Saturday, 7 December 2019

Helping Elderly Cardboard Collectors in Singapore


Happy People Helping People Community 30 November at 19:30

A MILE IN THEIR SHOES! PLEASE SHARE!

We are just about 2 weeks aways from a special rendition of "A Mile In Their Shoes" where we hope to have our political front leaders to participate to understand better, the plight of the growing population in Singapore!

Good news is SDP and PSP will be participating. We are still waiting for the others to reply. We are still hopeful though. :)

Please share this post on our page.

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Non-profit invites political parties to join fundraiser aiming to help elderly cardboard collectors
HPHP explained that the reason only those contesting the upcoming election can participate in the activity is to give them first-hand cardboard collecting exposure

Non-profit community organisation, Happy People Helping People (HPHP), has invited the political parties in Singapore to join a fundraiser aiming to help elderly cardboard collectors. HPHP is dedicated to helping the elderly who cannot find proper jobs to make ends meet. Providing the elderly with basic necessities like daily meals, money to pay their bills and monthly outings, HPHP also spreads awareness to the elderly poor – many of whom work as cardboard or used can collectors to survive.

The non-profit is organising a unique fundraiser called ‘A Mile in their Shoes’ to take place on December 14. HPHP has asked the People’s Action Party, the Workers’ Party, the Singapore Democratic Party, the Singapore People’s Party, the National Solidarity Party, the Reform Party, the Progress Singapore Party, and the People’s Power Party to send a representative each to participate in the event.

Each party representative will be joined by a cardboard collector who will guide the representative through a cardboard collecting activity while members of the public are invited to donate funds in one or more of various Give.Asia accounts to support their preferred political party. The collective funds that are raised will ultimately be distributed equally to all of HPHP beneficiaries.

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Progress Singapore Party joins fundraiser aiming to help elderly cardboard collectors
The collective funds that are raised will ultimately be distributed equally to all of HPHP beneficiaries

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) has pledged to take part in a fundraiser aiming to help elderly cardboard collectors.

Organised by non-profit community organisation, Happy People Helping People (HPHP), the unique initiative invites political party representatives to join elderly cardboard collectors to collect cardboard as members of the public donate to support their preferred party. The event which is called ‘A Mile in their Shoes’, is set to take place on December 14.

The PSP is the second party to accept HPHP’s invitation after the Singapore Democratic Party pledged to join the event. The community organisation is eagerly awaiting the responses from other parties.

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Cardboard collectors get a free meal a day, thanks to Happy People
The Happy People Helping People meal card project has over 130 beneficiaries aged late 50s to 96. Photos: Bobby Chia/HPHP, TODAY

At 70 years old, Mdm Ooi Ah Yang works two jobs — a cleaner by day and cardboard collector by night — in order to support herself and two brothers aged 78 and 62.

After she knocks off work as a cleaner at 6pm, Mdm Ooi, who is unmarried with no children, heads out and begins her rounds collecting discarded cardboard boxes from dumpsters, wet markets and hawker centres near her one-room rental flat in Braddell. On weekends, Mdm Ooi sets off early in the mornings because “others will pick them up” if she is late.

When she has gathered enough, Mdm Ooi lugs her haul of cardboard boxes — often as heavy as 20kg to 30kg — on a trolley and makes a 45-minute trek to Trimax Engineering & Trading at 10 Toa Payoh Industrial Park to sell them for 15 cents a kilogramme. For her efforts, she earns about S$3 to S$5 each time.

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Singapore's cardboard collectors make just US$0.029 for every 1kg of cardboard they collect
If you think you get paid low wages, think again

A 2018 article by the ASEAN Briefing found and compiled a list of minimum wages in various Southeast Asian countries with the exception of Brunei and Singapore, which do not have mandatory minimum wages. The chart focuses solely on the full-time workers in the textile industry. However, and ASEAN Briefing emphasized that minimum wages vary between industries and job specifications. Full-time workers in Myanmar's textile industry were being paid the least as of 2018, earning roughly US$3.29 per hour.

But in Singapore, the world's most expensive city, it seems that cardboard collectors are being paid much, much less. A post by Happy People Helping People Community, a non-profit organization that aims to assist elderly people, recently made rounds on Facebook. The Facebook post featured three cardboard collectors in the small island nation comparing their earnings for the day after selling the cardboard they've collected.

For each kilogram of cardboard collected, some of them are paid just US$0.029 (SG$0.04), according to the receipt slip in the post. That's insanely low, it's not even a quarter of a dollar. Earlier this year, The Independent wrote about Singapore's cardboard collectors and how many of them face a reality where after a day of collecting roughly 300 kg of cardboard, they earn a measly $30.

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Elderly Singaporean works an entire day to collect 300kgs of cardboard, only to earn $30
This means that the senior citizen can earn only S$900 if he works 30 days in a month, at 300kg of cardboard a day

The plight of an elderly Singaporean, who manages to earn just $30 after toiling hard to collect 300 kilograms of cardboard over the course of an entire day, was recently shared on social media by Facebook user Kilmar Wong. Sharing pictures of the senior citizen, Mr Wong said that he was alerted to this case by a friend.

