Singapore Strong Fund gives ground-up projects a leg-up amid Covid-19 pandemic

The Singapore Strong Fund partially funded a project that saw a 900-strong virtual choir sing Home. PHOTO: VOICES OF SINGAPORE/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A 900-strong virtual choir singing Home and volunteers handing out welfare kits to migrant workers and seniors are among more than 80 ground-up projects being given a leg-up by a new fund to help people cope with the fallout from Covid-19.

The Singapore Strong Fund, started in February by philanthropic organisation The Majurity Trust, supports community efforts that help vulnerable groups, front-line workers and ordinary Singaporeans tide over the pandemic.

It covers 80 per cent of project expenses, or $5,000, whichever is lower, and people can apply for it online.

"The fracture in society is going to be far harder to recover from than the virus itself," said The Majurity Trust's executive director Martin Tan, who is worried about the impact the coronavirus will have on vulnerable groups in the community.

"What we were concerned about was, how will our society remain strong post-Covid-19? We felt there was a need to support what volunteer groups were doing. A lot of them are not registered charities - these are just ordinary Singaporeans who want to do their part."

The $550,000 Singapore Strong Fund, backed by 10 main donors - from philanthropists to foundations - supports ground-up initiatives and complements other funds.

These include The Courage Fund, set up during the 2003 Sars outbreak, and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's Our Singapore Fund.

The Majurity Trust was co-founded in 2018 by Mr Danny Yong, who is also the co-founder of Dymon Asia Capital - an Asia-focused alternative investment management firm - and a nominee for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2019.

Mr Tan said the trust is "still deliberating" whether to extend the fund after the money runs out. He expects it to reach its tail-end by May or early June.

One initiative the fund supported was an uplifting music video by non-profit arts organisation Voices of Singapore. A "virtual choir" of more than 900 singers, each of whom filmed themselves singing in isolation, performed a rendition of Dick Lee's popular National Day theme song Home.

The video, supported by the Singapore Tourism Board as well, was released on Facebook and YouTube on Tuesday (April 14).

Another group to benefit from the Singapore Strong Fund is Project 100, which gives hand sanitisers, tissues, biscuits and cereal to more than 100 underprivileged seniors in Telok Blangah every month.

Former project manager Eric Koh, 52, started the initiative with a colleague last year, and has kept at it even after he was laid off the same year.

"At least they know society has not forgotten about them," said Mr Koh of the seniors, many of whom live alone. "One day, I'll grow old, too, and will need people to take care of me."

He said the $240 they received from the fund will defray the cost of supplies which will be given out after the circuit breaker social distancing measures are lifted.

Social entrepreneur Delane Lim, 34, founder of youth development social enterprise FutuReady Asia, received $5,000 for each of the three projects he launched amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

These saw him and a team of volunteers hand out supplies, from masks and hand sanitiser to food and sleeping bags, to groups of people such as seniors, Malaysian migrant workers, bus drivers and cleaners.

Mr Lim said the application process was very smooth , with "little red tape, an easy-to-fill form, and they responded within 48 hours".

One of the fund's donors, Mr Harris Zaidi, 47, told The Straits Times: "I love the idea of being able to actively contribute to the narratives of people who are rising to the challenge.

"It's not just doom and gloom. I want to support people who are doing what they can in really small ways to show their appreciation or improve the lives of people they know - small projects of an individual or a small group of people who felt moved to do something," said Mr Harris, a director at AJ Events and a creative consultant at Flow Events.

The Majurity Trust's Mr Tan, 43, said the speed with which people came up with ideas to help shows there are plenty of empathetic people in Singapore.

"I think Singaporeans should take heart. Your neighbour next door might even be that person who packs care packs for migrant workers - you just don't know about it."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.