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Woman Helps S’pore’s Underprivileged By Raising Funds, Feels Grateful To Be Here

Dutch Woman Helps Singapore’s Underprivileged Communities As NCA Volunteer

Relocating to another country can be both thrilling and scary, but it can also give us the chance to learn about a new group of people and make the most out of the experience.

Before moving to Singapore in 2019 due to her husband’s job assignment, Dutch national Patricia Arkenbout, 43, only knew Singapore as a wealthy country.

But she wanted to learn more about the country beyond what is typically depicted in travel shows.

This marked the start of her volunteer journey with the Netherlands Charity Association (NCA). Along the way, she got to help underprivileged communities amid a turbulent pandemic where in-person events were either cancelled or heavily restricted.

Image courtesy of Patricia Arkenbout

It’s been 2 wholesome years, and she feels grateful that she could help the less privileged here while acknowledging her own privilege.

Wanted to learn more about Singapore & give back to the community

To know more about the country, the freelance business coach tells MS News that she decided to volunteer at NCA. This nonprofit group supports underprivileged communities in Singapore by raising funds for local charities.

NCA members at the premises of local soup kitchen Willing Hearts in Kembangan
Image courtesy of Netherlands Charity Association

NCA’s endeavours have benefited communities such as the elderly and disadvantaged families, domestic helpers, young underprivileged women, and leprosy patients.

With the NCA, Ms Arkenbout hoped to connect with Singaporeans of all creeds and give back to the community at the same time.

Before Covid-19, NCA helped with volunteering events like BBQs with women from the Good Shepherd Centre and monthly bingo with ex-leprosy patients from the Singapore Leprosy Relief Association (SILRA).

But then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in early 2020, throwing their plans off course.

“All of a sudden, we couldn’t organise (in-person) events anymore, of course, with all the restrictions.” And so, Ms Arkenbout joined a couple of brainstorm sessions to think about coping with the evolving situation.

Then, 2 positions on the NCA board opened up, and she was asked if she wanted to apply to be Vice President, which she did.

Got to meet & talk to an underprivileged family

Each NCA board member works closely with a charity that it supports, and for Ms Arkenbout, she was in close contact with The Breadline Group (TBG).

TBG volunteers would usually visit 2 families a month to provide financial support and hear their plights. They’d report back to NCA if these families needed extra help.

Ms Arkenbout with Mr Lim of The Breadline Group
Image courtesy of Patricia Arkenbout

Unfortunately, because of the pandemic last year, the association couldn’t conduct physical volunteering as much as they usually do.

However, there was a rare occasion where she got to meet Madam Mia, who suffered violence and yet persevered for the sake of her children and grandchildren.

Ms Arkenbout was struck by how at ease the woman was telling her story.

“(The story) was overwhelming,” Ms Arkenbout shared, “(She) was a very warm-hearted woman who had dealt with lots of (physical) violence… and had to take care of 3 grandchildren because her son and daughter-in-law couldn’t take care of them any longer.”

The woman also had a daughter going through her own issues, and with another 2 grandchildren to look after, she had to remain strong while getting by on the little money she had.

“I felt very privileged when I walked away. I found a strong woman (who had gone through so much in life), and I looked up to her.

“When I arrived here, Singapore had the reputation of being wealthy, but there are always downsides in every country, and there are always families or individuals who got fewer chances and had to go through a lot.

“I was really happy that I could contribute a little bit by joining the NCA to help these people,” she said.

Sold books online to raise funds during the pandemic

Ms Arkenbout shares with MS News that her business background and management – having worked in financial institutions before moving here – proved helpful in her role as Vice President.

Organising team structure and setting up the NCA’s mission and vision were just some of the things she managed to set up thanks to her work experience.

Together with the other board members, they creatively planned online events around ‘Circuit Breaker’ restrictions and sold tailor-made hiking books showing various routes in Singapore to raise funds.

Ms Arkenbout (second from left) with the NCA board of 2020
Image courtesy of Patricia Arkenbout

The board also worked with large companies to sell the hiking books for charity, which proved popular among employees in their challenge to stay fit during the ‘Circuit Breaker’.

Other fundraisers held during festive occasions like Christmas and King’s Day – a holiday in the Netherlands – were also successful in raising funds for the charities that NCA supports.

An NCA fundraising dinner during King’s Day in 2021
Image courtesy of Patricia Arkenbout

Feels concerned about online xenophobia

While Ms Arkenbout said she’s never faced any overt racism in her everyday life, there was an incident that left a sour taste in her mouth.

When the Ministry of Manpower tightened immigration policies and changed the Letter of Consent (LOC) so that dependant’s pass holders would need a formal work pass to work here, many applauded the move as one that would supposedly safeguard local jobs.

However, many comments also tended to be xenophobic in nature.

Source from Facebook comments

Ms Arkenbout was surprised when some of her friends showed her Facebook comments that were grossly unkind towards expats or their spouses.

“(The commenters) don’t think (spouses of expats) should work here because they’re already living a very good life… I hope (these comments are) the minority.”

People tend to be polite in real life, she noted, and so she isn’t sure if there’s something behind the faces that she meets daily.

“There’s more to our story… as a woman, I would also like to earn my own money, and I have my ambitions”, she said.

Unsure what the future holds for her & her family in Singapore

When talking about Singapore, Ms Arkenbout is particularly enthusiastic about the warm climate.

She said she enjoys walking out of the house in a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops compared to the winter wear that one has to put on back in the Netherlands, describing it as feeling “light”.

However, as much as she enjoys our tropical climate, she’s not very sure if her family would be staying in Singapore for a long time. Because of Covid-19, they hadn’t seen their relatives since right before borders were closed last year.

Plans were continually pushed back as the situation hadn’t improved enough globally to fly back without quarantines and tests in the way.

If this goes on, the family may decide to return permanently.

Kudos to Ms Arkenbout for caring for the underprivileged

Even though Ms Arkenbout is unsure what her future in Singapore would look like, we’re sure that the charities that she’s supported through the NCA appreciate all the help she’s given.

We wish Ms Arkenbout the best of luck as she continues to devote her time to volunteering work and her job.

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

Featured image courtesy of Patricia Arkenbout.

Jonathan Yee

Jonathan hates maths but is in love with math rock. He also insists that the term is 'esports' and not 'e-sports'.

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