SINGAPORE - Still clad in his kindergarten uniform outside of school hours, six-year-old Abdul Atif and his classmates, Ghazal Singh, five, and Chin Tze Yang, four, took turns putting plastic containers filled with cookies in bright orange bags under the watchful eye of their teacher Salbiah Ramli.
Ms Ramli, 37, said Atif and his schoolmates were excited to make a difference as they went about their duties with many other volunteers at the games courts near Block 330 Yishun Ring Road on Friday (Oct 18).
The students from Cherry Kidz Montessori School in Yishun Ave 5 were there at 1.30pm as part of the ground-up initiative "Lighting Hearts, Lighting Homes 2019", to prepare the gift packs with festive supplies and household items.
On Saturday, volunteers will use their own transport to deliver the packs to 1,350 households across Singapore. Deepavali falls on Oct 27, a Sunday, with a public holiday the next day.
"I volunteered with my family two years ago and I thought it would be a good experience for my students too. Their parents were happy that they were exposed to volunteering at a young age," said Ms Ramli.
In total, 700 people volunteered to help out.
Launched in 2013, Lighting Hearts, Lighting Homes was started by a group of 20 friends and relatives who were keen to help less fortunate families during Deepavali.
The initiative this year raised about $200,000, which was used to buy supplies for beneficiaries who are identified by family service centres and voluntary welfare organisations across Singapore.
Beneficiaries include elderly residents living alone, low-income families and disabled residents.
Each household receives two gift packs, one with basic necessities such as oil, sugar and rice, and another with festive supplies for Deepavali.
The festive pack includes Indian spices, cookies made by students of Nanyang Polytechnic and traditional snacks such as murukku, which were made by volunteers in community kitchens at three local temples.
Mr Logapreyan Renganathan, who started the initiative, said the group uses social media and word of mouth to recruit volunteers.
The 47-year-old said volunteers have come across people in dire need of help during their visits.
"One team last year delivered the gift pack to a man who had developed a gangrene infection on both his legs. With no relatives to take him to the hospital, he was using toilet paper to wrap his infected legs."
"Thanks to our volunteers, he was warded in hospital and received medical treatment," he said.
Ms Shamini Rajakumar, a 40-year-old teacher at Tampines Meridian Junior College, said she was inspired to take her students along when she learnt of the event on social media.
Ms Rajakumar, who hoped her students would continue to volunteer in future, said: "Deepavali is not just the festival of lights or good triumphing over evil. It is a time for us to give back to society and help those around us."