'Rice truck' for the needy plies schools to get youth volunteers on board

The Paddy Project is 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.
The Paddy Project is 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.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - 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.

From today, 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.

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

How it aims to recruit volunteers: with a 24-foot (7.32m) truck that will rove to tertiary institutions to get sign-ups.

Launched on Tuesday (May 29) 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 Ministry of Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon and MP for Marine Parade GRC 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. Currently, they have over 2,000 rice bags packed and at the ready.

Over the next three weeks, the truck will stop by said 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 socially aware of social issues in the community. To us, that is not true. They just need the platform to realise these issues," said chief operating officer of Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities Jason Lee. "Through the Paddy Project, we create platforms for them to be educated, or rather, socially aware."

If successful, the Paddy Project could in future see door-to-door distributions of more than "just rice".

"Of course, we are looking at whether the campaign can be scaled up," he added.

THKMS is a non-profit group which operates more than 90 programmes and services such as the Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital. It also runs initiatives like the THK Meals on Wheels, which delivers over 450,000 meals every year to the aged and sick.