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United going forward

Pauline Wong
Pauline Wong • 5 min read
United going forward
Financier and investor Andre Cherbonnier wanted to do his part to help health front liners, migrant workers and the F&B industry.
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Financier and investor Andre Cherbonnier wanted to do his part to help health front liners, migrant workers and the F&B industry. Together with friend and co-founder Paul Foster, he created the Majulah Movement — an online donation platform that helps support those impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak.

SINGAPORE (June 12): Andre Cherbonnier did not start out thinking about creating a donation platform. But being a financier and an investor in a transport technology company, he really wanted a way to do his part, mobilising the resources he had in a meaningful way. “To be honest, it was a very organic process. As I mentioned, I’m in finance but I’m also an investor in a transport technology company Dre Valet Singapore. We’ve been around for a while and basically what we do is provide multiple technology solutions for the transport sector,” he says.

However, when the “circuit breaker” measures were announced, the business was declared non-essential — which meant that their drivers had little to do. “So the initial plan was to find a way to pivot to get our drivers to do food delivery, and it was around the same time that food delivery apps were under the spotlight for how much they charged as fees for deliveries,” Cherbonnier says.

The idea, he adds, came to him and co-founder Foster (pictured below, left) to match their drivers with restaurants that they knew, and deliver food for those restaurants. “As more restaurants came on board, we got more requests (to work together) and one of the requests came from Dr Jade Kua (a paediatric emergency specialist and senior consultant at the department of emergency medicine at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital). She was independently getting people together delivering food to nurses and healthcare workers on shift,” Cherbonnier adds.

In the wake of the pandemic, healthcare front liners have been on overtime, working punishing shifts as infection rates rose. Some of these workers, like nurses, did have options to get food at nearby food courts but a lot of the time, they were simply too busyand opted for food delivery for convenience. In addition, there are other healthcare workers — like those from the Red Cross or workers at old folks’ homes facilities — who are getting food sent to them from the government as they worked tirelessly in health facilities.

“Don’t get me wrong, the meals definitely cover the basic sustenance but it doesn’t exactly get them excited. What we’re doing is not saying “oh the government is not doing its job of providing food”, not at all, it’s just that what we do is a great way to allow people to show their appreciation for the healthcare front liners,” Cherbonnier adds.

Pooling their resources together, the Majulah Movement was formed in May. Together with fellow Singaporeans Ling Quek and Helen Clare Rozario, Cherbonnier and Foster started Majulah Movement as an online donation platform that creates an ecosystem of support for the community — namely healthcare staff, migrants, the F&B industry and delivery drivers —whose lives have been impacted by the Covid-19 situation.

Based on a pay it forward system, people who wish to support these individuals can make online purchases of set meals and treat packs — each selling for $10 — to show their appreciation for the healthcare front liners and migrant workers. At the same time, by purchasing these meals, the support also extends a lifeline to delivery drivers and F&B industry operators from the small family-run businesses to larger restaurant chains.

To date, the Majulah Movement has received donations of 2,584 meals and 978 treat packs (and counting). For Cherbonnier, the experience has been incredibly rewarding. He says: “Majulah, I think, is a word that, regardless of race or religion, really resonates. It’s a phrase that I think is like a rallying cry. But on top of that, you know, the actual definition of the word majulah, or forward in Malay — that is something we need now more than ever,” says Cherbonnier.

“If you think about what this pandemic has done to society, and what’s going to be required for us to get to some stage of normalcy, the Majulah Movement just by its name and definition covers all of that. It’s a way to get everybody together, move forward towards a common goal.”

“(It) exemplifies the best part of the Singapore spirit. It shows how quickly people have come together to volunteer their time and their resources — that has been one of the biggest parts of this,” he says. “It has also humbled us, and humbled us to see first-hand the incredible efforts behind-the-scenes (from the healthcare front liners),” he adds.

Moving forward, Cherbonnier hopes the initiative can continue to help support the community in any way possible. “We want to be the matching platform (for people), whether it’s physical donation or volunteering time, we want to identify communities in Singapore who need help and take our excess resources and place them where they need to be.”

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