Volunteers help needy break out of poverty cycle

Nee Soon GRC MP Henry Kwek with residents Madam Salmah Kawana (left), 65, and her daughter, Madam Izam Zamah. He and volunteers distributed food yesterday as part of the Kebun Baru Cares programme.
Nee Soon GRC MP Henry Kwek with residents Madam Salmah Kawana (left), 65, and her daughter, Madam Izam Zamah. He and volunteers distributed food yesterday as part of the Kebun Baru Cares programme.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Unemployed single mother Izam Zamah used to struggle to make ends meet around the third week of every month.

The 45-year-old stays at home to take care of her ailing mother, who suffers from heart failure, and also looks after three out of five of her children with the help of government financial aid.

However, saving up became much easier after the family attended a workshop on financial management, organised by volunteers from the Kebun Baru Grassroots Organisations (GROs).

"We had a bit of help before, but it wasn't easy for me to manage my money so that it lasts till the end of the month," she recalls. "Now, I can keep a bit of money even after the end of the month, and I know what not to buy."

Forty participants are currently undergoing the Kebun Baru Cares programme, which began in May with the aim of helping families break out of the poverty cycle.

The 10-month programme includes workshops on social well- being, healthcare, parenting and financial management. Families who attend the bi-weekly sessions get to take part in community activities to build a kampung spirit.

In addition, 321 food packs from vegetarian eatery Mummy Yummy are distributed by volunteers of the programme once a month to needy families.

About $26,000 was raised for the initiative.

Grassroots adviser to Nee Soon GRC GROs Henry Kwek said yesterday: "It (this programme) combines the basic support from government schemes, together with skills that will empower them (the beneficiaries) to take charge, build confidence and uplift their family."

The team locates needy families by consulting the Ministry of Social and Family Development and various kindergartens, as well as through Meet-the-People sessions.

Ms Sally Tan, 37, who volunteers for the programme together with her husband, said: "It was through house visits with the volunteers that we realised how important the programme is ... It's been wonderful working with the families and seeing them grow."

Mr Kwek, who is also an MP for Nee Soon GRC, also shared plans to set up a communal kitchen run by volunteers in the Kebun Baru Community Club, which is currently under construction.

Estimates of the cost of providing daily meals come up to about $100,000 a year. "We are aiming to serve 200 to 300 meals a day... It is an ambitious project but no one should go hungry," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'Volunteers help needy break out of poverty cycle'. Print Edition | Subscribe