Best Present

The Gift of Kindness

It is that time of year when gift-giving is on the must-do list, and that perennial question, “What shall I give?”

Gift-giving is an art, and not many are skilled in it. Too flashy, too dated, too impractical, too big, too small … the list can go on. Add to that, the message that a gift could convey unintentionally.

So, this Christmas and maybe for the next coming few, why not give the Gift of Kindness. It won’t take up space on anyone’s desk or home, but it will be big on the warmth and change for good that happens.

I Wish, I Wish

“I love drawing because I want to be an artist when I grow up” has a 9-year-old child wishing for an adjustable, double sided wooden easel and drawing board, with paint and bushes to realise a dream. “My goal in life is to paint beautiful paintings.” With a father earning less than S$15 a day to support a family of five, including two children and an 87-year-old grandmother, little treats are rare and dreams can remain on the shelf.

Believing in wishes, perhaps with eyes closed and a little whisper, this primary school child, along with many others like him, cast a wish into the special Children’s Wishing Well.

A project under the Student Advisory Centre, this is a charity dedicated to serving less fortunate children aged 6 -18 years. Supported by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the Children’s Wishing Well tries to grant the wishes of children who cannot afford items needed in school or at home. Many wish for a computer to do their homework but there are others like one little 7-year-old girl who simply wishes for a pink dress and a pink bag, because “I want to be a princess …” she says.

Adopt A Wish tree at Changi General Hospital Lobby (photo: Siti Nur Mas Lina, Premier)

One healthcare cluster that has decided to make wishes happen is The Eastern Health Alliance created by Changi General Hospital, St. Andrew’s Community Hospital, SingHealth Polyclinics and The Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home. As part of Singapore’s jubilee celebrations, it has the Adopt-A-Wish Programme that’s an extension of the patient welfare charity HomeCare Assist and the Neighbours for Active Living programme.

Those who have the time can pop by the Wishing Tree at the atrium of Changi General Hospital to choose a wish to be realized, or download the wish list which runs from a simple need for a mobile phone to a piece of medical equipment. The campaign will run until the end of 2015.

Practical Gifting

Should there be a need for gift-giving, consider getting gift tags or cards, finished with a handwritten message inked with a favourite writing instrument, dedicating a gift from a cause.

The team at Children’s Wishing Well caters well to the practical gift-giver. It helps provide daily lunch and transport vouchers for primary and secondary school students under Lunch Box. So if you’d like to include a few other kids as you pack a snack and drop the kids off at school, reach for a Lunch Box sponsorship that starts at S$50 a month.

Thinking of a buying a festive food hamper? Why not provide for some family meals that come in the form of free groceries worth S$60 each month, or dinner that will be cooked and delivered by volunteers to children from needy families.

More than 150 volunteers from Prudential Singapore, Nanyang Polytechnic and Elantra Club delivered food hampers to the home of 500 beneficiaries at the start of the daily food hamper deliveries on 5 December. (photo: Boys' Brigade Singapore)

Another alternative, stop by one of the annual Boys’ Brigade Share-A-Gift donation boxes. This year, apart from food donation hampers, individuals can also fulfill a wish for items such as a school bag or an oven. The wishes are at six Boys’ Brigade Share-a-Gift Specific Wishes Trees located around Singapore.

It’s also possible to give the gift of time, by volunteering to deliver the food hampers to beneficiaries from now until December 31. The first wave of deliveries rolled out on December 5 with volunteers sending food hampers to the homes of 500 people.

Members of the Boys’ Brigade help in the Share-a-Gift (BBSG) 2015 food hamper delivery run that started on 5 December. Volunteers can join the food hamper deliveries to the beneficiaries’ homes till 31 December. (photo: Boy's Brigade Singapore)

With a target of 40,551 beneficiaries, there’s an urgent appeal for  contributions, especially for products such as Halal Canned Food, Soy Sauce and Cooking Oil.

“Every contribution is significant” says Desmond Koh, Executive Director of The Boys’ Brigade. “The project has achieved 44% of its target (as of 5 December) and we hope that more Singaporeans will continue to give us their generous support. They can do so in various ways, by purchasing of food hamper items, or by helping out in the delivering of hampers.”

Although the project has been ongoing for the past 28 years, it has evolved with the times and this year even social media gets in the act, with every photograph posted on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #bbshareagift attracting a S$5 donation to the cause by long-time sponsor, NTUC FairPrice.

“We may contribute in different ways, but we all share the desire to make a difference in their lives,” says Lui Chong Chee, Chairman of The Boys’ Brigade Share-a-Gift 2015. “We encourage everyone to take selfies and spread the word. More importantly, we hope Singaporeans can extend a helping hand in any way they can”.

Also providing food and necessities is Club Rainbow. The independent charity grew out of a special camp for children facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses that was organized by the Rotaract Clubs of Singapore. The 1991 event led to Club Rainbow (Singapore) a year later, and grew to help families through a Family Care Centre with an array of free services, from counselling and support, to financial assistance. The donations could be in kind or through sponsorships, including an illness group.

(Photo: TTSH)

While gifts to hospitals bring to mind million-dollar contributions to life-changing research, don’t overlook the small but important. Spare-A-Meal through the Tan Tock Seng Hospital Community Fund offers the flexibility for an individual or a group to set aside a small sum – as small as the price of a meal – to help a needy patient.

“We recognise that many organisations may already have an adopted charity/cause, but this ad hoc campaign can still be easily ‘adopted’ anytime,” says Eunice Toh, the Executive Director of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital Community Fund. “A department with 20 persons each setting aside $5 a day over a period of three days would raise $300 which would be able to provide for 1-2 months’ worth of special milk feeds at home for an under nourished elderly who cannot swallow proper food because of this medical condition,” she cites as an example. “There’s sometimes a misperception that only substantial donations are important; the truth is that any donation, even small in sum, can help make a difference.”

Built on the premise that even a dollar can grow into a million dollars, the One to a Million quest seeks small but regular donations to grow funds to support those who may not be able to afford certain medication or daily assistive equipment. Donors, both individuals and organisations, can pledge regular monthly or yearly sums, says Ms Toh, who believes that “little drops of water together an ocean make”.

The Cute and Cuddly

Gift-giving ideas often stray into the realm of the cute and, in turn, the four-legged. Surprising someone with a pet could lead to a nasty bite when reality sinks in and the animal is no longer viewed as cute but cumbersome. To give in to the whimsical comment “I wish I could get a pet” without getting into a blind mistake, consider sponsorship. black-puppy-cover2

At Causes for Animals (Singapore) strays are the main focus. The team of volunteers including a full-time vet technician go out to feed and care for strays by providing vaccination or medical treatment. Those under threat such as the very ill or puppies that are rescued.

Rescued pup at Causes for Animals (Singapore).  (photo: Causes for Animals Singapore/Glenn Elvy)

The team aims to eventually house all strays they come across, so instead of buying a pet, there’s the possibility of sponsoring a street dog, a dog waiting to be adopted or a kennel. There’s also a spot for the cat-lovers and a case for puppy love for a hit-and-run victim.

With a similar set-up is SOSD (Save Our Street Dogs) and OSCAS (Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter). Those who think they’d like to have a pet are best served by sponsoring a dog as shelters encourage sponsors to make regular visits to the sponsored pet with duties such as walking the dog (under supervision).

All the shelters also have small gifts that could serve as a reminder of the sponsorships or donations. Other small tokens for the animal lovers could come from the SPCA which also has a Christmas Wish List.