“As a young boy, I used to cycle a lot with my friends. In 2018, I decided to start cycling again, as a hobby with some buddies. It had been 30 years since I had last cycled, you know! It was through my cycling group that I was introduced to RfR, and what a ride it has been! Every year, I fundraise and pledge to ride with RfR.
As doctors, we are people of service. This is a value that I live by every day, and one that I instil in my people and in my business – a local pharmaceutical company for affordable medicines. For all the blessings we get in our work and our business, it is important always to remember we must give back. RfR has touched the hearts of many at my company, and I encouraged many of my team to also contribute as individual fundraisers. Our company is also a corporate sponsor and RfR is our adopted charity. I am so glad I decided to jump back on my bike, what was just a hobby has now become a means to do some good!
Growing up in a middle-class family in Singapore, I never saw, firsthand, the families and communities in our society that needed our help. During the RfR distributions, you realise that not only are there so many elderly folks, but also so many families with young children, who are growing up in compromised situations. When families are worried about the most basic necessities of life, such as a roof over their heads or food on the table, things most of us take for granted, they seldom have the energy to focus on the many other obstacles of life. Just helping them with food takes away some of that burden. That is just our small contribution.”
“28 days, 2,500 km, 1 incredible woman! Last month, Irene Tan, against all odds, overcame snakes, monkeys, rain, having her passport stolen, and much more to complete a prodigious journey, cycling 2,500 km of the Malaysian Peninsula in 28 days!
A few months ago, Irene chanced upon a group of Ride for Rations cyclists and was thrilled to learn they would be cycling from Malaysia to Singapore for a good cause. Unfortunately, just one month before the 2022 ride, she was called in for surgery and missed out on the chance to cycle with the group.
She decided that if her doctor permitted her to cycle, she would cycle the entire Malaysian peninsula after her surgery. Thus began her twenty-eight day fundraising journey. Along the way Irene encountered many obstacles, but she also met many wonderful people. Many shopkeepers, astonished by a lone woman cycling without any partners, often offered her free beverages such as iced green tea and lattes out of concern. Some even gave her keychains to keep as souvenirs, wishing her a safe journey.
One of the challenges she overcame was losing her passport in Langkawi. “It was a horrible and terrifying experience for me”. I didn’t expect to lose my passport, it was the last thing that should have happened to me!” Irene recalls. On her second day, she crossed paths with a cobra, in prime position to attack, barely 50 cm away. She was able to carefully back away and continued her journey unharmed. Irene mentioned that she had also fallen a couple of times, injuring herself multiple times. Her back was sore, yet she continued to persevere through the pain and finish what she started!
Q: What made you stay motivated throughout your journey?
A:When I start something, I have to finish it! Also, I just wanted to go home! That’s what kept me going. I wanted to complete the task and go home.
Q: Was it all worth it?
A: I’m actually carrying a time bomb now. I’m going to the doctor in a week’s time where I’m going to face another challenge again. So to me there is no difference. I need to live my dream so I’m not going to let that stop me.
Since embarking on her journey, Irene has garnered huge amounts of support on social media! She was even featured in the local Chinese newspaper!”
“Enzo (Primary 6 student)
I joined Ride for Rations when I was in Primary 3. I’m in Primary 6 now. On the last Saturday of every month, I always go with my family to help give rations to all the families that need food. All my friends know that I will be busy on that day, so I can’t come out to play with them. Because of Covid, we can’t talk to many of the people we give rations to, but by giving them food, I know we are helping them so that they can spend the money they make on other things they need.
Eric (Enzo’s Dad)
Pre-Covid, we used to ride down from Melaka to Singapore as part of our annual Ride for Rations Fundraising Campaign. Enzo joined Ride for Rations as part of the support crew, for our last Melaka to Singapore ride, just before we went into Covid. I think he was one of the youngest members on the crew at the time! Enzo would get up very early with the rest of the crew, helping stock up food and beverages for the cyclists. When Covid-19 hit, we could no longer ride down from Melaka and RfR adapted to allow participants to cycle locally around Singapore, logging the miles on Strava. This was when Enzo had his first chance to actually ride for RfR. Over the last couple of years, we’ve had some incredible adventures, like cycling to the westernmost tip of Singapore! We’ve also done many of the century and round island rides around Singapore, which is pretty remarkable for a young child! Enzo has always been very into cycling, and he’s using his love for the sport and hobby to do some good for people. I’m very proud of you, Enzo, keep up the good work!
