Since the launch of CancerStory.com in Year 2000 I have engaged in many interesting dialogues with cancer patients and their caregivers, members from the public, and journalists. I was constantly posed many personal questions that often stirred up some disappointments and brought out the selfishness of the human creed. Being a straight-talking person, I will always give spontaneous answers that are often not diplomatically delivered and may displease some.
I have decided to share some of the many presumptions often made. I hope that web surfers will receive them with an open mind and be motivated to support volunteerism even though voluntary work can be tough in our present society which is predominantly based on the application of the business model even in the social service sector. Whether one likes it or not, the operations of local charities in the present context has to undergo a "revolutionary change" in the process of Remaking Singapore.
I wrote to the Ministry of Community Development and Sports(MCDS) to express my concerns. I was given a report (please click here to read write-up) to read and encouraged to adopt a business model to sustain my non-profit work. Click here to read reply from MCDS (now known as MCYS).
I resigned to the fact that the spirit of altruism and volunteerism can never be 100% true and pure in the wake of present societal moral value.
Presumption #1 : You must be rich in order to commit in your work to help cancer patients.
Answer #1 : No, I am not rich but I lead a simple lifestyle so that I can put aside some
money to help the less fortunate.
Presumption #2 : You are a single. Therefore, she can spare time to help others.
Answer #2 : Yes, I am a single but this does not mean that people who are not single do
not have spare time. The fact is everybody has one's own leisure time and it is up to each individual to choose how to make
use of one's spare time.
Presumption #3 : You must be a religious person to feel for the less fortunate.
Answer #3 : No, I am a free-thinker who respect all religions. I believe all human
beings are born with a "kind heart" and endowed at birth, with the ability to show compassion for others.
Presumption #4 : You are getting great satisfaction from practicing good deeds.
Answer #4 : Satisfaction is an abstract word to me. I only help within my ability.
Presumption #5 : Getting sponsorship must be easy for your work.
Answer #5 : Only people who work in the voluntary organizations will share my experience and realize that getting sponsorship is
never an easy task. Therefore, I am always inclined to use my hard-earned money to carry out my project of passion.
Presumption #6 : Getting publicity must be easy for you.
Answer #6 : The media game is a tough one. What is newsworthy? It is entirely at the media owners' discretion. Similarly, it is
not easy to get the medical institutions and other public bodies to share my mission.
My experience with the media
On one occasion, the spouse of a cancer patient made the following comment : -
"I noticed that you had many write-ups on CancerStory.com by the various media in the earlier years. Your publicity dwindles
as the years go by. Why is this so? You should continue to generate publicity in order to reach out to cancer patients and
This is indeed my toughest challenge - getting ongoing free publicity. The fact is that I have managed to secure a good footing for CancerStory.com such that the local media is aware of its presence. Whenever they need stories about cancer patients and general comments on cancer and related issues, they will contact me for help. Likewise, if they are keen to provide ongoing free write-ups about CancerStory.com, they are free to do so. Unfortunately, the "media" game is such that if one has no new story to share, the "stale bread" will be discarded. Sadly, it is beyond my ability to "stir up" new stories as I am just an ordinary Singaporean.
Some people will argue that I could generate publicity through other means such as distribution of flyers and
display of posters at public places, which were already carried out. Indeed I had tried many other means to
generate publicity, even going the extra mile to write to the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts.
Please click here to read this letter. This letter was also copied to the CEO of SPH Holdings Ltd.
Luckily with the help of search engines, many web surfers have been acquainted with the existence of CancerStory.com, saving
it from becoming a "dead" site.
Extract - My letter sent to
Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts on 7 March 2004.
The establishment of the National Volunteer Centre (NVC) was in line with the Government's commitment to the Singapore 21
vision - embracing volunteerism as a way of life to build Singapore into a world class home. In March 2003, as part of the
Government's strategic efforts to bridge social divides and create a culture of "giving back" to society, NVC assumes a new
role in promoting philanthropy in Singapore. Now it is known as National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre(NVPC).
Despite the government's commitment to promoting volunteerism and philanthropy, the local media remain inclined towards
featuring high fliers in the business world and celebrities in the entertainment industry.
In the process of Remaking Singapore, I propose that more support in the form of free publicity should be given to
voluntary organizations. If only the major newspapers such as Straits Times and Lianhe ZaoBao were generous enough to
provide a special section for write-ups on voluntary organizations and regular updates on the activities of National
Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, it will certainly help to reach out to more people who are seeking help, and those who are
keen to take up voluntary work and to "give back" to society. What is newsworthy? Indeed, all voluntary organizations are
formed to carry out worthy missions in support of humanity. Would the readers be keen on such news? I believe that readers
will be keen to know where they can seek help and where they can volunteer their services. This will also enhance the image
of Singapore being a community-spirited country in line with the Singapore 21 vision. My friend from China, once made the
following remarks : "I noticed that your local newspapers mainly carry reports on murder, rape, accident, robbery, theft and
other negative local news that do not reflect well of Singapore. Before I came to Singapore, I was told that it is a safe
country but now I think otherwise."
If you share my views, I hope that you could encourage the media to "give back" to society, as it is also a form of
philanthropic act to provide free publicity to voluntary organizations that do not have financial resources to embark on
publicity campaigns. If only more people know of the existence of these voluntary bodies, all resources will then be
adequately deployed in support of humanity.
Reply from MITA - 22 March 2004
Thank you for your letter dated 7 March 04 to Minister Lee Boon Yang.
We agree with your suggestion that the media could consider more programmes to promote volunteerism and philanthropy. The
media does support volunteer groups and regularly report their activities. For example, NCSS collaborated with MediaCorp on
ComChest's charity show, which has given higher profile to VWO beneficiaries and has helped to educate the public on VWOs and
Each voluntary group has to creatively strategise to capture the attention of the limited space and airtime in the media.
Update in Year 2005 - After the NKF's saga in July 2005, I noticed that there are weekly write-ups on local charities and fundraising events in the Straits Times - "Charity at Home".