KampungKakis attains charity status , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

KampungKakis attains charity status

A ground-up initiative that pairs lonely seniors with volunteers who live within a 20-minute walk attained charity status three years after it was launched.

KampungKakis, an online platform that taps people in the neighbourhood to help seniors, has been able to raise funds since getting the nod from the Commissioner of Charities to register as a charity in May 2023.

“We are able to tap the Enhanced Fund-Raising Programme by the Tote Board to obtain dollar-for-dollar matching for every dollar raised. We need to be more meticulous with our processes and screening of volunteers. We also have to do proper due diligence on donors,” said KampungKakis executive director Ho Kah Yoke, 35.

She said it received small donations from anonymous strangers and friends in the past.

KampungKakis is the brainchild of financial technology executive Mae Tan.

Ms Tan was Case No. 827 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. She had just returned to Singapore from New York, where she was working.

While hospitalised in an isolation ward at the National University Hospital, she could not check her email or get onto social media platforms “because of the weak Wi-Fi connection”.

“I became fully aware of the goings-on in the hospital (and saw that) many of the older patients found it hard to be alone as visitors and friends were not allowed into the hospital,” she said.

“My mind then wandered to those elderly who live alone and how isolated they must feel, not being allowed to come out to see their friends or socialise.”

Ms Tan was also inspired by the many healthcare personnel who risked their own safety to be on the front lines and felt compelled to pay their kindness forward.

It was from this that KampungKakis was born.

“I needed someone who knows the ground well, so I approached Michelle (Lau). She is, after all, a medical social worker and the chairperson for Hong Kah North Zone 7 Residents’ Committee (RC), and would be able to garner support from volunteers in the neighbourhood,” she said.

Ms Tan, 31, also asked another friend, Ms Denise Tay, 29, who immediately volunteered to be part of the team after learning about the inspiration behind KampungKakis. She had returned to Singapore during the pandemic after completing a Master’s of Business Administration exchange programme that took her from Beijing to the United States.

The initiative to connect neighbours to offer practical assistance was launched in April 2020 within a week of discussions among the three friends and with grassroots support.

“Michelle helped rally other RCs within the Gek Poh Ville community in Jurong, as well as design a resource kit for distribution,” Ms Tan said.

She added that KampungKakis needed to be as effective as the strength of its network.

“We (matched them) based on their needs and how close the volunteers were to the seniors so that even when the circuit breaker ended, the relationships still continued,” she said.

Barely three months in, KampungKakis amassed more than 700 volunteers and 110 beneficiaries islandwide. 

Today, it has one full-time staff member and close to 2,000 volunteers – mostly in their 20s and 30s – and it provides psychosocial support to more than 500 isolated and frail seniors.

“We were operating islandwide during the pandemic, but we have acknowledged the difficulties in continuing on this scale. We have since scaled down to deepen our work in just three regions – Jurong West, where we launched, Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio, where there are large numbers of elderly residents,” Ms Ho said.

KampungKakis’ volunteers help the seniors with getting groceries, buying the occasional meal, cleaning their homes, fixing home appliances or lights, and even accompanying them to medical appointments.

“The list is non-exhaustive as long as the senior and the volunteer both agree on the support the senior will receive,” Ms Tan said. 

KampungKakis is now piloting a new community-centric approach at rental flats in Beach Road. The area was chosen for its concentration of seniors.

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