mercredi, février 25, 2015

Three Mornings at Willing Hearts : Feeding the Needy in Singapore

Eldest Son cooking rice @Willing Hearts

The Young Adult has/had CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) obligations to fulfil as part of his IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma and as usual was lacking behind. Mum had to come to the rescue and it was fortunate that a charity food kitchen like Willing Hearts exists in Singapore. Anybody is welcome to help out though they prefer volunteers to turn up before sunrise and if possible stay till at least lunch time.

Fate was kind to us because my parents' flat happened to be a short taxi ride away from the food kitchen (at Genting Lane, though they have since moved to bigger premises in Jalan Ubi). It was still tough having to wake the boy up very early during his vacation, but he was keen to clock enough charity hours for CAS so he was pretty cooperative.

Willing Hearts at 6am

We arrived at the industrial building when it was still dark and quiet and I decided to stay and help out too since I have always wanted to serve in a food kitchen. I guess one is also more motivated when one knows that one would be helping one's own countrymen, especially senior citizens for whom I have a tender spot.

There were many stations at which one could choose to help out, from washing and cooking rice, to washing and preparing vegetables and meat, to cooking, packing, delivering the food etc. The YA started out cooking rice and being the dyspraxic child that he is, spent the rest of his 3 mornings there cooking rice. I started out cooking rice too, but quickly decided that I wanted to see something else and ended up helping to pack the food which was more interesting because it was different depending on what they had in the pantry and who it was meant for. Needless to say I also tasted a bit of what I was packing to see what the recipients were in for. There was this fried rice with dried shrimp (from a can) that was actually quite tasty though I thought it didn't look appetising (looks can be deceiving).

Cooking rice for thousands of people

We were there from Sunday till Tuesday (in July 2014) and got to see the changing demography of the volunteers. In the week, the food kitchen could usually depend on a vibrant, efficient and fierce group of tai tais that included both locals and expats. They would bark out orders and move really quickly because they have been doing this almost every day for a number of years now. On weekends, there will be mainly corporate volunteers, students and working individuals who feel a need to offer occasional help. Then, there are a few people who turn up every day rain or shine, including Tony Tay the retiree who started the kitchen and an electrical engineer (in red T-shirt) who helps out every morning before he goes to work!

Volunteers at work; Tony the founder is the guy in dark blue T-shirt looking at his phone

The thing that bothers me is that people think that there are only needy people in developing countries. There are needy people in all societies and the ones that live in relatively rich countries are often forgotten or ignored because they are not so visible. When we were there, the food kitchen was churning out meals for more than 4000 people each time, mostly for the elderly and the underprivileged, regardless of race or religion (the kitchen doesn't serve pork or lard). I heard that they now offer dental and TCM services as well in their new premises.

It was nearly lunch time when we were done!

Tony said that the YA should accompany one of their vans when they go around delivering the packed lunches and that he would surely find meaning in what he had been doing. I was certainly tempted to take him up on it if we were not already busy with other more personal obligations. The Willing Hearts would definitely be a stop for us now when we visit Singapore, CAS or no CAS. I am keen to see their new kitchen and hope that my other children will also find understanding if they had the chance to (physically) serve others less fortunate than themselves. Meanwhile, if you were hesitating about whether to help out or not, please go ahead and do it at least once. Just being commanded by the tai tai army would be an experience in itself!   

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