Online boost for charity projects

Online boost for charity projects

Groups of do-gooders who are using Facebook to rally volunteers and reach out to donors are finding success.

SundayLife! found at least three groups – A Packet of Rice, Project Awareness and Share A Meal – which take meals to needy residents and have attracted impressive online followings.

A Packet of Rice’s Facebook page was set up in August last year and has about 4,500 likes, while Project Awareness’ Facebook page went live in February this year, and already has about 5,200 likes.

Share A Meal has about 350 likes. The founders were overseas and could not be contacted for comment.

Two months ago, another online initiative, the Chope Food movement – where people are encouraged to give cash to hawkers to reserve food for individuals who cannot afford a meal – also made waves in the community, garnering 4,000 likes in just two days; it now has more than 9,000 likes.

Singer-songwriter Elson Soh, 25, who founded Project Awareness, says that during his meet-the-fans sessions, he met people who were disabled. He also knew of people who had applied to organisations for financial help but did not qualify, so he wanted to do something for them as well as give back to society.

“I thought I should start something on my own, something that doesn’t have too many rules and regulations, so I can help people who fall through the cracks,” he says.

His project has more than 500 active volunteers, most of whom are first-time volunteers who heard about the project through Facebook or word of mouth.

One such volunteer is Ms Patricia Yeo, 36, a teacher: “Someone shared the link on their wall and I saw the updates on their page about the work they were doing.” She then messaged Project Awareness through Facebook, found out about an up-coming food distribution session and started volunteering.

In the last two months, she has volunteered about five or six times, helping to cook food and also going door-to-door to distribute meals.

When SundayLife! caught up with her last Thursday morning, she had just finished cooking a meal for residents of Eunos Crescent and was starting to deliver the food. She had brought along her colleagues – a group of teachers from Park View Primary School.

Besides food distribution, A Packet of Rice volunteers also distributed 230 N95 masks last week to some needy and elderly residents in Jalan Bukit Merah.

The group has about 300 volunteers, about 90 per cent of whom are first-time volunteers.

They have conducted 12 distributions in Jalan Bukit Merah and Owen Road, helping more than 230 residents in the last nine months. Sponsors, too, have been forthcoming and have contacted the groups through social media.

Mr Vincent Goh, 32, a senior event manager who is one of the co-founders of A Packet of Rice, says he and a group of four other friends initially put in about $3,000 of their own money and had only intended to do one food distribution, but people found out about the project through word of mouth and the Facebook page.

“We would take photos of our distributions and upload it on our Facebook page. Pictures speak a thousand words and they help us to build trust with the public,” says Mr Goh, who has used the page to call for donations of food items as well as electrical appliances such as water heaters, fans and rice cookers needed by residents.

Last Wednesday, Project Awareness received a $10,000 cash donation from an anonymous donor who is a friend of one of the volunteers.

Lawyer Tan Lam Siong, 52, who volunteers with Project Awareness, says he found out about the group through friends, and started volunteering and sharing updates on his own Facebook page. His friend stepped forward to donate money to the cause after reading his Facebook posts.

A photo of an envelope of cash was shared on the Project Awareness’ Facebook page on Wednesday to thank the anonymous donor.

The money will go to the project’s programmes as well as their recently set up social enterprise – Project Awareness (Singapore) – which hires those in need of work as riders who distribute food to other needy residents in various parts of Singapore.

The group received another cash donation on Thursday from Yeap Medical Supplies.

Mr Goh from A Packet of Rice says that besides donations of items, his group has also received $39,000 in cash donations, which goes to buying food for the beneficiaries. He hopes to continue running A Packet of Rice as long as there is sponsorship, but he also hopes the project will serve as an inspiration to others.

“We have received notes from the public that some are interested to set up their own groups to distribute to the needy in other parts of Singapore. That is also what we hope to achieve through our project. We want to inspire others to help,” says Mr Goh.

Source: The Straits Times