This 25-year-old introvert selflessly ensures the homeless are cared for

Derek Lim won the award in the Singapore Silent Hero Award for his compassion for the homeless.

Yasmeen Farha

Published: 24 November 2020, 6:44 PM

Growing up, Derek Lim was an introverted individual who was often bullied and lonely.

Wanting to do something meaningful with his time, he challenged himself to step out of his comfort zone to make a meaningful change through volunteering.

Now 25 years old, the selfless and hardworking Derek was recognised for his work as a volunteer at the Homeless Hearts of Singapore. At the Singapore Silent Heroes (SSH) Award Ceremony on Nov 22, he was handed the Inspiring Youth award.

Launched in 2014, the SSH stands to acknowledge extraordinary, everyday Singaporeans and permanent residents for their compassion and humanity towards helping people, causes and their missions.

From a total of 90 nominations cast by the public, winners eventually emerged in five categories: Aaron Yeoh (Hearts of Humanity), Derek Lim (Inspiring Youth), Andrew Ong (Outstanding Adult), Mashuthoo Abdul Rahiman (Pioneers of Promise) and Dipti Julka (Compassionate Foreigner).

Even after his win in the Inspiring Youth category, Derek remained humble and affirmed the efforts of those he works with.

He said: “All the outreach efforts and work we do is the collective effort of my girlfriend, the teams I work alongside, and myself. Without them, I would not have been able to accomplish as much as I have, and I am grateful to be able to reach out and give back alongside them.”


Derek emphasises the importance of having a supportive team during volunteer outreach programmes.


Derek was first introduced to volunteering after completing his ‘O’ level examinations. While most of his peers were searching for part-time jobs, Derek wanted to extend a helping hand and embark on a meaningful journey before continuing his education.

After volunteering in several organisations, Derek came across a Facebook post by Homeless Hearts of Singapore, a non-profit organisation which befriends and helps the homeless.

He said: “I found the volunteering opportunity with Homeless Hearts very interesting, as it was different from my past volunteering experiences.

“Homeless Hearts places a strong emphasis in befriending the homeless friends, and I found that cause much more relatable and meaningful to me.”


Wanting to expand his volunteering outreach, Derek reached out to Homeless Hearts of Singapore. PHOTO CREDIT: DEREK LIM


When he first started volunteering, the reserved Derek had to be continuously reminded to smile and put on a friendly face while interacting with his fellow volunteers. However, after spending more time with homeless friends, he forged strong emotional bonds with them.

Derek said: “It goes without saying that the homeless need material help. Many of these people have lost their jobs and their financial support system, and they need physical assistance to get by. But more than that, they need emotional support.

“Forming meaningful bonds with them may not seem like much to us but making genuine conversations and merely being a friend to them gives them a ray of hope that things will get better for them.”


Having volunteered with Homeless Hearts of Singapore for five years, Derek is currently a trainer and leader, providing teams with the knowledge to conduct their own outreach programmes. PHOTO CREDIT: DEREK LIM


Even when outreach measures were limited during the implementation of circuit breaker measures in April, Derek was determined to continue helping the homeless in whatever ways he could.

In order to stay in close contact with homeless friends, Derek created WhatsApp group chats where he could check up on their well-being. He also shared useful resources with them, such as employment opportunities and links to apply for financial assistance, in order to alleviate their challenging living conditions as much as possible.

Derek’s contribution to Homeless Hearts of Singapore has helped the organisation to grow over the last few years and many are quick to highlight the important role he played.

“I would say he is one of the pillars of Homeless Hearts of Singapore today. Without him, we won’t be where we are,” said Mervin Lee, one of the co-founders of Homeless Hearts of Singapore.


Although young, Derek has reached out to and assisted many homeless friends through the years. PHOTO CREDIT: THE ROYAL SINGAPORE

Derek hopes this award will help encourage others to do their part and make a difference to the community.

He said: “I am humbled and extremely honoured to have been nominated for this award, let alone win it. I hope that through this award, it inspires everyone to be silent heroes in their own ways, regardless of their age, race or social status.

“Anyone can do it by just lending a helping hand or just a listening ear to those in need. Sometimes, all these people need is a friend. I strongly believe that if everyone works together, we can make the world a better place, one step at a time.”

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