A group of youngsters go out to do something most people don’t believe in: making a stranger smile.
By Dawn Seow
How do you react to a group of youngsters carrying giant boards asking you to honk if you are having a good day, or give them a high-five ? Project Hello Stranger found that most Singaporeans were happy to do as requested.
Project Hello Stranger, started by Valerie Ong, 22, and Tham Yining, 23, recent graduates from the Singapore Management University, is a movement that aims to make an impact on the local community, by encouraging Singaporeans to make the first move and interact with strangers in a positive and friendly manner. Using videos uploaded on YouTube, the team behind the project wants to show Singaporeans how simple actions can actually bring joy to others.
Smile! You’re On Camera!
In a heartening YouTube video “Happy and I HONK it!”, a group of youngsters stood at street corners to urge drivers waiting at the traffic lights to “honk if you are having a great day!” Surprisingly, many drivers were willing to sound their horns with a little wave at the camera and a genuine smile. The mission also brought smiles to the faces of the passers-by observing the act.
“Initially the drivers were not as responsive and loud. However, we were happy with any positive response because we were not expecting much,” said Tricia Tan, spokesperson of team Project Hello Stranger. “After about four to five attempts, it started raining, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. As soon as the rain stopped, we ran out and started again! I guess we were pleasantly surprised by how Singaporeans responded and that really encouraged us to keep going. It was two hours of pure adrenaline and happiness!”
Success in the first mission gave the team more confidence when they brought the movement to the Central Business District of Singapore. The team stationed themselves at Raffles Place MRT Station at 8.30am, hoping to perk up the sleepy office crowd.
The strategy was to line themselves up on the stairs urging the crowd coming up the escalator to give them a High-Five. The people were confused and uninterested when they first saw the strangers on the stairs, but as it dawned on them that these strangers were really just trying to cheer them up, they loosened up, gave a smile and slapped a high-five.
Above achieving their goals, the team found themselves being blessed by some of the responses of the public. Tan recounted how a youth with cerebral palsy they met on Mothers’ Day brought tears to the volunteers’ eyes as he sang his mother a song.
“The autistic guy, in his late teens, was sitting in a wheelchair and his mother was behind him pushing the wheelchair. We approached them and asked if he would like to sing a song for his mother, it being Mothers’ Day. He immediately said yes and wanted to sing “Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin”. We sang along with him and many of our members got all teary-eyed. We felt so touched by his love for his mother. Seeing how he meant every single word he sang touched our hearts, and we were more convinced that starting Project Hello Stranger was the right move. When we asked if we could use his song in our videos, he agreed immediately. We thought that showed great courage especially for someone who is seen as disadvantaged or handicapped in our society. He was definitely very brave to show love and was not shy about it at all!”
The Last Lap
“We are going to have a larger scale event which will involve hundreds of volunteers and many random people along Orchard Road. It will involve stranger-to-stranger interaction and, of course, many smiles and happiness!” said Tan, not revealing any details.
“After the event in June, we are look forward to collaborating with other voluntary social initiatives across Singapore. Embarking on this project has helped us discover many like-minded people, and we hope to work together with them.”
If you need a boost in your gloomy day, check out this group’s videos and you’ll very likely find yourself smiling.