'Rice for the needy' project seeks youth volunteers

Nida Nur Adawiyah with bags of rice that will be delivered to needy households as part of the Paddy Project.
Nida Nur Adawiyah with bags of rice that will be delivered to needy households as part of the Paddy Project. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Nida Nur Adawiyah's passion for volunteerism was sparked by a trip to an old folks' home.

"I felt great. I loved seeing the happiness on residents' faces, and the joy and excitement that came with giving back," said the Greenridge Secondary School student.

This spurred her to join Project Y.O.U. - the youth initiative of Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society's (THKMS) charity arm, Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities - in January last year.

Nida, 16, will devote several days over two months on her first major enterprise with the group - the Paddy Project, an eight-week rice distribution campaign that will encourage young people to do something worthwhile, while gaining insight into social issues like ageing and poverty.

Young people who sign up for the project will pack and distribute rice bags - totalling 10,000kg - to elderly residents and low-income families in Singapore.

It aims to recruit volunteers with a truck that will visit tertiary institutions to get sign-ups.

Launched yesterday by Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung to mark THKMS' 40th anniversary, the project aims to rally some 200 young people and deliver rice to 5,000 households by the end of July.

"This sector, it's really not just about your brain, though smart people are always welcome, also not just about skills... but a lot about the heart," said Mr Ong. "I see a lot of heart in our young people now."

Other guests at the event were Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon and Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng.

The Paddy Project team, comprising 160 students from tertiary institutions like the Singapore University of Technology and Design and ITE College Central, as well as Project Y.O.U., has been busy.

It has over 2,000 rice bags packed. Over the next three weeks, the truck will stop by schools to recruit more volunteers - who will in turn reach out to households in need located in heartland neighbourhoods such as Bukit Panjang, Bedok North and MacPherson.

"Youths are stereotyped to be less... aware of social issues in the community. To us, that is not true. They just need the platform to realise these issues," said Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities chief operating officer Jason Lee.

If successful, the Paddy Project could see door-to-door distributions of more than just rice. "Of course, we are looking at whether the campaign can be scaled up," Mr Lee added.

THKMS is a non-profit group that operates over 90 programmes and services. It also runs initiatives such as THK Meals on Wheels, which delivers over 450,000 meals every year to the aged and sick.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2018, with the headline 'Rice for the needy' project seeks youth volunteers. Subscribe