[Image Source: The Signpost Project]
By Carman Chew
You may have seen them on your commute to work this morning or may have taken the longer route back to avoid them on the way back from lunch. While many might simply wave peddlers away or ignore them completely, this team of six at The Signpost Project are going out of their way to ensure these forgotten tissue paper uncles and aunties are getting the Covid-19 relief they require.
Residing in Clementi, this group of Yale-NUS undergraduates had come across various tissue and cardboard peddlers in the area. Noticing that there did not seem to be any charity or non-governmental organisation focused on looking after their well-being, the youths decided to step forward.
“Many faced financial problems or employment difficulties and this was a problem that could be overcome by linking them up with the relevant agencies and helping them each step of the way,” explained the group’s president, Hazeem Nasser, 23.
Since 2019, the team has been going down for regular befriending runs, conveying their concerns to the Ministry of Social and Family Development and connecting peddlers with the relevant social service agencies to tackle their individualized problems.
These are complemented with online efforts; the team shares peddling stories and breaks myths on their socials, challenging assumptions that peddlers are all from low-income backgrounds, or that they’re solely financially motivated.
With the help of Temasek Trust’s oscar@sg fund, the team has started distributing 100 care packages to tissue peddles around the island recently — expanding beyond their current initiatives at Clementi, Jurong East and Kovan.
The care packages include necessities like hand sanitiser, face masks, sunscreen and ponchos.
Much like signposts, peddlers are an integral and unique aspect of the community landscape. They often hold valuable information and observations about how the community operates through their lived experiences, and yet, are often passed by unnoticed.
“Ultimately, we hope that communities around Singapore will engage the tissue sellers within their neighbourhood so that mutual support is sustainably built,” said 22-year-old Frances Pek, vice president of the initiative. “By spreading awareness, we hope to inspire the public to be more compassionate and open to lending a helping hand to those in need.”
The team currently rallies around 40 student-volunteers and are actively looking to expand their volunteer base to include Singaporeans from all walks of life to learn the stories of peddlers.