Category Archives: 2015

Passion for the Community Drives Winners of 2015 ONE Hero Awards

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.

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Earthquake in Nepal – How can you help?

28 Apr 2015
Photo credits: Omar Havana/Getty Images

The death toll is 7,000 and rising.   The 7.8 magnitude earthquake – Nepal’s worst in 80 years – has affected communities in 30 districts as well as people in India, China and Bangladesh.  Families are without shelter and other essentials.  Several agencies are providing emergency assistance on the ground; others will work with Nepalese communities to rebuild.  However, due to the devastation and lack of proper facilities and equipment, rescue operations at the moment are slow.

Two ways you can help:

  1. Little Sisters Fund

ONE (SINGAPORE) has worked with the Little Sisters Fund for many years to provide scholarships to girls from economically-disadvantaged families in Nepal.  While phone connections are down, LSF is still trying to verify the status of the Little Sisters and alumni throughout the country,

LSF has set up a Little Sisters Fund Earthquake Recovery Support site to support relief efforts for the Little Sisters, their families and partner schools affected by the quake. 100% of donations to this fund will go directly to these beneficiaries. The funds will be dispersed in accordance with need by an oversight team of Little Sisters Fund administrators, School Coordinators, and parents. Support their efforts here.

You can also read LSF’s post-earthquake updates here.

  1. See Change Foundation

You can also donate to See Change Foundation which is providing emergency assistance to survivors in Lamjung, the district in the epicentre of the earthquake. Their relief efforts include assessing damages and needs of nearby communities, conducting blood donation drives, setting up temporary housing units and transporting the injured to community hospitals. Click here to donate.

Updates on their relief efforts can be found here.

If you wish to find out more about other aid agencies carrying out relief and aid efforts in Nepal, refer to the link here.

More about the earthquake in Nepal:

Mothers, Midwives and Mobile Phones

By Associate Professor Arul Chib, Director, Singapore Internet Research Centre Assisted by Megan Fernandes, Graduate Student, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University

“Almost 800 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth” (WHO, 2014). 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. These grim statistics betray the state of maternal healthcare and the circumstances under which many mothers try to bring their children into the world. A great majority of these deaths could have simply been averted had there been some form of skilled healthcare or obstetric care available to these expecting mothers.

For instance, in Aceh Besar, Indonesia, where I focused on rehabilitation efforts post the 2007 Tsunami, the stark lack of basic infrastructure and facilities available to mothers was immediately apparent. In other projects in India, China, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Thailand, I was met with similar circumstances – derelict hospital infrastructure, threadbare facilities and an inadequate number of staff, many of whom were under-trained.

With high issue salience in the international development agenda – for example, Millennium Development Goal 5 is devoted to improving maternal health by reducing the maternal mortality ratio and increasing universal access to reproductive care – there is admittedly a lot of effort going into alleviating the problem.

But working in such low resource environments has taught me that mere injection of infrastructure or financial resources will not remedy the issue at hand. The issue of maternal mortality, or for that matter any development related issue we are grappling with today, is more nuanced and multi-faceted.

In exploring the various ways the issue can be approached, the role of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) stands out sharply. The rate of uptake of ICT devices – especially the now ubiquitous mobile phone has been nothing short of disruptive. Put in a healthcare context, ICTs have immense potential to be harnessed. The adoption and use of ICTs to achieve positive outcomes in healthcare delivery across the world has already been documented.

In making the case for maternal healthcare, let’s look at what decades of experience say: it is advised that pregnant women be provided with comprehensive care in the form of regular gynecological visits during pregnancy, access to skilled birth attendants during delivery, etc. However, the realities on the ground in many developing nations present a sharp contrast. Rural healthcare systems in such regions are unable to make available formal and adequate reproductive care. Without many of the required in-house facilities available locally, rural dwellers in developing countries need to travel to distant urban locations for access to service and care. In many cases such travel is not affordable or feasible and what remains are rural mothers-to-be cut off from access to the world at a time when it is most needed.

