Due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases, Singapore has had to return to intensified social interactions and the standard state of working from home under Phase 2 (Elevated Alert).
Eating in food and beverage outlets is not permitted and restaurants can only offer take-away and delivery services. In addition, people are allowed to gather in groups of up to two people instead of five.
In just a few days, the Singaporeans went from planning get-togethers with groups of friends and anticipating the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble for take-out at home and socializing on Zoom.
The new measures have hit all aspects of Singaporean society hard, but some groups have taken more toll than others. For example, street vendors and the elderly tend to be the brunt of Covid-19 measures.
Many Singaporeans have recognized this and have taken various initiatives aimed at supporting and assisting these groups. Here are some initiatives:
WhereToDabao and JustDabao
New Hong Kong owner at Ayer Raja Food Center / Photo credit: @wheretodapao
Older traders who have neither IT skills nor social media skills have been severely disadvantaged since the rules prohibiting eating came into force.
There have been many reports of older retailers struggling to use social media or online delivery platforms to expand their reach. These street vendors are also seeing an enormous drop in customer frequency due to the increased alert measures.
A Channel News Asia report highlighted that a seafood grill stall at Bedok’s 85 Fengshan Food Center didn’t even make $ 100 in sales in a day.
This prompted the creation of a new Instagram account – @wheretodabao. This Instagram account is intended to help older street vendors gain an online presence.
According to the Instagram account, there will be three posts every day to three different street vendors “to help older street vendors do more business in these difficult times”. These hawker highlights are also crowdsourced from the public who can submit submissions through a Google form.
Since the account was launched a week ago, it has garnered 31,000 followers and shared the stories of 32 individual street vendors.
According to his Instagram page, he also managed to sign and agree to the food supplier Foodpanda. It also recently partnered with another initiative – JustDabao.
JustDabao is a sustainable green initiative that helps F&B stores clear their surpluses at discounted prices. The goal is to create a win-win-win situation – restaurants can offset their sunk costs, consumers can save groceries at discounted prices, and the earth becomes greener.
Partners are not charged any commissions and it works on a pick-up model so that merchants do not have to use delivery services. This enables merchants to clear away their excess items and avoid wastage, especially when it is difficult to gauge demand these days.
The founders of KampungKakis / Image source: KampungKakis
In 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mae Tan, Michelle Lau and Denise Tay saw a widening divide where those who are underprivileged, less tech-savvy, and living in isolation fell through the cracks.
Volunteer organizations and resident network centers have been forced to shut down, and many single seniors have been deprived of their only form of social interaction and peer-to-peer information in the vacancies or coffee shops. This is where KampungKakis wants to help.
The idea for KampungKakis came from Mae while she was recovering from Covid-19 in the hospital.
Given her hospitalization experience, she was keen to pay the frontline heroes who sacrificed their own safety to make their recovery journey as smooth and quick as possible.
During her time in the hospital, Mae also witnessed the pain elderly Covid-19 patients were going through and she decided to protect the elderly and vulnerable in her communities amid the Covid-19 crisis.
KampungKakis is a neighborhood buddy system that matches people in need with volunteers who are ready to help. The matching system is based on proximity and the type of support needed.
For example, if a lonely elderly person has been identified who needs help with shopping and dining, they will attempt to match the elderly with a volunteer who lives a 20-minute walk away. This volunteer would have indicated via an online registration form that he could help with groceries and meals.
KampungKakis also provides relevant resources and training to provide volunteers with the knowledge and skills to identify neighbors in need. Linking these people in need to the formal channels ensures that they receive the long-term support they need and that no one is left behind.
To date, KampungKakis has supported over 500 beneficiaries across the island and got over 1,300 volunteers to sign up.
It is also an active partner of social and government organizations such as People’s Association, Agency of IntegratedCare (Silver Generation Office), TOUCH Community Services, Beyond Social Services, public hospitals, senior citizen activity centers and family service centers to meet the needs of patients and beneficiaries.
