Let there be light

FAMILY: Lakashana Niyankri with her grandmother, Madam Agnes Sandanam and Mr Logapreyan Renganathan with his daughter Anoushka.
PHOTO: Tabla

Deepavali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by Hindus in Singapore and around the world today. LINETTE HENG (linheng@sph.com.sg) speaks to two people who are spreading light and joy to others this festive season

For housewife Agnes Sandanam, 50, the visit from Lighting Hearts Lighting Homes was a "godsend".

Besides the Deepavali festive goodies, she had some much-needed company when the volunteers turned up last Saturday.

She said: "I have been feeling isolated after staying at home for such a long time so it was a different and happy occasion."

She has been wheelchair-bound since she lost her right leg because of an illness last November.

Lighting Hearts Lighting Homes, the brainchild of civil servant Logapreyan Renganathan, is a ground-up initiative to spread Deepavali cheer to needy families of all races.

Last week, about 450 volunteers distributed packages of canned food, toiletries and Indian snacks to 750 homes all over Singapore. The initiative is now in its fourth year.

Mr Logapreyan, 44, who is married with two girls, said the project initially did not have a name.

But the long-time volunteer was inspired during one of his house visits.

Mr Logapreyan said: "I delivered the package to one household where the woman had a very dim house.

"For Tamils, lamps signify brightness and hope. The woman told me, 'As much as you have lit my home today, you've lit my heart.'"

His daughters, aged 11 and 13, have been accompanying him when he distributes the packages.

He added: "I don't believe I'm changing the world but what I hope to offer is a short reprieve from the daily grind and some light to their lives."

How Deepavali 2016 was celebrated in Singapore

DONATIONS

When the project started in 2013, he reached out to 56 needy families after raising $14,500 in cash and in-kind donations.

This year, he managed to raise $100,000 and in-kind donations, with 150 volunteers pitching in to help with packing last Saturday.

It is not just cash and gifts in kind that he takes - the muruku and cookies that are included in the packages are all homemade.

On Oct 16, he held a muruku and cookie-making event for the festive packages.

One of his donors also sponsored 1,500 ladoos (an Indian sweet), made by a group of women who got together at the Sri Lakshminarayan Temple in Chander Road.

He now works with 13 family service centres and volunteer welfare groups to generate the list of beneficiaries - usually rental flat tenants, the elderly, disabled, and those who live alone.

Mr Logapreyan is grateful for the faith and trust that people have in his project, and thinks they see value in what he does.

He added: "If I can help one person, and they can help another person, and everybody helps one another, then it becomes a domino effect. It's about paying it forward."

Last Saturday, Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, joined the volunteers at Yishun Central where they gathered before delivering the care packages.

Mr Ng posted on Facebook last Saturday: "Met a huge team of people with big hearts this morning together with Minister K. Shanmugam! Led by Loga, they will help bring the festive cheer to needy families during this Deepavali."

Mr Logapreyan is modest about his efforts.

He said: "I'm no Mother Teresa, I'm only doing what I can.

"All the donors and volunteers are friends and friends of friends. But it shows that you don't need an organisation to make a difference, even collective efforts like this can spark into a movement."


This article was first published on Oct 29, 2016.
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1st Deepavali-themed train launched on NEL

  • In celebration of the occasion, LTA has collaborated with the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA) to launch the Deepavali-themed train.
  • The themed train was launched on Oct 15, 2016 by Minister for Transport, Mr Khaw Boon Wan.
  • Spot the Deepavali themed train if you can, and remember to move in for some stunning photo opportunities.
  • And did you know that both the North East Line and Downtown Line platforms at Little India Station have been decorated with the same festive theme too?
  • So here’s an idea – try catching the themed train on the NEL, alight at Little India Station, and complete the journey under the bright lights right outside along Race Course Road .
  • And that’s what we call a unique Deepavali experience right from the start to the end of your commute!

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