ST Causes Week helps new initiatives attract volunteers and partnerships

Kampung Kakis connects needy seniors with helpful volunteers in their neighbourhood and is now an islandwide project. PHOTO: KAMPUNGKAKIS/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - When financial technology executive Mae Tan, 29, helped set up a community organisation for seniors with her friends Michelle Lau and Denise Tay, she never thought it would flourish into an islandwide operation in just a few months.

The experiences of seniors living in isolation and fear of contracting Covid-19 spurred the trio to come together and start Kampung Kakis during the circuit-breaker period in April last year.

Volunteers and other welfare organisations contacted the team after they were featured in reports during The Straits Times Causes Week last December. They offered their time and resources to get a host of initiatives off the ground.

Ms Tay, 27, an executive in the insurance technology industry, said: "Getting coverage helped us raise more awareness about our initiatives. We had more volunteers coming in, and people from other initiatives like ground-up organisations and charities actively reached out to partner with us."

Kampung Kakis connects needy seniors with helpful volunteers in their neighbourhood and is now an islandwide project, roping in about 1,300 volunteers and reaching out to 600 beneficiary households.

In July, the group distributed care packs containing hygiene products to about 1,000 seniors. In August, they gave out grocery vouchers to about 200 seniors.

The Digital Kakis initiative also took off in September last year, offering help to seniors so they could learn to navigate the Internet and use digital devices.

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, including restrictions on group sizes and gatherings, Ms Lau, a medical social worker, said the feedback from volunteers and beneficiaries has strengthened their resolve to push on and reach out to more people in need.

The team hopes to register Kampung Kakis officially as a charity in the future. "Being an unregistered organisation, sustainability and recognition can be a challenge. We are also looking to be more active in the virtual space and help seniors with technological support," said Ms Lau, 28.

Another community organisation that has worked with more recruits and partners through being featured in ST Causes Week is the volunteer-led Welcome In My Backyard (Wimby).

The group, which now has about 40 volunteers, was set up in April last year in response to a surge of Covid-19 infections in migrant worker dormitories and the challenges facing workers.

Kampung Kakis co-founder Mae Tan (left) did not expect the group to become an islandwide operation in just a few months, while Welcome In My Backyard volunteer Nicole Ooi says being featured in ST Causes Week helped highlight issues in the migrant community. PHOTOS: MAE TAN,KELVIN CHNG

Wimby volunteer Nicole Ooi, a mental health worker, said that the media coverage has helped the group connect with other welfare organisations and volunteers interested in helping migrant workers here.

She said: "Not only does media coverage help to highlight key issues in the migrant community, repeated coverage of migrants and Singaporeans interacting together can help to normalise such friendships and encourage others to be more welcoming to the migrant workers they may meet in their daily lives too."

On July 4, in order to mark its first anniversary, volunteers from Wimby delivered about 700 pieces of freshly baked goods to a migrant worker dormitory in eastern Singapore as part of an initiative called Birthday Makan.

• Causes Week, which is into its 10th year, will start next month. Anyone with a story or cause that helps the betterment of society can write in to stcauses@sph.com.sg by Dec 3. Selected submissions will be featured in The Straits Times.

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