Helping the less fortunate with a charity organisation in Singapore
Part I: Introduction
Developing countries refer to countries with economies that have a low gross domestic product per capita (GDP), and rely heavily on agriculture to generate income. Across the world, developing countries are being coined different terms such as ‘less-developed countries’ or ‘low-income economy’. These countries are often classified based on their level of economic development through the use of several socioeconomic criteria such as literacy rates and life expectancy. Developing countries tend to have lower ratings based on these statistical criteria.
Some of these developing countries in Southeast Asia include Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, with Cambodia being one of the poorest countries in the region. Cambodia only reported a GDP of US$1,643.12 in 2019, with Covid-19 plunging its economy into a recession.
Positioned in the heart of Southeast Asia, not only has Singapore been strengthening its relationships with other countries through international conventions and sporting events, they have also been lending a hand to countries in need. These include donating money and medical supplies, as well as participating in disaster relief missions. While most of these happen on a national level, people of various communities have also formed positive relationships with one another through volunteer programmes such as joining a charity organisation for the poor, going on overseas volunteer trips to countries like Cambodia, or even sponsoring a child.
Part II: Problems faced by developing countries in Asia
As the population of developing countries like Cambodia and Nepal continues to grow, they become more urbanised, with levels of poverty gradually decreasing. However, these developing countries often suffer from income inequality or wealth disparity. A Cambodia Socio-Economic survey conducted in 2016 has shown that disposable income per capita in Phnom Penh is two times higher than the rural states. Aside from the IDPoor Programme that was launched by the Cambodian government in 2006, other non-profit organisations and charities have been providing targeted services and assistance such as building houses, and donating clean, drinking water to the less fortunate of Cambodia.
Factors Contributing to Income Disparity
Three main factors that contribute to increasing inequality in these countries. One of which is globalisation. Globalisation refers to the web of relationships formed between economies from across the world through international trade and investments. While globalisation brings in many opportunities for growth that ultimately leads to a better quality of life and higher living standards, the benefits are often imbalanced and unequal. For example, companies that are trading internationally may hedge out small local businesses, making the rich richer and the poor, even poorer. In addition, globalisation also leads to the exploitation of labour. People from these lesser developed countries are forced to work under inhumane conditions, with safety standards often being ignored in order to produce cheaper goods. There is also an increase in human trafficking and the implementation of child labour.
The second factor is education. Children living in poverty, especially those in less developed countries face many barriers when it comes to having access to education. Schools in rural areas do not have sufficient funding for teaching materials or proper facilities within the school compound for effective education. Rural schools in countries like Cambodia and Nepal often see overcrowding within the classrooms, and this results in the lack of a conducive environment for students to learn. Gender inequality also contributes to the lack of education, especially amongst the girls. While Cambodia has been taking steps towards gender equality, poverty continues to force many families to choose the child they wish to send to school. And girls often end up missing out on an education due to the popular belief that there is lesser value in educating a girl than a boy. As a result of unequal education rights, lack of infrastructure and materials for a proper learning environment, these students are unable to get paid higher wages and break out of the poverty cycle.
The last factor is technological advancement. Even though mobile technology has been contributing to financial inclusions and trade, it has also resulted in income inequality amongst the low and middle-income workers. Labour-saving technology has replaced the jobs of many people especially in the manufacturing sector; and with firms refusing to upskill their employees, this leads to job displacements and loss of job opportunities for many people within these developing countries.
Problems associated with inequality
One main problem that arises with economic inequality is health issues. The impoverished members have an increased risk of being infected with various kinds of illnesses leading to a less effective lower-income workforce. This, combined with limited access to quality healthcare and nutritious food, many people in developing countries have higher mortality rates.
1. Lack of sanitation and access to clean water
Many people die from diseases attributed to inadequate water supply, sanitation, and hygiene, with diarrhoea being the main cause of death for many children under five years of age. The United Nations reported diarrhoeal disease resulting from contaminated food and water sources as a leading cause of child mortality worldwide. Diarrhoea is more common and widespread throughout developing countries in the world. In these countries, it is reported that children under three years of age suffer an average of three diarrhoea episodes annually, depriving the child of nutrition that is vital for growth. This leads to malnutrition thus, making these children more vulnerable to severe infections as a result of diarrhoea.
Not only is poor sanitation and unsafe water leading causes of child mortality, but they also result in loss of productivity. Having limited access to clean water and sanitation makes people more vulnerable to diseases like cholera and dysentery, leading to them taking time off from work and paying more for healthcare.
