Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Are Singaporeans becoming more caring?

A kinder, gentler social media?
Recent good deeds documented and shared widely online suggest possible trend, say observers
By Adrian Lim, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2015

The past fortnight saw at least three acts of kindness in Singapore documented and shared widely on social media - in what some say is a refreshing departure from the negativity often found on the Internet.

A Facebook video showing some 30 passers-by teaming up to lift a trailer to free a trapped man, and an online account of a pregnant woman who gave birth in a car with the help of two good Samaritans were two such examples.

The video of the trailer rescue, filmed and posted by an eyewitness on Wednesday, was shared over 5,900 times as of yesterday. The other incident took place on the same day; it was featured in a Straits Times article that was shared about 26,000 times by readers.

The publicising of these good acts follows cases earlier in the year when good deeds, such as that of an Edgefield Secondary School student who gave up his shoes to a barefooted boy, were shared online.

Some people who carry out charitable deeds are also choosing to publicise these online - not for fame but to influence others to do good.

For instance, four 13-year-old students from Marsiling Secondary School bought a homeless man new T-shirts and gave him money for food.

They filmed what they did and a friend shared it on Facebook two weeks ago. The clip was shared over 2,800 times on Facebook, with some netizens saying they also wanted to do good.

On their kind act, one of the Marsiling Secondary students, Shafiq Iswandy Abdullah, told The Sunday Times: "It's good that it motivates others to do the same thing."

Observers say these cases suggest a possible trend of highlighting positive acts on social media.

Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said Singaporeans appear to be on the lookout for acts of generosity, with the wish to spread the word about them.

While noting that no study has been done to ascertain whether this is indeed a trend, he said nevertheless: "Social media is generally becoming a wonderful platform to share news - much of it good news... It creates a kind of sub-culture in which sharing positive things is cool."

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said the social media landscape could be becoming more mature, and people are moving beyond vigilantism and just putting up videos of wrongdoings.

"There are many good acts in society that may not get into mainstream media, so it is good that people are taking the initiative to share them... It would serve as a positive example for others," said Mr Baey, who is an active user of social media.

Shipping executive Josh Tan, 35, welcomed the positivity. "There is something about anonymity online that brings out the ugliness in people. So it was kind of refreshing to see these good deeds," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Wan said that even in the case of "negative" videos, such as a recent one showing a 58-year-old elderly neighbour being slapped, the response from Internet users has been "positive".

Dr Wan said netizens displayed a "collective disapproval" and generated social pressure that such acts are not to be condoned.

"In their comments, people showed they cared about the elderly woman and displayed empathy," Dr Wan added.

Mr Michael Lum, an executive coach who is in his 50s, said the negativity found on social media is the result of a vocal minority who like to complain.

But he believes that with more people sharing good deeds online, things will change. "Social media is a very powerful medium to remind people that they are blessed and (they) need to return their blessings to society."


In a video posted on Facebook on July 20, a group of Marsiling Secondary School students are seen going around Woodlands looking for a homeless man. They gave him new T-shirts and chatted with him briefly. The video has been shared more than 2,800 times.


A Facebook video posted by Mr Foo Suan Wang , 50, on Wednesday shows some 30 passers-by helping to lift a trailer and free a man trapped underneath. The incident took place at the junction of Bendemeer and Boon Keng roads. Netizens have given the clip more than 1,480 ''likes'' and also shared it more than 5,900 times.

Baby couldn't wait: Mr Syed Zukarnain and his wife gave a pregnant woman a ride to SGH, but ended up helping her deliver the baby in their car this morning. http://str.sg/ZxUX
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Mr Syed Zukarnain, 46, posted an account on Facebook of how he and his wife tried to rush a man and his pregnant spouse to the hospital. But the mother-to-be delivered in the car on the way to the hospital. Mr Syed's wife, Reena, 47, helped to deliver the baby girl in the backseat. The incident was featured in a Straits Times story on Wednesday, which was shared some 26,000 times by readers.


On July 7, Mr Muhammad Hanafie Ali Mahmood, 25, stood up for a commuter being bullied by another in an MRT train. The incident was filmed by his girlfriend, Ms Nabilah Nasser, and the video which was later shared online went viral. Mr Hanafie was also given the nickname MRT abang, which means MRT brother in Malay, on several online forums.

Passers-by rush to help man pinned under truck
By Derek Wong, The Straits Times, 23 Jul 2015

Even from his sixth-floor office at Hyflux Innovation Centre in Bendemeer Road, Mr Foo Suan Wang could hear the "very loud, terrible scream" from the streets below.

He rushed to the nearest window, where he filmed a remarkable display of public spiritedness yesterday morning as more than 30 passers-by rushed to lift a trailer truck to free a man pinned underneath.

The man, believed to be a 35-year-old South Korean, escaped with a leg fracture and underwent surgery last night at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he was taken by the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

Police confirmed that the 25-year-old lorry driver was arrested and investigations are ongoing.

