Category Archives: News

Sri Lanka floods – your action requested to help

Following a devastating flood in Sri Lanka that has displaced and impoverished hundreds of thousands of people, a ONE (SINGAPORE) member and her husband, a former ONE (SG) staffer, are taking action to assist affected families.

Iman Hameed and Imran Abdul Careem are raising funds to provide dry goods like rice, dhal and fish as well as hygienic packs and cleaning supplies for more than 160 families in the Puttalam district of Sri Lanka.

You can support their initiative here: https://chuffed.org/project/float-sri-lankan-flood-relief-collection-for-chilaw
31 May 2016

Photo by ucanews.com Sri Lanka

“Almost all of the victims have returned to their homes,” notes Imran, “however most of them are not able to meet their daily livelihood needs, as their belongings have been washed away.”

They aim to raise S$10,000 by 8 June.  The funds will provide three weeks worth of assistance to 163 families.  The food and hygienic packs will be purchased in Sri Lanka, then delivered to the affected families.  Purchase receipts, photos and follow-up reports will be posted online and shared with donors.

Imran and Iman are also setting up a non-profit organisation called FLOAT that will continue to work with these coastal communities to promote public health and education.

How can you help?
1. Donate to the campaign.  S$50 will support 1 family (5 people) for 17 days.
2. Share this email or the link above with your friends.
3. Follow their campaign on Facebook.

While Cyclone Roanu provides a harsh reminder of the devastating intersection of climate change and poverty, Iman & Imran’s initiative highlights the role that each and every one of us can take to make the world a better place.

The ONE (SINGAPORE) Awards 2015 Winners

The ONE (SINGAPORE) Awards recognise individuals who share ONE (SINGAPORE)’s passion to “Make Poverty History and create The World We Want”.

“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.”

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Left to Right: Guest of Honour Vernetta Lopez, ONE (SINGAPORE) President Nichol Ng, Award Winners Elsie Oei and Natasha Lean, ONE (SINGAPORE) Co-Founder Michael Switow.

 


The ONE Hero: Natasha Lean

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.

The ONE Hero: Elsie Oei

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.

The photo of Elsie Oei and the group photo at the top of the page were taken at The ONE Ball 2015, where the ONE (SINGAPORE) Awards were presented.

See the winners of the 2013 ONE (SINGAPORE) awards here.

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.

Additional information:

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.

Selling Cardboard for a Living: A Morning at Collection Point

A peek into the work of Singapore’s elderly cardboard box collectors by Joy Liu

Even before the heat settles in, the corner stalls of Toa Payoh Industrial Park — tucked between the highway overhead and residential apartments across the street — are filled with the whirling and beeping of vehicles and forklifts moving back and forth. The lined rows of long buildings are sectioned into storefronts, denoted by open garages spilling metal rods or parked trucks onto the narrow streets.

One of these is a collection point. There is no storefront label, just a sweat-soaked man behind a large scale balanced by a dangling metal disk. It is his job to weigh everything.

26 Dec 2014Photo credit: The Kapturist

Most of what he weighs are cardboard boxes — brown, of various sizes, some collapsed, most still labeled with names of the products they once carried. The man buys them for 10 to 12 cents per kg. He scribbles a few numbers on a notepad as a receipt, digs out a few bills (or more often, a few coins) from two tin containers, and hands them to his seller.

Mr. Ong* has forgotten to collect his money. His bow-legged gait limits his effort to unload the boxes and few metal rods that he is selling in halting, jolted movements. He has already turned away before he is followed and given the $4.10 that he is owed. He looks at the money and points to his chest questioningly. Then, a toothless smile spreads across his face as he takes it in comprehension.

He is in his eighties. He wears a cap, shorts, and printed button-down shirt. As he returns up the road pushing his now empty cart except for cloth bags dangling from the handle, he talks about chiding his unmarried daughter with a smile.

ONE (SINGAPORE), in collaboration with J’s Restaurant and Happy People Helping People Foundation is organising a Feast of Giving, an end-year celebration for some 200 low-income elderly and cardboard collectors on Sunday 28 December.

There are no statistics for the number of cardboard collectors in Singapore, however one merchant who buys their stock says he sees 20 different elderly vendors every day. “They come here multiple times a day,” the man at the collection point says, nodding after Mr. Ong. He says most of the sellers are men and women in their sixties to eighties, who spend a majority of their day collecting, transporting and selling boxes.

Ms. Jaen* estimates that she is one of “sometimes twenty, no more than thirty,” in Toa Payoh. At sixty-five, she has a diminutive but stocky stature enlarged by an oversized faded T-shirt and maroon sweat pants. She has been collecting boxes in Singapore for over a decade, not being able to find any other work.  While she has no family, she answers a ringing phone in a bulky fanny pack tied around her waist with exclamations that carry halfway across the street.  “My friend,” she explains in a softer voice, after pulling out her upper dentures, picking off a speck, and replacing them in her mouth with attentive precision.

