one can only imagine how much uncertainty and distress the evolving outbreak can cause the youngest among us — children. This is where Superhero Me comes in.
Jean Loo, Co-founder of Superhero Me, notes, “I’ve always been passionate about the role of creative content and the arts, in this time of anxiety and uncertainty, I think the arts can provide all children an outlet of expression and be a source of security and comfort.”
Superhero Me’s efforts are targeted at helping children, especially those with special needs. For the latter, simple activities like listening to a violinist perform over Zoom or take part in virtual arts workshops with other children can be an effective source of support.
Besides these activities, the initiative also established a ‘Let’s Fight COVID-19 Together’ microsite which uses graphics and other interactive tools to help caregivers and children understand the virus.
“Some of the challenges we faced in setting up the site include coming up with developmentally appropriate graphics, language and balancing the artistic intention of the social stories and films. This was solved by working closely with Dr Lim Hong Huay and Eden School,” shares Jean.
The team had to also train kids and families who volunteered their time to appear in its videos, to remember their dance moves and song lyrics in a short amount of time.
But their effort was worth it as the online resources like the deck of slides and films have since been used in multiple school settings. Parents have also found the materials to be a meaningful way to occupy their children.
How you can help
Share these tools on your social networks and let parents who may be in need, learn more about the Let’s Fight COVID-19 Together microsite. If you are a parent of a child with special needs, follow Superhero Me’s Facebook Page to learn more about their initiatives.
Heed the call for help
In the state of heightened anxieties and uncertainties and with resources stretched to its limits, community initiatives and non-profit organisations play a crucial role in providing support to the needy.
The abovementioned organisations and initiatives are just three of the many other groups who depend on public support to fund their outreach activities. You can find other worthy causes that need your support here — giving.sg. Help them rise to the occasion by empowering them through volunteering your time and expertise or providing financial support.