It is in the DNA of City Harvest Church members to “find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it.” These two new social initiatives by CHC members mark a rising trend.
Renowned sociologist Margaret Mead famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
The trend of social responsibility is gaining traction fast today. According to the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, Singaporeans donated a record $11 million in 2013 to various charities and projects.
Social initiatives are not new to City Harvest Church. It all began with the Church Without Walls movement in 1996. Members were taught to “find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it”. This became a mantra that many members continue to live by today, giving rise to a number of social initiatives in recent years, among them 8 Fahrenheit, an ice cream shop set up by CHC members in the a polytechnic campus to help needy students earn a living; Teddy ‘N’ Thotz at Vivocity that sells craftwork done by elderly folks; and Soule, a shoe company donates shoes to children in Third World countries.
Some early initiatives by members have grown into extended organizations of CHC. City College was started in 2002 by member Kenny Low (left) as a not-for-profit organization to help youths who cannot continue their academic career in a mainstream secondary school. Subsequently, Low also founded O School, a dance academy that uses dance as a platform to reach out to youths.
One of CHC’s first social entrepreneurs, Low has a deep passion for the “rejects” in society. He started City College after he realized that many school dropouts still had a burning desire to make something of their lives. The school offers a second chance at education and also support for students to overcome their personal challenges.
“The concept of social entrepreneurship is very much in line with Jesus’ call to us to be salt and light, and to reach out to those in need,” Low says. “To bring restoration and healing to certain people, groups, values and causes, that’s being salt; to allow these restorations and healing to be visible and inspirational by connecting them to the marketplace, that’s being light.”
GIFTING BIRTHDAY PARTIES
CHC members think of doing good wherever and however they can. Cindy Koh chanced upon the idea of Birthday In A Box when she met a 14-year-old who had never celebrated her birthday. Taking a leaf from American charity The Birthday Box, Koh has created 21 birthday celebrations for needy children so far. The 31-year-old social worker put together the first birthday in a box for a 7-year-old boy in February this year. She worked with Lakeside Family Service Centre to provide a cake, a gift, a balloon and a card. The parents wrote a birthday message in the card, wrapped the present up and held a celebration for their son. For once, the boy was the star of a birthday party and had something to give away—his birthday cake.
“The case worker told me that after the party, the boy became more confident. In the past, he would hide in a corner whenever she visited him and refuse to talk. After the party, he became more open and even showed her how to play with the toys he received. I didn’t expect the birthday box to have this kind of impact on the child, but it did,” said Koh.
JUMPING WITH HOPE
Alvin Low, 31, is another social entrepreneur who believes in bringing restoration to those who have lost hope and helping them live a purposeful life.
He founded JUMP Production in 2011, with a vision to provide a platform for young people to live out their dreams. He was looking for ways to engage the young people in mainstream schools when he found that many schools were looking for dance programs. He immediately roped in a dancer friend from church and planned a dance program for schools. JUMP’s first assignment was Mayflower Secondary School: a team of nine dancers taught students over four days. On the last day, each class put on a dance showcase.
“The students really enjoyed themselves and I realized that dance is a very good way to engage students and communicate with them. I also saw the potential of a viable business,” Low said.
The events organization now provides, as a school co-curricular activity, dance programs for seven secondary schools and six primary schools. They also started RE:volution, which uses dance as a platform to reach out to at-risks youths.
“Dancers are a testimony to living a dream because of the alternative career path they have chosen,” Low points out. “Our dance instructors share their experiences with the students and encourage them to believe in their dreams. Many students come from traditional Chinese families and their parents are not so encouraging with their words, so they’re grateful that someone believed in them.”
As CHC member and founder of retail chain 77th Street, Elim Chew, whose name is synonymous with youth, social enterprise and transforming society for good, puts it: “If you have money, give money. If you have time, give time. If you have talent, give talent. Your money, time and talent will be multiplied and you’ll be amazed at how you can be a changemaker and impact lives with what you have been given. Someday, you will find that it will be all given back to you when you need it most!
“Rise up and be the change you want to be. Yours will be the generation that is driven by a greater purpose.”