When I first started active cooked food distribution during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic on 7 April 2020 in Marine Terrace, I did not realise that it will just continue to grow and grow. This has been thanks to all the enthusiastic local volunteers who have sustained the operations.
From one location, it grew to two, with the second at the rental flats of Eunos Crescent. At our peak, over 400 packets of cooked food were distributed daily. Initially, a small group of us not living in the area went daily to see to the collection of food delivered by food charity Willing Hearts, and to give to residents who would queue up to take these from around 7am in the morning. Soon, we found residents there willing to take over these tasks. The operations became much easier to sustain with local volunteers but it does need these committed residents to get up early and organise the giving. These volunteers took turn to cover one another. There has been not a single day of break since 7 April 2020 till today, through all weekends, all public holidays and even when Covid-19 was at its peak and several of our volunteers were themselves ill. The volunteers just covered one another to keep it going.
Then in late 2021, I was introduced to donated and rescued vegetables. This involves collecting from various sources that have secured donated and rescued food and we were to give to communities where there might be greater need for these. Having already a steady based of food recipients and a good team of volunteers on the ground, we gave it a try, initially using my MPV car or other borrowed vehicles to transport once a week on Saturday afternoons from the distribution point to Eunos Crescent.
Then, we were alerted to a daily source of donated rescued vegetables and if we wanted to be one of the recipients for once a weekday night. So we increased our distribution in Eunos to two times a week. Again, the volunteers were enthusiastic and the operations went about without fuss, benefitting some 60-80 families for each distribution.
I was pulled into a bigger network of community volunteers. A small group of likeminded active community volunteers decided to pull money together to buy a 15-foot container truck to support the operations of the now daily collection of donated and rescued vegetables. This resulted in the formation of The Red Collection (see: https://give.asia/campaign/donated-and-rescued-food-for-singapore#/ – do give and support to this cause to keep it going). Our project morphed into being part of The Red Collective’s combined efforts and I became a founding member of this new group.
Given my deemed ‘success’ at mobilising grassroots to volunteer to distribute and organise the giving, I was enlisted to help set up a new distribution point at Blk 534, Bedok North St 3 (Kaki Bukit), an area which I did not quite know the residents. Nevertheless, with some introduction of local leaders, we quickly established a network of volunteers and recipients.
Ayushi, one of the helpers at Kaki Bukit
To-date, I have helped to start another two more distribution points since March 2022 – at Bedok South and a couple of weeks later at Bedok North, using the same model of understanding the local residents, identifying the leaders and equipping them to organise the community while we ensure that volunteer drivers will collect and deliver vegetables, fruits and other items to them consistently at around the same time each week.
The Red Collective is supporting many other groups. Collectively, it now benefits some 16,000 people each week in over 20 distribution points across Singapore each week.
What I have learnt is that in each of these communities, there are residents willing to give of their time to support their community and it is important to identify, empower and support them. The Kampung Spirit is still alive in Singapore!