By Laura Zhang
Facing the controversy of fundraising for a cancer-stricken single mother, Ms. Vivian Pan, founder of the Single Parents Support Group (SPSG) explained to The Independent in an hour-long interview on how she got fingered for wrongdoings. She stands firm of her innocence and blames the netizens of being too vitriolic in their remarks.
On June 1, Ms. Pan sent out a plea for donations on Facebook on behalf of a single mother, who is diagnosed with stage two cervical cancer. Vivian asked, “$1 from you is all I plead for”.
The post went viral and was well-received as the woman’s condition tugged at many heartstrings. By 5th June, the plea has garnered almost 1,500 shares and more than 800 comments, and some people offered financial and other forms of assistance.
However, netizens and donors turned skeptical when the donations of groceries were rejected.
Three police reports have been lodged against Ms. Vivian Pan after Jazz Yew, a netizen, cautioned people to be beware of “scams” by Pan.
“I’m disappointed with the media”, said Pan to The Independent, “it is unfair to portray me as a cheater without even bothering to clarify with me.”
Pan recounted that she and the single mother, who chose to be unnamed, we have been Facebook friends for 4 years. Pan paid her a visit on 30th May at her rental flat upon receiving the request for “$40 NTUC voucher in exchange for 3 tins of Milo powder.”
According to Pan, the single mother has no relatives besides her two children. Her 1-room rental flat is worn and cramped, with leftover hawker food as there is no one to help out with the chores.
“I immediately decided to help this woman. I didn’t know how to do it properly, so I wanted to start something simple, such as collecting $1,” She said, “I didn’t expect to receive so much money.”
Upon being asked why other forms of assistance has been rejected, she said, “there’s literally no space in her apartment to stock those bulks of groceries. People typically send in $60 worth of stuff.”
“I believe donors should respect the condition stated as well, which was simply a dollar.” She pointed out, “why would I want to ruin my reputation. If I’m down, who will run the organization and take care of my kids and mother?”
She told the TISG that she had personally donated $500 alongside with some essentials from IKEA as well.
She also explained the reason why the recipient account is hers instead of the intended woman. “Once her bank account receives money, the benefits for her medical bills will be forfeited.”
“I wasn’t even handcuffed and put behind the bars. The police officer gave me words of encouragement after the statement had been documented.”
She also highlighted that “peaceful dialogue is important. Social media is not a platform to destroy people. I am willing to provide answers face to face.” She also added, “Singaporeans are creating jokes on this country as they turn against each other.”
She admitted her mistake in not handling the matter professionally and resulted in a lack of transparency, as it was the first time she had initiated a fundraising project.
She spoke that the case has been closed. She had uploaded her bank statement and transferred the funds collected to the single mother in front of police officers yesterday (7 June). “Everything is transparent now. I don’t mind showing the police everything weekly to prove my innocence. I make sure my Facebook is active, despite receiving disheartened remarks every once in a while.” She lamented that it was hard on her when she in fact acted out of kindness.
The 5-digit fund collected within the span of five days has been saved in the single mother’s new bank account.
After series of harassments from netizens and police statement recorded, the woman apologized to Pan.
“I’ve had the worst 3 days in my life. However, I will still continue helping single parents because I know how tough this journey is.” Pan said.
Pan refrained from providing information on the lawyer, as mentioned by many netizens as “suspicious”. “He is a volunteer. The main point is I haven’t decided to work with him.”
She also admitted that she had got MPs’ support with applications of subsidies of some single parents. MP Lee Bee Wah hugged her yesterday and remarked in Mandarin, “hao ren nan zuo (It’s hard to be a kind person).”
She asserted that she would never initiate fundraising anymore. “I will only focus on providing counselling, job-matching and befriending single parents from now on.”
The identity of the single mother remains to be undisclosed as she needs to be protected from potential harms from gossips and people around her.
Pan jokingly spoke that “it’s a blessing in disguise. I became famous after this event. Now more single parents are expected to be helped by me and my organization.”
She would like to express gratefulness to those who trust and support her. She also urges the society to spare attention on the needy minorities, instead of spreading hatred.
Pan plans to hold joint event for single parents to look for full-time jobs, including opening hawker stalls for them under the name of SPSG.