Understanding the poor

Understanding the poor

SINGAPORE - They left behind the comfort of air-conditioning, along with having a room and bed to themselves, to rough it out like paupers.

Since last month, home for Ngee Ann Polytechnic students Nicholas Fheng and Lewin Loh, both 19, has been a bare HDB flat in Bedok South, where they sleep on thin mattresses and buy the cheapest of everything they need.

The mission? To understand and shed light on the plight of those who live on less than $1,500 a month in Singapore, as part of their final-year school project.

This includes having to live on $790 a month, and not being allowed to accept aid from friends or family.

Even scoring an interview with the two ambitious teens was tough, as they have to think twice about answering a phone call on a pre-paid SIM card because it costs more than a text.

They are one week away from completing the two-month project, as part of their business and social enterprise diploma.

"One of the things we have been taught is to understand the needs of the people we want to help. There's no better way to do that than to put ourselves in their shoes," Mr Loh told My Paper during a recent interview at a coffee shop.

Mr Loh is a packer at a supermarket and carries and unpacks fruit and vegetable boxes weighing 20kg to 30kg.

As cleaner-cum-stall assistant at a coffee shop, Mr Fheng clears customers' dirty plates, and cleans up after them. For a month before that, he worked at a warehouse storing gym and music equipment.

Both earn about $6 an hour.

Their daily routine involves waking up at about 6am, working and getting home to cook, clean the house, and get some laundry done.

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