Emily Teng, founder of Blessings In A Bag, is steadily expanding the good works that her VWO does.
Contributed By Fong Ching Hui
Blessings In A Bag, founded in 2007, was one of the Voluntary Welfare Organizations invited to participate in the Community Service Marathon Fair 2011 (see box story). BIAB is a non-profit project that seeks to partner with existing communities, orphanages, schools, homes as well as initiatives to provide for the needs of underprivileged, abused and ill children across Asia. Their main mission is to collect new or used items from Singapore households and distribute them through travellers going to various Asian destinations.
What was BIAB’s mission during the two days at The CSM Fair?
BIAB sold hand-made items by mothers living in the Philippines and Cambodia. We operate similarly to a social enterprise whereby everything is treated as a business, but with 100 percent of proceeds going back to the groups of women we work with. We pay for the cost of materials, the shipment as well as the wages for the women so that they can have the opportunity to support themselves.
Who are the beneficiaries of BIAB?
We currently work with four groups:
• A group of women in the Philippines who are all mothers. They use the income to support their families by providing food and basic necessities, as well as to pay for their children’s education which essentially will help them to break the cycle of poverty. These women hand make bags, wallets and purses out of recyclable materials.
• A group of young women in Cambodia who have been rescued from brothels or sexual slavery and are currently living in a rescue shelter. They hand-weave Cambodian silk into the fabric that makes the “Huggables” as well as key-chains.
• A group of women in the Philippines who hand-sew teddy bears using denim material. Each bear takes about eight hours to sew by hand. They also hand-sew colorful flower key-chains.
• A group of women in Cambodia who collect plastic bags from waterways or from around their neighbourhood. They wash these bags, strip them down and weave them into wonderful practical works of art—pouches, purses, coin purses, multi-purpose wallets, etc. Some of the women have been rescued from brothels.
These women are simply happy to have the opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to help themselves.
What is your take on the level of volunteerism here in Singapore?
All I have to say about volunteerism in Singapore is that it is very sad to see a lot of our Singaporean youth not wanting to help out unless Community Involvement Programme hours can be awarded. That being said, I am incredibly happy that we managed to find volunteers for this event (The CSM Fair) and the people who ran our booths were the most passionate and committed youths I have had the pleasure of meeting. At BIAB, a lot of our volunteers are youth, but we do see adults on a regular basis wanting to lend a hand each and every week.
What do you hope to see differently in the future with regards to youths in Singapore and community services/volunteerism?
I hope to see more youths step outside of their comfort zone and to challenge themselves to do some good in this world. There are many ways to volunteer in Singapore—not just with BIAB. People who do volunteer with us find that it’s not so hard to make a difference after all. People can lend a hand during our “Sunday Session” which involves volunteers sorting out donations we receive and readying them to be distributed. People can help us out by running our booths. We’re also looking for volunteers to contribute to our newsletters on all things good. There are so many ways to help out through your own talents and skills.
I hope that youths will realize that you don’t have to be rich or on the verge of retiring to make a difference. The opportunity to impact others is right in front of you. We hope that we can continue to inspire others to become “World Change Agents.”
For more information about Blessings In A Bag, visit www.blessingsinabag.org.