Covid-19 heroes: Caring for the community



Used tennis balls, formerly destined for the incinerator, are getting a new lease of life as physiotherapy aids for migrant workers, tripod supports for film crew and toys for shelter dogs.

In March, 15-year-old Vihaan Iyer, with started a community initiative called Yellowship to reuse old tennis balls. The avid tennis player, who has competed in local and regional tournaments, was inspired by his mother, It's Raining Raincoats' founder Dipa Swaminathan, who runs a social enterprise for migrant workers.

Vihaan, a student at United World College of South East Asia, wanted to combine his passion for the sport with a community initiative and came up with the idea after he learnt that only a small percentage of used tennis balls around the world get recycled.

He has collected about 9,000 balls from donors and distributed them to various groups. More than half the balls have gone to migrant workers, many of whom are still quarantined.

Vihaan also learnt basic techniques from physiotherapist Ruchira Gupta, such as how to use the balls to relieve stiff neck and back muscles, and filmed a video demonstrating the steps.

"At the end of the day, it is just a tennis ball, but it can put a smile on the workers' faces during these tough times when they are stuck indoors," he says.


Need a new pair of shoes, a sofa, a printer or a digital camera? Instead of buying these items, online marketplace Carousell is encouraging people to get them from someone else for free.

In a bid to reduce waste and provide for those in need, Carousell rallied people in Singapore to give away items as part of the #GiveforSG campaign, held in conjunction with National Day.

It has since exceeded its original goal of giving 20,200 items a new lease of life, which are given to students, low-income families and charities.

  • This is the last of the Portraits of Purpose series in collaboration with DBS. Look out for our next interview series on social entrepreneurs making a difference by Wong Kim Hoh on Sept 13.

Co-founder Marcus Tan says the company wanted to ensure that unused and under-utilised items can reach communities in need, especially as the pandemic has brought about hard times.


The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has rolled out a grant to provide pet food to needy pet owners, community cat and dog feeders, and animal rescuers.

With the Covid-19 crisis affecting jobs and livelihoods, it did not want people to have to choose between food for themselves or food for the animals under their care.

It has pledged $50,000 to ensure no pet, whose owner has fallen on hard times, goes hungry.

The project is supported by pet food brand Hill's and distributor KC & Watson, which are providing the food at low cost, as well as online pet shop Kohepets, which will deliver the food.

The public can also donate to the ongoing campaign, which aims to support more than 450 caregivers and 1,300 animals for three to four months.

To donate, go to this website. To apply for support, go to here or call 6287-5355.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2020, with the headline Caring for the community. Subscribe