A Packet of Rice A Packet of Rice

02 Feb 2017

Grains of Hope

They called, others answered. A Packet of Rice is a movement started by 10 friends which rallies people to sponsor and distribute meal boxes to needy residents and senior citizens living in rental flats. Since it was set up in 2012, the team has reached out to more than 22,000 seniors. Its co-founder Vincent Goh, 36, a senior event manager, shares more.

What inspired you to start APOR?
Singapore’s ageing population has been increasing every year with many of them living alone or being childless. Although the meal distribution only occurs twice a month, we hope that the project will help ease some of their difficulties and provide some comfort.

This has also given an opportunity to the public to see how people live in one-room flats. We hope that it will inspire more people to realise that there are some fellow Singaporeans who fall through the cracks and inspire them to serve community.

Typically, what takes place during in each distribution?
Food items and lunch are pre-ordered at least a week before each distribution and delivered by our suppliers. We will then divide all the items into 3 groups at the meeting point and assign the volunteers to three different people in charge who will help to run the distribution. Food items are then distributed door to door. Volunteers are encouraged to interact with the seniors and to check for their needs. If the seniors need household items, we will source for sponsors and bring to them during the next visit. A debrief is conducted after the distribution.

Who are the seniors you work with?
We work closely with Sarah Seniors Activity Centre at Blk 105 Jalan Bukit Merah, where we get updated lists of seniors we can reach out to. These seniors are under the welfare scheme and most of them do not work. Due to limited resources, we choose to concentrate our outreach efforts on the more needy ones. Our distributions also enable us to help the Centre keep an eye on the seniors on Sundays, when the Centre is closed. We also work with the local Social Service Office at the same block to provide food items to some of their clients who are mostly young families.

A Packet of Rice

A Packet of Rice

A Packet of Rice

A Packet of Rice

A Packet of Rice

What have you noticed about Singaporeans who sign up to volunteer?
In general, Singaporeans have big hearts and are generous. We notice that many Singaporeans step out to volunteer in our distributions and some willingly come regularly to help us. We also do receive help from Singaporeans who work in overseas. It is their way of giving back. 

What are some challenges you face?
Being a non-registered self-set up group, we are unable to sustain by ourselves in term of resources, so we use social media as a platform to share with the public what we do. This helps us create awareness and connect us to people who want to contribute and sponsor our purchases.

Another challenge is managing the volunteers' expectations. Most of them are strangers at first to us. Hence, we will need to warm up everybody during the briefing and to answer their questions before we start, as well as planning a systematic way of running the distribution. Along the way, we pick up tips on how to to improve to ensure that they go home satisfied with the experience.

What have you learnt from this movement and what inspires you to continue?
It might sound easy to others who think that we are merely giving out food to the needy seniors, but the administration, handling of enquires and updating of social media platforms are only half of the work. As we are a ground-up movement, we need sponsors to contribute the food items and recruit volunteers to help in the distributions.

The project has taught me perseverance and to manage relationships better. We are glad to see the bonds forming between volunteers and seniors and more people approaching us to sponsor or help out in the project.

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