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By Sahari Ani, Director of Services

We are often gripped to the core when we watch clips of disasters on the news. When the Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami swept everything in her path, our hearts went out to those who have lost everything. We want to do our bit to help. And we started thinking of what they would need. Flashlight? Medicine? Warm clothing? Food? What we fail to realise is, more often than not, in-kind donations hamper rather than help the relief efforts.

Food

Food donations are not encouraged as there are many considerations to take into account; the dietary preferences of the disaster-hit country, the expiry dates, storage conditions, the manpower and time required for the inspection, organisation, repackaging and the distribution. Cash donations are preferred as food appropriate for the locals can be purchased more quickly from within the country. This helps to revive the local economy of the disaster-hit nation.

Medicines

Donation of medicines/pharmaceutical products is not encouraged as the medicines may not be relevant to the emergency situation, to the disease pattern or to the level of care that is targeted. Medicines donated may be unknown to local health professionals and patients or may not comply with local policies or standard treatment guidelines. Some donated medicines come under trade names that are not registered for use in the recipient country and without a generic name on the label. There is also a need to consider the remaining shelf life of the medicines and the required documentation.

Disaster relief agencies and first responder units are usually well-stocked with the provisions to manage a medical crisis. When there is a need, they will work directly with drug companies and medical suppliers to get the right supplies to the right place.

Clothes

Boxes of clothes hinder rather than help the recovery efforts. Boxes of mixed clothing need to be sorted by size and type, cleaned in some cases, repackaged and deployed to those who need it most. If there is insufficient manpower to sort all the donations, the clothing may quickly fill warehouses or end up in the landfill with the rest of the disaster debris.

Blankets

Blankets may hamper the clean up efforts. Monetary donations will be more efficiently spent if blankets are bought directly from suppliers within the disaster-hit country. This will also indirectly help to boost the economy of the disaster-hit country.

In-kind donations are not encouraged due to logistical considerations associated with freight related issues. Besides the need for permit, there may be delays in clearing the items at the airport due to influx of donations from all over the world. If there is a delay, a fine may even be imposed. That is after deploying extensive resources to collect, sort and pack at the initial stage.

Monetary donations are encouraged because the money can be used to purchase items more quickly at other unaffected areas within the country, thereby enhancing flexibility in Singapore Red Cross’ response coordination at this critical time of need.

By Sondra Foo, Corporate Communications and Marketing

Photo Caption: The organising committee members of Nuts for Humanity (from left) Mohammad Zaidi Bin Ariffin (Deputy Director), Prathivmohan s/o Chandramohan (Deputy Director & Project Director for Nuts for Humanity), Daphne Goh (Coordinating Assistant Director, Youth Leader @ District), Bertha Kwok (Assistant Director, Cadets) and Angeline Yong (Head, Red Cross Youth).

Over the years, Red Cross Youth (RCY) members have honed their event management skills through the organisation of countless events. But engaging in social enterprise is completely foreign to them. Yet, that did not stop them from jumping into the deep end and navigating their way around.

A group of eight RCY members comprising RCY key appointment holders, Chapter Leaders, uniformed groups, and youth officers brainstormed ideas to celebrate RCY’s 65th Anniversary in 2017. Several ideas were thrown to the fore. Eventually, they settled on selling a product line that will resonate with the masses - healthy snacks.

The team collaborated with nuts supplier and social entrepreneur, Box Green to introduce three new mixes; brain food for children and students, high in calcium for the elderly, and high in iron for the blood donors. This is on top of the three more commonly purchased nuts; Acai berry granola, bearylicious, and peri peri lime soya crisps. Each packet of nuts is valued at S$6.50 in conjunction with RCY’s 65th Anniversary last year.

Despite not having a background or knowledge of business management, the team was involved in the logistics, backend processes, marketing, publicity, website design and even consignment sales for ‘Nuts for Humanity’. The team brainstormed ways to capture attention and rally support for the cause. Cognisant that many causes are vying for attention on social media, they decided to organise a contest for people to buy nuts, snap a photo, tag, and post it to generate publicity for ‘Nuts for Humanity’.

Red Cross News interviewed key drivers of ‘Nuts for Humanity’, Youth Leader at District Daphne Goh and Assistant Director of Cadets and Assistant Divisional Officer Bertha Kwok on their experiences.

Daphne shared that one of her most memorable experiences was when Channel 8 producers interviewed both of them on the initiative. The producers also filmed the behind-the-scenes responsibilities of packing, transportation and delivery process. Initial apprehensions dissipated as they forged a rapport with the producers.

But the work was not without hiccups. Bertha encountered challenges in the storage and delivery scheduling. Notwithstanding a few detours, Bertha was glad they eventually made it.

This bore testimony that with their youthful vigor, energy, creativity and willpower, youth can be empowered to make a difference.

“We strive to inspire, share and raise funds for Singapore Red Cross’ local humanitarian services. Through this initiative, we want to bring across the message that the youth can do something meaningful,” shared Daphne.

Daphne hopes that Nuts for Humanity will gain traction as an effective fundraiser for SRC. The initiative can then be carried out annually to raise funds and generate awareness of SRC’s efforts in uplifting the lives and enhancing community resilience.

For Bertha, it was heartening to see corporate organisations and schools being forthcoming in procuring the ‘Nuts for Humanity’.

“It is heartening to see our youth leaders initiating fundraising projects inspired by Red Cross causes. Using their creativity and passion, they befriend our elderly and rally like-minded individuals and social enterprises to support these meaningful projects.” - Angeline Yong, Head of Red Cross Youth

You can also do your part to spread word about the Nuts for Humanity by encouraging your family and friends to purchase the nuts and do their bit for charity! Find out more here.

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