Home News Singapore's hidden poverty, Willing Hearts founder Tony Tay reaches out to help

Singapore’s hidden poverty, Willing Hearts founder Tony Tay reaches out to help

Willing Hearts delivers one meal to more than 6,000 people every day of the week.




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NHK WORLD-JAPAN released a video that showed the hidden poverty in Singapore featuring Tony Tay and the organisation he founded called Willing Hearts. This was a clip from the longer segment released the news media organisation called “Singapore’s Other Side” published a month ago.

“During the day, poverty is nowhere to be seen in Singapore. But at night, the homeless people spill out of the shadows and onto the streets in search of sustenance,” began the video.

Tony Tay and Willing Hearts

Enter Tony Tay who was awarded the Philippine’s Magsaysay award which is also known as Asia’s “Nobel Prize” in 2017. He is the third Singaporean to receive the award after Lim Kim San in 1965 and Goh Keng Swee in 1972.

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The former businessman founded Willing Hearts in 2003, an aid organisation that prepares and delivers one meal to more than 6,000 people every day of the week. Their focus is on reaching out to the aging poor.

Regardless of his age, the 72-year old gives his full effort at Willing Hearts everyday. He starts at the foundation’s kitchen at 4 am and finishes at 6 pm. He even delivers the food personally if there is no one else available.

“I never thought that our work would grow so big. There were no big plans when we started,” said Mr. Tay.

Now with nearly 200 volunteers coming from all walks of life, Willing Hearts has grown into a size that the founder never imagined they would reach.

The footage shows volunteers helping to prepare the meals and to deliver them personally as well as check on the welfare of the recipients whom they have developed a relationship with within the course of their endeavour.

Invisible Poverty

NHK’s World Special Affairs Commentator, Aiko Doden, went with Mr. Tay to catch a glimpse of this “invisible poverty” within Singapore.

“You see because we have HDB flats. And all of us are staying in the flat. So, the door is always shut, you can’t see anything,” said Mr. Tay. “What happens in the flat, nobody knows. I’m hungry, or I’m rich, or I’m poor.

So now, how are we going to know a neighbour?” However, when you reach out and take a step inside, then you see the problem. To understand a neighbour. Say “good morning” to a neighbour, then we will know what happens.”

Willing Hearts also offers meals and other support to migrant workers who survive on meagre salaries. They customise the meals accordingly, omitting meat like pork to cater to their Muslim, Indian and Chinese recipients.

In the words of Mr. Tay, “We are a group of people who call ourselves Singaporeans and the foreigners that come in become one of us, as one united family.”

Mr. Tay was also asked whether or not he thinks Singapore is a happy country to which he replied, “It should look happy. If they are not happy, then something is wrong with them. Where did we go wrong? We must change ourselves and see where we went wrong.”

And he isn’t stopping there. Mr. Tay is making sure to instill a willing heart into the next generation as he shares his passion to students who visit the organisation.

He asks them, “Why are we going and why are we helping the poor? Do you know the poor are helping you?” His reason is profound. According to Mr. Tay, the poor “are helping us to improve our lives and to build our poor spirit into a happier spirit.” He inspiringly added, “we are helping them and they are helping us to understand what is life.”

For those who want to volunteer, head on over to Willing Hearts’ website.

Here are some roles to take at Willing Hearts:

What is your role @ Willing Hearts?Volunteer Drivers:We regularly face shortage of drivers with vehicles to assist…

Posted by Willing Hearts on Saturday, 16 February 2019

Watch the full clip here.

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