Sunday 27 May 2012

Project One More Thing: Youth group grants old folk's wishes

By Jose Hong, The Straits Times, 26 May 2012

GIVEN Singapore's sweltering weather, 64-year-old Ong Siew Hong has one wish - a fan.

That could come true with Project One More Thing, a youth movement which was officially launched on Monday. It hopes to fulfil the wishes of an often- neglected segment of society - the elderly.

Ms Ong is among that group. Unemployed, she lives alone in a one-room flat in Bukit Merah. She receives $50 per month in government support and, following an operation, has to take medicine daily.

The project, started by the non-profit group Youth Without Borders, began on May 1. It aspires to connect young people to the community through social media.

Its Facebook page has drawn almost 250 likes so far.

The project aims to post online the wishes of elderly folk from hospices, daycare centres and poorer neighbourhoods.

Volunteers can work to fulfil these wishes, which can be as simple as wanting a rice cooker to bigger dreams of travelling to China.

Mr Philip Wu, executive director of Youth Without Borders, was inspired to begin this project after talking to the Rotary Club of Bukit Timah.

The club had attempted a similar project in 2003.

Although it met with some success, the project ceased in 2006 because its organisers were not able to handle the logistical demands of running the website.

The club has now passed on the names of seniors it is already in touch with to Youth Without Borders.

The group is now both gathering and fulfilling wishes while working with other grassroots organisations to best serve the elderly.

Response has been positive from bodies such as the Metta Welfare Association, which takes care of about 300 elderly people.

Mr Ee Tiang Hwee, deputy executive director of the association, is a strong believer in Project One More Thing's methods.

'In order to engage youth... to support certain social causes, you can only reach out to them through social media,' he said.

However, while there has been strong demand for the project from the elderly, it still lacks the resource it needs most: volunteers.

Mr Wu estimates that he still needs 20 willing volunteers who can interact with the elderly, help out with administrative matters and conduct outreach activities.

Once he gets these numbers, he hopes to begin the real work: making the wishes of people like Ms Ong come true.

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