The 1 and a 1/2-minute video taken by Mr Foo, a senior manager at healthcare company Medtronic, has received more than 177,000 views and 4,100 shares on Facebook - attracting numerous comments praising the passers-by who responded.

"We are One Singapore!!!", wrote one user, while another commented, "faith in humanity restored".

The accident occurred around 11.45am at the junction of Bendemeer Road and Boon Keng Road.

It is not clear how the man ended up under the truck, but Mr Samsuddin Musha, who drove past the scene, believes he was hit while crossing the road and was lucky to survive. "The man, who was well-dressed in a blazer, was lying prone, face-down under the truck. There was a pool of blood," said Mr Samsuddin, a driver at nearby Nishimatsu Construction.

A Filipino design engineer, who wanted to be known only as Dennis, said he was on his way to lunch from his office at German company Continental across the road, when he and his colleague heard someone moaning from 200m away.

"I saw the truck driver in hysterics. When I saw two older men calling over people to lift the truck, we rushed over," he said. When the truck had been lifted high enough, he went under it to help pull the injured man out despite the risks involved. "Someone shouted to get the man free, and I did it instinctively. I was afraid those lifting the truck might get tired, so I made sure to keep as low as possible," he said. "An Indian man helped me. The two of us managed to pull him out. It happened very quickly."

He said none of the helpers tried to turn the victim face up, as they were afraid of injuring him.

"You don't see this every day, people from all walks of life coming spontaneously to help," said Mr Foo, 50. "Well done, Singapore."

Additional reporting by Lim Yi Han

Awards for good Samaritans who lifted truck to free man
SCDF honours 16 people for public spiritedness; it is still trying to contact the others who helped
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 27 Jul 2015

He could have been crushed, but software engineer Asif Iqbal dove underneath a trailer truck anyway to pull a man to safety.

Even as he dragged Mr Kim Seong Mo away, he knew that the many hands straining to keep the vehicle up were giving way.

Mr Kim, 35, was run over by the truck last Wednesday and pinned under a back wheel.

About 30 good Samaritans joined forces to lift the vehicle, while Mr Asif and another man, Filipino design engineer Davide Dennis Cruz, crawled underneath to get him out.

"We realised then that the truck was starting to drop a little, I think the people lifting it were getting tired, so I quickly moved his leg to make sure it wouldn't get trapped again," said Mr Asif, 33, who is an Indian national and Singapore permanent resident.

"It was a dangerous incident, but in that moment everyone put aside their (everyday) stress and concerns to help this guy."

Yesterday, Mr Asif was among a group of 16 who were given awards by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for public spiritedness. The SCDF is still reaching out to the others who lent a hand.

Awards were given out to 16 public spirited individuals for their assistance in an accident on 22 July 2015, where a man...
Posted by Singapore Civil Defence Force on Saturday, July 25, 2015

A video of the incident - which happened at about 11.45am at the junction of Bendemeer and Boon Keng roads, has gone viral.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean, who shared a screenshot of the 87-second video on Facebook, said it was "truly heartwarming to see the Singapore spirit".

Said 1st SCDF Division commander Alan Chow, who presented yesterday's awards: "We are all very amazed by the feat - that about 30 of you came together, without any formal coordination, lifted the trailer truck and pulled out a person in distress underneath."

Mr Kim, an employee of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Seoul, was in Singapore on a business trip. He escaped with a fractured right leg, and is recovering at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He told Chinese paper Lianhe Wanbao that he was "very grateful" to those who saved him.

At the event at the 1st SCDF Division HQ yesterday, many award recipients arrived with their families.

Occupational therapist Lee Yuen Wan, 27, was there with her husband and two daughters. She saw the incident from her office window and phoned the SCDF. Said her husband Low See Lim, who works in construction: "I'm very proud of her. Usually on Sundays, we have a family outing, but we thought we would bring the whole family here today." Added Ms Lee: "Everyone chipped in. The most important thing was someone's life was in danger and he needed help."

In moments of need, there's just us
Heartwarming incidents of Singaporeans looking out for one another help bond us as a people
By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2015

What I learnt from my expensive education in Harvard's Kennedy School of Government 10 years ago (kindly paid for by my employer, Singapore Press Holdings) can be distilled into two axioms, as summarised by my delightful professors there.

The first is that the answer to most of life's issues - whether policy, political or personal - lies in two words: It depends.

After all, as policy wonks know, what makes for good policy depends a lot on assumptions, objectives and desired outcomes.

The second is that when faced with a problem that needs fixing, there is no point turning to the marketplace, the state or the community for help. Because, in the end, there is no marketplace, state or community. There is only you and me, who make up all of the above. Rather than point the finger at someone else, or expect another party to step up, we realise, after a while: There's just us.

So when a few people realised that a truck had tipped over in Bendemeer Road on Wednesday, trapping a man underneath, they rushed to use their bare hands to lift the truck.

