Groundup Features: Dao Ka Chiu
The four co-founders, donning their Dao Ka Chiu t-shirts (PHOTO: DAO KA CHIU)
In this edition of Groundup Features: We speak to Raymond and Jeremy, co-founders of Dao Ka Chiu (DKC) – an initiative which purchases food from local hawkers, whose business may be affected by the pandemic, and distributes them to several old folks’ homes and youth homes. Hear from them as they share more about their groundup experience, and their belief that volunteering is not just about helping others, but also helping themselves and their future generation to become better people.
Hey Raymond and Jeremy, thanks for being with us today! Tell us more about yourselves.
Jeremy: Hi everyone, I am Jeremy, one of the co-founders of Dao Ka Chiu. The founding team is made up of four uncles – Raymond, Jun Hao, and Wang Yu and myself. Within the team, we have our assigned positions, with Jun Hao being our Commanding Officer while both Wang Yu and I act as the runners (laughs).
Raymond: Hello, I am Raymond and I was “arrowed” to be the treasurer of Dao Ka Chiu!
Tell us more about what Dao Ka Chiu does!
Raymond: Dao Ka Chiu is a groundup movement that started in June 2021, where we buy food from local hawkers and distribute them to several old folks’ homes and youth homes.
Jeremy: The pandemic has left many hawkers struggling to maintain their business and we also see many of the seniors cooped up in their homes and feeling down. Through Dao Ka Chiu, the four of us hope to create a win-win situation for the struggling hawkers and the seniors amidst the pandemic, by providing the seniors with local hawker cuisines that will suit their palate.
What inspired you to start Dao Ka Chiu?
Raymond: The four of us were Junior College (JC) schoolmates and we got to know each other through soccer. In 2021 we found out that a senior of ours, who owns a hawker business, had been facing difficulties during the pandemic and we wanted to lend a helping hand. As we saw first-hand how hawkers have been struggling during the pandemic, we felt that it would be good to support these hawkers.
Why we decided to help the old folks’ homes is because when I was young, I used to live near an old folks’ home, so I have very fond memories of hanging around the home and sneaking sweets through the windows to the old ladies living there. This also made Jun Hao recall that the old folks’ home beneath his grandparent’s place was similar and that the home relied on donations and goodwill. So we thought that if we could provide meals for them, we would be able to relieve some of their financial burden. Hence, these factors motivated us to start Dao Ka Chiu to help both the hawkers and the old folks’ homes.
Hawker meals being prepared and awaiting pick up (PHOTO: DAO KA CHIU)
What was the process like, starting Dao Ka Chiu?
Jeremy: At the start, it was not difficult for us to get together to come up with a simple plan as it was just the four of us. Prior to Dao Ka Chiu, I had some experience volunteering at Meals on Wheels and that was my first glimpse of delivering food to the elderly and I found it relatively simple to do. If we were to start with a small scope of 100 meals, I felt that it was still very manageable.
One key consideration we had was to decide which old folks’ homes to support. Some homes had over 300 folks to serve, so we had to take a step back and be realistic about our situation as the funds were mainly from our own pocket and a few other donors. We eventually looked for homes that were less supported and looking at the 6 different homes we support today, most of them fit the profile that we want to help.
Going forward, when the pandemic comes to an end and restrictions are lifted, we are interested in befriending the seniors. Currently, when we visit the homes, we are unable to have chats with the seniors due to the restrictions in place and we can only converse with them from a distance. Some of the homes were affected by the pandemic and had to reduce the number of visitors allowed. Many of these seniors do not have family support as well so we hope to befriend them once the situation gets better.
What keeps the team going as groundup founders?
Raymond: Jun Hao, Jeremy and I already have kids, so we bring our kids along to deliver food to the old folks’ homes to inculcate the habit of helping others from young. For instance, the older kids will help with carrying the food while the younger ones simply bring joy to the homes we visit. Many would see groundup movements as helping others, but we see it as helping ourselves. It helps us and our future generation to become better people and we receive so much more than we give.
Jeremy: Doing this, some weeks can be quite tiring, but I think ultimately, when we do the deliveries and walk through the homes, we see the seniors all ready for dinner and they genuinely look forward to our visit. This makes us feel very welcomed and seeing their happy faces would be the most motivating factor for me.
Raymond: Often when the aunties in the homes see us, they will say “wah, Dao Ka Chiu lai liao!” which means “Dao Ka Chiu is here!”. These seniors have registered our movement’s name and they know that we are really here just to dao ka chiu – which means to lend a helping hand in Hokkien. Being able to communicate with them through dialects and seeing their smiles keeps us going and drives every bit of fatigue away. The seniors will also ask us about our family and our wellbeing, and it is very heartwarming to know that our efforts are reciprocal and that as we care for these seniors, they care for us too.
