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Unsung heroes: These S’poreans started initiatives to help hawkers, elderlies during Covid-19

Volunteer Covid19

Due to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, Singapore had to revert back to tightened social interactions and the default state of working from home under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).

Dining in at food and beverage (F&B) establishments is disallowed, and eateries can offer only takeaways and deliveries. Furthermore, people will be allowed to gather in groups of up to two, down from five.

In just a few days, Singaporeans went from planning for gatherings with groups of friends and looking forward to the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble, to eating takeaway food at home and socialising on Zoom.

The new measures have severely affected all aspects of Singaporean society, but it has taken a greater toll on some groups than others. For example, hawkers and the elderly typically face the brunt of the Covid-19 measures.

Recognising this, many Singaporeans have stepped up and introduced various initiatives aimed at providing support and assistance to these groups. Here are some initiatives:

WhereToDabao and JustDabao

wheretodapao
Owners of New Hong Kong at Ayer Raja Food Centre / Image Credit: @wheretodapao

Older hawkers who are neither IT-literate nor social media-savvy have been at a great disadvantage since the rules that prevented dining in kicked in.

There have been many reports on older hawkers who struggle with making use of social media or online delivery platforms to extend their reach. These hawkers are also seeing a huge decline in footfall due to the Heightened Alert measures.

A report by Channel News Asia highlighted how a BBQ seafood stall at Bedok’s 85 Fengshan Food Centre could not even achieve S$100 of sales in one day.

This prompted the founding of a new Instagram account — @wheretodabao. This Instagram account aims to help  elderly hawkers gain some online exposure.

According to the Instagram account, there will be three posts on three different hawkers each day “to help elderly hawkers to get more business during these tough times”. These hawker highlights are also crowd-sourced from the public who can send in submissions via a Google Form.

Since the account started a week ago, it has garnered 31,000 followers and shared the stories of 32 individual hawkers.

According to its Instagram page, it has also managed to ink and agreement with food delivery giant Foodpanda. It has also recently collaborated with another initiative — JustDabao.

JustDabao is a sustainable green initiative which helps F&B stores clear their surplus at discounted prices. It aims to create a win-win-win situation — eateries get to recover their sunk costs, consumers get to rescue food at discounted prices, and the earth becomes greener.

Partners are not charged any commissions, and it operates on a self pick-up model so merchants do not have to engage any delivery services. This allows for the hawkers to clear their surplus items and prevent wastage, especially when it is difficult to gauge demand these days.

KampungKakis

The KampungKakis founders / Image Credit: KampungKakis

In 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mae Tan, Michelle Lau and Denise Tay saw a widening gap where those who are underprivileged, less tech-abled and living in isolation, were falling through the cracks.

Volunteer organizations and residents network centers had to cease their regular operations, and many stay-alone seniors were robbed of their only form of social interaction and information gathering from their peers at the void decks or coffeeshops. That’s where KampungKakis wants to come in to help. 

The idea for KampungKakis was conceived by Mae when she was recovering from Covid-19 in the hospital.

Reflecting on her hospitalisation experience, she was keen to pay-it-forward to the frontline heroes who sacrificed their own safety to make her recovery journey as smooth and fast as possible.

During her time at the hospital, Mae also witnessed the pain that elderly Covid-19 patients went through and she resolved to keep the elderly and vulnerable individuals safe in their communities amid the Covid-19 crisis.

KampungKakis is a neighbourhood buddy system, which matches people in need to volunteers who are willing to help. The matching system is based on proximity and type of assistance required.

For example, if a lonely elderly who needs help with groceries and meals has been identified, they will look to match the elderly with a volunteer who lives within a 20-minute walking distance. This volunteer would have indicated that they are able to assist with groceries and meals via an online sign-up form.

KampungKakis also provides relevant resources and training to equip volunteers with the knowledge and skills to identify neighbours in need. By linking these people in need to the formal channels, it ensures that they get the long-term support needed and that no one gets left behind.

To date, KampungKakis has supported over 500 beneficiaries islandwide and galvanized over 1,300 volunteers to sign up.

It is also an active partner of social and government organisations such as People’s Association, Agency of IntegratedCare (Silver Generation Office), TOUCH Community Services, Beyond Social Services, public hospitals, senior activity centres and family service centres to meet the needs of patients and beneficiaries.