Food4Seniors from Strongsilvers
The team behind the Food4Seniors initiative. Top row (LR): Zavier Chan, Junus Eu, Shunyuan Yeo
Bottom row (LR): Faisal Samudra, Jasmine Goh, Jeral Ong / Photo credit: StrongSilvers
Food4Seniors is an initiative by Strongsilvers – a startup that aims to help seniors live better with its intelligent AI assistive technology.
The team behind the initiative is a group of millennials who realized that senior citizens in nursing homes longed for street vendors but couldn’t get them. This applies in particular if stricter visitor restrictions apply due to Covid-19.
The team behind the initiative helps seniors stuck in nursing homes with cravings for food that they normally don’t get in the home. This is mainly because stricter restrictions also apply to visitors.
Anyone in the community can donate through the initiative’s link, and the Strongsilvers team then uses the money to deliver groceries to their nursing home partners.
Her nursing home partners include St. Joseph’s Home, Irene Nursing Home, Moonlight Home for the Old and Handicapped, and Adventist Home for the Elders.
According to the gifting.sg page, the volunteers are also buying groceries from the street vendors listed on the Hawkers United 2020 Facebook group to support local street vendors as well.
At first it was hard to convince people what we did with this campaign because we were a small team. We had to do many rounds of background checks with potential donors. But the smiles on the seniors’ faces and the statement that they really enjoyed their food make it successful for me.
Zavier Chan, co-founder of Strongsilvers
The team managed to raise over S $ 2,000 within the first week of starting the initiative. It has also brought Grab on board as its official logistics partner to offer free grocery deliveries and Gushcloud as its official marketing partner to promote the campaign.
Its goal is to raise S $ 10,000 to bring food to over 2,000 seniors to nursing homes.
They are also now trying to help older street vendors who are not on food delivery platforms by offering a subscription model to provide them with a steady income.
Image source: Scratchbac
Scratchbac is a geosocial media platform that connects people hyperlocally. It is started by three students from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) – Jerry Neo, Cheryl Low, and Princeton Poh.
The motivation behind Scratchbac comes from Jerry’s personal isolation experience during Singapore’s circuit breaker season last year.
The Scratchbac team / Photo credit: Scratchbac
“Being stuck at home alone made me realize how fragile the support structures of our communities are,” said the 27-year-old master’s student.
This experience has shown the reality that if we were to remove support from blood relatives and individual affiliations such as schools, clubs, and the workplace, we were essentially left with our nearby neighborhoods and the communities around us. But why can we be so hyper-connected to the Tiktokers half a world away when we don’t even know the names of our neighbors just two doors away?
Jerry Neo, co-founder of Scratchbac
Scratchbac therefore enables users to reach the people around them anytime and anywhere via a telegram bot hyperlocally around the clock. The user guidance is straightforward – just enter a zip code and you can immediately start transmitting to people up to a kilometer away.
The core principle of Scratchbac is that the people who are closest to us physically are the ones who can provide the most efficient help and vice versa. Hence, Scratchbac’s mission is to make it easy for people to connect with others hyperlocally.
With Scratchbac, users can collaborate with people nearby, seek help, share resources, and more.
Since Scratchbac launched during the breaker last year, it has accumulated 48,000 logins for its Telegram bot and averaging around 100 posts per day. The post-fulfillment rate is also rising steadily and is 55 percent.
In addition, the team has grown to include a total of 13 student volunteers.
The team is currently developing our standalone mobile app for iOS and Android. This shift is aimed at unlocking more exciting features for our users and expanding our user base beyond Telegram. We are now in the middle of our beta testing phase.
Come together to provide support
The Covid-19 pandemic has left many people with profound effects on their lives, from inability to buy food to economic threats.
Additionally, security measures today have forced charities to cancel or rethink their volunteer work, and the reality is that community maintenance is not a one-off project that can be done in a day.
It requires the sustained commitment of committed volunteers who are committed to the needs of the people they care for.
Despite having a full-time job or studying, these Singaporeans have provided help and support to those in need during this time of uncertainty and have impacted the lives of many.
Highlighted Image Source: KampungKakis