From the field to the rental blocks, athletes are reaching out to the community
Team Singapore golfers Jen Goh, Shannon Tan and Hailey Loh out and about delivering masks and laptops to the community. Photo: Singapore Golf Association
The circuit breaker period may have brought most of Singapore to a standstill. But some of our athletes are still keeping active in a different way – by giving back to the community.
By Tan Shan Min
While most of Singapore remained at home during the circuit breaker period, basketballer Ng Han Bin frequently stepped out – for a good cause. About once a week, he went door to door at blocks of rental flats, carrying bags full of packet lunches and delivering them to vulnerable households.
At home, he checked in online with his two mentees on their weekly happenings, as part of a Circuit Breaker Buddy programme started by Team Singapore. During school closures, youths from at-risk families were particularly vulnerable as they became disconnected from vital support provided by their schools. The programme, which involves 24 athletes, looked to provide them with additional aid.
“Kids from disadvantaged backgrounds often feel discouraged. I hope to change that mentality by being a friend whom they can share their joys and struggles with,” said the Singapore Slingers’ forward who has always been involved in such work – the 31-year-old also oversees his club’s community programmes.
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As the societal effects of Covid-19 pummelled Singapore, Ng has been one of many athletes who have used their sporting influence to play a larger role in helping the underprivileged. As sports competitions got cancelled and training sessions were suspended, many have turned their attention from the field to the community by becoming mentors, volunteers, and even founders of their own initiatives.
“By putting their arms around the nation, these athletes ensured that every kid can access the same support and opportunity they had. These efforts show that there is an Olympian in all of them, as they show the Olympic values of friendship, respect, and excellence,” said Mr Mark Richmond, team lead of Team Singapore at the Singapore Sport Institute.
Launching educational kits, instead of golf balls
In March, national golfer Jen Goh co-founded HopeFull, a ground-up initiative which provides needy families with home-based activities. The idea came when the 24-year-old realised that children from low-income households struggled with boredom, as they lacked the resources to keep themselves occupied. One of its star projects, Project Hope, sees recipients getting Tinker boxes that contain the likes of board games, second-hand books, activity sheets, and even personal notes of encouragement from athletes.
What started as a team of four just four months ago is now an 18-man outfit of volunteers comprising artists, athletes and educators. Ng, national cyclist Calvin Sim, and former national sprinter U.K. Shyam are among the athlete-volunteers who help deliver these kits, with over 500 boxes delivered since May.
“This period (Covid-19) has given me the time to sit down and carry out this project. Athletes don’t always have the time to do that because we’re constantly on the move,” said Goh.
Every athlete a mentor
By leading rigorously self-disciplined lives and making sacrifices when it matters, athletes are uniquely placed to inspire children. And with plenty of youths also having a keen interest in sports, this sets them up well to be the perfect, relatable mentors for the Circuit Breaker Buddy programme.
“The multiple setbacks we experience turn into stories that motivate children – not just in sports, but in other areas too,” said national netball vice-captain Nur Aqilah Andin, who mentored two students. The 24-year-old and teammates also recorded online coaching videos, posting one-minute exercises on Instagram for young netballers to hone their ball work and fitness.
Despite facing technical issues and a lack of close personal interaction, the athletes established strong relationships. “I’m a strong believer in face-to-face interaction –– my friends say I’m a bad texter,” joked Goh, who also signed up as a mentor. “But this experience made me realise that it’s still possible to form connections without meeting in person.”
A far reaching impact
The impact is being felt as schools reopen. According to Mr Richmond, some schools have seen a 40 per cent increase in attendance rates from students who were mentored by them.
HopeFull too is still going strong. Through social service organisations, it is looking to distribute 450 more kits in July and expand its reach by bringing educational materials online. Although the initiative has already helped hundreds of children, Goh believes more can still be done. “This crisis has shown us where the cracks in society are,” she said. “By thinking a little deeper and getting a little more creative, one will realise there are so many ways in which athletes can give back to the community.”
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If you like to find out more about Hopefull, visit their website at: wearehopefull.sg or drop them a note at hello(at)wearehopefull.sg