Having access to clean water and sanitation prevents exposure to many diseases. Water is one of the most important substances for survival. Aside from drinking, there are other uses for water, such as cooking, cleaning, and also farming. Sanitation, on the other hand, is defined as the provision or access to facilities and services for the safe disposal of human waste.
As the world continues navigating the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries like Cambodia and Nepal have the added challenge of living with limited access to clean water. Often, women and children bear the burden of walking long distances every day in search of water, robbing them of time that could be spent in school.
With a population of over 16 million people, more than three million do not have clean drinking water while five million do not have access to improved sanitation. Even though Cambodia is one of the fastest developing countries in Southeast Asia, families still have limited access to secure water connections and toilets for their homes, especially for those in rural communities.
On the other hand, Nepal, a landlocked nation with a population of over 27 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world and is facing challenges related to water pollution and water scarcity. Charity organisations from across the world, including Singapore, continue to not only donate clean, drinking water to these countries, but also install wells and simple water filtration systems to make water safe for drinking amongst children in the community.
2. Poor housing situations
Housing, as defined by the World Health Organisation is a residential environment and is one of the basic human needs. Besides providing shelter, proper housing should have the necessary facilities and infrastructure for the physical, mental, and social well-being of a family.
Healthy homes that are safe and free from hazards are known to improve physical and mental health, while poor housing situations contribute to health problems such as a rise in chronic diseases and injuries. Poor housing situations often refer to homes that have poor indoor air quality, overcrowding, and lack of proper sanitation facilities.
An estimated 40%-75% of the population of fast-growing cities in developing countries have housings in squatter settlements without basic sanitation facilities. This is attributed to the unexpected and exponential rate of urbanisation, resulting in misalignment to urban planning and development. As the city is unable to accommodate the influx of people moving from rural areas to the cities for work, most of them end up in slums – overcrowded housing areas that are poorly structured with limited access to clean water and sanitation.
Poor housing is often susceptible to water leaks, poor ventilation, and pest infestation which in turn leads to an increase in mould, mites as well as other allergens. Colder periods of the year may sometimes result in increased mortality among vulnerable populations like children and the elderly. Furthermore, residential crowding increases the spread of contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and other water-borne infections such as cholera and dysentery.
As a developing country in Southeast Asia, more than a quarter of Cambodia’s population lives just above the poverty line of US$1.25 per day, with at least 10 million Cambodians in need of proper housing. Furthermore, a larger part of Cambodians in rural areas are still living in traditional Khmer homes. These homes are built out of woven straws or bamboo, with palm fronds as makeshift roofs and large stilts as the base, raised above ground level to prevent water damage during the monsoons seasons.
All of these factors lead to a vicious cycle of inequality in developing countries as people suffer the consequences from lack of clean water, poor sanitation, and housing situations. Many charity organisations in Singapore aim to alleviate these conditions and make a positive social impact in less developed countries like Cambodia through volunteer work or social entrepreneurship programmes such as house-building or implementing safe, drinking water within the rural communities.
Part III: Charity organisations and their efforts to help the less fortunate
A charity refers to an organisation with specific purposes defined by Singapore’s laws to be charitable and is exclusive for public benefit. The purposes of charity organisations can range from sponsoring a child to children charity, and house-building in less developed countries like Cambodia.
With so many charity organisations in Singapore that support different programmes, finding the right fit for your giving might seem challenging. So here are four tips to help guide you into making a meaningful contribution:
1. Identify your goals as a donor
Before donating, it is important to identify and align the causes that you are giving to with your values, passions, and interests. This results in you having a sustained engagement with a cause, and ultimately help your giving become more intentional whilst deepening your relationship with a given charity. For instance, if you are someone who cares very deeply or has an affinity with children, then you can choose to donate to a children charity in Singapore or take on a child sponsorship for the underprivileged in Cambodia. Conversely, if you have recently lost a loved one to an illness, then contributing to a charity that helps raise funds or awareness about the illness might be meaningful to you.
2. Give to the moment
Giving to charities may seem like a spontaneous affair, but there is a lot of planning that goes into it. Some charities such as sponsoring a child, require a long-term commitment and should not be done in the spur of the moment.
In the aftermath of natural disasters or humanitarian crises, it is a natural reaction to want to help. However, it is ideal to take a step back before entering your credit card details to donate and not give in the moment if you are going to make a rash decision. This may put you at risk of charity frauds.
