If there is anything that pandemics of yesteryears can teach us, it is that the parts that have been broken can be rebuilt. Sure, COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in our healthcare capabilities, stretched our economy, and impacted tourism, but our community has proven, time and again, to be more resilient than we think. So how then can we rebuild stronger and better?
One way to do so is by volunteering.
On April 9, the Singapore Statutory Boards Employees' Co-operative Thrift & Loan Society Ltd (SSBEC), alongside with Minister Lawrence Wong, volunteers from Limbang CC MAEC, Marsiling-Yew Tee Town Council, Sheng Shiong Supermarket, and SNCF, have organised the annual "Giving Back to the Community" event to spread cheer and happiness to low-income households at Limbang division of Marsling-Yew Tee GRC.
SSBEC’s chairman Mr S. Gulam said, “Holding true to the co-operative spirit to do good, besides taking care of our own members, we also give back to the community at large.”
Three weeks later, on 30 April, SSBEC organised another edition of its “Giving Back to the Community” event. The event, which received coverage from Berita Harian Singapore, saw a total of 20 volunteers distributing gifts to 100 low-income families within Jalan Kukoh estate. Volunteers include SSBEC Chairman Mr S. Gulam; SNCF Chairman Mr Tng Ah Yiam; staff from SSBEC and SNCF; and representatives from the Jalan Kukoh Residents Committee.
Mr S. Gulam adds, “It’s not a big sum. It may not resolve all their issues. But, in our own small way, we want to help them celebrate this festival.”
Mr Tng Ah Yiam says, “It is heartening to see our co-operatives standing strong in the face of unprecedented challenges amid the pandemic, while anchoring in their social mission to caring for and making a positive impact in the community they are in.”
Here, hear from three of SNCF’s newer staff members on their experience of volunteering with SSBEC.
As one of the newer members of the SNCF family, how did you feel about volunteering with our co-operatives?
Taevia Toh: It was indeed a rewarding experience to help the less fortunate through such food distribution programmes. In a way, this activity also helped strengthen the bond between SNCF staff and the SSBEC team. Our interactions with the community also reminded me of when my family shared food with our neighbours and friends during the festive season. In my opinion, such events would promote camaraderie amongst like-minded individuals within the local co-operative movement while at the same time, do good for the community.
Muhammad Zafrie: It was heartwarming seeing the volunteers and members of SSBEC working together to spread festive cheers to the residents of Limbang and Jalan Kukoh estates. To be honest, it has been a while since I’ve seen or participated in a group event, and I must say that it really was meaningful. The event reminded me of certain values embedded in the Muslim culture, especially during the fasting month. One of which is the art of sacrificing something for the benefit of others (concept of fasting).
Hayley Lim: It was a rewarding and fulfilling Saturday morning spent and I enjoy that I get the opportunity at SNCF to do good for the community. It is not just a job that pays my bills, but at the same time it allows me to be of service to those in need.
What was your takeaway from the SSBEC event?
TT: SSBEC places great emphasis on giving back to the community by encouraging fellow co-operators to do good. I am grateful to have been able to volunteer for this event and serve a good cause. I feel especially so because of the rising living costs and uncertainties, which may have implicated or have an exacerbated impact on the less privileged.
MZ: As a new member to the SNCF family, I made new friends and even potential partners for future collaborations. The members shared with me their planning process. I realised it was not easy planning such events during the pandemic, especially since we need to ensure public health safety. I may have attended and conducted similar events in the past, but my key takeaway was learning from the volunteers that there is no limitation to helping others.
HL: As an avid traveller, I have come to realise that racial and cultural differences have created divides amongst many in some countries. We should treasure the harmony we see in Singapore and not take it for granted.
With social restrictions easing, many co-ops are hopeful to host more of such events in the future. As volunteers, what can you share about your experience?
TT: I would love to see more co-ops organising similar events! Previously, I had the opportunity to communicate with SSBEC team members and it was more of an introductory huddle session to get to know one another. To be part of such meaningful conversations really helps me to have a better understanding of their aspirations, concerns, and values. These interactions have diminished at a time when social distancing requirements limit our contact. I believe in-person interactions would provide a better opportunity for engagement and foster collaborative relationships within the co-operative movement.
MZ: It was fun to be able to mingle with others. With the safety measures easing at the current moment, it is possible for us to host more of such events in the upcoming future. That said, it is impertinent that we make it as safe as possible for all to attend.
HL: Although virtual events have proved to be successful over the last two years, nothing can replace the connections formed over in-person interactions. I look forward to more face-to-face events in the upcoming months.
By Sng Ler Jun