SINGAPORE- Christmas is the season of giving, and this year, Singaporeans have stepped up to the plate in their own special way.
From the Chope Food For The Needy campaign in April, which encouraged people to buy hawker meals for the underprivileged, to the SG Haze Rescue group, which gave out free N95 masks during the haze crisis here in June, many have extended a helping hand to those around them.
But while such initiatives are gaining a foothold here, Singaporeans still have a reputation for being as frosty as the North Pole.
This image has not been helped by the results of the World Giving Index 2013, a survey of 135 countries by the Britain-based Charities Aid Foundation. In the report released earlier this month, Singapore came in second last in the category which rated helping out strangers, after Cambodia. Only 24 per cent of Singaporeans surveyed said that they had helped a stranger in the past month, compared to top-ranked America, where more than three-quarters of those surveyed responded positively.
Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, attributes the poor showing to Singaporeans’ way of expressing themselves.
“I personally believe that Singaporeans are a helpful lot but because of cultural differences, we may not express help in the same way people do elsewhere,” he says. “Some of us may be a little shy or hesitant, and this impedes our pro-activeness, but that’s not to say we lack the desire to help.”
He notes that more social initiatives have sprung up here over the past few years. Examples include Project V Movement, which encourages volunteerism through projects such as the Mobility Aid Movement, which aims to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by the less mobile, and Project I A.M, which appreciates groups that are often overlooked, such as cleaners, by giving them cards and small gifts such as packet drinks.