Between January to May 2020, Singaporeans have stepped up and donated a total of S$90 million to community charities as a means of helping those in need amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. While the generosity of Singaporeans helped support many organisations, it also opened doors for scammers to capitalise on the goodwill of these donors. Many of these frauds involve fundraising for various causes, especially disaster relief.
In these fraud cases, scammers in Singapore often pretend to be legitimate well-known charities by making cold calls, sending out direct messages, and even creating fake websites or pages on social media. They usually post fake pictures of people who are negatively impacted by the disaster. Read the next point to find out how you can avoid charity frauds.
3. Vet your charities
Many of us give to charity, but only a handful actually take the time to find out more about the organisation we are giving to. Upon deciding on a charity that you would like to support, you need to ensure that the charity organisation to which you plan to give will use your donation wisely. In Singapore, there are three ways to find out the legitimacy of a charity organisation.
The first is to visit the Commissioner of Charities website to find out if the organisation is registered as a charity in Singapore.
The second way is more useful when encountering organisations asking for donations when you are out. Simply use your phone to scan the QR code on the fundraising permit which the fundraiser holds to find out if the charity has a valid permit to raise funds from the public.
The third method is to send an SMS to 79777 in the following format: FR <SPACE> license number, the permit number, or name of the charity organisation. After which, you will receive an SMS reply with the verification of the organisation.
Aside from the legitimacy of the organisation, it is also recommended for donors to find out more about the mission statement of the charity and understand how they accomplish their goals. Some questions that you can ask include: Does the organisation work by itself or with other external stakeholders and verifiable etc. Charity organisations like Operation Hope Foundation list out the cost and weight of every expenditure instead of listing everything out as a lump sum.
4. Evaluate its governance
A good charity organisation tends to have independent oversight. This means that the charity looks out for the short- and long-term mission. Other positive signs include having non-familial members on the board, as well as members with a diverse range of skills in order to come up with an all-rounded strategy and ensure that fraudulent activities are not carried out.
Aside from volunteering to build houses in less developed countries such as Cambodia, or donating clean drinking water, some charity organisations in Singapore also offer child sponsorships. Under child sponsorship programmes, you will choose a child to sponsor by providing funds for essentials like clean water, education, nutrition, and more, to help them break out of their poverty cycle for good. Throughout the sponsorship period, you can build a relationship or connect with the child on an emotional level through letters and photographs to find out how they are doing.
Besides providing the child with basic necessities, there are four core sectors in which child sponsorships can help in.
1. The funds raised from child sponsorships empower children with life skills to protect themselves. The money will be used to work with families and communities to strengthen the systems in place to protect these vulnerable children.
2. Education is one of the core factors to helping these children break out of the poverty cycle. The money can be used to buy educational materials such as books, and stationery to create a better learning environment for the child.
3. Health and nutrition are necessary for a child to grow well, hence the money raised from sponsorship programmes funds vaccinations as well as coming up with nutrition plans.
4. Even though sponsorship programmes are long-term, they are not for life. Hence, the funds will be used to help children and their families develop entrepreneurial skills to start their own business, and eventually be self-sufficient.
You will often find a list of children from less developed countries like Cambodia with their personal particulars upon visiting the websites of charities that offer child sponsorship, and most of the time it is hard to decide on the child you should extend your sponsorship to. So here are some tips to guide you through the selection process.
1. Choose the longest-waiting child in the list
2. Choose highly vulnerable children, such as those who have lost both their parents, or are handicapped, as they require more financial support to get by.
3. Choose a child that is suffering from an issue closest to your heart. This can be done by reading through the short biographies of the children listed, and finding out about their family situations, what the parent employment is like, and what do these children need. As you understand the child on a more personal level, you may be able to find a circumstance that you are able to relate to.
Part IV: Conclusion
Apart from making you feel good and empowered about helping others, committing to a charity programme or taking part in volunteer activities in less developed countries can alleviate poverty, and even improve housing as well as sanitation situations. Before you decide on a meaningful cause that you would like to contribute to, remember to always do the necessary research to ensure that the charity is legitimate as well as ensuring that the core values and mission statement aligns with yours.
With initiatives ranging from volunteer work such as building a house in Cambodia, child sponsorships, and the successful implementation of a safe drinking water programme for children in rural schools, Operation Hope Foundation is a charity organisation in Singapore that goes above and beyond to improve the lives of the less fortunate.