Primary School Student Buys Phones To Help Seniors In Need Stay Connected During ‘Circuit Breaker’

Growing up with a mother who champions social welfare, 12-year-old Chloe Koh has the tremendous capacity to understand hardships that transcend her tender age.

The laborious mission she undertook in 2020 is testament to this, as she raised $5,500 in 3 days to acquire a stockpile of mobile phones for seniors.

She was driven by one simple thought — wanting to ease their feelings of isolation during the unprecedented period.

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Thanks to her, around 80 elderly folks got the chance to maintain connections with their social workers and loved ones during the ‘Circuit Breaker’.

We speak to Chloe and learn how she managed to accomplish this noble feat even before graduating primary school.

Overheard parents talking about needy seniors before ‘Circuit Breaker’

Now 13, Chloe recalls the extraordinary events of last March and how it all began with a dinner conversation that left her with a heavy heart.

Image courtesy of Mary Yong

She remembers overhearing her parents talking about seniors who – without mobile phones – faced the grim reality of isolation due to the lack of contact with volunteers who would visit regularly to ensure they were getting the help they needed.

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Such services would be uncertain during the impending ‘Circuit Breaker’.

Sought help from her principal & teacher

Determined to make a difference, Chloe immediately wrote to her principal seeking support for a fundraiser.

Her goal was to raise enough funds to secure as many mobile phones as possible to help the elderly folks, just 1 week before ‘Circuit Breaker’.

With the help of her Chinese language teacher, she plucked up the courage to present her proposal to 130 school teachers during a conference.

Image courtesy of Mary Yong

Speaking of her experience, Chloe says,

“My teacher had prepared me for it. She said she was so nervous for me that she drank so much coffee before my presentation.

“I remember panicking, but now when I look back, it was a great exposure for me.

“I may have stumbled in my first line, but as I went on, I saw teachers smiling, giving me the thumbs up. Eventually, my voice became steadier as I unveiled my fundraising plans,” she says.

Had to raise funds, buy phones & deliver to seniors in 1 week

After overcoming the perils of public speaking, the real challenge came in the form of raising funds which she needed on an urgent timeline.

“We only had about a week to raise enough money to buy phones and have them delivered before ‘Circuit Breaker’ started,” explains Chloe.

Chloe’s mum, Mary Yong, adds that they consulted their neighbourhood social service agency and were told that about 50 phones were needed.

Image courtesy of Mary Yong

Each device would cost around $55. This amounted to $2,750, which they had to raise in a matter of days.

Thankfully, Chloe’s school is a supportive bunch. With overwhelming support from her teachers, schoolmates, friends, and even family friends, Madam Yong and Chloe doubled their targeted amount in a span of 3 days.

In total, they collected a whopping $5,500.

Distributed 80 phones to seniors with help from SG Cares Volunteer Centres

The extra money raised allowed Chloe and her parents to buy and donate 80 phones to the SG Cares Volunteer Centres (VCs).

One of them was a VC in Bedok, operated by Filos Community Services, which distributed the phones to frail and isolated seniors.

While volunteers made their rounds to ensure every elderly folk in need gets a new phone, Chloe had the opportunity to tag along.

She remembers meeting an elderly man, whom she thought was “cute” when he saw his lips parted to reveal a toothless smile after receiving a new phone from her.

Chloe teaching the elderly man how to use his new phone
Image courtesy of Mary Yong

“When I gave him the phone, he looked really happy and thanked me profusely. This really warmed my heart.

“I didn’t realise that a phone was something that someone else would need so badly, when I myself use it to play games,” she says, adding that the experience deepened her empathy for those in need.

“I went in thinking I was there to bless him with things that he needed. But I returned realising how blessed I am in life to be in this position,” Chloe opines.

As for the funds left over after purchasing the phones, the mother-daughter duo had donated them to the Courage Fund for lower-income families.

Giving back to society through SG Cares Volunteer Centres

As pursuing such a big project wasn’t easy due to her young age, partnering the SG Cares VCs made a world of a difference.

With help from the SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Bedok, Filos Community Services, Chloe’s dream of helping the elderly could come to fruition.

The concept of SG Cares VCs was first introduced in late 2018, seeking to better coordinate the development and deployment of volunteers so that people like Chloe are empowered to give back and help meet community needs.

Through the SG Cares VCs, volunteers can choose from a host of caused-based opportunities, such as befriending seniors, reading for kids, as well as dabbling in art and crafts, cooking, and singing, to help those in need within their community.

There are 12 SG Cares Volunteer Centres in Singapore now:

  • Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Jurong East)
  • Filos Community Services (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Bedok)
  • Care Corner Singapore (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Toa Payoh and Woodlands)
  • Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Boon Lay)
  • Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens’ Consultative Committees in partnership with New Hope
  • Community Services (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Kreta Ayer)
  • AMKFSC Community Services (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Ang Mo Kio)
  • Brahm Centre (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Tampines)
  • CampusImpact (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Yishun)
  • Care Community Services Society (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Geylang)
  • Kampong Kapor Community Services (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Jalan Besar)
  • Fei Yue Community Services (SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Chua Chu Kang)

Image courtesy of MCCY

The number is set to grow by Mar 2022, with operational SG Cares VCs in each of the 24 towns in Singapore.

If you’d like to do your part by helping others, you can look for volunteering opportunities with the SG Cares Volunteer Centres here or download the SG Cares App today.

Chloe’s petite physique belies her extremely big heart

It’s scary to be isolated in society without any proper means to reach out to others, and young Chloe fully fathomed this after years of seeing her mum extending help to the elderly throughout the course of her duty.

On top of her studies and leisure time, she also spares a thought for vulnerable seniors who need help from others.

Kudos to Chloe for striving to make a difference during one of the most turbulent times Singapore has seen. Thanks to her, 80 seniors could stay in touch with their volunteers, and need not feel lonely even when they’re staying alone at home.

And most of all, she has shown us that kindness is a gift one can afford to give, no matter what age you are.

Disclaimer: Images used in the article were taken before ‘Circuit Breaker’.

This post was brought to you in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY).

Featured image courtesy of Mary Yong.