Photo Credit: Happy People Helping People Community/Facebook

Student collects five-cent coins to fund meals for senior cardboard collectors in Singapore

For the most of us, a five-cent coin is troublesome and holds very little value. But that is not the same case for 21-year-old Adrian Foo who started a noble initiative called The Five Cents Project.

The project basically aims at collecting five-cent coins from the public in order to sponsor meals for elderly cardboard collectors in Singapore.

The collected coins will then be sent to Happy People Helping People (HPHP) Foundation, a non-profit organisation that looks at providing free meals for seniors who are cardboard collectors.

As reported by TODAY, Mr Foo said that he managed to gather more than S$700 worth of five-cent coins in less than four months.

“It’s so common for people to disregard five cents because they’re deemed useless and of no value. But something of such small value, when accumulated, can really make a huge difference,” the student told TODAY.

The student also mentioned that when he first started, he would personally go to different places to meet people who are keen to contribute their five-cent pieces.

However, he now has five collection points across the country for the public to drop-off their spare five-cent coins.

Below are the designated locations:

  •  Chippy, Plaza Singapura #B2-38
  • Puri-Puri, 367 Beach Road
  • Soylicious, Bukit Timah Food Centre, #02-166
  • Madas Nasi Lemak, Choh Dee Place Coffeeshop, 233 Yishun Street 21
  • Li Fang Congee, Kinex #B1-K9, 11 Tanjong Katong Road

“Nothing is too small. Even if you think it is, something small is still better than zero. If everyone in Singapore just gave five cents, it would amount to S$281,935. And that’s just five cents, something most people are more than willing to give away,” the Nanyang Technological University student noted.

Highlighting how difficult it is for seniors to earn money from collecting cardboard, Mr Foo said that they earn about 10 cents for each kilogramme of cardboard, and this is already considered the highest rate.

This means that if they want to purchase a meal for S$3, the collectors will have to get 30kg of cardboard pieces, looking through bins and straining to transport them across busy roads.

As the receiver of the funds, Nafiz Kamarudin, the founder of HPHP, acknowledged that Foo’s project was “a brilliant idea”.

“We are very appreciative of what he did and fully support his efforts. We hope more youth would have the courage and initiative to take action when they see something not right,” Mr Nafiz said.

Positive response

According to Mr Foo, one of the best parts of the project is how “people were so willing to contribute”.

“You could really see the community spirit. They would tell me how they amassed the coins from their own parents, schoolmates, colleagues, all of their own accord.”

He also said that when he first started this project, the contribution came mainly came from his friends and family.

But, strangers would also contact him and express their keenness to donate, even when his Facebook page had only about 50 likes.

Major obstacles

Just like any other initiative, the student noted that it was not a smooth-sailing journey as he faced challenges.

One of the main obstacles were trying to convert the coins to usable money. Luckily, a bank offered him a one-time waiver of the fee for large deposits of coins. As such, the coins were changed into a cheque and were given to HPHP on May 30.

However, he is still in talks with other banks to get waivers for future conversions. But, if he fails to do so, then Mr Foo will be forced to pay a fee, which varies from bank to bank.

If that is not all, Mr Foo is also looking at getting his project licensed under the Charities Act so he would be able to increase its reach and make it “fully legitimate” as people have “concerns about the project’s transparency and accountability”.

In addition, he also wants to use the future donations for other causes, apart from sponsoring HPHP’s work.

After TODAY published the article, Mr Nafiz took to HPHP’s Facebook page to reveal his full answers to the questions raised by the site, noting that it’s “honest and uncensored” and requesting the public to share it.

– What do you think about Adrian’s five cents project and his cause?

To be honest, I do not work closely with Adrian. He came up with this idea himself and he worked on it himself. All credits go to him. We are just the beneficiary for his brilliant idea. We are very appreciative of what he did and fully support his efforts. We hope more youths would have the courage and initiative to talk action when they see something not right.

– When Adrian first approached you on this, what were your thoughts?

I thought it was a good idea from the very beginning. But I wasn’t as impressed when he contacted us because I didn’t think he was really young. When I first met him during our Happy Sunday and seeing how genuine and enthusiastic he is to make a difference, then I realized that this kid is a gem. He is not your regular volunteer. He is an activist. An activist is a person who sees a problem and will act on it if there is no available solution. These kind of passionate youth will grow up to be someone important in our society.

– This cumulation of thousands of five cent coins is going to help sponsor meals for the elderly cardboard collectors — is there any particular significance in this?

There is this 80 year old lady I know from whampoa who pushes her cardboard boxes all the way to Toa payoh just because the karung guni man in Whampoa only buys off her cardboard boxes for $0.06 for every kg. In Toa Payoh, she can get $0.10. That’s just 4 cent different. Would we walk that same distance, with that same heavy stack of cardboard boxes, at that age, just to earn 4 cents more? And each trip she makes, at her age she can only afford to carry less than $2 worth of cardboard boxes. If she earns just $2 a day, how much does her salary accumulate to in a month?

To us 5 cents is worth nothing. We’d happily drop it inside a “Tips Jar” in a fancy restaurant where all the staffs there have a stable income every month. But for these seniors citizens to just earn 2 of these 5 cents, they need to scavenge 1kg of these cardboard boxes from dumpsters and push them across dangerous roads to get to the karung guni buyer. When you are 80, with arthritis, poor eyesight, poor hearing and therefore poor judgement, this can be a fatal task.