Audio Version Available
Muhamad Imran Mean, 22, is in his second year studying community development at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
But after he puts down his books, he spends most of his spare time helping needy families.
Imran leads a team of 350 youths at Imran Mean Volunteers Network SG (IMVN), an offshoot of a home-based logistics and delivery business that he launched in 2018.
Since IMVN was started in Nov 2020, Imran has organised more than 200 small social outreach events, including distributing food rations, decluttering houses, and raising funds for these activities.
That’s pretty impressive considering that in 2020, Imran was just 19 years old.
Now with Ramadan coming up, Imran and his team are hoping to raise $7,500 to sponsor meals for needy families for the fasting month.
Used to live in a shelter
Imran organised so many activities to help lower-income families because he has experienced first-hand how it is to be in need.
When he was in Secondary 3, he and his family — his parents and younger brother, who is four years his junior — squeezed together in one room of a two-room shelter for two years.
“It was tough living there because of the space constraint. There was no privacy; it also made studying tough,” Imran tells The Pride.
“But it also opened my eyes to the struggles of being less privileged,” he added.
Other stories you might like
They had to stay in the shelter for two years before managing to qualify for a rental flat in Woodlands. They have been living there since.
It was his experiences living in a shelter that influenced his passion for volunteer work.
“I know how it feels to have nothing, so I really understand how our beneficiaries feel, so it gives me strength to continue assisting them,” says Imran.
“My family also encouraged me to pursue my volunteering efforts, and they are happy to know that I am helping people who are in situations we once were.”
Started with fruit distribution during Covid-19
Imran has been volunteering since he was in Secondary 1.
“My passion for volunteering is something that built up over time. Initially, I started volunteering because it was a free activity that could keep me occupied. Now, I feel satisfied when I am able to help bring a smile to people’s face,” says Imran.
In 2020, Imran was inspired by the many social initiatives that started because of Covid.
“I saw so many initiatives to appreciate healthcare workers. So I decided to do something for essential workers such as bus captains, F&B workers and food delivery riders,” Imran says.
So in May 2020, Imran gathered a few of his Institute of Technical Education (ITE) classmates to raise over $2,000 to distribute fruit packages to essential workers. Inspired by that success, Imran organised another fundraiser to distribute snacks and drinks for needy families celebrating Hari Raya.
After seeing Imran’s posts on social media, people started DMing him on Instagram to ask how they could help. From there, IMVN was born.
Imran Mean Volunteers Network SG
Today, Imran manages IMVN with a six-member team, including some of his ex-ITE classmates.
His dream for IMVN is to create a platform for youths to volunteer so that they can reap the same benefits that he has received growing up. That’s why most of the volunteers at IMVN are mostly aged 11 to 20, some of whom are also at-risk youths.
There are volunteer activities up to three times a week, and youths would show up when they can. Of the 350 registered members at IMVN, about 80 are regulars, says Imran.
“We have a group chat where we would send information on upcoming activities,” says Imran.
These activities include recruiting drives at tertiary education institutions, house decluttering, community clean-ups, and food distribution drives.
For example, every fourth week of the month since Oct 2021, IMVN volunteers would gather to distribute ration packages to about 60 rental flat residents. These packages — which include about $40 worth of food items such as oil, canned food, rice, beverages — are sponsored by a group of anonymous donors.
“I can only tell you that they are a bunch of lawyers,” laughs Imran.
The distribution drives are scattered across the island — so far they have distributed these packages at Woodlands, Marsiling, Jurong, Tampines, Keat Hong, Seletar, and Eunos.
“We work with community centres to find out rental flat residents that require more assistance,” Imran explains.
“The reason why we call ourselves a ‘network’ is because we want to ensure that we are able to provide assistance to everyone and not just in one specific area,” Imran shared.
IMVN also helps 15 regular long-term beneficiaries who live in more isolated areas.
“To make it more convenient for our beneficiaries, some of our volunteers would deliver these packages directly to them on motorcycles. This is to make it more convenient for our beneficiaries instead of having them travel out of their way to receive assistance,” says Imran.
Imran estimates that they have helped almost 1,000 families since IMVN started, not including adhoc home visits and house cleaning events.
Other stories you might like
“These volunteers are really very enthusiastic! We recently received a call to help declutter a recovering stroke patient’s house and within a few hours, we managed to recruit 15 volunteers for the activity,” Imran enthuses.
Engaging the volunteers
Imran believes that there are personal benefits in volunteering to help others.
To ensure that every member of IMVN gets a chance to contribute, priority is given to newcomers if slots are limited for volunteering activities.
“We want to spread the spirit of volunteering, so to ensure that every member gets a chance to volunteer with us, we have a cap of no more than two volunteering activities per week for each member,” says Imran.
Apart from providing youths with volunteering experiences, Imran also organises recreational activities. For example, he recently organised a free skateboarding workshop and a henna workshop for IMVN volunteers.
“We are hoping to organise more of these workshops because some of our volunteers are at-risk youths or come from lower-income families. It may be tough for them to pay for such workshops on their own,” says Imran.
“My parents and brother are very happy with the work I do, sometimes they even come down to events to show their support,” Imran says with a smile.
Wearing multiple hats
You’d think that being a full-time student and running both his home-based business and IMVN would take up all his time, but Imran is also a grassroots leader at Woodlands Community Centre.
So I asked him, somewhat incredulously: “So, how on earth can you cope with so many responsibilities, and still think of helping others?”
Other stories you might like
Imran shares that it’s all about organising his days.
He explains: “During school days, I would just focus on my studies and only allow myself to organise activities for IMVN after I am done with my schoolwork. Weekends would be for IMVN activities, or to spend time with my family and friends.”
“Of course, juggling these commitments isn’t easy, but seeing the smiles on the people I have helped and being able to meet different mentors from all walks of life keeps me going,” says Imran.
View this post on Instagram
Sponser-an-Iftar is IMVN’s annual food distribution drive for needy families celebrating Ramadan. IMVN hopes to raise $5,000 before Mar 20. Head to IMVN’s website if you would like to donate or sign up as a volunteer!
If you like what you read, follow us on Twitter and Google News to get the latest updates.