Food4Seniors by Strongsilvers

The team behind the Food4Seniors initiative. Top row (L-R): Zavier Chan, Junus Eu, Shunyuan Yeo
Bottom row (L-R): Faisal Samudra, Jasmine Goh, Jeral Ong / Image Credit: StrongSilvers

Food4Seniors is an initiative started by Strongsilvers — a startup that aims to help empower seniors to live better with with its smart AI assistive technology. 

The team behind the initiative is a group of millennials who realised that seniors in nursing homes craved for hawker food, but could not get them. This is especially so when there are tighter restrictions on visitors due to Covid-19.

The team behind the initiative is helping seniors stuck in nursing homes who have craving for food that they normally do not get in the home. This is especially so as there are also tighter restrictions on visitors.

Anyone from the public can donate via the initiative’s link, and the Strongsilvers team will then use the money to deliver food items to their nursing home partners.

Some of their nursing home partners include St Joseph’s Home, Irene Nursing Home, Moonlight Home for the Aged and Handicapped and Adventist Home for the Elders.

According to the gifting.sg page, the volunteers also purchase food from the hawkers listed in the Hawkers United 2020 Facebook Group, so as to support local hawkers as well.

It was hard to get people to buy-in to what we were doing with this campaign at first as we were a rather small team. We had to go through many rounds of background checks with potential donors. But the smiles on the seniors’ faces and them telling us they really enjoyed their meals make it successful to me.

Zavier Chan, co-founder of Strongsilvers

The team has managed to raise over S$2,000 within the first week of starting the initiative. It has also onboarded Grab as its official logistics parter to offer free food deliveries, and Gushcloud as its official marketing partner to help advertise the campaign.

It has targeted to raise S$10,000 to bring food to over 2,000 seniors in nursing homes.

They are now also looking to help the elderly hawkers who are not on food delivery platforms by offering a subscription model to bring in steady stream of income for them.

Scratchbac

Image Credit: Scratchbac

Scratchbac is a geosocial media platform which connects people hyper-locally. It is started by three Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) students — Jerry Neo, Cheryl Low and Princeton Poh.

The motivation behind Scratchbac stemmed from Jerry’s personal experience of isolation during Singapore’s circuit breaker season last year.

The Scratchbac team / Image Credit: Scratchbac

“Being stuck at home alone made me realise how fragile the support structures of our communities are,” said the 27-year-old Masters student.

This experience revealed the reality that if we were to remove the support from blood relatives and individual affiliations such as schools, clubs and the workplace – we are essentially left with only our nearby neighbourhoods and the communities around us. But why is it that we can be so hyper-connected to the tiktokers half a world away, yet we do not even know the names of our neighbours just two doors down the corridor? 

Jerry Neo, co-founder of Scratchbac

Thus, Scratchbac allows users to reach out to people around them hyper-locally whenever and wherever they go, 24/7, via a Telegram bot. The user journey is straightforward — simply key in a postal code, and you can instantly start broadcasting to people up to one kilometre away.

The core principle of Scratchbac is that the people physically closest to us are the ones who can offer the most efficient help and vice versa. Therefore, it is Scratchbac’s mission to make it easy for people to connect with others hyper-locally.

With Scratchbac, users can collaborate, seek help, share resources and more with individuals close by.

Since Scratchbac was started during the circuit breaker last year, it has amassed 48,000 sign-ups to its Telegram bot, and averages around 100 posts a day. The post fulfilment rate is also steadily increasing, and has reached 55 per cent.

The team has also grown to a total of 13 student volunteers.

Currently, the team is in the midst of developing our standalone mobile app on iOS and Android. This shift aims to unlock more exciting features for our users and expand our user base beyond Telegram. We are now in the middle of our beta testing phase.

Coming together to provide support

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many people experiencing great disruptions to their lives, from being unable to purchase groceries, to facing economic peril.

Furthermore, safety measures today have forced charities to cancel or rethink their volunteer engagement activities, and the reality is that community care is not about one-off projects that can be done in a day. 

It requires the sustained efforts of committed volunteers who are dedicated to addressing the needs of those in their care.

Despite having having full-time jobs or studies, these Singaporeans have stepped up to provide aid and assistance to those in need during this period of uncertainty, and impacted the lives of many.

Featured Image Credit: KampungKakis

Categories: Singaporean, Covid-19

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