When he visited the senior citizen on Monday (25 Feb), Mr Wong found that the elderly cardboard collector is presently the only one working in his family since his wife suffers from rheumatism and is resting at home. The senior citizen is only able to collect 300-400 kilograms of cardboard if he works an entire day. 300 kilograms of cardboard is valued at S$30, according to Mr Wong.

This means that the senior citizen can earn only S$900 if he works 30 days in a month, collecting 300 kilograms of cardboard each day. If he manages to collect 400 kilograms of cardboard each day, he may earn S$1,200 each month.

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Caring for Elderly Cardboard Collectors
At 82 years old, Mdm Aw works as a cardboard collector to support herself

She trawls the neighbourhood of Whampoa daily for discarded cardboard boxes from dumpsters, wet markets and hawker centres. When she has gathered enough, Mdm Aw lugs her haul of cardboard boxes ¬– often as heavy as 20kg to 30kg – on a trolley and walks all the way to Toa Payoh to sell them. For her efforts, she earns about $2 each time.

It was on one of her collection rounds that Mdm Aw bumped into Mohammad Nafiz Kamarudin, founder of Happy People Helping People (HPHP). Nafiz shares, “When we first asked [Mdm Aw] why she was collecting boxes, she told us, ‘I want to exercise.’ After we have befriended and supported her for some time, she finally confessed and shared, ‘How can I tell people that my own son is not taking care of me?’” With Nafiz’s help, Mdm Aw can now be assured of at least one meal a day through the volunteer-based HPHP project.

Founded in 2013, HPHP currently cares for more than 250 elderly beneficiaries across six estates in Singapore – Little India, Toa Payoh, Chinatown, Geylang, Bedok and Ang Mo Kio. These beneficiaries are aged from late 50s to 90s. Most of them are devoid of family support and earn a living by working as cardboard collectors.

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Happy People Helping People Community 2 November

HOW MUCH DO THEY EARN TODAY?

The cardboard collectors in Ang Mo Kio are comparing how much they receive for their boxes today. Look at the receipts they get from the Karung Guni Towkay.

The price of the cardboard boxes has dropped to just 4 cents per kg. This is really sad

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Ex-GIC chief economist Yeoh Lam Keong talks about SG’s elderly shame: Tissue and Cardboard Sellers at Midnight

Yeoh Lam Keong, former chief economist of GIC, and current adjunct professor at National University of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew School of Policy, weighed in on a rather heavy issue plaguing Singaporeans – the number of elderly homeless or having to sell tissue packets or collect cardboard boxes for a living.

In a Facebook post on Friday, November 9, Yeoh shared the story of an elderly tissue seller. He titled his post, “Singapore’s Elderly Shame : Tissue and Cardboard Sellers at Midnight”.

In his post, he shared the story of Lim, who “would leave her home at 5.30pm each day to sell her tissue papers. It is a cooler time of day. She would only go home close to midnight. She makes about $10 or slightly more daily, just enough for her personal expenses”.

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Lam Keong Yeoh 9 November at 00:01
Singapore’s Elderly Shame : Tissue and Cardboard Sellers at Midnight

The Silver Support Scheme currently pays the elderly poor the miserly sum of around $200 a month

Raising it another $600 would cost an additional $1bn annually or about of 0.2% GDP rising to around 0.6% of GDP by 2050 as our population ages.

The modest fiscal cost that we, unlike the cardboard collector in the real story below, refuse to pay so that seniors like them can have a more dignified retirement.

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Tan Chuan-Jin · Updated about 4 years ago

They shared with me that they were surprised by their own findings! The normal perception that all cardboard collectors are people who are unable to take care of themselves financially is not really true. There will be some who do this as their main source of income. Some do so to supplement what they have. Some prefer to earn extra monies, treat it "as a form of exercise" and activity rather than being cooped up at home. They do this to remain independent, so that they can have dignity and not have to ask their families for help.


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Koh Poh Koon - 许宝琨 10 January at 15:30

Saw 70 year old Mdm Lim from Blk 235 struggling to move 32kg of old newspaper for recycling. Good thing we ran into her and helped her with the load. Found out that with her bad knees and unsteady gait, she actually fell and had a slight bruise on her forehead just before we came across her. Fortunately she wasn't severely injured. Asked why she expended so much efforts to recycle these items, she insisted she wanted to do her part "to protect our environment." Her single-mindedness towards a worthy cause is deserving of a salute! Advised her to not over exert and to let us know in future when she needed help with these items. Thank you, Mdm Lim, for being an inspiration and a role model!


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Elderly in Singapore need S$1,379 a month for basic needs: Study

An older person above 65 years old needs S$1,379 a month to meet his or her basic needs, according to a team of researchers from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYPP).

This precise figure came from a study by the team led by Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe from LKYPP, National University of Singapore (NUS). They revealed their findings in a media release on Wednesday (May 22).

