Enough for 30,000 free meals – donations stun NTU undergrads cooking beehoon for the needy
Since their story was published, Lee Ray Sheng and team have been overwhelmed by generous offers of help in cash, kind and service, which have allowed them to expand their operations.
SINGAPORE: From a donation of 1,000kg of beehoon, to a culinary-award winning chef’s offer of his time and skills, the response to a team of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduates’ fund-raising campaign to feed the needy has been no less than overwhelming.
In fact, Lee Ray Sheng, 20, and the team behind his on-campus stall Raydy Beehoon, so far surpassed their monetary donations target that they’ve now raised their sights from delivering 15,000 beehoon breakfasts – to 30,000 to 50,000 meals for families in need by Jun 1.
This outpouring of public generosity came after CNA Insider reported on Thursday about how the students had turned their fried beehoon business – which was forced by the COVID-19 outbreak to shut its doors about a month after it opened – into a project for good during Singapore’s extended “circuit breaker” period.
READ: COVID-19 forced his beehoon stall to shut - so NTU undergrad cooks for hundreds of folks in need
As of Saturday (Apr 25), the Raydy Gives campaign had raised over S$130,000 – more than triple the fund-raising target of S$40,000.
“I thought it was amazing to even hit the first S$10,000,” said Ray Sheng. “Then to hit S$40,000, I thought: ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’
“Now it’s past S$100,000 … I thought that was completely insane.”
The campaign, when initially launched on Apr 13, had sought to raise S$10,000 to cover the costs of food, packaging and logistics. The target was increased when the Government extended the “circuit breaker” by another month.
Now, the team is aiming to serve many more households across the island – working through food charities like The Food Bank Singapore and Willing Hearts – by expanding their operations.
Currently, the Raydy team cooks out of two catering kitchens in the west and the north of Singapore, which were offered to them for temporary use free of charge. They have now also received offers of a third kitchen space in the east, and are on the lookout for more.
They have hired a second cook and, if there is a need, are open to hiring more cooks who have lost their income since the “circuit measures” began.
They also hope to include masks with each packet of beehoon delivered, and are looking for mask donors or mask manufacturers they can work with.
Ray Sheng emphasised that the funds would be accounted for properly.
“Rest assured this money will be put to good use,” he said, explaining that every invoice is filed and accounted for in the team’s finance sheet.
“Every deduction has to be approved by someone else, so no one can make a transaction without another person’s approval.”
OFFER OF SERVICES
Ray Sheng admitted to being “overwhelmed” by the donors and the sheer amount of money raised.
Others, he said, have reached out to chip in in non-monetary ways. He has received “hundreds” of messages from people offering to pack or deliver food. One person even donated 1,000kg of beehoon.
“To give that some context, a 3kg bag can be cooked for about 40 to 50 people,” he said. “Imagine a thousand!”
One eating house offered the use of its chefs. And a 72-year-old former hotel chef and culinary awards winner offered his time and skills. “Maybe he can cook not just beehoon, but other things, like a nice fried rice with all the ingredients on top,” Ray Sheng enthused.
They continue to welcome volunteers who have food hygiene certification and can commit to six mornings a week as food packers; and those with cars who can help with deliveries.
WATCH: What a day, starting at 5am, is like (4:37)
‘NOT ABOUT BEING A HERO’
Ray Sheng and his team of three managers, Ye Anran, Zechary Hoe and Sheila Lim, are touched by the messages they have received and the comments people have been leaving on their campaign page and on the CNA Insider story.
One anonymous donor wrote: "I was from NTU, and it is very encouraging to see the spirit of care, entrepreneurship and community being harnessed for good. Those with money, give money; those with strength, give strength.”
Said Ray Sheng: “We really appreciate these comments because it spurs us on and puts a smile on our faces,” he said. “But it was never about being a hero.
“We just realised we could use our skills to do something to give back to society.”
Even when the “circuit breaker” is lifted and school reopens, the team hopes that the funds they have raised can be used to continue what they have been doing, even as they resume running their campus stall business.
“Initially, before we started this project, our plan was to expand our business,” he said. “But there’s so much more we can do … donating doesn’t only have to happen during a crisis, it can happen anytime.”