At 3am on 11 October 2016, a devastating blaze in the Jurong West area destroyed blocks 493 and 494, taking with it two coffeeshops and a wet market.
As well as the livelihoods of the hawker stall owners.
Although the arson suspect has since been apprehended, the damage has already been done.
Much of the infrastructure and stall equipment were destroyed in the inferno, and at the time of the incident, some owners barely had 15 minutes to salvage whatever they could before the area was cordoned off.
The affected store owners were given S$500 in financial aid, as well as a list of nearby stalls to start over.
The amount is however, far from compensatory, as their daily income ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Not to mention that the rebuilding efforts could very well last a year.
And so sparked the idea for a crowdfunding campaign in one man’s mind.
Mr. Wally Tham is the owner of the Big Red Button, a local media production company.
While the media was focused on the culprit, Mr. Tham realised that there was a more pressing matter at hand – helping the affected store owners get back on their feet.
Meeting the owners, he was overwhelmed by the true extent of the despair they were shouldering, and at the same time, he also reflected that “the amount of dignity they have around their work [humbled him].”
Loss Of Morale
Youtiao sellers Mr. and Mrs. Chun commented that “the fire has not only destroyed the hawker stalls, but also the hearts of all the stall owners, and that [he hasn’t] been sleeping well these days, because in front of [him], there is only a big question mark.” (Translated from Mandarin)
This pain is also mirrored in Thai food stall owner Madam Amphorn.
Remarking that she truly loved to cook for people and always made sure that they enjoyed their food, Mdm. Amphorn now worries that she would not be able to get any customers at her new stall.
Stand Up For Our Hawkers
In Singapore, it is far from a secret that we have an immense amount of pride and affection for our hawker culture. (Did you know that even on a global scale, the hawker fare culture that we have here is truly #uniquelysingapore?)
According to Mr. Wally Tham, the work hawker stall owners do for Singaporeans – providing quality food at affordable prices – is almost like a “public service“.
So now is the time for us to extend a reciprocal hand of support.
According to the Stand Up For Our Hawkers campaign, one would need between $8k – S$10k to restart a hawker stall. The projected target of the campaign is S$100k, and so far only S$25,916 (at time of writing) has been raised successfully.
To ensure that none of the funds will be abused, BDO LLP, an established accounting firm, is working pro bono to manage the fundraising and fund disbursement to the hawker owners.
While there might be plenty of crowdfunding projects out there, every once in a while there comes by one whose recipients truly need our help.
And while the starting donation amounts might not look pretty, think about it this way – skipping the next two restaurants dinners can go a long way in helping these stall owners turn their whole lives around.
And the effects of that is certainly a lot more long lasting than the satisfaction of a single meal out.
Featured Image Credit: give.asia