The household budgets necessary to meet basic needs were S$1,379 per month for single elderly households, S$2,351 per month for elderly couples, and S$1,721 per month for a person aged 55 to 64 years old, the study said.

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Hazards being a Cardboard Picker
Death by cardboard collection, more common than…

CARDBOARD collecting isn’t exactly a dangerous activity, but at least three people have died from doing just that over the last two years.

Yesterday (March 30), Madam Poh Ah Gin became the third fatality when a taxi reversed into her at high speed at a carpark in Bedok North Street 2. The 78-year-old was collecting cardboard when the taxi driver lost control of the vehicle while reverse parking and rammed into her twice, killing her.

In November 2014, an 86-year-old woman who had also been collecting cardboard was run down after walking into the blind spot of a bus in Marsiling Lane. Madam Ching Guan Eng was dragged for a short distance, and her trolley and stash of cardboard were stuck under the bus. The coroner ruled her death as an “unfortunate traffic misadventure”.

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Collecting Cardboards from "a form of exercise" to "protecting our environment"
Minister Tan Chuan-Jin was right, some old people do collect cardboards for exercise

In July last year Minister for Social and Family Development, Tan Chuan-Jin, shared several pictures of cardboard collectors on his Facebook with the caption, “Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?”.

He met the cardboard collectors with a group of young Singaporeans from Youth Corp on a project they initiated – to get first hand insight into the lives of elderly cardboard collectors.

The Minister shared that he was surprised by the findings of the project, that the normal perception that all cardboard collectors are people who are unable to take care of themselves financially is false.

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Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?
Aunty is 80! Lives in Toa Payoh with her sister in a 4-room flat. They are in the karang guni trade. Flat is paid up

While I often chat with them when I meet them, I haven't gone so far up the value chain to know the middle man and the whole set-up. I was most happy to join a group of young Singaporeans from Youth Corp on a project they initiated - to get first hand insight into the lives of elderly cardboard collectors: what motivated them to do what they do; and the challenges they face. The youngsters devoted their weekends over a 2-month period to befriend the cardboard aunties and uncles on the streets in the Jalan Besar area, and spent time talking to them to understand what they are going through in life.

They shared with me that they were surprised by their own findings! The normal perception that all cardboard collectors are people who are unable to take care of themselves financially is not really true. There will be some who do this as their main source of income. Some do so to supplement what they have. Some prefer to earn extra monies, treat it as a form of exercise and activity rather than being cooped up at home. They do this to remain independent, so that they can have dignity and not have to ask their families for help.

For members of the public, the simplest thing that one can do for these people is to talk to them to understand them. More often than not, people make judgements without finding out the facts of the matter, in this instance, the stigma surrounding cardboard collectors. But of course, for those who genuinely need financial help because they are unable to find other jobs to supplement their income from cardboard collecting, the government will do what it can to help these people. If you know of individuals who need help, do let us know.

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When Cardboard Is Gold
I keep that $2 note in my wallet's coin compartment. This way, I'll not spend it by accident

Sure, the amount is small change by today's standards. Yet, this $2 note holds special meaning for me.

It was earned through sweat, and very nearly tears, and it reminds me of how, for some people, money is earned with much difficulty.

Toiling in the sun, picking up things that people discard, that is how they make a living.

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Karung Guni: The Rag and Bone Men
A karung guni cart

The practice of Karung guni is common in Singapore. Its practitioners are a modern form of rag and bone men that visit residences door-to-door. They can either walk along corridors (if that particular HDB estate has a covered carpark) or for certain HDB estates where the carpark is right under the HDB blocks, walk through the carpark downstairs honking a horn.

However, around landed properties, they may drive around in a lorry with a horn attached to it, instead of going door-to-door. They make visits in carts, collecting old newspapers and other unwanted items. These will be resold at specialized markets and eventually recycled or reused. "Karung guni" is a Malay phrase for gunny sack, which was used in the past to hold the newspapers. The karung guni men would haul the heavy sacks on their backs as they walked their rounds to do the collection. Today, most of them use a hand truck instead.

These people can be distinguished by their use of horns or (rarely) hand bell and shouts of "karung guni, poh zhua gu sa kor, pai leh-lio, dian si ki..." ("Rag and bone, newspapers and old clothes, spoilt radios, televisions" in Singlish and Hokkien) when making their rounds. Depending on the person, a nominal fee is paid for the quantity of newspapers or unwanted items sold.

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related:
Helping Elderly Cardboard Collectors in Singapore
Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?
Hazards being a Cardboard Picker
Collecting Cardboards "form of exercise" & "protecting our environment"
When Cardboard Is Gold
Buskers, Tissue Paper Peddlers, & Street Walkers
Karung Guni: The Rag and Bone Men
'Tissue and Cardboard' Sellers
Plight Of The Tissue Peddlers
Buskers, TissuePaper Peddlers, & StreetWalkers
Golden Year For The Elderlies
Support for the Needy and Elderly
1,000 street homeless found in Singapore
The Surprising Truth About The Homeless In Singapore
The Poor & Homeless in Singapore
Tent Village: Singapore’s nomad families