Non-profit Happy People Helping People (HPHP) invited politicians to join in their yearly “A Mile In Their Shoes” event in which people experience cardboard collecting for five hours to better understand the struggles that elderly Singaporeans face every day.
To make it a bit more special next year, HPHP decided to invite politicians from the various political parties including the ruling People’s Action Party, to participate in the event happening on 5 January 2020.
So far, politicians who have agreed to join the event include three from the Singapore Democratic Party, two from the Reform Party, and one each from the Progress Singapore Party and People’s Power Party. Two representatives of the People’s Voice Party have said they might join in as well. HPHP also confirmed two non-political participants.
To raise funds during the event, HPHP was planning to use the free fundraising platform Give.Asia. The money raised will then be distributed equally to some 150 elderly cardboard collectors.
Unfortunately, HPHP hit a snag in the road as it has been denied the use of the platform by Give.Asia who cited that the service cannot be used ‘politically’ or for political activities, pushing HPHP to now search for an alternative fundraising method.
TOC has reached out to Give.Asia for comments.
Elderly cardboard collectors of Singapore
The issue of seniors doing the backbreaking work of collecting cardboard for recycling in order to earn a small income has made headlines this year, which called attention to the rising number of elderly people resorting to this method of earning a living.
In their invitation to the politicians, HPHP said: “We feel that this is a sign of desperation among these elderlies (mostly in their 70s, 80s and even 90s) as cardboard collecting is not only a dangerous, backbreaking and unhygenic work, it also earns them very little. $0.04 cents for every kilogram.”
Just this year, researchers from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public said that an elderly person in Singapore required S$1,379 a month to meet their basic needs. That adds up to about 34,374kg or cardboard boxes a month or 1,150kg a day that an elderly person has to collect to earn their basic income.
HPHP – who has been outreaching to this community since 2013 – said that realistically, many elderly cardboard collectors earn only S$5 at most on a good day, adding up to just S$150 a month. That’s almost 10 times below the basic income needed for an elderly person living in Singapore.
Though many of these elderly folks do receive welfare from the government, HPHP contends that it is “still insufficient and way below our poverty line”, adding that many more fall through the cracks and don’t receive any welfare at all because they’re holding on to their 3-room flat for sentimental value.
Apart from the income factor, HPHP also emphasises that most of the elderly who are collecting cardboards on the street are no longer in good physical and mental health. Many have poor eyesight, hearing and many too are suffering from arthritis and can no longer walk without support, says HPHP. The trolley they push around acts as their support when they are working.
“Is this what we glorify as “active-ageing” or “exercising”?” lamented the non-profit.
So this event by HPHP is an attempt to raise awareness on this urgent problem and shed some light on the gruelling work that these elderly cardboard collectors do almost every day just to earn some money.
Update on 13 Dec: Give.Asia has allowed HPHP to create a fund raising campaign for their event. The link is over here, https://give.asia/campaign/a-mile-in-their-shoes-2019/273070/vdqpz#/