Spreading festive cheer to needy families in North West District with care packs of food, essentials

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung helping to distribute WeCare Festive Packs to vulnerable residents in the North West District, on Feb 7, 2021.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung helping to distribute WeCare Festive Packs to vulnerable residents in the North West District, on Feb 7, 2021.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - At the age of 37, Madam Nurseriwaty Rahim is a caregiver to six: Her four pre-teen children, one of whom has special needs; her 63-year-old mother, who recently had a stroke; and her 86-year-old grandmother, who has dementia.

The former guest relations officer had to quit her job in 2013 to take care of her 11-year-old son, who was born with a condition known as spina bifida, leaving him permanently unable to control his bowel and bladder movements.

Since then, she has made ends meet by running a home-baking business, now called Violet Frost, which can bring in up to $1,200 in good months.

But business took a hard hit in recent months because of Covid-19, with earnings dropping as low as $400 at times.

On Sunday (Feb 7) she received some festive cheer in the form of diapers, vouchers for school shoes, and a carepack containing food and daily essentials, as part of a campaign called WeCare @ North West - Service Weeks 2021.

For the past month, volunteers have taken festive cheer to needy residents who, like Madam Nurseriwaty, live in rental blocks in Singapore's North West District.

These residents received a total of more than $385,000 worth of donations, which include home improvement services for some, under the campaign which ended on Sunday.

Madam Nurseriwaty, who is also receiving ComCare assistance, said the donations were very helpful.

"I (need) this extra (help) because I need to put my son through tuition... this year is his PSLE, and he's been doing so badly compared to the past years," she explained.

The drive, which has been running since 2014, is coordinated by the North West Community Development Council (CDC).

Despite the gloom of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year's campaign saw a record number of 1,700 volunteers - up from a yearly average of 1,600 in previous years - step up to help with the packing and distribution, as well as the home improvement services.

From Jan 6 this year, volunteers from various schools put together a series of festive packs worth about $50, each containing items such as powdered drinks, instant noodles, oatmeal and canned food.

Some 20,000 residents in about 6,500 households received the packs over the past month, along with over $60,000 worth of other donations.

One resident, who wanted to be known only as Madam Tan, was very grateful to receive a new mattress.

The 71-year-old, who has been battling infections in her liver, kidney and lungs, had previously been sleeping on two thin, worn out mattresses, stacked on top of each other, which had been very uncomfortable for her.

The downturn caused by the pandemic has also not stopped some companies from stepping forward to offer their services to residents in need.

Mr Chris Tan, managing director of Lih Ming Construction, said that participating in last year's drive had been an eye-opening experience for him and his employees.

Back then, his company helped six needy households with their home improvements.

Mr Tan added: "Last year we witnessed a number of low-income families struggling to make ends meet and having little space to live comfortably in. Although the company, being in the construction sector, was badly hit by the pandemic crisis, I feel happier simply knowing that I have made a difference to help people live better in their everyday lives."

The positive experience spurred Mr Tan to do more this year - his company is helping 11 households, with only finishing touches to go.

In addition to the donation drive, five companies - 3M Singapore, Gold Kili Trading Enterprise, Select Group, Eligo and Bigfoot Logistics - also joined a pilot employability drive, which aims to provide the residents with job opportunities.

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung speaking to volunteers at the final distribution event in North West District on Feb 7, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Madam Seah Po Poh, director of human resources at Eligo, an industrial solutions provider, said that some of the positions on offer require little to no experience, and that her company has already received inquiries from residents.

"We hope to help our residents rise above their current situation," she said.

At the final distribution event on Sunday, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, who is also adviser to Sembawang GRC Grassroots Organisations, thanked those who had helped make the campaign possible.

He said: "There are many others, including those living in this estate, who are not as fortunate as us. They need a bit of help, so I'm very glad North West CDC put all this together."

He added: "But I think the most important ingredient is consistency. We have such a three week programme - it's useful - but we also hope that after this three week programme it leaves behind a group that will stay with us on a consistent basis... whatever frequency they're comfortable with, to continue to engage the families (and) engage the community."