Volunteers help PHF go the distance

Just as the International Volunteers Day celebrates and honours volunteers around the world, so does Project Happy Feet celebrate and honour its volunteers, without whom, PHF would not be able to fulfill its mission of “empoweing lives through education and training so as to alleviate poverty”.

Since its official establishment in 2009 (the idea was conceived in 2007, with the first project held in 2008), Project Happy Feet has always worked on one ideal – altruism: getting people to give unconditionally of their time, skills, resources, network, and more, so that PHF can function cost-efficiently, professionally, and deliver what it is set out to do.

Through volunteers, with the support of community partners and corporate sponsors, PHF has raised in excess of $400,000 for education of underprivileged children in Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Nepal. As though getting work done without incurring one cent of manpower expense is not tough enough, when it comes to public fund-raising, PHF has another principle it lives by: it gives away 100% of what it collects from the public, to the beneficiaries.

People are amazed at what PHF has achieved in such a short span of time. It’s even more amazing to note that there are no full-time staff in PHF. Everything is achieved by volunteers who come from all walks of life, and who have full time commitments either at school, work, or home.

So who are these volunteers? Where do they come from? What drives them to give of themselves to PHF’s cause?

Volunteers with a heart: (L-R) Yan Ting, Sylvia, Michelle, and Triet Le

Meet four volunteers who not only helped out at the Project Happy Feet Slipper Race 2012, but also showed up to help man the PHF booth at International Volunteer Day at Singapore Management University Green on 25 November 2012.

Ms Yeo Yan Ting, 31, a civil servant, first came across PHF last year and was inspired to do something to make a difference. And so she signed up as a volunteer for the Slipper Race and was part of the Props Team – a group of volunteers holding onto giant cut-outs of slippers and speech bubbles for participants to take photos with. “It’s wonderful to see so many different people come together to volunteer for a good cause,” says Yan Ting.

Ms Michelle Tan, 26, a staff member of SMRT, was a participant of Project Happy Feet Slipper Race 2011, and returned as a volunteer for Project Happy Feet Slipper Race 2012 because she wanted to do more. She got what she wanted and was part of the logistics team, describing her job scope as “包山包海” (meaning to do everything). Clearly, doing laborious tasks did not put her off volunteering for PHF, which she deemed to be a fun and meaningful experience. “I believe that everyone can do their part, and anyone can contribute. It’s amassing efforts to make a bigger difference. I also got to interact with other volunteers, and got to know friends through PHF.”

Mr Triet Le, 22, a Vietnamese studying at ERC Institute, missed the deadline to sign up as a group with his institution for the Slipper Race, but was glad he volunteered for PHFSR, which he found to be very meaningful. “I like the message of the event. Through PHF, I hope to shorten the gap between the rich and the poor.”

Ms Sylvia Ang, 30, a counsellor with Singapore Children’s Society, first saw PHF on her Facebook page and decided to volunteer with PHF because she knew few organisations are run entirely by volunteers, and being in the non-profit sector, she knows organisations like PHF need lots of support. She first volunteered with PHFSR12 and helped man the drinks station. She also felt the experience was very meaningful and thought “the weekend was well-spent.” She also believes that “everyone can play their part to help underprivileged children.”

Over the years, more than 250 volunteers have helped out with Project Happy Feet, and with their support, PHF will continue to grow so it can serve a wider community, bringing education to even more children, so as to empower them to live up to their potential.

Thank you PHF volunteers for empowering lives, and going the distance!