November 6, 2020
Photos by: Bryan van der Beek & Caroline Chia | Words by: Aditi Ravi Balasubramanian

(Photo above) The Food Bank Singapore management associates, Mavis Lee, 26, and Wendy Poh, 24, stock the shelves of Food Pantry 2.0 vending machines at Moral Seniors Activity Centre (Kaki Bukit), Blk 544 Bedok North St. 3. Vending machines, filled with a ‘base’ such as rice, noodles or canned food, and a ‘filler’ like biscuits or sweets, help with food aid distribution for those in need.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on the social and community work needed.

This inspired many individuals and organisations to step up and innovate to support neighbours and disadvantaged communities who faced challenges and anxieties in this period.

To recognise their efforts, this year’s President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards (PVPA) 2020 Special Edition — Our Finest Hour in the City of Good, considered individuals, organisations and leaders who voluntarily devoted their time and talent to positively impact the community.

Here are five of the winners and special commendation recipients previously featured on

1. Omar Faruque Shipon: Keeping Bangladeshi migrant workers informed during lockdown and beyond

Omar Faruque Shipon: The Information Ambassador for Bangladeshi Migrant Workers

(Above) Mr Omar Faruque Shipon has been working in Singapore for the last decade. He manages a Facebook page for the Bangladeshi community that currently has over 57,000 followers. CAROLINE CHIA

As migrant workers looked for accurate information about the pandemic, Mr Omar Faruque Shipon, a fellow migrant worker, saw the need to help his extended Bangladeshi family.

Mr Omar set up a Facebook page, “Bangladeshi migrant workers in Singapore” to counter any false news and keep his “brothers” up to date with reliable sources of news and information. He now has more than 57,000 followers.

For his innovative use of social media, Mr. Omar won a “People of Good” award at PVPA 2020.

Read more: Omar Faruque Shipon: The Information Ambassador for Bangladeshi Migrant Workers

2. Rev Samuel Gift Stephen: Leading a team of volunteers to help and befriend migrant workers

Reverend Samuel Gift Stephen, Alliance of Guest Worker Outreach (AGWO)

(Above) Reverend Samuel Gift Stephen, committee chairman of the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO) and vice-president of Hope Initiative Alliance (HIA). BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

Reverend Samuel Gift Stephen, too, counts migrant workers as his brothers. He grew up with many of them when his father, a pastor, worked with foreign workers through Smyrna Assembly, the church his father founded.

Since 2018, Rev Stephen has focused on making sure workers are well-fed and their needs met through the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO), a part of the Hope Initiative Alliance (HIA). 

During the Circuit Breaker, Rev Stephen found himself tending to the most immediate needs of workers — food, personal hygiene products, health supplements, vitamins and medical supplies.

His support for the community has since become more emotional. Rev Stephen is now a befriender, helping workers through their personal and financial needs. Even talking them out of suicide.

For his work with AGWO, Rev Stephen received a special commendation in the “Leaders of Good” category, and HIA won in the “Organisations of Good” category.

Read more: Rev Samuel’s “Dream Team” is on a Mission to Eradicate Poverty

3. Jason Chua and Hung Zhen Long: Providing food for those dealing with income loss

Beng Who Cooks delivered about 100 poke bowls a day at the height of the Circuit Breaker to those in need, earning the “People of Good” award at the President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Award 2020 Special Edition – Our Finest Hour in the City of Good.

(Above) Mr Hung Zhen Long, business partner (left) and Mr Jason Chua, co-founder of Beng Who Cooks, in their new restaurant space. Beng Who Cooks is moving out of its hawker stall at Hong Lim Market and Food Centre into a 40-seater premise at 39 Neil Road, which is now undergoing renovation. CAROLINE CHIA

Mr Jason Chua (right) and Mr Hung Zhen Long of Beng Who Cooks knew they had to help families struggling with food and income loss when the Circuit Breaker started.

Setting up Beng Who Cares Foundation from their hawker stall, Beng Who Cooks, they delivered free poke bowls to those in need.

With children being one of their biggest concerns, they provided as many free meals as possible to families who needed them. Their Instagram account would get 500 requests each day. Up to 15,000 meals were donated during the Circuit Breaker. 

Their contributions were noticed and they were awarded a special commendation in the “People of Good” category at PVPA 2020.

Read more: Beng With Big Heart

4. The Food Bank Singapore: Tackling food insecurity one vending machine at a time

Food Pantry 2.0 vending machines by The Food Bank Singapore

(Above) The Food Bank Singapore’s Food Pantry 2.0 vending machines are stocked with dry rations like cereal, canned soups, nuts, and instant noodles. Foods in each shelf are priced at $2 for the public or 2 credits for beneficiaries with Food Bank cards. CAROLINE CHIA

Food insecurity continues to be an ongoing issue in Singapore, even though our country is ranked the most food secure nation in the 2019 Global Food Security Index.

Rethinking food aid distribution, The Food Bank Singapore set up vending machine project, Food Pantry 2.0, in October 2019. The use of data and technology has allowed the organisation to distribute donated foods and track how food is redeemed to manage food waste as well.

For their efforts in helping the community, Food Bank received an award in the “Organisations of Good” category.

Read more: Tech and Data Maintain Privacy for Food Aid Beneficiaries

5. Ong Bee Yong: Supporting mental health needs of communities

Ong Bee Yong CRA

(Above) Recognising the need to tend to healthcare workers’ mental and emotional wellness during the pandemic, Ms Ong Bee Yong, principal social worker and Crisis Relief Alliance (CRA)’s counselling director, roped in like-minded professionals to form a team for that purpose. The CRA Counselling Team has since expanded its mission to the migrant worker community. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

“I think it’s more common that people handle practical needs. Practical needs are not always difficult to address either… But, what goes on in a person’s mind is harder to detect, and it’s easier to cover up.”

Ms Ong Bee Yong, principal social worker and Crisis Relief Alliance (CRA)’s counselling director, set up a counselling hotline to support the mental health needs of healthcare workers.

When cases among migrant workers started rising, Ms Ong rounded up her team to lend a listening ear to workers who faced anxiety, isolation and job loss.

In recognition of her leadership and work during the pandemic, Ms Ong was awarded in the “Leaders of Good” category at PVPA2020.

Read more: Ong Bee Yong: Supporting Communities in their Mental Health Through Covid-19

Register now to hear from PVPA 2020 Special Edition awardees at the virtual TEDxSingapore Salon sessions, “Our Finest Hour in the City of Good”. The last of the three-session series takes place November 7, 11am, with the “Leaders of Good” winners and special commendation awardees. Check out the full list of PVPA 2020 Special Edition awardees at




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