Fewer animals released into wild on Vesak Day

An increase in awareness has led to fewer people releasing animals into the wild, according to the National Parks Board (NParks).

But NParks is still urging members of the public not to release animals into the wild this Vesak Day.

Birds and rabbits are some of the animals commonly released into the wild on Vesak Day.

It is a common practice on this day and some believe it is an act of kindness.

Fifty-seven-year-old Goh Juan Hui, a volunteer with the NParks, has spotted many such cases in recent years.

Mr Goh said: “Over the years, I’ve seen some people who are ignorant about animals, especially the pets.

“I’ve seen rabbits being released in the Lower Peirce Reservoir area, and also… bullfrogs in the reservoir. And you notice that they are not able to survive in that sort of environment, and eventually they die.

“Even if they survive, other wild animals, like the monitor lizards or even stray dogs will just gobble them up.”

For the ninth year in a row, NParks is advising the public against releasing animals on Vesak Day.

And it appears to be working. There were 10 cases in 2009, five in 2010, and none last year.

NParks conservation director Wong Tuan Wah said: “We are happy to note this declining trend. And this could also be [because] people are more aware that releasing the animals will actually cause them more harm than good.”

This year, NParks is working with 30 volunteers, including 20 primary school students from CHIJ Our Lady Queen of Peace, to conduct an Outreach Ambassador session to patrol the nature reserves and reservoirs over the weekend.

They will look out for any case of animal release and educate the public on the harm of releasing animals into the wild.

The Buddhist Fellowship said the practice of releasing animals may encourage vendors to increase the supply of animals for this very purpose.

Buddhist Fellowship president Angie Chew Monksfield said: “Some people think that by releasing animals on Vesak Day, they get extra merits and I think that is probably the wrong perception.

“The alternative to releasing animals is to eat less meat. That way, the demand is reduced, the supply will reduce automatically.”

Under the law, it is an offence to abandon pets in Singapore.

Offenders can be sentenced to a year’s jail, fined up to S$10,000 or both.

This article was first published in CNA

Social enterprises to run hawker centres of the future

Norjumanese (L) fronts Dignity Kitchen as its cashier (Photo: Chitra Kumar, channelnewsasia.com)

A government-appointed hawker centre consultation panel has recommended social enterprises run hawker centres of the future, with aims of giving the disadvantaged jobs, and providing the community with affordable food.

Meanwhile, some social enterprises in the food industry have already taken the first step to offer jobs to the disadvantaged.

One of the social enterprises is Dignity Kitchen, where 33-year-old Norjumanese works.

Norjumanese, who is blind, said: “Dignity Kitchen has fulfilled some of my dreams. Besides being a cashier, I am able to sing and be an entertainer.”

Norjumanese is one of 30 disadvantaged people working at Dignity Kitchen, a training school cum food centre operator.

Students there are trained in food stall operations, food preparation, kitchen safety and simple cooking.

Dignity Kitchen has even found jobs for some 50 of its former trainees in other food establishments.

Dignity Kitchen executive director Koh Seng Choon said he hopes to do more than just teach a skill.

He said: “What we try to do is not to just teach you a skill; what we want to do is to give you back your self-respect and dignity. That is harder to do.”

Mr Koh added: “One of my workers has some urinary problems and I know… he doesn’t have CPF, so basically what we do now is give him options. For example, this month’s rental you don’t pay — you pay me after one month.”

Another social enterprise which hopes to play a role in future hawker centres is Breakthrough Cafe.

It employs ex-offenders, such 38-year-old Derrick Ee, who said he hopes to use the experience to set up a food business in future.

Mr Ee said: “We also have a chance to do all those stock checking and ordering of stocks and then, this all helps us in terms of our future life.

“My sister and her husband actually approached me to [set up] a stall of our own, like a small coffee shop. So from the experience that I gain from here, of course, I can give them advice and help them to set up the coffee shop.”

Breakthrough Cafe executive director Simon Neo said: “When they finish their programme, they can start their own business, and they can also continue to contribute to society in the hawker centre.”

The aim of getting social enterprises to run hawker centres includes giving the disadvantaged jobs, and providing the community with affordable food.

This article was first published in CNA

4 Ways To Use Pinterest To Encourage Corporate Volunteerism

Lets face it; it’s hard to look away from Pinterest. The hottest new social media site has become a go-to source for the latest shopping tips, design advice and funny dog pictures. Who wouldn’t want to sit there all day and stare?

As Pinterest fans are discovering through the growing legion of companies that are marketing and selling products via the site, Pinterest also has great commerce potential. Nordstrom, Real Simple, Fresh Direct and even Major League Baseball, for example, have all developed active pages that encourage user interactivity.

But to take full advantage of Pinterest’s possibilities, businesses should also be thinking about the site as a way to highlight their philanthropic endeavors and promote corporate volunteerism. In so doing, companies can increase employee participation in volunteer and giving programs and earn the goodwill of other Pinterest users and potential customers.

How does Pinterest work as a tool for employee volunteer promotion?

Unlike Twitter and Facebook, images are key to Pinterest. This means that to successfully promote and encourage volunteering efforts, photos must be at the forefront of the initiative. Pinterest-interested businesses should thus encourage employees to take photos while they volunteer; use pictures in company handbooks to explain the company’s volunteering opportunities; and keep extra snapshots available so there is content in reserve to regularly update the Pinterest page.

Need more reasons to start “pinning” your corporate social responsibility initiatives? Here are four other ways that Pinterest can promote corporate volunteerism:
1. Motivation

Employees often just need a trigger to pick up a cause, and sometimes this motivation comes from seeing others engaged in positive work. That’s why showing good work in action – or the results of that good work – can easily inspire others to do likewise. And don’t forget the potential of food for thought pieces; just posting motivational quotes can encourage employees to start volunteering.
2. Support

Pinterest offers a compelling way to support those who are already volunteering. Say that one of your employees wants to raise funds for a particular nonprofit; why not post information about their mission on the company Pinterest page? Sharing these sorts of visual updates could encourage company-wide support while inspiring others to start their own fundraisers. Combine that with a company match of some sort and you’ve got a great way to help your employee reach his or her goal as fast as possible.
3. Engagement

Gamification is a hot buzzword these days, and when this sort of competition is applied to corporate volunteer programs it can generate significant employee engagement. Through the use of solutions like Causecast’s Employee Impact Platform, companies can develop entire volunteer campaigns around a competitive goal, like prizes for those who raise the most funds. In this case, participants can use Pinterest as another tool to post updates about their progress and efforts. For instance, seeing Dan next to a photo of 100 canned foods may motivate Sue to bring in 110 the next day. With a prize that encourages participation, seeing the frontrunner in photos can go a long way towards firing up the competitive juices of other employees.
4. Interaction

With visuals featured so prominently, Pinterest can also be used as a way to interact with employees around volunteering. A picture speaks a thousand words, so posting a photo of an animal shelter set to close down and asking how co-workers can help could lead to active brainstorming. Once ideas get rolling, who knows what’s possible? A charity drive may come together, or a Saturday for employee volunteering may form. But planting the seed can offer tremendous results, with little cost.

Besides the obvious goodwill generated, the final outcome of all of these ideas can be to create fantastic content for your company’s Pinterest page. And if Pinterest is used as a vehicle to promote your overall corporate volunteering efforts, these compelling photos and interactions can bode well for your company’s employee engagement levels.

So the next time you plan a company volunteer outing, just remember to “Pin it.”

This article was first published in Mashable