Donation platform looks to bring back kampung spirit, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Donation platform looks to bring back kampung spirit

A new online donation platform has been set up to raise money for items requested by social workers on behalf of households. Through it, its developers hope to simplify the process of getting essential goods and services directly to those who need them.

Since its launch about two weeks ago on Jan 24, KampungSpirit has raised $4,515 from 86 donors. The money was used to fulfil 17 requests for brand-new items such as a wheelchair, washing machines and adult diapers.

The platform is helmed by Open Government Products (OGP), an independent division of GovTech that builds technology for the public good.

OGP’s senior product manager Jan Donyada said KampungSpirit’s model relies on social workers, who work closely with households under their care, to raise the public’s attention to specific needs in the community.

Social workers know the context behind their cases best, he said.

“They are the ones who write the stories behind each listing so that donors know the importance of each item requested, and how their donation can impact and improve the quality of life of the people receiving them.”

Mr Jan noted it is easier for single-item requests to be funded, compared with large donation campaigns. The platform also calls for donations for handyman services, as well as decluttering and cleaning services.

Its most expensive listing – a 10.5kg-capacity washing machine that cost $488 – took two days to be funded, while a request for a tablet for two children with autism took just two hours to be fulfilled.

While the tablet cost only $120, generous donors contributed $325. The excess amount will be directed to a similar request, said Mr Jan.

The Foundation of Rotary Clubs Singapore Family Service Centre (FRCS FSC), which serves communities in Clementi and West Coast, is one of the first social services agencies to use KampungSpirit.

To date, it has submitted five requests, of which four have been fulfilled within a short time, said Ms Stephanie Lai, community partnership manager at FRCS FSC.

She said the KampungSpirit request process was “seamless” as the agency needed only to submit a request to the platform, which did the rest, such as publishing the listing online, procuring the items needed and arranging for delivery to the beneficiaries.

In particular, she noted that KampungSpirit seeks to help beneficiaries obtain brand-new essential household items, which otherwise would be difficult or costly for them to get on their own given their circumstances.

Ms Lai said: “KampungSpirit is an alternative and additional platform that social workers and social service professionals can tap when sourcing for items needed for our beneficiaries.”

The idea for KampungSpirit was inspired by Mr Jan’s previous experience running his own fund-raising project in November 2022.

He raised $9,500 from friends and family, then asked social workers what their beneficiaries needed. They came back with requests from 26 households for items such as ovens, rice cookers, mattresses, milk powder and diapers.

To stretch his budget, Mr Jan looked to Carousell to buy second-hand the items that were more expensive. Being the middleman also meant he had to coordinate logistics and delivery himself.

He did purchase some brand-new items, which meant the merchant would do the fulfilment. “I found this way was the most scalable,” said Mr Jan.

It got him thinking about how he could reduce the number of contact points so the community could chip in for new items and have the logistics handled by the merchants.

Mr Jan also wanted to make sure there would be no need for social workers to do any sort of coordination.

He teamed up with seven others, including engineers and designers, to build KampungSpirit in under two weeks. 

For now, it is still a work in progress, said Mr Jan, as the team works towards refining the platform for donors, social works and beneficiaries.

Future aims include being able to notify donors, social workers and beneficiaries on the status of requested items or services in real time. For now, they use messaging app Telegram to provide updates when items get purchased.

The team is also working on improving payment flow and allowing users to get tax incentives from every donation they make.

Mr Jan said the team intends to help social workers polish the way they write their beneficiaries’ stories by teaching them to use large language models such as ChatGPT or Pair, another OGP product.

He said: “We hope to build a tighter community where the lucky look out for the less fortunate, not just chipping in for essential items but also helping them to improve their quality of life.”

SingaporedonationsSOCIAL WORK