But the ubiquitous mobile phone is slowly trying to bridge this distance.

Evidence is emerging on how local healthcare workers are using mobile phones to access information and expert advice from their superiors in other locations. Mobile phones seem to be conquering the rural-urban distance barrier in two ways: they bring the urban healthcare center closer home in the form of professional advice directly from the expert and they improve the skills of the local, rural healthcare worker enough to the point that she can then make those important decisions by herself when the opportunity arises next time around.

Revisiting the case of Aceh, where we administered a mobile healthcare (mHealth) intervention for midwives, I found that mobile phone use and appropriation by the local midwives benefitted the local healthcare system by allowing for greater time efficiency, greater access to expert advice and finally improved relationships between the midwives, the community and with doctors.

I often quote a particular incident narrated to me by a participating midwife from the intervention in Aceh to illustrate the immense promise of the mobile phone:

“It was a high risk delivery. I called Ms. A [fellow midwife] then I called Ms. B [senior midwife] … When the baby came out, he didn’t cry, he had asphyxia. We thought he was already dead. The blood was all over my mobile phone because I kept holding it. I called an ambulance. The mother was bleeding. Ms. A took the baby with her and went with the ambulance. Imagine if I handled that patient alone, probably both the mother and the baby would have died.”

Despite the powerful narrative, it serves to mention that the mobile phone in itself is no single panacea to the problem. The problems that technology interventions are usually designed to address are but infrastructural problems. Most of the discourse surrounding this field today is in that order. However, there exists a social layer to the structural problem and this is where we should be turning our energy and efforts as well.

For example, we witnessed a strong patriarchal streak that ran in the community – the village chiefs [all male] were loath to allow the midwives [the females] possession of the mobile phones. The midwives employed strategies to protect the social order–projecting the fact that the mobile phone was ‘not theirs’ in that they resorted to ‘forced sharing’ strategies wherein they thrust the phone to their sons or other members of the community in a bid to escape the attention and questions they could be faced with. We observed other social dimensions to the problem in the form of ‘hierarchies’ or so called ‘power distance’ issues between those higher up in the medical fraternity and those at the junior or more rural levels.

Such ‘social’ problems are bound to exist well after the ‘technological or infrastructural’ problems are solved. Unsurprisingly, ‘technological or infrastructural’ solutions’ sometimes create ‘social’ issues.

What is required are interventions that adopt a more holistic approach towards resolving developmental issues. This requires effective problem solving with an entire system working in tandem: participation from a policy maker to a grassroots worker, from a gender expert to governance experts as no single issue can be resolved uni-dimensionally. From the perspectives of donors and governments, the conversation has to shift from the quantum of funds allotted and spent to the effectiveness of the outcomes this allocation has brought about. On its part, the research fraternity which I represent can help by pursuing more action oriented research and engaging more effectively with policy makers on the results of such research.

Dr. Arul Chib, Associate Professor at Nanyang Technological University, and Director of the Singapore Internet Research Center, studies the adoption of technology for positive development outcomes and examines the impact of development campaigns delivered via a range of innovative information and communication technologies (ICTD or ICT4D), focusing on mobile phone healthcare systems particularly in resource-constrained environments of developing countries.

Dr. Chib is the recipient of the 2011 Prosper.NET-Scopus Award for the use of ICTs for sustainable development, and a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is the General Conference Chair for ICTD2015, taking place in Singapore 15-18 Ma, 2015. More details on his work may be found here, here and here, Dr. Arul Chib can be reached at ARULCHIB@ntu.edu.sg or (+65) 65148390

Feast of Giving

By Jayashree Selvalatchmanan

“Ending poverty is first about bringing the issue to light. A lot of people don’t want to see or admit that there is poverty. When we come and look at this group of elderly, we see that there is a need, maybe within a different definition of poverty, but they are deprived. They are deprived of love, they are deprived of care. Living in their one-rooms, it is all these activities (like those at the Feast of Giving) that help. If they are happier, it is less of a burden on their plight if they have a lack of monetary resources. The elderly just want to be loved”– Joy Mahbubani, Managing Director of J’s Restaurant.

