27 November 2006

Run For Funds 2006 - What It Means To JayWalk

 Are Singaporeans a compassionate bunch?
Judging from the people's response to recent tragedies like the Indonesian tsunami, the MRT suicides, the murder of Huang Na as well as our consistent pouring of contributions during the NKF Show, Ren Ci Charity Show and The President's Star Charity over the years, I would have to say...

 .... yes and no.

Singapore Charities are very fortunate to be in a country where the society is relatively affluent. Problem is that it seems that money is all we are giving. Face it, since our country's independence, our Gahmen has done an excellent job bringing prosperity to this little island that was once totally dependent on our northern brothers for survival. Ask any Ah Peks, who were around to witness Singapore grow from her infancy, what they thought of the Gahmen and they will most definitely give you the thumbs up both from the hands and their feet.

In fact, Singapore has been so well taken care of all these years, that the people take it for granted that  there will always be that "somebody else" to settle whatever problem that may arise. All it takes to locate this particular "somebody else" is money.

Fresh drinking water? We pay our PUB bills and we have it. Garbage disposal? We pay our utilities bills and they will mysteriously disappear after going down the chute. Same goes with our attitude towards our fellow brothers and sisters, who are under less fortunate circumstances. Kidney problem? Donate money and everything will be all taken care of. Orphans? Donate money and a roof of shelter will magically appear over their heads.

Question is, how do we really know if our money flows to the correct places via the correct channels? Worse, do we bother to find out? Worst, are we even remotely interested to want to bother to find out?

Can you see where I am going with this?

Perhaps one of our society's biggest problem is apathy. Bor chup in local speak. We end up with people going asking...

"Why me?"
"Can't someone else do it?"
"I got donate money what?!"

The sad part about this is that money, that was originally meant to be tokens of kindness to help others, has been transformed into a currency that allow us to buy our way out of guilt.

Now, before I start to get hate-mails and death threats, let me say this. NOT ALL Singaporeans are like that. I have personally known friends and family who are actively doing something for our community. Active blood donors, bone marrow drive campaigners, volunteers in various children projects, church ministries etc. And let us not forget our Superfriends in the RunForFunds project as well.

What I am saying is that, there aren't enough of us giving back to society and the rest of us most certainly aren't doing enough.

It is time to get up and do something about it.

RunForFunds is 5 years old already and this would be my 3rd year with this project albeit missing a huge chunk of it in the first year due to miscommunication.

I have been active in community service since young. I was in St John Ambulance Brigade from school right through to my army days, providing First Aid coverage for the school and the community that required our services. After graduating from secondary school, I stayed on to teach my St John juniors from my alma matta as well as other schools in the district. I could have continued further had it not been the fact that my Uni class schedule clashed with their timetables.

As pretty a picture I may have painted earlier, I am not without sin. I too was one of those who donate money to lessen my guilt of not doing enough for the community in my later years.

It is time to get up and do something about it.

Of late, the grumbles against the Gahmen for not doing enough for the people have been getting louder and louder. Seriously, I question if the people seriously think that our Gahmen is doing a bad job? 34% of the population seems to think so.

My question to them, is if there is a better alternative? The way I see it, the way forward for this country is to have the people work hand-in-hand with the Gahmen. Wherever the Gahmen falls short, the people should find a way to pick up the slack and that includes yanking down poor performers in our Gahmen and giving him/her a slap upside the head.

From my perspective, RunForFunds is not us going "Hey! Look at us! We are here to expose the Gahmen's incompetency by plugging hole that the Gahmen couldn't." Instead, our message to everybody is "Hey! Look at us! The Gahmen is covering the big holes and we are covering the smaller ones."

The people and the Gahmen should work in tandem.

Problem is that there are people in the Gahmen right now whose head is so high up in the clouds that they are disconnected with the ground. Minor problem if you ask me. It is only a matter of time before the people exercise their powers and replace them with candidates more worthy of representing us.

Remember. The Gahmen works for us. Not the other way round.

And speaking of working in tandem, it's the old cliché of "taking two hands to clap". On one hand, we have people that need help. On the other hand, you need to ask if they are helping themselves in the first place?

WSM's blast on the "slackers" are not without truth entirely. Her only and critical error was to blanket all of them to be lazy slackers when in fact some of them were genuinely in need of our assistance.

As many people who are in need of help that I have met, I have unfortunately, also met an equal number of able-bodied people who just sit around expecting a free handout. The analogy would be that of the emergency ward in a hospital where they are the ones who are running up and down the corridors, screaming the loudest.

In my line of work when I was in Singapore, I've worked with people of the lower income bracket. Majid was a family of 5, surviving on two 3-figure salary. Papa and Mama worked, while aging Grandma took care of the 2 kids. It really broke my heart when my storeman came to me one day many years back that he had to choose between paying overdue PUB bills or his kids' textbook for the new school year. I did lend him the money to tide him over. It wasn't a lot but I handed the money only after I got him to lay out his plan of repayment in front of me.

Majid and I worked out a repayment plan and I scheduled more overtime assignments for him to bring in more cash. It took him 9 months to repay my money in full. The sum? A modest $900.00

Call me a businessman for I will not give anything for zero return. There must be some benefit arising from my investment even if I may not be the beneficiary at the end of the day. Bottom line is some good must come out from it.

Coming back to RunForFunds, I do recognise that we are a very very small entity and that our achievements (if you can call it that) are really insignificant relative to the total number of problems out there facing us and needing help.

Let me quote NBA star Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I don't think one guy can do what needs to be done, but I think one guy can help."
"It takes a collective effort."

That pretty much sums up what RunForFunds is all about. Our efforts are two pronged. One is to help, within our resources, those who need our assistance. The other is to hope to inspire other people to start their own projects and be part of this "collective effort".
It is time to get up and do something about it.

- Voxeros

1. Pam left...
Tuesday, 28 November 2006 11:16 pm
it is time to get off our backsides and do something. i think one problem with some Singaporeans in Singapore is that they feel 'pai seh' to do something... maybe? actually ah, it's not just a Singaporean thing... most people will feel 'embarrassed' (pai seh, as opposed to 'malu')...but hey, that feeling only lasts like 5 minutes?!

2. JayWalk left...
Wednesday, 29 November 2006 12:19 am :: 
Pam: I believe feeling embarrassed is just a small part of it. As I have said earlier, I think the bigger stumbling block is that of inertia, self-centeredness and materialistic distraction.

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