Nov 06, 2013

    Can you get by on less than $5 a day?

    TRY eating and commuting on less than $5 a day. A campaign along these lines was launched last week to raise awareness of poverty in Singapore.

    Called the $5 Challenge, this is part of an initiative - called Singaporeans Against Poverty - by Caritas Singapore, the social-service arm of the Catholic Church, and other partners, including charity Catholic Welfare Services.

    It aims to get people to develop empathy for the less fortunate by spending less.

    So far, more than 30 people have pledged to keep their spending to under $5.

    A spokesman for Caritas Singapore said: "We think it would help to feel, to know what it's like to be in the shoes of the poor or at least to have a taste of it."

    The spokesman added that the amount is set at $5 because that is how much a person from a low-income household would spend on food and transport, according to their estimates from statistics.

    To join the campaign, one can simply pledge online. There is no rule on how long the challenge should last, and members of the public are encouraged to share their experiences with others.

    Mr Lawrence Tan, 40, said that he has taken up the challenge for the whole of this month. Mr Tan, who is taking a course to become a certified professional trainer in the IT field, gets by through eating less and spending less on transport.

    "If my friends want to meet me, they have to meet me near my place. I also spend my time in the library so that I don't have to spend any money," he told My Paper.

    "It's a very tough challenge, as I have to give up on a lot of things. But I believe it's possible to do it for this month and I now know how it's like to survive on so little."

    Another participant is student Amadea Ng. The 18-year-old pledged to do so from last Sunday for two weeks.

    She said: "It's not so hard for me because I eat at home and in school, and my transport fares are subsidised. But I see how it is a struggle for the poor to live within this constraint, and the stress they face."

    Those in the social-service sector said that such a campaign will help to generate publicity for the causes.

    Mr Hosea Lai - deputy director of SG Cares, an initiative by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre - said: "The Singaporeans Against Poverty campaign is a good advocacy campaign that highlights and raises awareness of poverty-related issues in Singapore...Campaigns are useful in generating mass awareness on these needs and hopefully they inspire action towards solving them."

    But others said that it is equally important to come up with iniatitives to benefit the needy.

    The president of youth organisation Voluntarius, Mr Farhan Mohammed, 27, said: "Such initiatives are interesting, but it's not exactly very effective if there is no follow-up. The focus should also be on creating action, and not just awareness, especially as our society has grown to be more caring."

    Mr Sean Kong - chief executive of Halogen Foundation Singapore, a non-profit organisation which trains young people to be leaders - said: "The question is: What happens next? Is there an avenue for people to contribute besides just raising awareness? It's important to take action to help the poor."

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