Meet Vincent. Vincent is the starter of A Packet of Rice, an initiative that provides meals to low income elderly families in Bukit Merah on Sunday mornings, twice a month.
What started as a simple birthday wish 7 years ago has been sustained till this very day. In fact, it has grown from serving 180 residents to 340 residents over time. We had the honour of speaking with Vincent and learning about how he manages this meaningful initiative on the side. An interesting fact – Vincent and his organising committee have an unspoken rule to refuse opportunities to appear in the media. He strongly believes in keeping ego out of this initiative.
“It’s about the movement, not us!”
“It all started from a birthday wish, 7 years back. I got a couple of my friends and pooled together some funds. With some luck and planning, we eventually managed to distribute food to 180 elderly residents from low income families. The first experience truly tugged at my heartstrings. I decided there and then that once was just not enough. Hence I continued this initiative twice a month. It was difficult in the beginning, I had to hustle with the little time I had due to my daytime job.”
With overtime work hours and occasional work on weekends, it was definitely a challenge for Vincent to continue on with A Packet of Rice. We were puzzled - what was the secret to sustaining an initiative as a busy working adult?
"I posted for help on my Facebook page. Many volunteers came forth to act as extra hands and legs. When the numbers grew, so did our community. Volunteers shared their stories with me. Some of them felt that volunteering with us gave meaning to their lives when they were going through dark periods – it gave them perspective and a purpose to carry on. Vendors were going out of their way for us. They charged minimal prices and took time off for special deliveries. The fruit stall uncle would chop up each bundle of bananas for us, just so we could have an easier time during distribution. Of course, I can’t forget to mention the joy on the faces of our elderly. Short conversations and genuine human connection; all these examples are little things that pushed me to carry on this initiative. I realised that if I stopped, others who wanted to help would stop too. This would mean a huge opportunity to serve would be completely wasted.”
We asked Vincent for some words of advice, in regards to building a meaningful initiative like his.
“It’s all about pacing yourself. I strongly believe in growing within our own abilities. To go slowly and steadily, rather than to rush and burn out quickly. That’s how I have been able to sustain it through the years. I try to understand my own limitations given my full-time job and social life, then proceed to work around that. For example, I dedicate 1 hour a day to work on A Packet of Rice – replying emails and messages, updating social media, planning for future sessions. It becomes a routine, even a form of relaxation over time. I’m careful to always recognise the true meaning behind my movement and not to think of it as ‘work’.”
"It's all about pacing yourself, to go slowly and steadily, rather than to rush and burn out quickly."
To end off, we asked Vincent for some parting words of wisdom. “Use your talents and existing skills to contribute to a good cause. We don’t have to spend extra time learning another skill before helping. Look for avenues where you can give with your expertise! Helping comes in all forms. One reminder that I always pass on to those who volunteer is to keep an open mind without existing expectations. That’s when we learn the best – when we aren’t there to confirm our own beliefs, but there to open our minds up to new perspectives and possibilities.”