A group of NUS students visited Housing Development Board (HDB) households in the Bukit Batok and Toh Guan areas to collect rice for needy families in the community on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7, after calls from the Red Cross NUS Chapter for volunteers.
The rice collection drive was part of Project R.I.C.E, an annual event organized by the Singapore Red Cross Society and supported by the Red Cross NUS Chapter since 2009.
Teaming up with students from Bukit Batok Secondary School, the NUS student volunteers set out to collect 10,000 kilograms of rice from 15,000 households over the two days. The rice was then packaged and distributed to low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled.
Gde Buana Sandila Putra, Project Operations Director from the Red Cross NUS Chapter and a freshman from the Faculty of Science, said that the distributions would be welcomed by their recipients during the Chinese New Year.
“It is meaningful helping other people. Since it is near Chinese New Year, we want to share the love and make those in need happy,” said Putra.
Siah Sin Cheng, a fourth-year engineering undergraduate, said he was excited about volunteering for the drive because he had enjoyed doing it in the past.
“I used to go to HDB blocks to collect other things such as newspapers for charity,” said Siah. “It is actually fun to go to HDB blocks and collect things since the people know and will prepare something for us.”
The 10,000 kilogram target was well on course to be met by the end of the first day of collections. Project Assistant Director Ong Yan Zhi, also a freshman from the science faculty, said that “about 5,300kg of rice was collected on Saturday (Feb. 6th) from the residents of Bukit Batok.”
However, not all students concurred with Ong that the event was a success.
Dora Pang, a sociology senior, said that more could be done by the organizers to improve publicity for the event.
“A lot of people said that they were not aware of this event although flyers had already been distributed to the public,” said Pang.
“The committee should improve on the means of communicating the details of the activity.”
Jon Strand, a Norwegian exchange student from the Faculty of Engineering, said that he had difficulties navigating around the HDB blocks.
“The Singapore blocks are quite confusing because each floor does not have a lift and so the stairs linked up differently,” he said.
Strand also added that he often encountered a language barrier because some residents were unable to converse in English.
Project R.I.C.E 2010 was sponsored by the Lee Foundation and Sheng Siong, who donated 500 grams of rice for every one kilogram collected.