16 Feb 2015 (1)Photo credits: Happy People Helping People Foundation, Dob Firdaus

End-of-year celebrations signify different things to different people. For the perpetually busy, it may be a long intended union with family and friends. For those seeking success and purposeful change, it may be a time required to clear out the mind and set fresh goals, more inspiring and ambitious than the ones from the year before. Others may simply relish giving back to society; wanting to touch and change the lives of those around them- with a dash of love.

On the 28th of December 2014, in a first-time collaboration between ONE (SINGAPORE), J’s Restaurant and Happy People Helping People, a festive event titled “Feast of Giving” was organised to honour the elderly and give back a little something to those who have spent years toiling for the future of their families and the society. The 3-hour event, buttressed by passionate volunteers, played host to 180 special guests – the elderly, aged 60 and above, residents of the one-room rental blocks, 22, 23 & 24 located at 22 Chai Chee Road – in an eventful evening of fun and games.

The event was scheduled a stone’s throw away from the rental premises at a delightful multi-purpose hall, nested cosily between old residential blocks. As the clock strikes four, organisers and volunteers promptly take their places around the modest vicinity and duly mingled with guests as they start to arrive. A warm sense of responsibility slowly permeates the air. Volunteers showed the guests to their seats; the actively passionate few hasten around with an urgent sincerity to inject the immediately sociable with doses of cordiality. Instantaneous relations formed–moments before, a stranger, but in a splitting connection, one became another’s father, daughter, or uncle. It seemed that everyone, stranger or not, was bonded under one synchronised notion– to delight the elderly: to make them laugh and sing; to be givers and receivers of love; and to bestow upon them humble gifts.

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Writer and motivational speaker, Zaibun leads the event to an invigorating start. With a quick sprinkle of positivity, she guides her audience up on their feet and demonstrated a series of quirky laughing exercises.

“It’s time to laugh”, she says, pointing to her watch, “Roar with laughter!” The crowd erupts into a massive cheer like there was some kind of rock star on stage; rounds of hollering laughter swiftly ensued. Zaibun’s zesty talk and performance lasts for a little more than thirty minutes before she bid her guests farewell. A final song was played. Many of the elderly were beaming from ear-to-ear; others sat down to rest, tired from all that laughing and prancing around– it was indeed a contagious sight!

The rest of the evening was further lined up with a series of intriguing performances and games. There was a visit and magic performance by Santa, song and dance by kids from Ameba Schoolhouse and a highly interactive session of Bingo. It was announced that the winners of Bingo would be presented with an opportunity to visit River Safari on the 25th of January, accompanied, of course, by volunteers. To that, there were some disgruntled groans from the crowd (because of the travelling required) but most seemed conspicuously thrilled!

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“The event was really enjoyable. I am very happy today,” said Mariyam B, aged 75, both volunteer at the Kembangan-Chai Chee seniors activity centre and resident of Block 24. Other senior guests at the occasion expressed similar emotions – many shared their contentment and delight, others displayed enormous amounts of gratitude and claimed to have had some of their heartiest laughs. Madam Zainab, also in her 70s, said she was absolutely enthralled by the performances and even instructed that future events turn away from typical themes.

“Plan differently next time!” she urged with a cheerful giggle.

Dinner that evening was graciously provided by J’s restaurant. Joy Mahbubani, managing director of the enterprise seemed more like one of our dedicated volunteers – dancing, singing and interacting with the guests. The menu for the event included, saffron rice, roasted chicken, sweet and sour fish, vegetables and bread & butter pudding.

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After all the fun and laughter, the event drew to a close. However, a prime question remains undiscussed. What is the bigger picture?

Feast of Giving is a step towards curbing poverty. The event raises awareness, while sharing love and abundance.

