New furniture vouchers for the needy

SINGAPORE - For months, Mr Karyawan Sinar Widjoyo and his family of two ate on the floor and took cold showers in their three-room HDB flat.

This was the sad state of affairs after they were swindled by a property agent of $94,000 while trying to downgrade from their previous flat, the 42-year-old driver claimed. But he was all smiles on Sunday in their newly refurbished flat, complete with donated furniture and a brand new computer for his 13-year-old daughter. They also no longer have to eat off the floor.

"We are very thankful to everyone. This furniture means the world to us," he said.

Mr Karyawan was one of the recipients in an innovative scheme by volunteer organisation Heartware Network and retail giant Courts, in which youth volunteers earn cash for each hour of work. Eleven of them raised $50,000 after 10,000 hours of work over five years. The cash was converted to furniture and grocery vouchers, which are given to underprivileged families.

Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who presented the family with grocery vouchers, said: "We have a system in place but if people fall through, the partners come in to help... so it's a compassionate society."

Mr Shanmugam, who is also an MP for Nee Soon GRC, said his grassroots team would look into offering Mr Karyawan legal advice.

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