Two Singaporean women – Natasha Lean, a dedicated social worker who assists abused women and their families, and Elsie Oei, a 69-year old volunteer who rises early every morning to help prepare meals for the nation’s less fortunate – have been named the “2015 ONE Heroes” by the anti-poverty charity ONE (SINGAPORE).
The ONE (SINGAPORE) Awards recognise individuals who share ONE (SINGAPORE)’s passion to “Make Poverty History and create The World We Want”. Lean and Oei were honoured at The ONE Ball 2015, an event at Hotel Fort Canning that commemorated ONE (SINGAPORE)’s 10th anniversary and the nation’s golden jubilee. The biannual award was first presented in 2013 to the migrant rights activist Jolovan Wham, who is currently the Executive Director of H.O.M.E.
“ONE Heroes often go about their work quietly,” says ONE (SINGAPORE) founder Michael Switow. “Natasha Lean and Elsie Oei are not household names, but their dedication, their service to the community and their work on issues of gender violence and poverty is extraordinary.”
On a daily basis, Natasha Lean confronts issues of poverty and gender violence. Children in Tanjong Pagar say that Natasha is their hero because “she takes care of me when my mamma is at work” and “she helps my mamma when she is sad and pappa hurts her”. Natasha, who is employed as a Social Work Associate, can be a mentor, supporter and friend who understands the importance of listening and knows when to make someone laugh. Whether she is running programmes to prevent violence against women, stop bullying, promote financial literacy for children or raising resources for the families she works with, Natasha goes the extra mile to make the lives of women and children better.
Elsie Oei may be retired, but you wouldn’t know it. Every day, for the past ten years, Elsie arrives by public transportation at Willing Hearts, a local soup kitchen, at 5 in the morning to organise packing and logistics, before helping deliver hundreds of meals, sometimes going door-to-door to assist those who are not well enough to collect their packets at the void deck. Elsie, who often works past midnight, is a familiar figure in Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio, where she accompanies the elderly and infirm on visits to the doctor, assists them with their household needs and has even been known to administer injections to diabetics.
“Elsie’s active community work demonstrates the essence of The ONE Hero – a truly selfless character who is thoroughly committed to making a positive impact on the world around her,” says ONE (SINGAPORE) President Nichol Ng. “We hope her story can encourage more volunteerism and more supporters to come forward to help Elsie organise events that bring joy to the elderly and less fortunate in our community.”
ONE (SINGAPORE), which is dedicated to raising public awareness and taking concrete actions to Make Poverty History, is celebrating its tenth anniversary. At the The ONE Ball, supporters from business and social sectors, as well as past and present volunteers, celebrated Singapore’s only charity organization that is dedicated to addressing local and global issues to Make Poverty History.
In addition to the award announcements, nearly 200 guests enjoyed an exciting night filled with an educational line-up of programmes demonstrating ONE (SINGAPORE)’s deep-rooted core values to foster a just world where no one lives in poverty. Celebrated actress and DJ Vernetta Lopez, who is also ONE (SINGAPORE)’s longest-serving president, was the Guest of Honour. Singapore Literature Prize winner Josephine Chia read an excerpt from her book “Kampong Spirit – Gotong Royong” about life in Potong Pasir prior to independence. World Toilet Organisation founder Jack Sim designed three bronze busts of Singapore’s Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew for auction.