What inspired you to start Kampung Kakis with your partners?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, it was a very uncertain and helpless period for many seniors and vulnerable residents. The coffee-shops and hawker centers are common socialization areas for the seniors and the restrictions in dining in had resulted in social isolation and anxiety amongst the seniors. Thus, when Mae spoke to me about the idea of buddy matching neighbours, I was thrilled at the idea and hoped that it would help alleviate loneliness and bridge meaningful friendships within neighbourhoods, just like how it was like during the kampung days.
In helping the different marginalised groups in our communities, what are some of the difficulties they all face?
For students in underprivileged families without adequate access to digital gadgets, the closure of schools and enforcement of home-based learning was challenging and overwhelming for them to keep up with online learning. The lack of financial resources to access digital gadgets, as well as the limitations in home environments such as space and adequate furniture is a significant barrier to maximize the learning of certain students who fall between the gaps.
In my observations, seniors who are not technologically savvy and do not have access to smartphones also face difficulties keeping up with the fluid changes of Covid-19 restrictions. The shift towards utilizing online bookings for appointments at various institutions (eg. booking vaccinations) to minimize crowds also makes it intimidating for these seniors to access these essential services.
Furthermore, many VWOs/charity organizations had ceased non-essential home visits on the ground and gradually shifted towards tele-befriending. This had resulted in feelings of greater social isolation and loneliness amongst many seniors, especially those who value personal touch and physical presence.
Many seniors had also defaulted their medical appointments due to fear of catching the virus in healthcare institutions.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the many needs on the ground? How do you Cope?
During the times when I feel overwhelmed, I will tend to seek support and advice from the people around me. In community work, it is crucial that we tap on the resources and strengths of our community partners as well and avoid working in silo. Receiving words of gratitude and appreciation from our beneficiaries also deeply energizes me and it keeps me going on a daily basis.
Being on the ground with your community, such as being with many lonely seniors, how do you connect with them? (Did you have to learn as you go, is this something that comes to you naturally or did you have some prior experience to draw on?)
I strongly believe that everyone has a story to tell. I strive to connect with every individual that crosses my path by visualizing how it is like to be in their shoes, and be curious about the stories that they have to share. I often find myself receiving more than I give and I am always thankful to be able to take away valuable life teachings and lessons from these seniors. Even though we may not be able to put a solution to the challenges and problems our beneficiaries face on a daily basis, it means alot to them when we give them our presence and listening ear.
Share one story or experience while working on Kampung Kakis that impacted you?
My experience in KampungKakis has taught me how generous and kind people from all walks of life can be. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic had intensified some of the life challenges that our beneficiaries face, they still chose to remain resilient. I had been deeply touched by how they desire to give back more to the community when things get better for them in the future. My time in KampungKakis serves as a daily reminder that our actions can have a real and long-lasting effect on the world, even if they start off very small.
What do you hope Singaporeans will do more of in their respective communities?
I hope that more Singaporeans can step up to make a change in their communities, be curious about their neighbours and bring about the changes that they wish to see in their own communities. Everyone matters, and if we become a closer knitted community together, we can emerge even stronger.
If you had one wish for anything in the world, what would it be?
I wish that more people would be aware of their surroundings, have more empathy and to take time to understand the past journey of a person before making a judgement.
What do your parents and friends think about the work that you’re doing? (For example, have you roped them in to help or did you need to convince them that it is safe or that there are really needs on the ground)
I am very thankful that my parents and friends have been very supportive and encouraging in the work I do. In fact, my friends and family members have been my role models and source of motivation as they inspire me in their own work that they do as well.
They consistently lift me up and are willing to do whatever it takes to support and advise me in the work that I do. I can’t say this enough but I really want to thank them for accepting me for who I am, for always believing in me, and for giving me strength.
What does thriving mean to you?
To me, thriving means helping each other to light our very own candle and to lift each other up during times of darkness.
We are all sparkling stars wrapped in skin, and we all have the potential to thrive and to shine light on many others.