I truly hope that we have set things in motion so this cycle of giving and receiving will be passed on.

Have an astounding new year!

Photos courtesy of Dob Firdaus

Related Articles

  • Feast of Giving – a year-end celebration on 20 December 2014 for the elderly living in the Chai Chee area
  • Photos of the Feast of Giving

2015, a Defining Moment to End Poverty in a Generation

By Michel Anglade, Campaigns and Advocacy Director, Asia – Save the Children

2015 could be a momentous year in human history. It could be the year that governments across the world put a deadline on their longstanding commitment to end extreme poverty, ensuring that no child dies unnecessarily, every child gets a good-quality education, and every child is protected from violence. It is the year that governments are expected to agree a new global framework of concrete goals and targets to take the legacy of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) forward, and bring the commitments that were made at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) to life.

The next six months represent a critical phase in the international process to define the post-2015 framework. As governments discuss the shape and contents of the new development goals, they must keep levels of ambition high, putting the foundations in place for a framework that is capable of inspiring real and sustainable change for the world’s poorest children.

Protecting and advancing children’s rights lies at the heart of this process to make the world better and fairer for children. The post-2015 framework must focus on meeting children’s needs. The MDGs spurred political and financial commitments to achieve significant breakthroughs for children. However, the job is still not completed, and the world’s most disadvantaged children are being left behind. The eradication of poverty is not only a matter of social justice, but is also a cornerstone for effective, equitable and sustainable development for all. The post-2015 framework will shape the future, and it is therefore imperative that needs and rights of children, as present and future citizens of the world, are fully reflected within it.

More than a million people from around the globe have shared their experiences, expertise and perspectives about what post-2015 sustainable development goals should look like, via UN and civil society consultations and the MYWorld2015 global survey. A number of considered proposals have also been presented by international institutions and networks. These include the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the UN Global Compact, the outcome of the Open Working Group, the UN Secretary General’s Synthesis report on the Post-2015 Agenda, and civil society organisations from around the world, many of which are members of the international Beyond 2015 campaign and have now joined the Action/2015 campaign.

As the inter-governmental negotiations to finalise the post-2015 framework take place in the UN Headquarters in New York, Save the Children call for a strong focus on equity. Inequalities are not an inevitable outcome of development progress. If we are to recognise the truly transformative potential of the new sustainable development framework we must embed equity at its core. No one must be left behind by virtue of their gender, age, disability, income, geography or ethnicity. Save the Children urge UN member states to ensure that the Declaration of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda includes an explicit reference to the criterion that “no target should be considered met unless it is met for all social and economic groups”.

Learn more:

Michel Anglade is Save the Children’s Campaigns and Advocacy Director for Asia, based in Singapore. In his role, he coordinates EVERY ONE, Save the Children’s flagship campaign to reduce child mortality. He supports Save the Children country offices across Asia to advocate for better practices and policies to fulfil children’s rights.

Prior to his present position, Michel Anglade worked for Oxfam from 2000 to 2011, in various leadership positions in Asia and in Africa. He started working in the field of humanitarian and development in 1995 and undertook various assignments with Doctors without Borders and with Action Against Hunger in Armenia, Sudan, Somalia and North Korea.

Michel Anglade graduated from Sciences-Po (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris) in 1989. He also holds a Master in Media and Information Management from the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris.

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Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children. Save the Children works in 120 countries to achieve breakthroughs in the way the world treats children. Save the Children’s Asia Regional Office is in Singapore.

Sustainable Cities and the Sustainable Development Goals

by Elyssa Ludher, Senior Assistant Director, Centre of Liveable Cities

“Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda.” ~ John Wilmoth, Director of the UN’s population division.

In 2010, for the first time in recorded history, urban dwellers outnumbered rural dwellers. By 2030, the United Nations estimates that 60% of the world’s population will live in cities.

