Burdened by the homeless and low-income families who have taken an even harder hit during these trying times, these three individuals decided to do something about it.
Whether it was launching a campaign that pledges push-ups for funds collected or organising a League of Legends tournament to get youths involved, these ground-up initiatives were birthed out of a heart for the marginalised.
Amanda Koh, 25, and Harrison Chong and Sricharan Balasubramanian (Sri), both aged 18, tell us why they were motivated to make a difference.
How did your idea come about?
AMANDA: As a medical student in the US, I witnessed first-hand the impact that COVID-19 had on the medical sector. However, I later realised I had underestimated the impact of COVID-19 on the society.
When I returned to Singapore, I had the opportunity to talk to more people while keeping myself updated with the news. I discovered that there were actually more problems than I imagined.
A chat with my friend who works in the social work sector and helps low-income families also put things into perspective. It made me understand that such individuals had already been having a hard time before COVID-19. What more now?
As a Christian, it’s comforting to know that there is a God in control despite the pandemic situation. And as I reflected over this hope that we have because of what Christ has done on that Cross some 2,000 years ago, a part of me was convicted that there was a need to share that hope with the community.
SRI: It was during a casual visit to Chinatown to grab some food that we saw People’s Park Complex from a distance and thought that there may be individuals we could talk to.
On our way there, we stumbled on Chinatown Social Enterprise and decided to talk to the person manning the store. She recommended that we could check out Jalan Kukoh for a start. We’re glad we heeded her advice!
We saw a man who was probably in his 60s or 70s seated on a bench, drinking from a beer can. As we interacted with him, we learnt that he didn’t have a roof over his head. He didn’t belong to a particular estate and was just wandering around.
When we asked how COVID-19 had impacted him and whether he had received a free mask, he told us that he didn’t care if he were to contract the virus and die.
This alarmed us. For someone to speak of death so casually, it could only mean one thing – he viewed his life as hopeless. It was this moment that we birthed a clear purpose: we wanted to impart hope into the life of the hopeless.
HARRISON: In the Bible, James 2:26 talks about how “faith without deeds is dead”.
While my salvation is not dependent on my deeds, these deeds they reflect our inner transformation because of the love of Christ we have received. As a Christ-follower, my subsequent response is to obey God and serve the needs of our community.
Tell us more about your initiative.
AMANDA: When I heard the success of my friend’s fundraiser (for every $1 donated, they’d do 1 push-up), I decided to do something similar. They exceeded $500 within a few hours and raised $3,000 within a week!
Since I was going to be in Singapore for a longer period of time than expected, I thought I might as well do something. That’s when I got my cell group on board.
We decided to help low-income families because of how vulnerable they are at a time like this, and a social worker in our cell group proposed raising funds for Projects Stable Staples, which is an initiative by Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (BLESS).
Project Stable Staples supports families who are residing in rental communities and experiencing loss of income because of COVID-19. They are given grocery vouchers and essentials such as milk powder and diapers. It was started by BLESS, a non-profit organisation that engages communities to reach the less-privileged.
As the name of our campaign suggests, we will Exercise for Funds. Each tier represents $500 collected. The exercises get more challenging as more money is raised and we move up the tiers.
- First $500: 2,500 Jumping jacks
- Second $500: 500 Squats
- Third $500: 2,500 Skipping
- Fourth $500: 500 Push-ups
- Fifth $500: 500 Sit-ups/Crunches
- Last $500: 50km Running
We created a Google sheet so that our cell group members can indicate what exercise they want to volunteer for. It is tough because most of us have to do more than a hundred of exercises each time, but we overcome this by encouraging one another and doing it in unity.
That’s why we try to do the exercises together on Zoom. Even if a few of us can’t make it, we’d have the integrity and discipline to do it on our own. The whole process is filmed and compiled into a video.
Remembering the cause also gives us strength! We’re heartened to have collected $2,000 to date.
The last day of donations will be May 31, 2020. However, the fundraising period may be shortened or extended if there is good reason for such a change.
HARRISON: Being part of the Boys’ Brigade (BB) from Primary 3 to Secondary 4 has taught me the great value of community. I learnt about the idea of unity in community and the theme song of our BB Company, “One in Vision, One in Christ”, reinforces that.
NHCS provides temporary shelter to the homeless to empower them to get back on their feet, so it requires continuous funds to maintain the operations. As such, on top of rallying student volunteers to help out at the shelters during this Circuit Breaker period, we also came up with fundraising campaigns.
Sri came up with a catchy way to raise funds. He initiated a League of Legends gaming tournament to engage youths who might wish to contribute but not have the finances. The entry fee was $10 a person with a prize of $200 for the winning team. All proceeds of this tournament went to the fundraising efforts of NHCS.
What would you say to those who might be thinking of making a difference in their community?
AMANDA: This experience has made me realise that we should never let the Circuit Breaker stop us from serving others. We just need to be creative.
God’s work doesn’t stop. If we love God’s people, we’ll have the motivation to find a way to reach out to other people.
What’s also important when we do these things is to remember not to expect anything in return. It’s normal to have our doubts about whether people will be receptive when we pitch an idea so big, but let’s do everything out of love and trust that God is with us and at work, even in the midst of such a pandemic.
If you feel a burden in your heart, don’t hold back! A small effort may just ripple and bring a glimmer of hope to someone who most needs it.
HARRISON: Volunteering in this capacity (serving at the shelters for the homeless) might not be for everyone. But service comes from the heart.
You can play your part in whatever capacity you can. There are other ways that you can step out of your comfort zone to go above and beyond to contribute to your community!
- What examples are there in the Bible of how God has taken care of the needy?
- What burdens for the community has God placed on your heart?
- What can you do about them?