Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Collecting Cardboards from "a form of exercise" to "protecting our environment"

Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?

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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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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Tan Chuan Jin: Old people who collect cardboard are just exercising

The new Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan Jin is facing heavy criticisms from Singaporeans when he dismissed public perceptions by saying that old people who collect cardboard are not really financially well-off, and some simply took the demeaning work as an exercise:
“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.”
Minister Tan Chun Jin said that he based his belief from young Singaporeans in the youth group under the government’s National Youth Council, the Youth Corps. He said that these young Singaporeans spent their weekends over 2 months “befriending” the elderly cardboard collectors in Jalan Besar, and these are their findings.

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Tan Chuan-Jin to cardboard collector critics: “Hey, I’m trying!”

On occasion, Mr Tan has also posted his thoughts about everyday Singaporeans, not unlike his post on cardboard collectors, such as his encounter with a tissue-paper seller in February. He also posts regularly on Twitter (@chuanjin1).

But few of his posts have attracted the same passion with which netizens have taken to his most recent note about the elderly who earn or supplement their income by collecting cardboard. While some praised him for taking the time to find out about other people’s livelihoods, others have been more cynical. Among these, some responses have been downright derisive, especially towards his comment that some of the older folk were treating cardboard collecting as a “form of exercise”.

Why would anyone collect cardboard as a form of exercise? Was this an excuse the minister was giving for the failure of the system to provide for older folk?


MY AUNTIE IS A MIDDLE CLASS CARDBOARD COLLECTOR FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Dear Mr Tan Chuan Jin, I was heartened and impressed by your sincerity when I read your Facebook post about cardboard collectors. When you described the elderly folk who collected cardboard sheets - not because they are poor - but because they wanted to exercise and keep themselves occupied, I immediately thought of my auntie.

You see, my 70 year-old auntie collects cardboards with a cart to help the recycling effort, she doesn't mind if the waste company doesn't pay her for her effort, she is middle class with an environmental mission.

She looks dark and skinny because she is into healthy living, less body fat equals a longer life she said.

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MSF Minister’s post on cardboard collectors draws flak

On Sunday, the minister in charge of the Ministry of and Family Development (MSF), Tan Chuan-Jin, posted on his Facebook page about what a group of youth has told him about the lives of some cardboard collectors in Singapore.

Some of these collectors were doing this "to supplement" what they have, and  "as a form of exercise", Mr Tan said, referring to the findings by the youth group.

Mr Tan had joined the group, who are youths from Youth Corp, on a project they were doing - devoting their weekends over two months "to befriend the cardboard aunties and uncles on the streets in the Jalan Besar area."

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When cardboard is GOLD
An elderly woman collecting cardboard boxes at Serangoon Road, to be sold to recylers. However, it is back-breaking work in the face of natural elements. At Veerasamy Road and Clive Street off Serangoon Road, those who turned up with these boxes are often senior citizens and they are only paid 9 to 10 cents per kg collected. TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Journalist Zaihan Mohamed Yusof only manages to turn in 16kg of used cardboard for a payout of only $2. It was hard work in those three hours. He finds respect for the legions of elderly men and women who tirelessly scour the streets to earn a living.

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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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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Why we shouldn’t take cardboard collectors’ comments at face value
Yahoo Newsroom/Yahoo photo - Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin calls on Singaporeans to build a nation they can be proud of. (Yahoo! file photo)

How much do we know about the cardboard collectors we see on the street, pushing along loaded trolleys, backs hunched? Recently Minister of Social and Family Development (MSF) Tan Chuan-jin accompanied a group of students to meet box collectors at Jalan Besar. Yet his findings has raised eyebrows among other volunteers.

Reading his post reminded me of a cardboard collector I’d met last year. It was raining when we met her, and she wasn’t going to get very far walking alone pushing her trolley in that downpour, so she agreed to sit down with us at a coffeeshop for a chat.

She’d earned just a couple of dollars that day. She said she wasn’t one of the regular ones because she couldn’t go around collecting cardboard all the time; her husband was sick and needed to be taken to the hospital, and couldn’t be left alone too long when they were at home. His trips to the hospital had become more and more frequent, but it was being deducted from Medisave, she said. Then she dropped the bomb: the last time he’d been to hospital, they’d been told that he had less than $20 left in his Medisave account.

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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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Koh Poh Koon - 许宝琨 13 January at 19:11
Dear friends on FB,

I want to thank those who commented and showed concern for the wellbeing of the aunty I posted about a few days ago. I want to assure those who are concerned about her needs that she is actually a retiree but is not in financial distress. As she had been going out and travelling with her children and grandchildren during the recent holidays, she wasn't home when the students and the usual karung guni came around. I met her on the way to the same community recycling event over the weekend. I was able to accompany her there, and checked that she didn't sustain serious injuries from the fall at the Carpark, while the student volunteers weighed her recyclables. For those who are curious, it came up to be 32.35kg to be exact (28.45kg of newspapers and 3.9kg of a mix of plastics/glassware/clothes). Our NYP student volunteers are very exact indeed with their weighing!

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Criticisms pour in more quickly than Minister Koh could delete on post about 70-year-old ‘protecting environment’

Dr Koh Poh Koon yesterday (11 Jan) shared in his Facebook that he helped a 70-year-old woman who collected 32kg of old newspapers because she wanted to protect the environment.

Dr Koh who is the Minister of State for Ministry of National Development & Ministry of Trade and Industry said the woman was so committed to the cause that she even withstood the injuries she sustained collecting them.

He saluted the elderly woman for being an inspiration.

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Dr Koh Poh Koon’s social media fiasco: Picture of him carrying “32kg” worth of newspapers

Earlier last week, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Koh Poh Koon posted a picture of him on his Facebook page helping an elderly to bring a trolley full of cardboards and newspaper.

On his post, he wrote, "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," he continued.

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25 years a cardboard collector
tired - cardboard collector - resting - public

She works 16 to 17 hours a day and earns barely $10. At night, she sleeps on cardboard under a carpark ramp.

Passers-by would think she is single, lonely, poor and homeless. But in reality, Madam Ye, who is in her 70s, has a husband, four children, a grandchild and a HDB flat in Sembawang.

Why does she collect cardboard and sleep in a carpark then? She told Youth.SG in Mandarin: "This is how I get by. I don't want to be a burden to people, I don't want to be waiting for my children's next pay cheque or take for granted that they will give me an allowance."

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Collecting Cardboards "a form of exercise" & "protecting our environment"
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Plight Of The Tissue Peddlers
Hazards being a Cardboard Picker
Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?
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Support for the Needy and Elderly
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