SETTING up booths at a monthly pop-up supermarket to help the "sandwich-class" families and seniors who belong to the lower-middle income group.
That was one of the duties that Anish Thomas, digital product director of Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, had to undertake at Project 100=50. The initiative helps the underprivileged, as well as those who need support but do not qualify for government and community assistance.
The bank has since 2017 partnered Heartwarmers Volunteer Group, Henderson-Dawson Citizens' Consultative Committee, and Sheng Siong Group to organise the initiative, where beneficiaries can buy up to S$100 of basic household and grocery items at a
50 per cent discount (hence the name "100=50"). The maximum discount given to each beneficiary is S$50 but will double to S$100 around festive occasions.
Patrick Lee, Standard Chartered Bank's cluster chief executive officer (CEO) of Singapore and Asean markets, said: "As they save on daily necessities, they can maximise their savings for other uses. The idea of this project is to empower the beneficiaries to choose what they need and want."
To date, nearly 30 sessions - each time involving around 50 staff employees - have been held despite challenges posed by Covid-19. The bank's staff volunteers are also involved in the stock-taking process and managing the beneficiaries' shopping experience, among others.
Vina Misra, operations and reporting analyst at Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, said: " I started volunteering for Project 100=50 as a cashier. A year later, I picked up the co-planning role and worked with other partners and colleagues to operationalise each monthly event . . . Being involved in a project where I can see continuity provides me with a sense of self-satisfaction as it is something that I can look forward to every month - to meet the resident beneficiaries, fellow volunteer partners and colleagues who are like-minded for the same cause."
Lee said: "We believe that this is precisely a time when we should do more, as the needs of the community have become more varied. An example is the recent Community Chest Fu Dai event which the bank has supported over the past nine years."
The Project 100=50 supports 250-300 families each time, but had to hit the pause button for the whole of 2020 and again during the Phase 2 Heightened Alert from May to August 2021. It has resumed on a monthly basis since September last year, and the project has since expanded to support more households. From just serving the Henderson-Dawson residents, it now includes those in Tiong Bahru and Leng Kee areas.
"Serving the community is an integral part of the bank's DNA. Each employee is given three days of paid volunteering leave annually. Since 2010, the bank has clocked an average of 3,900 volunteering days annually," Lee said.
He added that collaboration with like-minded partners is important as partnership unlocks giving potential and amplifies the gift of giving.
"Working with other community partners and corporates allow each of us to pool the best of our resources together to benefit those in need."
Foo Say Thye, founder of Heartwarmers, concurred and said: "Project 100=50 creates a network of non-profit organisations, grassroot members and corporates to care for the less fortunate in our community. This project has brought together cross-sectors that would normally not work together, allowing us to channel our resources effectively to areas that need help most."
Looking ahead, Standard Chartered is exploring to expand to more locations and continue its strong and long-standing partnership with Heartwarmers so that this project can benefit more low-income families.
Himanshu Maggo, executive director and head of trade innovation, Asean, at Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, said: "What I like about this project is that it gives the beneficiaries an opportunity to receive what they really need. We take pride when we see them check out with a vast variety of items that they need - as compared to in-kind donations that may be plentiful, but of limited use to them. By catering to their needs and wish lists, it generates a higher level of satisfaction for both the beneficiaries and the volunteers."
Thomas said: "Volunteering at company-arranged events allows for team building and interaction outside of the normal work environment, networking with others whom you might not normally engage while at the same time doing some good in society as part of the same organisation.
"I do feel more comfortable working with a company such as Standard Chartered with its policy on volunteering, aligned to our 'Here for good' brand promise."
This article is part of a series on doing good for our community, supported by Standard Chartered Bank