Tuesday 19 November 2013

Gifts with Heart to help a good cause

By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 18 Nov 2013

LOOKING to buy gifts for Christmas or corporate events while helping the disadvantaged at the same time? You can at www.HeartGifts.org.sg, which offers a variety of more than 100 such gifts.

These products, which include lacquerware, photo frames, jewellery and paintings, are handmade by beneficiaries from 12 voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs). Prices range from $22 for a 5R photo frame to more than $300 for a painting.

Each "HeartGift" includes a write-up of the artist or the VWO involved in its manufacturing to raise awareness of the associated cause.

The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) started the HeartGifts project in April, to give the beneficiaries an avenue to showcase their talents and earn more income. It helps the VWOs design, package and market the products, helping to ensure quality and competitive pricing.

Said Mr Sim Gim Guan, chief executive of NCSS: "Many (customers) have been receptive of the beautiful works, and have come back asking for new designs."

Previously, these gifts were sold at the premises of the NCSS and by its staff marketing them directly to customers.

Thanks to the strong response and requests from some customers, the NCSS launched the HeartGifts website - developed by members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore) - in September. Between April and October, almost 2,000 gifts were sold by the NCSS.

Customers include DBS Bank, the Singapore Orthopaedic Association and the Supreme Court.

Said Ms Juthika Ramanathan, chief executive of the Supreme Court: "The gifts, produced from the heart by the beneficiaries, have been presented to visiting dignitaries and have been positively received by all."

The beneficiaries, such as Mr Isaac Liang, are also happy to know that people appreciate their artwork. The 27-year-old from the Singapore Association for the Deaf, who was born deaf, has been drawing and painting since the age of six, but had never sold an artwork prior to the project's launch.

Now, his framed watercolour paintings of Singapore landmarks can sell for at least $100 each. He has earned more than $3,000 from selling about a dozen paintings through the project.

He said: "I feel a sense of achievement, and with more people seeing my art, it motivates me to work hard."

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