In this edition of Groundup Features, we hear from Advait – Director of Innovations at Hey, You Got Mail!. The groundup was formed in June, after the team reflected on their lifestyle during Circuit Breaker and wondered how seniors, who had little to no access to the Internet, were doing. They aim to reduce the risk of loneliness in seniors from nursing homes – through delivery of high-quality handmade cards.
1. Hi Advait, please tell us more about yourself!
I’m currently serving in National Service (NS), and I spend 5 days of the week yelling at recruits to ‘wake up their idea,’ but in my free time I either a) daydream, b) try to code, c) watch/play football. More recently however, I’ve been dedicating my time to developing and maintaining the Hey, You Got Mail! Website, and volunteering my effort to serve wonderful cards to the elderly!
Before Hey, You Got Mail!, my friends wouldn't have pinned me as the kind of guy to be involved in serving the community, because I do tend to appear a little intimidating, but I'm a nice guy I swear. Jokes aside, I gain a lot of satisfaction from creating good experiences for people, and I had a lot of fun doing this as a Student Councillor in Victoria Junior College. So, working on Hey, You Got Mail! has been a natural extension for me to apply the things I learnt back in school.
2. What inspired you to contribute and lead through Hey, You Got Mail!
During circuit-breaker, I fully dedicated my time to honing my programming skills and tinkering with the numerous frameworks available to create cool things. While I did manage to make ‘cool things’, and even started a mini-hustle, I didn't find much purpose in continuing to do so. Not until my friends Jaslyn, Joanne and Triston approached me with their GRAND idea to do something for the community. This was when I realized that I could offer my skills to a cause that was worthwhile!
Interestingly, at the time, my grandmother who initially travelled from India to see us for just a few weeks, was stuck here due to the travel ban. So, having her around for those extra 2 months gave me a lot of time to reflect, and appreciate her impact on my life in my early childhood. I guess these circumstances also inspired me to give back to the elderly, who just like my grandmother, may have impacted so many others.
3. How has it been like, for Hey, You Got Mail!, during this COVID-19 period?
It’s been an interesting challenge, to say the least. The evolving COVID-19 situation was always on our minds during the initial planning stage. Due to the labour required in making cards, holding mass meetups to make cards would have been ideal! But we’ve found ways to make things work with numerous small-group meetings and remote-volunteering - where we allow volunteers to organize among themselves to help make cards!
4. How do you manage your time and energy between NS, personal life and volunteering in Hey, You Got Mail!
Since my vocation in NS requires me to stay-in 5 days of the week, I have to make the best use of my time on weekends. While I do try my best to work remotely in-camp by collaborating through Google Docs and such, I get the bulk of my work done at home. I usually set aside one of my weekend days to work exclusively on HYGM. I try my best to make time for friends and family too, but sometimes when I can't, I invite them along to volunteer together!
5. Lastly, how do you hope Hey, You Got Mail! builds a city of good?
Before Hey, You Got Mail! I would have never imagined myself being as actively involved in serving the community this way. But taking the first step out of my comfort zone to do something on this scale has been extremely rewarding and eye-opening at the same time. The truth is, that many people (especially the youth) are indifferent to issues that plague the community, as I once was, and fail to recognize their potential to make a difference.
Through Hey, You Got Mail! I hope we can inspire others to do good not just for the elderly, but for the community at large. Perhaps, through our work, we can help people realize that they too can make things happen. After all, we’re just a bunch of 19-20 year old's with a teeny bit of time on our hands. Being a part of something self-initiated brings about a different kind of satisfaction, so I hope to see even more ground-up initiatives from the youth!
So far, it’s been heart-warming to have had so many people supporting this cause in their own ways. From giving shout-outs, to joining us as a volunteer, or even sending a card, we appreciate every chance to expand our network of care, because that's what we need to create a city of good.
6. Bonus (silly) question from us! Milk first or Cereal first?
C E R E A L. This shouldn’t even be a question!