It is thus propitious that Sustainable Cities are an important focus of the post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. A sustainable world cannot be achieved without changing the trajectory of our cities to a more sustainable path. Across the globe, cities are leading the way in sustainability. New York, Copenhagen, Suzhou and Surabaya are just some examples of cities that have adopted more ambitious sustainability goals compared to their national governments. At city level, local governments can focus, channel resources, execute, scale up and achieve results.

Global urban growth will not be proportional; it is expected to double in emerging economies, mainly in existing and new cities in Africa, Latin America and Asia. These rapidly expanding cities face acute pressures on infrastructure and services. Few are equipped with the necessary mandate, resources and capabilities to plan, implement and manage its own development. An SDG focused on cities could thus influence national governments to devolve much needed authority and resources to the local level so they are adequately equipped to address these challenges.

The cities of tomorrow also need to consider a model that will maximise efficiency in terms of delivering infrastructure and services, such as public transport, schools, hospitals, sewage and recreational facilities. Planning a city based on a high density model could achieve the scale required to achieve a high quality of life and sustainable environment for its residents. There are few cities that have managed to achieve high density and high liveability. Singapore is one such city, according to numerous liveability surveys.

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Figure 1: the Density- Liveability matrix

Singapore started out as a fledgling city in the 1960s, plagued by challenges commonly experienced in the emerging cities of today, such as high unemployment, slums, road congestion, lack of sanitation and pollution. Singapore has, however managed to transform into a modern and turbhriving global city in just 50 years.

Other high density cities too have successfully transformed themselves to achieve high liveability coupled with high density. New York, Surabaya, Medellín and Hong Kong, for example, while distinct in history, political structure, geography, character and urban challenges, have commonalities in their urban transformation experiences. The Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) Singapore has captured and distilled some of these commonalities, published in Liveable and Sustainable Cities: A Framework. A simple illustration of the CLC Liveability Framework is shown in Figure 2.

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Figure 2: The Centre for Liveable Cities Liveability Framework

The Framework can be summarised in three simple messages:

  1. Have clear vision and goals: Cities must have vision and goals to guide development aspirations. In Singapore, this was to achieve high quality of life for all residents, a competitive economy so that all are able to live a life of dignity, and a sustainable environment for future generations.
  2. Plan Comprehensively: Cities must plan comprehensively to achieve these goals; this requires foresight, pragmatism, and innovation. Agencies must work together not only to plan, but to implement. Plans must also have enough flexibility to adapt to changes which arise in time.
  3. Inculcate Sound Urban Governance: Cities must have governance structures that embody integrity to carry out these plans. Governance implies more than government; it requires the participation of the private and civil sectors as well, working together to advance collectively. Community engagement is vital for ensuring

If cities are able to integrate the three messages above, their path to sustainability will be infinitely smoother. Once sustainability, inclusiveness and fairness are entrenched in cities, this will naturally lead to the transformation of entire nations and regions, bringing us one large step closer to a sustainable world.

Learn more:

Elyssa Ludher is a Senior Assistant Director at the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), involved in research in urban governance, integrated planning, mobility and food security. She also manages the collaboration with UN Habitat on Capability Development. Prior to working at CLC, Ms Ludher worked in the rural development sector at the Cambodian Organisation for Research, Development and Education (CORDE).

Ms Ludher started her career in urban planning in Brisbane, Australia, first working with Brisbane City Council, and thereafter on major infrastructure projects in Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) Consulting. She was recently published in Liveable and Sustainable Cities: a Framework, and has also published articles on urban governance and community inclusion. Outside of her professional commitments, Ms Ludher volunteers in youth mentoring, in particular through the Junior Youth Empowerment Programme.

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Set up in 2008 by the Ministry of National Development and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) has as its mission “to distil, create and share knowledge on liveable and sustainable cities”. CLC’s work spans three main areas – Research, Capability Development and Promotion. Through these activities, CLC hopes to provide urban leaders and practitioners with the knowledge and support needed to make our cities better.