Cabbies' charity drive picks up pace as more pitch in

Taxi drivers (from left) Patrick Tan, Admen Lim and Albert Khoo, with the donated goods at the Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home.
Taxi drivers (from left) Patrick Tan, Admen Lim and Albert Khoo, with the donated goods at the Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/PATRICK TAN

Driving a taxi may have become tougher in recent years, but it is not stopping a group of cabbies from banding together to do their bit for charity every month.

Through a ground-up initiative called Charity Hearts, they are pooling together spare cash, supplemented with donations from family and friends, and using the funds to purchase groceries and daily necessities for the needy.

The cabbies personally deliver these to homes and other welfare organisations.

Last month, $3,080 was raised and used to buy items including three-in-one beverage mix, diapers, instant noodles and detergent, and given to the Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home in Hougang.

Since the humble effort started in June 2016, more than $15,000 worth of goods have been delivered, said Mr Patrick Tan, 38.

Mr Tan, who has been driving for five years, started the initiative with another cabby, who has since left the industry.

Before this, Mr Tan would buy and donate packet drinks to elderly folk living in the flats in Pipit Road every month, in support of a group of friends who were supplying free meals to them.

"I found it meaningful and it made me happy to help others," said Mr Tan, who drives for Premier.

After the meal drive stopped, he came up with the idea to rope in other taxi drivers to pool their money, time and wheels for a good cause.

For the inaugural attempt, more than $400 was raised from cabbies through an unofficial group called the League of Extraordinary Cabbies - which Mr Tan is a part of - and their friends and families. The first beneficiary was the Society for the Aged Sick in Hougang.

About six months ago, another unofficial cabby group called Taxi Uncles joined in, and last month, drivers from five more groups such as Team Ice Cream, Cabby United and SG Day & Nite Group also chipped in.

Unofficial taxi driver groups, which comprise anywhere between a handful of members to a hundred, are formed by cabbies so that they can exchange information, such as where there is passenger demand or on traffic conditions.

From an initial 15 donors, Mr Tan said there are about 100 now.

While cabbies have seen business suffer, owing to fierce competition from private-hire car services in recent years, Mr Tan said spending a few hours a month - during the off-peak hours - to buy and deliver the goods is fine. "To spend between $30 and $50 monthly to help the poor and elderly, I find that it's worth it and within my means," he said.

Charity Hearts is reminiscent of CabbyCare Charity Group, which was formed in 2000 by eight CityCab taxi drivers. It later came under the ComfortDelGro umbrella after the merger of Comfort and CityCab in 2005.

Under it, some 200 volunteer taxi drivers regularly deliver meals from food kitchens, unsold bakery bread and library books to the needy.

CabbyCare chairman Kanapathy Shunmugam, 67, estimates that the ComfortDelGro volunteer cabbies made about 4,000 trips last year.

He said: "We may not be rich, but our heart and hands are ready to help others. The best way to serve is with our transportation."

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2018, with the headline 'Cabbies' charity drive picks up pace as more pitch in'. Subscribe