Banding together for a good cause

Banding together for a good cause
Yamin Myint Soe, 17, one of the core group of four girls who came up with the idea of selling Rainbow Loom bands for charity, loops bands over a pair of hooks to make a band.

SINGAPORE - It is a phenomenon that has people going nuts for rubber bands all over the world - and Singapore has not been spared.

Welcome to the world of the Rainbow Loom. Children as young as five are deftly turning these bands into bracelets, charms and anklets.

And some enterprising youngsters have cottoned on to the trend for a good cause.

Four girls from Raffles Girls' School came up with the idea to sell the rubber bracelets for charity.

"Now you can see loom bands everywhere you turn. We were at Sentosa the other day and almost everyone was wearing them," says Cara Chua, 16, the leader of the group of four.

"Boyfriends and girlfriends make them by hand. Teens and children also make them for their parents."

Cara and her friends gathered about 100 volunteers from the Outward Bound Singapore alumni network and various secondary schools to churn out loom bands as part of the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes programme.

The programme is a catalyst to promote social entrepreneurship and community leadership development among Singapore youth.

"We expected mostly girls to show up (for the mass loom-making) sessions, but surprisingly, a lot of guys showed up too," says Cara.

The students designed bracelet patterns for children, teenagers and adults. The team has been selling its Rainbow Loom bands as well as badges for S$2 each through street sales and online orders.

To date, the team has raised almost S$20,000 in cash. Its goal is to raise S$30,000.

All the proceeds go to Club Rainbow, a charity that helps children who suffer from a range of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

Team member Megan Gwee, 16, says: "Some people have put S$100 notes into our donation cans and told us to keep the change."

You can find the girls' Facebook page at Operation Spectrum: Colouring Lives.

A pair of siblings have also sold their bands for charity.

Sisters Alyson Lim, seven, and Rebecca Lim, five, made Rainbow Loom charms and bracelets and sold them on their Facebook page The Flying Loomer.

They have raised S$850 so far, ahead of their initial target of S$500.

The money will be split between two local charities - Sanctuary House and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore.

Alyson and Rebecca's mother, Madam Sofie Hon, who helped to set up their Facebook page, said that it was her elder daughter's idea to sell her loom creations.

"I didn't take her seriously at first, but then she had this entire business plan. I suggested that she could sell her bands for charity," says Madam Hon, who is in her 30s.

Using their loom boards and colourful rubber bands, the girls can weave awe-inspiring designs like Hello Kitty and Elsa from the movie Frozen with hardly any help from their mother.

"I only helped them out with the more detailed parts that needed sewing, like making the whiskers for the Hello Kitty design," says Madam Hon.

Their Facebook page has about 50 likes so far, as they have shared it only with family and friends.

It is chock-full of cute creations, including a Superman figurine, and food-shaped and Angry Birds charms.

These products were sold at S$5, S$10 and S$15, depending on their complexity.

Madam Hon says that she is very proud of her daughters.

"(Weaving) builds up their confidence, that they can actually achieve something.

"It improves their sense of perception and motor skills, and also helps them in terms of following instructions," she says, explaining that her daughters learn how to weave rubber bands by watching YouTube tutorials.

For instance, when her daughters made the Angry Birds charms, they had to plan the placement of different coloured bands so that they resembled the actual Angry Birds.

"I think I spent a lot of money on it, but it's a good activity," says Madam Hon with a laugh.

This article was first published on JULY 6, 2014.
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