‘The whole of Singapore coming together’: Local firms team up to distribute 100,000 COVID-19 care packs to vulnerable households

‘The whole of Singapore coming together’: Local firms team up to distribute 100,000 COVID-19 care packs to vulnerable households

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Ninja Van's employees pack items into the care packs. (Photo: Ninja Van)

SINGAPORE: For courier David Lee, who has to leave his house daily to deliver items, hygiene products are invaluable during the COVID-19 “circuit breaker” period.

Both he and his wife work in essential services, which means that their two daughters have also been travelling to school to be under the care of their teachers.

All this adds up to many face masks, hand sanitisers and antibacterial wipes being used – which is why a hygiene care pack delivered to their doorstep by Ninja Van’s couriers could not have come at a better time. 

“The items inside the care pack are really essential during this period – like hand sanitiser, face masks, they’re all in high demand now,” said Mr Lee, 52, adding that he was “very touched” by the gesture.

These care packs are part of an initiative called SGPaySitForward, which was launched on Apr 22 by local companies Ninja Van and Night Owl Cinematics as a way of giving back to the community.

People are encouraged to buy a S$25 care pack which will then be delivered by Ninja Van couriers to the doorsteps of vulnerable individuals and families. The founders of the campaign hope to deliver up to 100,000 care packs by the end of the circuit breaker period on Jun 1.

Apart from lower-income families, recipients include migrant workers in dormitories and the elderly in nursing homes. 

As of Tuesday (May 12), more than 23,300 care packs have been bought, more than a fifth of the campaign’s goal.

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Ninja Van CEO Lai Chang Wen is one of the founders of the SGPaySitForward initiative. (Photo: Ninja Van)

“(Seeing the impact of COVID-19 on the community) prompted a bit of introspection as well as thinking about our strengths – how can we leverage that to give back to the community?” Ninja Van CEO Lai Chang Wen told CNA in a phone interview.

WORKING "NON-STOP" TO PUT THE CAMPAIGN TOGETHER

While Mr Lai initially thought of doing the campaign on his own, he realised that teaming up with marketing experts would help to “amplify what we could do on our own”.

While delivery company Ninja Van focused on building the back end of the site, the packing and the delivery of the care packs, local production house Night Owl Cinematics used its expertise in social media and marketing to publicise the SGPaySitForward campaign.

“So we decided that by teaming up together with these social folks, influencers, media personalities, they could help spread the word a lot better so that we can focus on doing the logistical work while they focus on spreading the word,” he said.

This is where Night Owl Cinematics comes in. Initially, the production company was also working on their own care pack campaign with Guardian, with an initial goal of donating 5,000 care packs, said CEO Sylvia Chan.

“I think why we decided to come onboard is because we already have a one month worth of research and prototype and all the kind of things that we need to coordinate the care pack. With (Ninja Van) onboard, it’s just about scaling it up,” she added.

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Ninja Van dropping off care packs for migrant workers. (Photo: Ninja Van)

They also roped in other local firms, including social media company GoodStuph, online marketplace Carousell and cashback reward programme ShopBack, to help with the campaign.

Ever since Mr Lai and Ms Chan decided to start the campaign one week before its official launch, work has been “non-stop” for them, said Ms Chan.

“In fact, some members of Night Owl Cinematics and Ninja Van were actually packing the care pack until three (in the morning), because we’re trying to save costs so that people can buy this care pack at the lowest possible price,” she said.

“We have worked non-stop since the start, and will continue to work non-stop until the 100,000 packs are shipped.”

WHY CARE PACKS?

When Mr Lai first started thinking of how best to contribute, he spoke to organisations including grassroots organisations, NTUC and the unions.

“Two areas people always think about are foreign workers and dry goods or food. We realised that these two sectors are actually quite well-served, that they are very focused,” said Mr Lai, adding that he found hygiene and sanitation to be uniquely important during the COVID-19 outbreak.

READ: 'We want them to know they're not alone': New scheme to distribute food vouchers to more than 12,000 disadvantaged students

“These products are actually quite expensive … So is there a way we can garner support for these inventory suppliers, get them at cost price and then distribute them? It’s probably not top of mind for a lot of vulnerable households. But it should be,” he said.

“We wanted a care pack that embodies this motto that we have internally, which is stop COVID, save lives. So we put in things that are actually going to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Ms Chan.

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Night Owl Cinematics CEO Sylvia Chan is one of the founders behind the SGPaySitForward campaign. (Photo: Sylvia Chan)

And with Ninja Van’s extensive fleet, packing and distributing the care packs seemed a lot more useful than simply donating money, said Mr Lai.

“Why not leverage on our fleet to do (the work of packing and distributing) and allow people to contribute just in the comfort of their home and allow us to transform the monetary donation to something more tangible and efficient?” he said, adding that Ninja Van was distributing between 3,000 and 5,000 care packs a day.

READ: ‘If no work at all, how?’ Low-income families grapple with zero income, higher expenses amid circuit breaker

"ASPIRATIONAL" GOAL TO DELIVER 100,000 CARE PACKS

When asked about the goal of 100,000 care packs, Ms Chan laughed and said: “This is quite a crazy figure and this is a funny story. On the phone with (Mr Lai), I said that Night Owl Cinematics wanted to do 5,000, and then he said, why 5,000, we must do at least 100,000. We just came up with this figure very arbitrarily.”

But later, when they checked with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) as well as the National Youth Council (NYC), they found that there were indeed 100,000 – and more – beneficiaries who needed the care packs.

“So that was a random number but when we fact-checked, it was also a good starting point,” said Ms Chan.

When it came down to distributing the care pack to each beneficiary, the team received a list from MCCY and NYC. They called up every beneficiary to ask if they needed the care packs and how many, Ms Chan said.

The goal of distributing 100,000 care packs is also “aspirational”, noted Ms Chan.

“As with every goal, we always aim to achieve it, but the reality is, every care pack is a household,” said Mr Lai.

“I don’t think we’re overly focused on the numbers because then it becomes a vanity metric. A hundred thousand is a goal which keeps us going, keeps us motivated.”

Although the current plan is to end the campaign on Jun 1, Ms Chan said there is potential to go beyond that if they manage to sell more than 100,000 care packs.

“In the event that we sell a lot more, we're just going to continue until COVID-19 is over,” she said.

And to the beneficiaries of their care packs, Mr Lai said: “Stay safe, we hope that every little bit counts. We hope you take heart in the fact that it is the whole of Singapore coming together to make a little difference in your life.”

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Source: CNA/cc(gs)

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