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Speech By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Finance, at the Launch of 4PM Ramadhan On Wheels 2014

29 Mar 2014

Mr Izzuddin Taherally, President, Malay Youth Literary Association or 4PM (Empat PM),

Mr Rahmat Nazri Shukor, Chairman, Ramadhan On Wheels (ROW) Organizing Commitee, 2014 and Assistant Honorary Secretary General 4PM (Empat PM),

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. It is a real pleasure for me to be here today for the launch of Ramadhan On Wheels 2014.

2. I had the opportunity to meet some members of the organising committee and the families who have benefited this initiative.

- From just 38 families when it started, Ramadhan On Wheels now supports more than 100 families a year. In the past 14 years, it has helped over 2,000 families from all races and faiths, and has built up a 7,000 strong volunteer network.

- It is very encouraging to know that 14 years on, you have dedicated volunteers who remain passionate about what they do, and Ramadhan On Wheels’ mission to help the less fortunate.

3. I was told that this year, the organisers decided to extend Ramadhan On Wheels to six months, as the volunteers felt that one month was too short, and wanted to have a greater and more meaningful impact on the community.

Theme for 2014 – Engaging Hearts, Uplifting lives

4. This year’s theme for Ramadhan On Wheels – “Engaging Hearts, Uplifting Lives”:

- Is about the community coming together to support the less fortunate.

- It can be the small things, like delivering food and daily necessities, or bringing families to buy groceries, and helping them to spring-clean their homes.

- Or it can be a donation to Empat PM to support their programmes, or sponsorship for events like today’s Family Bonding Camp.

- But most importantly, in the process of helping one another, we build relationships. It is these relationships that make a caring society.

Family Befriending Programme

5. I want to commend you especially for the Family Befriending Programme (FBP) that Ramadhan On Wheels is introducing this year.

- Families in need or facing difficult circumstances often require more than just material or financial assistance.

6. The elderly living alone are especially vulnerable. They often have limited or no family support, and may also be in ill health or have limited mobility. This puts them at risk of not being able to get timely medical help when they are ill, or when they fall or get injured at home. Some do not leave their homes often, and feel lonely and cut off from the community. Befrienders can help to check on their physical well-being, provide a listening ear and help them stay connected to the outside world.

7. Another group are families in hardship who have young children. As parents, we all desire to give our children the best opportunities in life, especially in education. However, some parents may not have the opportunity or means to do so. Some may be single parents who struggle to balance work and family. Sometimes, there are deeper or more complex issues within the family that hold them back. Without help and support, there is a higher chance that disadvantage could be passed on from parents to children.

8. Through getting to know the families and understanding their situations, befrienders can provide them a bridge to the right community resources and networks, and make their lives better. Befrienders can also offer encouragement and advice.

9. One of the beneficiaries is Mdm Haslinah. After her husband passed away suddenly in 2013, Mdm Haslinah has been the sole breadwinner for her family, which includes two young children, aged 5 and 6. It is difficult for her to work and care for them at the same time. She currently works from home, but hopes to upgrade herself to provide a better life for her children. With the Family Befriending Programme, she will not be alone as she takes steps to improve her life.

10. The befriending programme may be new to Ramadhan On Wheels, but this spirit of caring for the community is very much ingrained in the ‘DNA’ of the volunteers.

- This is why the volunteers, from all races and faiths, continue to give their time and energy to be part of the Ramadhan On Wheels activities year after year.

- Some, like Mdm Faridah, even travel all the way from her home in Johor Bahru to help.

11. Other volunteers help to rally and inspire others.

- Like Mr Saifulbahri Bin Mohamad, who has recruited fellow car group members to join Ramadhan On Wheels as volunteer drivers. Saifulbahri started volunteering as a driver with Ramadhan On Wheels in 2007, and helped to take families on grocery-shopping trips. This year, he is heading the befriending group and conducting training for the befrienders. He feels that “if everyone chips in, Singapore will be a better place”.

12. Although we have more young Singaporeans volunteering these days, some begin to volunteer less once they start working.

- Abner Ng, is one of the exceptions. He has continued to volunteer with Ramadhan On Wheels after his graduation. Although he is now working and pursuing a part-time degree, Abner is still actively involved in bringing the families out for grocery shopping. He has also come on board this year as a befriender.

13. I would also like to mention Ms Brenda Liu, a teacher, who has been volunteering with Ramadhan On Wheels for about eight years now.

- She first started volunteering by delivering food hampers with the Eunos CC Youth Club, and has taken up greater responsibility over the last few years by joining the Ramadhan On Wheels organising committee. Working with Ramadhan On Wheels has given her valuable opportunities to interact with other youth volunteers and student groups. She has also found it a source of inspiration when she sees young Singaporeans returning as regular volunteers.

14. We need more inspiring volunteers like Saifulbahri, Abner and Brenda, who continue to volunteer their many other commitments. At the same time, we should instil the spirit of volunteerism among younger Singaporeans.

- I am told that the youngest Ramadhan O n Wheels volunteer is Adriana Syaqeera Bt Syed Umar, a 7-year-old student at Qifa Primary.

- She has been volunteering since she was 5 years old. Despite her size, she helps to deliver items like mattresses and pillows. She finds it fun to help her aunty and uncle, who are also volunteers. I was told her exact words were “Kalau kita help, kita happy! (If we help, we’ll be happy!)”.

- Adriana, I am sure we and all the volunteers feel the same way.


15. In closing, I want to thank all the volunteers for their time and commitment to caring for the community. I also want to thank the sponsors, for generously supporting Ramadhan On Wheels. All your contributions make a real difference to building a caring and inclusive society.