It’s been an amazing honor to first be nominated and shortlisted for the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Award’s People of Good award, and later go on to win it and receive it at the Istana.
I’d like to thank my family for supporting me working on this during circuit breaker, when many others were spending time with their families. I’d like to thank my colleagues at PayPal who made sure I had the time to do this, as well as nominating me for this, and PayPal’s #PayPalItForward award. I’d like to thank the public for entrusting a bunch of ordinary Singaporeans with their money during these uncertain periods, believing it will go to the right places. And I’d like to thank the Project Stable Staples team for being an amazing team to run this with. All 73 volunteers played their part to make this work. And lastly, I would like to thank all the folks who have played a part in my community building and social initiatives side career. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for all the support each of you have given me in the past.
There is no doubt in my mind that this award belongs to all of us.
Project Stable Staples was started when we realized that there was a group in Singapore who could be hit really hard by CB, the folks who live in rental HDBs. Given that many of them had part time income, and that majority of the retail outlets were going to be closed during CB, we saw that the impact to this group could be rather significant.
What we then tried to do was to supplement the aid that govt was providing with NTUC vouchers for the families to purchases their staples.
I personally started out running the tech side of the house. We got the whole donation portal done under 2 days working with Bringing Love to Every Single Soul, a registered NPO to collect the funds. As the project continued, we started realizing that my experiences in running tech communities, even before when I was running Developer Outreach in PayPal could come in handy. I started taking over donor engagement and realized that we were essentially asking our donors to donate over and over again, and that was not ideal. With an increased target halfway through, we realized we had to fundamentally changed how we marketed ourselves. With the team, I came up with a few taglines, and crafted a narrative behind what PSS really stood for, which was really ordinary Singaporeans trying to do good, and shared with the public transparently the challenges and painful decisions we faced along the way, and called on our donors, not to donate again, but to share about what we do with their networks, so that together, we can all look out for someone we don’t know.
Aside from that, a few of my colleagues nominated me for the PayPal It Forward awards. I used the funds from those awards to set up a quick response fund to purchase diapers and milk powders for families urgently needing those.
Another group of like minded peers joined us afterwards to scale up this quick response fund. With one of our volunteers, we also bought Hari Raya and Ramadan feasts for the Muslim family under our charge.
By the end of the project, we raised more than SGD 160k. We saw quite a few folks donate their solidarity payouts to us, and other individuals who gave us recurring donations. We also got the support of the The Majurity Trust’s #SGStrong fund, as well as Temasek Trust’s oscar@sg fund. With this amount, we were able to support >2.6k individuals across >600 households across Singapore.
Why did I do this?
Honestly, the answer I would give every time is “jiak ba bo tai ji zuo“, roughly translated to “eat full nothing to do”. But seriously, I was privileged to have kept my job during CB, and one of the things I was brought up with is that with privilege comes the responsibility to serve. We are where we are because the community has built the infrastructure around us, and we have a responsibility to give back to the community when we are in a position to.
Aside from that, I am very inspired by my CEO, Dan Schulman, who has a vision of what a responsible business looks like, and his and PayPal’s consistent commitment to give back to the communities we belong to really pushes me to think about what else I could be doing. I saw this as an opportunity to leverage my skills, knowledge, and network to help the underserved segments ride through these challenging times. Quoting him, “The truth of the matter is they’re not difficult decisions. If you are making a decision based on your values, you have to make that decision”, and I’m lucky to have been brought up with a value system that made this decision to serve really easy.
Further to PSS, I have been spending my free time in previous years on other social empowerment initiatives such as I Am Talented(which tries to bridge the opportunity gaps for the students at risk) and Collaborate(which tries to bridge the knowledge gaps for JC students looking to select a uni course).
With the I Am Talented team, we have also started looking at how we can bridge the digital literacy gap between students who have not had laptops/computers before CB, and those who had.
PSS is the story of how 8 ordinary Singaporeans came together to meet a need in a time of crisis. We had the support of hundreds of people, be it through the time they spent volunteering with us, or through the donations they provided.
All of us have skills that can contribute in one way or another to help make each other’s lives better. When we care together, we can achieve more together.
The team is committed to looking out for people we don’t know. Will you join us in our mission?