Others, seeing the commotion, joined in. And, just like that, with no hoist, just brute strength, the bunch of people passing by tilted the truck and pulled a young man to safety.

They didn't stand around waiting for help. They stepped forward.

Another cheering story went viral that day.

A couple were on their way to work from their Bukit Panjang home when they chanced upon a woman lying on the floor, in labour. Her water bag had burst. Her husband tried frantically to call a cab from his mobile phone, but couldn't get one.

So Mr Syed Zukarnain and his wife Reena did what any good neighbours would: They asked the couple in need to get into their car and drove them to hospital.

Baby was impatient, and came into the world in the back seat of the car before they managed to get to the hospital. Baby and mother were cared for by hospital staff on arrival, and both are reportedly well.

Two incidents in one day, captured in video or photos and Facebook. Reading the news about these incidents as they went viral on Wednesday night, I found myself going to bed with a renewed cheer and sense of hope for Singapore.

Last August, a similar story from Australia had gone viral. Commuters lifted a train to help free a man trapped underneath a platform in Perth. I remember reading that article and discussing it with friends, wondering wistfully if Singaporeans would be so spontaneously public-spirited.

We got our answer last week.

The Straits Times put the story of the 30 people who tipped the truck on its front page on Thursday morning, and the story of the couple who helped deliver the baby on the front cover of its Home section. I wasn't involved in those decisions, but applauded them. Because heartwarming news - the kind of stories that warm your heart and make the more susceptible among us tear up with emotion - is the lifeblood of a community.

Good news, and community news about people helping each other, helps bond us as a people.

To be sure, tragedy can also bring a people together - think of the week-long period of mourning when Mr Lee Kuan Yew died, and the sense of grief over the schoolchildren who died in the Sabah quake.

But, at a time when social media gets a lot of flak and netizens are routinely scolded for being trolls and harpies, it was nice to see social media being used to spread happy stories and good news.

As we celebrate Singapore's 50th year of Independence next month, my wish for Singapore is that we learn to look out for one another wherever we are, and that we don't hesitate to step forward to offer help.

The bystanders in Bendemeer Road instinctively rushed to help. Perhaps there was a leader or two among them: people who took the lead to marshal resources and to call out for help.

In this case, the so-called bystander effect, when many people see something and no one takes action, did not happen. Instead, bystanders became participants and saviours.

What can turn a bochap (can't be bothered, in Hokkien) bystander into someone who takes action to help? First, it takes sympathy.

You step up to help someone in pain or in need to help relieve him of it.

Last week, another case of a bystander who took action received much attention. A man with the Facebook account ApohTecky Numero had been seeing his neighbour abused by her own family members for months. He felt helpless to intervene in a domestic affair, and yet wanted to do something. He secretly filmed an episode when the woman's daughter slapped her, and uploaded it on Facebook with the hashtag #savethemakcik.

Second, it takes courage to step up. One risks rejection, ridicule and misunderstanding.

ApohTecky Numero took a risk in taking and sharing the video.

Indeed, he got some flak for not confronting the abusers, and for not taking action earlier. He had anticipated this, as he said on his Facebook page. He shared the video anyway, hoping to rally public opinion to shame the culprits into stopping. The police have said they are investigating the incident.

The truth is that he did what he thought best: He got evidence, which he then shared, hoping to help the woman.

Reena, who helped deliver the baby, overcame her fear of blood, and her anxieties over whether she was doing the right thing when the baby arrived, to help as best she could. In so doing, she chose to take some moral risks, rather than be a passive bystander.

Third, it takes a sense of responsibility and commitment to the community to step up. It requires people to think of a problem as my problem, or as our problem, not someone else's.

In Singapore, we often think of community in terms of family, kinship and social ties. We help and support family members, relations, friends, colleagues, people from the same ethnic or faith-based group.

We are less inclined to think of communities formed by sheer physical proximity: our neighbours, those on the same bus or in the same MRT cabin; or those congregating around an area at a certain time.

And yet that was what happened at Bendemeer Road on Wednesday.

From ST reports, it appeared the person trapped was a South Korean man. The man who took the video was Mr Foo, a Chinese man. A Malay driver nearby rushed to help. A Filipino design engineer called Dennis helped pull the man out, helped, he said, by an Indian man.

In those moments of crisis, a bunch of people who happened to be around the area at the same time formed a mini-community of sorts, regardless of race, language and religion; and, most vital of all, given the increasingly xenophobic tone of some online discussions, regardless of nationality.

Because, in the end, when the chips were down at Bendemeer Road, the folks couldn't look to the state, to the marketplace or to the community. They looked around and realised: There's just us.

And they stepped forward.

As some social media commenter put it: This is One Singapore in action.

To move from a bystander on the sidelines, to stepping forward to do your bit to help, requires a simple shift in mindset.

This is our home, our country.

If not us, who?

If we don't step forward to make a change, who will?

When a problem arises and a solution is wanting, there's no looking over one's shoulder.

There's just us.

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