Project Coconut was started by a five-person team made up of Hang Yizhou, Huang Ziru, Huang Ziyue, Grace Kong and Ma Jing. Upon discovering that many at-risk elderly were uncontactable during the circuit breaker period in 2020, the team decided to raise funds to provide these seniors with mobile phones. They even helped the staff at Lions Befrienders to do check-ins with these elderly folks twice a week during the circuit breaker. They share what their social cause has taught them.

Dear Youth,

We are the core team of Project Coconut! The five of us were initially involved in another service-learning project with Tanglin APSN, but due to disruptions from the pandemic, we were unable to carry out this project as we intended to.

After learning from a junior college senior who had approached Lions Befrienders that many elderly are considered “at-risk” for reasons such as poor health and were going uncontactable because of the circuit breaker, we pivoted our project to address this problem. With the guidance of our senior, we started Project Coconut and partnered with Lions Befrienders to help.

The first goal of our project was to raise $30,000 in order to purchase mobile phones and SIM cards for the at-risk seniors. We felt that giving the elderly their own mobile phones would help alleviate their loneliness and also allow the Lions Befrienders staff to do their check-ins on these seniors twice a week during the circuit breaker.

Once we reached our target amount, we proceeded to distribute the phones to the seniors at various Lions Befrienders centres. We also began to recruit volunteers and conducted various activities in conjunction with Lions Befrienders, such as virtual befriending sessions, physical digital classes and even online performances.

Another activity under Project Coconut was the packing and distribution of 150 Lunar New Year care packs to the elderly, with the help of the Young ChangeMakers (YCM) fund. The care pack included things like milo packets, mandarin oranges, snacks and Chinese calligraphy done by our school’s Chinese Calligraphy Club.

Project Coconut wasn’t a smooth sailing journey. We must admit that the amount of $30,000 for the mobile phones really intimidated us. We just couldn’t comprehend how we were ever able to reach that amount. The surprising thing, however, was that when we came together to brainstorm, we realised that there were actually a lot more ways of reaching our goal than we previously imagined.

We began with the most obvious methods such as, and asking friends and family for donations. But it soon became obvious that there was no way we were going to hit $30,000 unless we explored other platforms. So, we started rallying people through our Instagram account and sending chain messages on WeChat and WhatsApp. We also reached out to our school’s alumni association and other student committees, while contacting companies such as Singtel and M1 to request for discounts for the SIM cards and apply for grants.

It was interesting to see how we capitalised on each other’s strengths.For example, some of us who had a stronger command of the Chinese language wrote the chain messages on WeChat, while others wrote the English captions for our Instagram donation posts.

Through the virtual befriending sessions, we learnt that enriching the lives of the seniors doesn’t need to be done in a very grandiose way. In fact, making conversations and building personal connections with the seniors were enough to make a difference in their lives. Many elderly folks just want someone to listen to them and we were more than happy to.

Volunteering doesn’t need to be a one-way thing where we help others who need it. True service from the heart entails forming a meaningful bond that benefits both parties.

As of now, we have more than 79 volunteers working with Project Coconut! We have also passed the project to our juniors to helm. We hope they will continue to serve the community in their own way and bring the project to greater heights.

We want to encourage everyone reading this to get comfortable with leaving their comfort zone – it doesn’t matter how big of an impact you think you’re able to make. Just do what you can and serve the community in your own way! It sounds cliche, but really, every bit counts.

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