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Help for Turkey:
There are many good-hearted Singaporeans in our society, like para-athlete Desmond Tong, an amputee who raised the alarm when a fire broke out in his Clementi block of flats. Or the little girl in Boon Lay who helped shelter pedestrians across the road during a recent downpour.
This is made even clearer when a tragedy strikes.
Thousands (more than 41,000 in the most recent death toll) were killed when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria in the wee hours of Feb 6, with multiple aftershocks affecting the already-vulnerable people in the region.
Even now, rescuers (including 68 SCDF personnel with four specially trained dogs) are still scrambling to look for survivors under the collapsed rubble.
In Singapore, many people rushed to answer the call for donations when the Turkish embassy here asked for help. A colleague, who went to buy diapers, baby food, sanitary pads and other essentials with a friend, told me about how chaotic it was at the donation centre at MacPherson last Friday. It’s nice to know that Singaporeans aren’t just crowding Turf City for the Chatuchak Night Market.
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For example, this kind Singaporean managed to pool together more than $3,000 from a group of friends and family to buy essential items, clearing out the stock of some small shops in the process!
Unfortunately, while many Singaporeans’ hearts were in the right place, there were reports of people giving tattered clothing, even though the request was for secondhand winter clothes in good condition. Others were chucking old items at the donation point as if they were doing a CNY spring cleaning.
“I even saw someone donate a used mop!” my colleague told me half-incredulously.
At the donation point, stressed out volunteers were trying to direct the crowd while sorting out the donations. One tired volunteer had to spend time reassuring a donor who got upset that her pile of unsorted old clothes was put in the “discard” section.
It’s good that Singaporeans are so generous with donating items, my colleague told me, but it would be best to sort them and pack them neatly into clearly labelled boxes. This makes the job of volunteers much easier when sorting the donations, she added.
Last week, the Turkish ambassador to Singapore said that the list of needs for the victims of the earthquake was changing and encouraged people to make financial donations instead. Mr Burcin Gonenli expressed appreciation for the “outstanding” support from Singaporeans but shared that the embassy’s capacity to sort the items is “quite limited”.
If you want to donate, check out this list of international organisations you might want to consider.
Alternatively, you can donate to the Singapore Red Cross here.
Tap for a quiet ride:
Ever get in a cab or private hire car and meet a talkative driver?
It’s not really an issue if you’re in the mood to chat but what if you’re an introvert or just having a bad day? What if the driver doesn’t shut up when you just want to chill and watch the world go by? Worse if he starts asking inappropriate questions or making you feel uncomfortable.
Grab seems to think that it has the solution. You can now simply tap an option on the Grab app and you will get the choice to “ride in peace”.
But I don’t think it’s the right direction to take.
When I was a young journalist, I used to chat with cabbies because you get the darndest stories from them.
The moment I admitted (rather shamefacedly, cos I was still a wet-behind-the-ears rookie then) that 我是记者 (“wo shi ji zhe”, or I’m a journalist), you could see their eyes light up and they would proceed to regale me with some version of “that one time, when I picked up this crazy person…” or explain to me how Singapore society should really work, and how young people these days don’t appreciate what they have (sound familiar to the Gen Zs?).
It was a sometimes uncomfortable, often hilarious, but always illuminating insight into another person’s view of Singapore society.
And when I really wanted to be left alone in my thoughts, I would be forced to speak up and tell the uncle politely I was a little tired and didn’t want to talk. And guess what, almost all the time, he’d be cool with it.
You see, drivers are people too. They get bored too. Talking helps them keep alert if they are feeling tired. Imagine going a whole day in the office without talking to anyone, or getting glared at when you try to strike up a conversation.
How would you feel if someone told you to leave them alone to “work in peace”?
We have campaigns to smile at our bus drivers (and we can do it even more now that masks aren’t compulsory on public transport!), why not extend the same courtesy to other frontliners who help us get around?
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Being able to shut someone up at a tap of a button is not a good thing. It demeans their job to a mindless service, and it insulates us as passengers even more. It makes it too easy to cut off communication with others and gives us yet another reason to be absorbed in our phones.
A little social interaction with a stranger, even if it were slightly uncomfortable, isn’t always a bad thing. Being out of the comfort zone builds character – or at least leaves you with a funny story.
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Talking about building character, Singaporeans were gritting their teeth and crossing their fingers for Finance Minister Lawrence Wong’s Budget 2023 announcement, conveniently released on Valentine’s Day.
It might have been a day for romance, but Mr Wong was suitably level-headed when he said that Singapore would have to be prudent in its use of the reserves.
“Our economy has recovered back to pre-Covid levels but we continue to be in a tight fiscal position,” he said. “It is therefore highly unlikely that we will be able to put back what we have drawn from past reserves.”
Nevertheless, there were still some goodies given out, including more support for young families and cash payouts to cushion the effects the GST increase this year.
The more progressive direction taken by the Budget, with tax hikes on luxury cars, property and tobacco, paired with more help for lower-income families, is welcome news given the financial uncertainties of the year ahead.
If you want to look at the announcements in detail, you can read them for yourself by downloading the Budget 2023 booklet from Minister of Finance here.
New service to help report missing seniors with dementia
From Feb 6, the Municipal Services Office’s (MSO) OneService app will broadcast reports of missing persons with dementia from Dementia Singapore’s CARA SG app, which allows caregivers to report if their loved ones go missing.
This allows anyone with the OneService app to be on the lookout for seniors with dementia who might be confused and lost. By engaging a wider community network, this increases the chances of a quicker reunion with their families.
There’s nothing more stressful than having to search for a loved one who is lost and unable to care for themselves. If there’s anything we can do to help reunite families, we should support it!
Gong gong is my greatest supporter!
@lylahzn ♬ original sound – Lylahzn
Oh, and if there’s nothing else you’re going to see this week, watch this super wholesome video from TikTok user lylahzn, a 9-year-old busker who posted a clip of how her gong gong and por por are her biggest supporters, especially her granddad who never stops clapping even when his hands get tired!
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