Unlike Mr. Ong, Ms. Jaen’s cart does not have metal scraps, which fetch over a dollar per kg.  She has only boxes collected from stores in the area. While the stores give her their unneeded boxes, it is not always generosity that she faces.  Ms. Jaen says people have also stolen boxes from her cart when she wasn’t looking.

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Photo credit: Daniel Seidel

Her visit to the collection point around noon with a mostly full cart of some collapsed and stacked boxes earns her $2.30. This is a morning’s work.

She stops to chat with another woman coming to sell boxes. When she isn’t in conversation, she stands silently. Her brown eyes, ringed with grey around the pupils, trains onto a fixed spot. She waits. Behind her, the boxes she just sold are tossed into a rusting cage. When the cage is full, a forklift hoists and empties it into two large freight crates jutting onto the road. They are going to be shipped off, re-purposed, made useful again.

On her third sell of the day, Ms. Jaen earns four coins for a stack of boxes that reaches her shoulder. They total to a dollar. She shakes her head as she jangles the coins in her hands. A moment later, she lets out a questioning gasp when she discovers she’s only holding three coins. The next second, she stoops in front of the scale, face centimeters from the ground, retrieving the lost coin and tucking it into her fanny pack.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those interviewed.

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Run, So Others Can

By ShuQi Liu

4 Nov 2014 (1)

Walking towards the starting point of the Colour Run on Sentosa Island – a 5km race in which everyone starts out in white, but finishes plastered with colour – I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of more than 5000 youngsters sporting brightly coloured running shoes, tutus, headbands and knee-length socks.

I was here though – not just for a fun day out – but also to be The Chain Reaction Project’s running buddy of someone from Runninghour, a co-operative that promotes the integration of people with special needs through sports. Runninghour seeks sporty volunteers to team up with people who are intellectually, physically or visually challenged so that their members can more confidently participate in mainstream sporting events.

That morning, Zhang Tingjun – the co-founder of The Chain Reaction Project – WhatsApp-ed me and suggested that we make an eighties fashion statement. Great, I thought, that’s a good excuse to put on my electric blue leggings! Little did I know that they would come in useful later in the day.

Flashback

A week before the Colour Run, I woke up bright and early for Runninghour’s training session. Like most Singaporeans, I grew up in a mainstream environment surrounded by people with ‘normal’ intellect and health. While this seemed ordinary, it’s really just a bubble. Sadly, I had never interacted with anyone who just needs a little more special attention . . . until this morning, when I would be a running buddy for the first time.

Although it was 7.30am on Saturday, a large group of Runninghour members and volunteers had already gathered at the carpark for warm-up exercises. When we first got going, I jogged along like a fish out of water, wondering how I could fit into the group’s dynamics. Then one of Runninghour’s members – a young woman who is a cleaner at Clarke Quay – ran towards me. When she caught up with me, she was huffing and puffing, crying “I can’t run anymore! I can’t run anymore!”

4 Nov 2014 (2)

Here was my chance to really be part of the group, to step up as a Running Buddy.

“Swing your arms more,” I coached. “Lift your knees higher. Keep it up!”

She did as I advised and we chatted as we jogged. With a few words of encouragement, the barriers between us were broken.

Unlike previous adventures with The Chain Reaction Project – climbing a mountain or biking with my dad through Manila’s slums to raise awareness about human trafficking and urban poverty – being a Colour Run buddy was low risk and easy to do. All you need is a dose of empathy and patience to bond with someone with special needs. Isn’t this what social inclusion is all about?

Race Time

Back at Sentosa on the day of the Colour Run, I was paired up with Helen, a teenager with a ponytail and funky Barbie-pink running shoes before flag off. Despite a limp in her leg, Helen was upbeat and excited about the race. I was pretty pumped too.

“Just to let you know, I am partially blind but I can see your bright blue legs!” Helen chirped.

My unique fashion sense became her reference point for the rest of the day.

For the next 5km, we had a wonderful time bonding over splashes of colours and stories about our lives. Helen told me how she was born with a leg impairment, then years later, a high fever caused her to partially lose her sight. Nevertheless, she enjoys weekly canoeing sessions with her school mates at Hwa Chong Institution and studying biology. Her physical disabilities never dampened her positive spirit, and certainly have not slowed down her intellectual pursuits.

It is not the destination but the journey that counts, and I am glad to be part of the journey as Singapore progresses towards an inclusive society ONE by ONE . . . by ONE.

4 Nov 2014 (3)

If you would like to get involved in a social cause through sport, Runninghour will be organising its first nation-wide race themed “Run So Others Can” on 22 March 2015. The co-operative hopes to attract over 5,000 participants, involving visually, intellectually and physically challenged runners as well as the general public, in a display of self-reliance and empowerment to do good and to do well. For more information, please visit http://www.runninghour2015.com/.

This article was edited by Michael Switow. Photos courtesy of The Chain Reaction Project.

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