Thousands of needy residents receive hongbao, gift packs in charity drives ahead of CNY, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Thousands of needy residents receive hongbao, gift packs in charity drives ahead of CNY

This article is more than 12 months old

When Mr Loh Kiong Poot was five years old, his parents divorced. At age 14, he quit school and ran away from home.

“When I was young, I didn’t enjoy a good life. But now, I can help others have a better life,” said the now 79-year-old retired businessman, who donated $500,000 at the Community Chest Fu Dai event held at Changi Exhibition Centre.

He was among thousands of volunteers and donors who took part in various charity events on Saturday, ahead of Chinese New Year later in January.

More than 8,500 bags of food and drinks will be given to 6,000 families and 2,500 seniors through the annual Fu Dai event, which worked with 44 partners to get donations and volunteers to pack the festive bags for distribution to those in need of support.

On Saturday, volunteers – including Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling – visited homes around the island to give out the bags. It took 1,300 volunteers three days to pack them all.

Community Chest chairman Chew Sutat said the bags contained essential food items and can go a long way towards defraying household bills.

He added that they would bring joy to the beneficiaries, which include children with special needs, youth at risk, adults with disabilities, people with mental health conditions, and families and seniors in need of assistance.

“As social service needs become more complex, I would like to urge all our partners and donors to continue working closely with us to adopt sustainable philanthropy,” he said.

Separately, the Singapore Buddhist Lodge (SBL) gave out red packets, each containing $250, to more than 3,000 less-privileged seniors on Saturday at its 75th Batch Hong Bao Distribution Ceremony in Kim Yam Road.

One of Singapore’s oldest charities, SBL has been giving out hongbao yearly since 1949.

Madam Lee was among those who received a hongbao. The 85-year-old, who declined to give her full name, lives alone as her family members have died. She said she is grateful for the hongbao as it will help with her daily expenses and enable her to buy some Chinese New Year goodies.

SBL will be giving out hongbao to 2,500 more beneficiaries from Sunday until mid-January. It will also give out $10 hongbao to more than 8,000 residents of local homes for the elderly before Chinese New Year.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who was guest of honour at the SBL event, said he visited the lodge almost weekly with his grandmother when he was very young. His grandmother was healthy for most of her life, before falling ill and succumbing to lung cancer within a few months.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung giving out hongbao at the Singapore Buddhist Lodge’s 75th Batch Hong Bao Distribution Ceremony on Saturday. PHOTO: SINGAPORE BUDDHIST LODGE

He said the experience highlighted the importance of having a long, healthy lifespan.

“What we want to make sure is that, like my grandmother, you will have a healthy life... When you live for 10 years in ill health, there is no quality of life. So when we wish people long life, we are talking about your healthy life, not just your biological life,” he said.

The most important thing is “how we eat, sleep, exercise and lead our lives”, said Mr Ong, and whether every senior feels loved, receives care and has relationships. “That is the best medicine for all of us,” he added.

He said events like the one on Saturday are a good reminder that there are organisations that care for all, no matter what the difficulties one faces.

In Queenstown, 250 underprivileged residents were taken on a grocery shopping trip on Saturday to mark the festive season. The elderly beneficiaries were paired up with volunteers from Alexandra Fire Station and the volunteering arm of ActiveSG Team Nila, as well as grassroots leaders, to help them choose healthier grocery items and manage their budget.

A total of $12,500 in Sheng Siong vouchers was given to the beneficiaries to spend, with each receiving $50.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua was guest of honour at the event.

In a statement on Saturday, the Queenstown Constituency Office said the project allows residents to buy what they need, instead of giving them items that they might not find useful. This reduces wastage and meets the needs of the beneficiaries at the same time, it said.

CHINESE NEW YEAR 2023hongbao