Lastly, my friends – the other three co-founders – also serve as a motivation as it makes us feel happy to do something good together as friends and brothers.
The co-founders’ kids on their way to deliver food items (PHOTO: DAO KA CHIU)
Did you encounter any challenges along the way and how did you solve them?
Jeremy: Food selection has always been one of our key challenges. Currently, we serve 6 homes with seniors of different religions and diet restrictions, hence we must make adjustments accordingly. For instance, we sometimes find it difficult to source for halal hawker food as many hawker stalls use pork and lard in their dishes.
Raymond: I agree. Food selection has always been challenging for us. We also do not want to keep going back to the same hawkers so that we can provide the old folks with some variety. We also face difficulties when there are seafood restrictions as almost every hawker food that we source includes seafood, such as oyster sauce.
Another challenge we face is keeping a stable inflow of funds. Currently, we only have a small group of stable donors, including ourselves. So, we must be very prudent about the food we buy for the seniors. Additionally, as we are a multicultural society, we also try to infuse some festive items on our menu, such as giving out cookies or kuehs during Chinese New Year and Hari Raya, so that the seniors can enjoy the festivities and look forward to these occasions.
Jeremy: In order to allocate more funds for these festivities, we have to save up. Hence, we really want to maintain sustainability and hope to receive a regular flow of donors who are able to donate and support us monthly.
Hampers given out during festive seasons (PHOTO: DAO KA CHIU)
Any advice for those who are keen to start their own groundup?
Jeremy: Just do it! It is not as tough as it seems. It is really simple, and you can do it as long as you are willing to put in the effort. For us, we typically spend three hours every two weeks to conduct the deliveries and it is not difficult to do something nice for someone who needs your help. I would say that it helps a lot if you are able to start your groundup with a team, as one can get lonely along the way and become less motivated if they do it alone.
Raymond: Since I am a cautious individual, my advice would be not to spend too much and not to tire yourself out too much. Do everything in moderation and make it manageable for you. As all of us have our own lives and responsibilities to take care of, it is important to not feel burnt out. For now, we are comfortable with how things are, and we make adjustments based on our current situation.
We try to look at things from a long-term perspective so that we can continue to work on this for at least the next five years without any issues. Both Jeremy and I have done some volunteer work in the past and we witnessed first-hand many times where the enthusiasm wears off after a few months. When this happens and the seniors stop hearing from you, they definitely feel an impact and disappointment . Hence, we try our best to prevent that from happening.
Jeremy: When forming a team, it is also very important to have someone like Raymond who acts as our devil’s advocate. With him around, he keeps us grounded and makes sure that we work within our boundaries so that we can make this a long-term mission of ours.
How can our readers support Dao Ka Chiu?
Jeremy: Currently, we have sufficient manpower but maybe in the future when we start befriending the seniors, we will do a shoutout for volunteers. In terms of funding, we are hoping to gain more donors who are able to make monthly recurring donations, so that we have a stronger financial base going forward.
Raymond: We appreciate every donation, no matter how big or small the amount. You may connect with us on Facebook, and we hope that like-minded individuals can support us and our cause.
DKC volunteers on their way to deliver hot meals (PHOTO: DAO KA CHIU)
Finally, how do you hope your initiative helps Singapore become the City of Good?
Raymond: By showing Singaporeans that very ordinary people like us from humble backgrounds can also help others. Help can come in many forms so we hope our initiative shows that no matter who or where you are, you can help someone. Additionally, helping others really helps with our mental health as well.
During this pandemic where everyone has been cooped up at home, it can get a little depressing at times. As we engage in positive acts by helping others, it can improve our mental health in a very subtle manner. With Dao Ka Chiu, we hope to create a ripple effect and spread the mindset of lending a helping hand to everyone.
Jeremy: We hope that our cause will promote a culture and mindset to help one another. In Singapore, people are often embarrassed when it comes to helping others and they have thoughts like, “Should I go and help?” and “What if I get rejected?”.
We hope that Dao Ka Chiu motivates people to help others because at the end of the day, what’s there to be embarrassed or ‘paiseh’ about when you are helping someone out? Hopefully we can send a meaningful message to motivate Singaporeans to take action to make someone else’s day better.
Fun-fact question: Favorite of all the hawker meals you have purchased?
Jeremy: I am very biased towards carrot cake and I can eat it all day long!
Raymond: I agree with Jeremy, carrot cake is nice even when it is cold! Another favorite hawker meal of mine would be Hokkien Mee!
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* This feature has been edited for clarity
About the authors:
Felinda is a Skills For Good volunteer who wishes to see a world where everyone can come together to spread kindness and positivity!
Jannelle is Content Producer at Groundup Central. Armed with her camera, she looks forward to meeting & documenting the everyday heroes of our lives.