From running a bee hoon stall, to raising $100,000 to feed underprivileged communities, a group of NTU students are doing their part in these tough times to get food to those who need it most.
SINGAPORE (June 12): It began with the need for a cheap and cheerful supper option for those late nights burning the midnight oil. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students Ye Anran, Sheila Lim, Zechary Hoe, and Lee Ray Sheng (photo, from left) then applied to set up a stall at the cafeteria, selling economy bee hoon (fried rice vermicelli) between 10pm to 3am. The stall was Lee’s brainchild, and he put all his savings into the venture, and then roped in the others to get involved as managers. They too, chipped in seed money, and on Feb 24, Raydy Bee Hoon was born.
Yet just over two months after they started their stall, the pandemic hit and they were forced to shutter as students were sent home from their dorms and university life ground to a halt. With a lot of time on their hands, they decided they wanted to do something and do their part to help out. Thus, Raydy Gives came to be.
Working with charitable organisation Food Bank SG, industrial kitchens and other charities, the four friends cook and prepare meals to be distributed to low-income and needy communities.
At first, they delivered and prepared the food themselves to the food banks, raising funds via crowdfunding (on Give.asia, a fundraising platform), but as word spread of their endeavours, a local English news organisation published their story and donations jumped tenfold, seemingly overnight. From just a few thousand dollars raised to start with, they eventually raised over $160,000 to fund Raydy Gives.
All the funds raised are used towards cooking the meals, buying ingredients, delivery of the food and labour (only to those who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 are paid, volunteers work for free). “After the coverage, everything blew up and we were blown away,” says Lim, who acts as Raydy Gives’ business and marketing manager.
“With the amount of money we raised, we felt we had to do more, and so we upscaled everything . We opened new kitchens and [worked out] the logistics. We didn’t even blink but just did it one at a time. And it snowballed into something big in the end.”
They have also been approached by restaurants who offered to lend their kitchens to Raydy Gives, and have over 200 people in their volunteer pool. For Lim, the spirit and enthusiasm they have seen have been the most rewarding part of it all.
“When we started this, we just wanted to help people, and do as much as we possibly can. Along the way, we got a lot of support — not just from family and friends, but from strangers who call us early in the morning to tell us that they’ve read about our story and that it’s very heartening. All these small things keep us going. Our volunteers, too, are so enthusiastic — they are ready to go at 5am in the morning and so full of energy!” she adds. Everyone has the capacity to help, Lim says, and it starts with just looking at your resources.
“In a way, we were lucky and unlucky. We had just only opened our stall, and we were lucky to have the resources but also unlucky that it got shut down. But we just thought, why not, we had ‘itchy hands’, so why not do some charity to keep ourselves busy.”
She is heartened that many people have followed Raydy’s footsteeps. She has friends who’ve been giving tuition for free and others who are using their skills and resources to contribute wherever they can. “Just look around. If you have skills and resources, just go ahead and do what you can,” she adds. To date, they have already given out a total of 56,400 meals since April 13, and have plans to do even more. Currently, Raydy Gives has entered into its “third phase’” which is dubbed Project 365.
“We will be giving out at least 100 meals a day for a full year, because we have excess funding from Give.asia. If we still have excess funds left from after the end of the full year of meals, we will just keep going,” Lim says. “We may also open up the fundraiser again, and continue as long as we can.