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Chinese nationals volunteers harangued at soup kitchen

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Willing Hearts, a non-governmental charity organisation, has posted a statement about how some of its volunteers, who are also Chinese nationals, were harangued by others (apparently Singaporeans) at its kitchen.

Willing Hearts' vice president, Charles Liew, wrote about it on the organisation's Facebook page.

"They reported that one of our elderly members had behaved badly towards two of their female volunteers who were at our kitchen for the very first time," Mr Liew said. "The volunteers claimed that they were shouted at while they were having lunch, after helping in the food preparation by squeezing lime till mid-day. They were told to quickly finish their lunch to make way for some elderly people who were beginning to stream into the lunch area, even though many of the tables were sparsely occupied or even not occupied."

"When these volunteers were slow to complete their meal, the "uncle" shouted "Don't you understand English?" which, given the circumstances, can only sound derogatory."

Mr Liew said "such uncouth acts and lack of sensitivity serve only to discourage volunteerism, and severely tarnish the image of Willing Hearts."

He urged "all members and volunteers to treat each other with respect, as we are all here with a common objective - i.e. to serve the underprivileged who have fallen behind in our community."

Here is Mr Liew's post in full, along with the letter of complaint he had received:

Dear Volunteers,

Last weekend, a group Chinese Nationals working in Singapore, volunteered at our kitchen. They reported that one of our elderly members had behaved badly towards two of their female volunteers who were at our kitchen for the very first time. The volunteers claimed that they were shouted at while they were having lunch, after helping in the food preparation by squeezing lime till mid-day. They were told to quickly finish their lunch to make way for some elderly people who were beginning to stream into the lunch area, even though many of the tables were sparsely occupied or even not occupied.

When these volunteers were slow to complete their meal, the "uncle" shouted "Don't you understand English?" which, given the circumstances, can only sound derogatory.

Further they reported that the "uncle" chased the volunteers out of the compound and used strong words like "shame on you" and "don't come back" and added negative comments on their nationality, and thereby adding further distress and embarrassment.

Such uncouth acts and lack of sensitivity serve only to discourage volunteerism, and severely tarnish the image of Willing Hearts.

We want to take this opportunity to remind our members and casual volunteers that their participation in our kitchen is strictly voluntary - regardless of race, creed, political belief, nor nationality. We wish also to remind all members and volunteers to treat each other with respect, as we are all here with a common objective - i.e. to serve the underprivileged who have fallen behind in our community.

Do remember that when you serve at our Kitchen, you serve best with a "Willing Heart".

Thank you for your kind understanding.

Charles liew
Vice President
Willing Hearts

Enclosed below is a letter of complaint highlighting this uncalled for incident :

Dear Willing Heart. Management team,

I am writing regarding to an unpleasant experience we had experienced in the soup kitchen on Saturday between ourgroup and an uncle (around 60-70, we guess he should be the staff or assistant with willing heart, in charge of the pantry room during 12:00-12:30 on this Sat). We do concern about the situation of the uncle and would like to approach him for a better communication.

We are a group of Chinese volunteers with various backgrounds, such scientists, engineers, managers, consultants, analysts, accountants and students. Most of us come from China and stay in Singapore for many years. We are fully inspired by the great society of Singapore and would like to contribute and become part of it. That's the reason we have followed Willing Heart soup kitchen for several months from Potong Pasir to Eunos.

We are also fully convinced that this organization can efficiently bridge between the elderly and the young. We came to soup kitchen every weekend and would like to know more about Willing Heart and its lovely people. Since we have connections with some Chinese media of Singapore which targeted on the local Chinese community from Mainland, we would like to introduce the willing heart to more people in our community and encourage them to join it.

However, yesterday (Sat, 30 Aug) we are told "don't come back to the kitchen" by an uncle who may be the staff of willing heart.

1, On Saturday morning, we arrived at the soup kitchen around 9:30 am. We immediately joined the food preparation as usual. On that day, we spent most of the time on squeezing the fresh lime for juice till the noon.

2, During 12:10 to 12:30, We were in the pantry room (beside the kitchen) for lunch. Actually we have got the permission for lunch before. Based on my understanding the lunch should be prepared for volunteers, staffs and others who need it.

3, During our lunch, an uncle suddenly came to our table and asked us to finish the lunch quickly in order to give away the table to other elderly who were just coming and queuing for food. Actually, it was after 12 o'clock, most of volunteers had left, the room was quite empty, most of tables haven't been taken. Then, we were not leaving until 10 minutes later my friends just finished their lunch. Even at that exact moment, most of tables had been taken.

4, This uncle came back to us and asked "do you understand English?". It seems that he urged us to give way the table and to leave quickly. All of us had to move hastily and cleaned up all the used plates and cups.

5, Later this uncle chased two girls in our group out of kitchen to the street and said "it is shame on you", "Don't come back" etc.. He even made some wired comments regarding to our Chinese nationality directly in front of the two girls.

Then he kept on repeating with the same accusations on the street without further explaining why he said that. This made the two girls very confused and scared without speaking any word to response.

Though at that moment I was not at the scene. But regarding to what I heard from the girls, his comments were close to personal assault in public. I am sure the two girls were a bit innocent because it was their first time coming to the soup kitchen after our strongly recommendation. We deeply concern about this since it becomes hard for us to encourage any member of our group to do volunteer job here if the story spread with possible misunderstood staying behind. For sure, we shall treat this very serious. I would like to drop your office whenever you think is appropriate and have a talk on this. We believe every participants of this volunteer jobs are fully respectable and adorable. My only purpose is to better understand this uncle's standpoint to avoid any chance of miscommunication.

Best Regards,
Yang Kun

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Our reply after investigations :

Dear Yang Kun,
Thank you for raising this unpleasant experience to our attention. It gave us the opportunity to remind our members and casual volunteers that their participation in our kitchen is to be strictly voluntary - regardless of race, creed or political belief. We wish also to remind all members and volunteers to treat each other with respect, as we are all here with a common objective - i.e. to serve the underprivileged who have fallen behind in our community.

We regret that the 2 young scientists in your group were harshly treated and escorted out of the compound causing further distress and embarrassment.

We have counselled the 'uncle' in question after he was identified by your aggrieved volunteers. We advised him that he should refrain from such uncouth acts that discourage volunteerism.

We sincerely apologize for the uncle's lack of sensitivity. We wish to reassure your group of regular volunteers that they are welcomed at all times to our soup kitchen.

Thank you for your kind understanding and we look forward to your continued participation with your group at your next visit.