Caring for Elderly Cardboard Collectors

She Earns $2 A Day, But Thanks To Them, She Doesn't Worry About Food

At 82 years old, Mdm Aw works as a cardboard collector to support herself.

She trawls the neighbourhood of Whampoa daily for discarded cardboard boxes from dumpsters, wet markets and hawker centres. When she has gathered enough, Mdm Aw lugs her haul of cardboard boxes ¬– often as heavy as 20kg to 30kg – on a trolley and walks all the way to Toa Payoh to sell them.

For her efforts, she earns about $2 each time.

It was on one of her collection rounds that Mdm Aw bumped into Mohammad Nafiz Kamarudin, founder of Happy People Helping People (HPHP).

Nafiz shares, “When we first asked [Mdm Aw] why she was collecting boxes, she told us, ‘I want to exercise.’ After we have befriended and supported her for some time, she finally confessed and shared, ‘How can I tell people that my own son is not taking care of me?’”

With Nafiz’s help, Mdm Aw can now be assured of at least one meal a day through the volunteer-based HPHP project.

Founded in 2013, HPHP currently cares for more than 250 elderly beneficiaries across six estates in Singapore – Little India, Toa Payoh, Chinatown, Geylang, Bedok and Ang Mo Kio. These beneficiaries are aged from late 50s to 90s. Most of them are devoid of family support and earn a living by working as cardboard collectors.

Nafiz shares, "When we first asked [Mdm Aw] why she was collecting boxes", she told us, "I want to exercise." She finally confessed and shared, "How can I tell people that my own son is not taking care of me?’"

Caring for Elderly Cardboard Collectors

Meal Sponsorships, Grocery Vouchers and Outings

HPHP’s mission is simple – to ensure the elderly are not deprived of basic physical and emotional needs. This means ensuring they have access to food and friendship. One of their key initiatives is the free meal programme, which sees HPHP partnering eateries in their targeted estates.

How it works: Beneficiaries go to a selected economy rice stall within their estate to claim 31 meals over a period of a month. Each beneficiary is issued a card with a unique QR code. All they need to do is to show the stall owner their card and get it scanned in exchange for a free meal.

Each time the QR code is scanned, the data will be recorded. At the end of the month, HPHP will pay the amount owed to the stalls. According to Nafiz, HPHP sees more than $10,000 worth of meals claimed every month.

The meal cards are distributed every first Sunday of the month at strategically selected locations that are close to trucks or stores that purchase cardboard boxes. Termed “Happy Sundays”, these sessions see volunteers delivering not only meal cards and daily necessities to their elderly beneficiaries, but also joy.

In addition, HPHP distributes NTUC vouchers to each elderly beneficiary, and organises recreational outings on a monthly basis. To date, excursions to key attractions such as Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Gardens By The Bay, and Sentosa among many others have been made – outings that many of these elderly beneficiaries will not have been able to afford.

Nafiz added that hoarding is a common issue among their elderly beneficiaries. He says, “Some of them suffer from dementia, which makes things worse. They forget about the things they have already collected, and collect more things the following day. Needless to say, these flats are often infested with cockroaches, bed bugs and even rats.

“Once, we had to help one of our beneficiaries open the door to her flat, because it was jammed from behind due to the mountain of trash in her flat.”

This is one of the reasons why HPHP encourages the distribution of cooked food, canned drinks and NTUC vouchers to their elderly beneficiaries. Nafiz shared that items such as rice, condiments and canned food often end up being unused and hoarded by their recipients at home.

 

How You Can Help

Support HPHP through three simple ways:

1. Gather your family, friends and/or colleagues to form or join a volunteer team. There is no limit to the number of volunteers in each team. (Some of the volunteers even bring their children along to help out!) Each team will contribute and distribute cooked food, canned drinks and NTUC vouchers for at least 30 pax. A Happy Sunday session typically lasts one to two hours.

2. Donate in kind. Unable to be physically present for a Happy Sunday session? You can arrange to drop off items such as cooked food, canned drinks or NTUC vouchers.

3. Volunteer your time and skills! Whether it’s helping the seniors with haircuts, trimming their nails or entertaining them with performances, no effort is too small. Or, simply turn up to help distribute the items and be a befriender.

Want to be a part of Happy Sundays? Visit HPHP’s Facebook page to get updates and details, or to send them a message to express your interest.

OPPORTUNITIES TO PARTICIPATE

Discover the opportunities for you to play your part in building a better Singapore together.

FIND SUPPORT

Learn more about the resources available to help you realise your initiatives.

STORIES

Every effort counts. You can play a part and contribute in small and big ways to shape a better Singapore. Be inspired by stories from fellow Singaporeans.

Equipping Singaporeans with opportunities to thrive, grow an...

On 5 September 2022, Minister Chan Chun Sing launched the Forward SG Equip pillar microsite at Republic Polytechnic.

DPM Lawrence Wong launches Forward Singapore exercise

Reviewing and refreshing Singapore’s social compact for the next phase of nation-building

Spread warmth in this home

Making a macro difference with micro-volunteering opportunities through Be Kind SG

Bringing out the Sing in Singapore

People can't resist a good old singalong, and songs about home resonate with proud Singaporeans everywhere.

Brewed With A Conscience, Served With Love

Discover how Foreword Coffee pays it forward by training and hiring people from disadvantaged communities

Crafting a Community for the Kids of Kebun Bahru

The team from 6th Sense are ensuring that the kids of Kebun Bahru have the space to be themselves and build friendships....