Young, restless, reckless? No, it’s cool to be helpful

Young Singaporeans are adapting positively to circuit breaker measures with compassion, resilience and responsibility

National Youth Council, Youths, Helping Hand, Donations, Coronavirus
Mr Owen Tan (above) has raised nearly $1,500 to buy hawker fare for the residents of Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens. This photo was taken before the nationwide circuit breaker measures kicked in on April 7. PHOTO: OWEN TAN

Young Singaporeans support circuit breaker measures and are adapting positively, says an online poll of 500 youths conducted by the National Youth Council on April 7 and 8.

The findings, from Singaporeans aged 16 to 34, suggest that most of the country’s young are taking steps to be socially responsible — and are keen to help others in need.

Four out of five support the circuit breaker measures, which kicked in on April 7, and would adhere to them despite disruptions to their daily lives. Most, or more than seven in 10, said they believed in the measures because they want to stem the spread of the virus and protect their loved ones.

He celebrates birthday by helping elderly be happy

When Mr Owen Tan marks his 30th birthday tomorrow, he will do so with heart and a helping hand for the elderly at Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens.

And instead of getting birthday presents, he will be giving. Mr Tan will use a portion of the $600 Solidarity Payment from the Government to pad up his efforts to help the folk at the nursing home.

The 178 residents there have become like family over the years. A volunteer at the Home since 2013, Mr Tan has been visiting the residents every two to three months to chat and bring them to nearby hawker centres for meals.

He finds satisfaction in their smiles. He enjoys learning about their past through the stories they share.

But he has had to stop such activities since early February when the nursing home took precautionary measures and suspended visits. And he is concerned because loneliness among older folk can have an impact on their well-being.

“We have to understand that loneliness can be fatal,” explains Mr Tan, who is a division lead at the Agency for Integrated Care.

To help, he called for donations and has raised nearly $1,500 to buy and deliver hawker food to the residents and healthcare workers. Residents can ask for certain dishes to enjoy as occasional treats and to keep their spirits up.

Last month, Mr Tan and his friends bought and delivered 360 packets of chicken rice and nasi briyani to the Home. He stressed that the group took added measures to protect the community by wearing masks, taking their temperatures and disclosing their travel history before entering the nursing home.

Mr Tan will deliver more food to the Home tomorrow, but will leave the dishes by the gate in line with elevated safe distancing measures.

His wish for his big day? “I hope to bring some smiles to the seniors on my birthday.”’

Moved by family of 7 in one-room flat

Willing Hearts youth volunteer, National Youth Council, Coronavirus
Ms Woon Siew Ching, a third-year student at Nanyang Polytechnic, has stepped forward to ease the shortage of volunteers faced by charities like Willing Hearts amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Delivering food to a needy family recently, Ms Woon Siew Ching was moved when she found a family of seven squeezed into a one-room rental flat.

It made her realise that “there’s so much more we can do as individuals to give back to those in need”. And it strengthened her resolve to help in this time of crisis.

Along with Ms Azeez Raasheeda Fathima, Ms Woon leapt into action when Singapore raised the coronavirus outbreak alert level to orange in February. Both are 19-year-old students.

The change in alert levels prompted Ms Raasheeda, a first-year student at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, to ask herself: “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”

She decided to volunteer at the Wash-a-Dub-Dub outreach event, organised by Youth Corps Singapore, to teach seniors and the homeless proper handwashing techniques and give them hygiene products.

Launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the National Youth Council, Youth Corps Singapore is a national institution that supports youth keen to serve the community.

Ms Raasheeda has since expanded her outreach efforts by volunteering with Willing Hearts, a food charity founded in 2003 that prepares and distributes about 6,500 meals across the island daily.

Willing Hearts youth volunteer, National Youth Council, Coronavirus
Ms Azeez Raasheeda Fathima has volunteered at the Wash-a-Dub-Dub outreach event to teach seniors and the homeless proper handwashing techniques and give them hygiene products. PHOTO: AZEEZ RAASHEEDA FATHIMA

Ms Woon, a third-year student at Nanyang Polytechnic, has also stepped forward to ease the shortage of volunteers faced by charities amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

They are among young volunteers with organisations like Willing Hearts and Food from the Heart who help by distributing food packs to needy households.

Making a difference from home

National Youth Council, Youths, Helping Hand, Donations, Coronavirus
Mr David Hoe created Project Stable Staples, an online platform that collects donations to buy and distribute grocery vouchers to low-income families. PHOTO: DAVID HOE

Instead of complaining about the impact of the circuit breaker measures on his daily life, Mr David Hoe wondered how families in rental flats would be able to manage in these difficult times.

The 33-year-old, who grew up in a one-room rental flat with his mother, knows firsthand the burden of income loss, especially among low-income families depending on part-time work for their livelihoods.

Determined to help, Mr Hoe created Project Stable Staples, an online platform that collects donations to buy and distribute grocery vouchers to low-income families.

Partnering non-profit organisation Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (Bless), they have raised more than $40,000 from about 300 donors over three weeks. The money has been used to buy grocery vouchers, which are mailed to a list of households that Bless has helped through other existing initiatives.

‘Leave no one behind’

National Youth Council, Youths, Helping Hand, Donations, Coronavirus
(From left): Ms Debra Lam and Mr Ryan Ng founded Society Staples in 2015 to support persons with disabilities. PHOTO: DEBRA LAM

Between finding ways to contribute and keeping updated on the latest Covid-19 measures, social entrepreneur Debra Lam felt the need for a centralised platform to raise awareness of the many relief initiatives during this period.

“Without this, I felt that certain communities would risk falling through the gaps,” she says.

The 26-year-old is familiar with leveraging digital platforms. In 2015, she co-founded Society Staples, a social enterprise to help persons with disabilities and promote inclusiveness in the community.

The result is a website that collates various activities, initiatives and programmes that the community can tap to cope with the challenges posed by the circuit breaker measures.

On this website, users can access a timetable of fun, online activities, updates and information on Covid-19, home-based learning support, and get help in running errands. There is also a list of local food and beverage businesses that Singaporeans can support.

Society Staples is one of the organisations behind Good Food for Community, a new initiative that gathers various sector partners to supply meals to vulnerable communities affected by Covid-19. You can make a donation at

Together, Apart

As a doctor on the front line of the battle to contain the coronavirus outbreak, she is super busy.

Yet, Dr Cheryl Marise Tan still makes time to maintain a social life and keep in touch with her loved ones.

The 26-year-old junior doctor in Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery has been reassigned to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and screens patients for Covid-19 daily, moving from regular work hours to shift work.

At times, these shifts can last for up to 10 hours a day.

As part of the Ministry of Health’s precautionary measures, she has to be garbed in personal protective equipment for long periods of time.

Despite the stresses, life goes on for Dr Tan. She has maintained a balance between her career and personal life with video chat apps such as Skype, Houseparty and Google Hangouts.

These help to keep her in contact with her loved ones. The sporty junior doctor also stays active by organising at-home workouts, which her friends can join through such apps.

When asked about the attitudes of youths towards the circuit breaker measures, National Youth Council chief executive officer David Chua said: "It is heartening to see youth stepping up amidst Covid-19 to do their part in helping to spread positivity and encourage those around them."

Looking for more activities to do from the comfort of your home? Here’s a list of websites to check out:

To help, check out: