The Good That People Do
22 November 2015
** Cover photo courtesy of Riding For The Disabled Association (RDA Singapore).
TWO LEGS GOOD?
Humanity stinks. Humans stink. Humans are the reason for everything bad in the world. Climate change, battery farming, child prostitution, war, strife, pain and heartbreak.
This is absolutely true. I know it like I know my own name.
But, the world hasn’t imploded. Mother Earth hasn’t called it quits on us and annihilated us all.
Not quite yet. She senses some good in some of us and hopes that the good that some people do will influence others to do the same. Like a baby’s laughter, love is contagious.
Immediately after the attacks on Paris on 13 November, Parisians opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to rest and recover. Brighter than a Comfort Inn neon sign, #porteouverte pointed the way to safehouses for those stranded on the streets of not-so-gay “Paree”.
In a bid to foster camaraderie, the owner of Humus Bar in Kfar Vitkin, Israel, gives a 50 percent discount to tables that mix Jewish and Arab diners. If we’re all the same, why shouldn’t we eat together?
And because animals are very much a part of our lives, it is only right that we look after them as best we can. St Francis of Assisi most certainly did, as do the rangers of International Animal Rescue in Indonesia who have worked tirelessly to rescue orangutans from the blazing jungles of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
In this week’s story, we explore the fabulous acts of love that people do – on a daily basis – around the world. These are examples of people to whom #faithinhumanity isn’t an idle hashtag that a keyboard warrior dreamt up.
Their faith and love are indeed very real.
1. CHOPE FOOD FOR THE NEEDY - SINGAPORE
Ground-up initiatives are often more powerful and meaningful than government-led actions; actions which for the needy and underprivileged in many societies, are wanting. In Singapore the non-welfare state that has been rated the most expensive city in the world, many people barely get by. Which was the state of affairs that led to the creation of this incredible movement. Its founder, Michelle Tan, was so disturbed and angered by the sight of an old lady eating white rice garnished only with soya sauce that she decided to do something about it. It doesn’t cost donors very much. We just pay for food in advance and tell the food establishment – whether it’s a hawker stall, restaurant, bistro or hipster café – to feed anyone who needs the food but cannot afford to pay for it.
Michelle was inspired by the “suspended coffees” movement in New York and called hers “Chope Food For The Needy – Suspended Food Movement” because it would resonate more with Singaporeans. In Singlish, our Creole, “to chope” is to reserve.
It is with heaviness in my heart that I write this because Michelle was my friend of 26 years. She passed away just this 29 October and this is the best way I know how to honour the memory of her.
Photos: Chope Food For The Needy Facebook page.
2. HOME - SINGAPORE
The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) is an NGO that works for the wellbeing, justice and empowerment of migrant workers and victims of human trafficking in Singapore.
At last count as of December 2014, Singapore is “home” to an estimated 1.3 million workers (a fifth of our population), some on contracts more transient than others and the majority of them (about 70%) classified as low-skilled or unskilled workers.
This would refer to the Bangladeshi male one sees at the many construction sites in Singapore (I reckon there’s work being done every 100 metres) and the female live-in domestic helper who has become an essential part of the average Singaporean household.
There are many reasons why Singaporeans cannot build their own homes or clean their own toilets, but that’s a separate discussion altogether and isn’t the focus of this story that’s meant to be happy.
3. LAVA MAE - SAN FRANCISCO, USA
One sure way of robbing a person of their dignity is to prevent them from washing and grooming. Lava Mae’s mobile showers help the homeless of San Francisco to retain (or perhaps regain) their dignity.
How can this not make you smile?
Photos: Lava Mae website.
4. THE STREET STORE - SOUTH AFRICA
On the subject of dignity, this genius of an idea that germinated in South Africa has now seen many a pop-up store in cities as far away as Kuala Lumpur, Las Vegas, Monterrey (Mexico) and Oslo.
It gives the homeless the opportunity to shop for their clothes and shoes.
5. THE UMBRELLA FOUNDATION - NEPAL
They describe what they do better than I can:
“The Umbrella Foundation is a non-profit NGO and registered charity in Ireland, Holland, Hong Kong, UK, USA and Australia working to alleviate the impact of trafficking, poverty and war on children and their families in Nepal. Established in 2005 in response to the growing number of illegal ‘orphanages’ neglecting children’s most basic rights – food, education, safe shelter, healthcare and love – we are a family-first, children’s charity which rescues vulnerable children and reintegrates them with their families and rural communities. When this is not possible, we support them in our homes until such a time as they can stand on their own two feet. As a responsible and ethical organisation, we work alongside the Child Welfare Board to prevent further trafficking and corrupt children’s homes from operating.”
Photos: The Umbrella Foundation website.
6. TRASHY BAGS - GHANA
While we in “first world” Singapore struggle to recycle plastics at a paltry nine percent recycling rate, this social enterprise in “third world” Ghana is making eco-friendly bags and accessories from plastic trash.
Their prices aren’t too bad either; quite the alternative to Freitag…
7. WILSON MARTINS COUTINHO - BRAZIL
Is not the true measure of a man the way he treats his fellow beings?
Are not compassion and charity the real secrets to a life well lived?
Was humankind not charged with the responsibility to care for Nature and all her bounty?
This man rescues animals so wretched and close to death that mere mortals look away in disgust and pity. May we learn to be even just a little like him.
Photos: Wilson Martins Coutinho's Facebook page.
1. RDA Singapore
2. Chope Food For The Needy
(There is even now a KL chapter: https://www.facebook.com/ChopeFoodKL)
4. Lava Mae
5. The Umbrella Foundation
6. The Street Store
7. Trashy Bags
8. Wilson Martins Coutinho