Enzo’s top tips for fundraising:
“12 years ago, whilst Shoeb and I were attending an event in Marsiling, we wandered around the community block and what we saw shocked us! We’d lived in Singapore for so many years and yet we’d never really seen the people in our communities living in such difficult conditions. We knew we had to do something about it and we decided that if we put just $50 aside a month we could help somebody.
We approached the Sunlove centre and asked the coordinator for the names of two families for whom we could buy rations every month. Soon after, we began reaching out to more and more families. Every time we went to buy the rations we had ten trolleys filled to the brim at NTUC. The poor people at the checkouts!
In 2011, when the founder of Bike-Aid and his family got involved, he suggested we have an event where participants cycle to raise funds. Ride for Rations was born! We started to provide rations for families in other communities such as Chai Chee and Hougang. Over time, our rations evolved to include healthy options such as fresh fruit and breakfast items for school-going children.
Q: How did you bring people along on your vision?
One of the most powerful things we have experienced is the rations distribution every month. When our volunteers push that trolley and go to individual houses, they come back changed. That physical interaction with those who genuinely need our help inspires them to do more. They then go on to urge their fellow peers, families, and friends to come on board and this is how we grow.
Q: What motivates you to keep going?
Firstly, it is the feeling of upliftment when you know you are impacting families that genuinely need help. Secondly, we’ve always kept our vision very focused on providing food rations. Thirdly, it is the involvement of our volunteers, they are owners of this vision. It’s not just a committee, it’s a family.
What advice would you give to people who have an idea and want to start their own idea?
For us, RfR is not a charity, it is a service. We always tell our volunteers that it is the beneficiaries of our rations that we should be thanking for giving us the opportunity to give back.”
“Sparsh Deep Singh migrated to Singapore from India, 9 years ago following his wife. The country and its ways were new to him, and he found himself initially lost trying to make friends and assimilate. It was then that he chanced upon Ride for Rations and his life was never the same again. Since joining RfR in 2015, Sparsh has been riding for charity and forging friendships along the way. “There is this feeling of great comradery between the cyclists as we work towards the common goal of doing good. When we spot those RfR jerseys being worn by other cyclists on the roads, there is a connection straight away. To be honest, however, the morning breakfasts of pratas, dosas and other local delicacies that we cyclists have together, are a definite plus point and the highlight of our rides!” The conversations over breakfast have not only helped him to get to know his fellow cyclists better but also helped acquaint him with Singapore and the food the country has on offer. “Although the friendly breakfasts have led to some weight gain for me,” he says with a smile, “volunteering with Ride for Rations has been a great way to understand my new home, Singapore, better!”
Sparsh has also been involved in encouraging other donors to be a part of this food distribution initiative, including his company, BHP, which has been a big supporter and sponsor of the ride. He says, “I am happy to spread the word around. It is an overwhelming feeling to have distributed food rations to needy families in Singapore, seeing their struggles and the smiles on their faces when a food pack is handed to them first hand. We do need to get as many sponsors on board as possible to ensure that each of these families in need are reached and helped.”
In fact, for Sparsh, who recently turned a father to a new born baby boy, RfR is a family affair, too. He says, “My wife used to also be a cyclist for RfR until an accident frightened her off the roads. But she still volunteers in whatever way she can. In fact, I am also scouting for baby seats for my bike to take my little one around when he is big enough and ready.” Sparsh quips with a smile, “He can then enjoy the morning breakfasts with us, too!”
“I picked up cycling at a much later age than most! 2012 was the first time I picked up a foldable bike and started cycling casually around Singapore. In 2017, I was out on one of my casual rides, when I saw a big cycling group, and one of them – a friend – called out to me. They told me they were riding with RfR and encouraged me to join! This group turned out to be the “1K” group! If you haven’t heard of them, they usually start a week earlier than all other participants, in the cycle down from Melaka, to ride a grand total of 1000KM in 9 days! In August of 2017, I joined the 1K group for the first time! The first year was challenging for me – we’d ride out every morning at 5 am and cycle 9-10 hours a day. If not because of RfR, I would have never had the discipline or a reason to ride 1000 KM!
One of the things that attracts me to volunteer with RfR is that 100% funds go to the recipients. Every single penny. All the volunteers that ride from Melaka and the entire support crew pay for their own expenses and accommodation. Nothing is taken from the funds that have been donated. And the volunteers are from all walks of life, it’s a great way to meet some incredible people. But mostly, what I love about RfR is being able to make a difference in someone’s life. In the first couple of years I’d joined RfR, there was an elderly gentleman, Mr Ong, who would go every evening to some of the bakeries near his house and collect the leftover bread that did not sell. He would go house to house to distribute the bread to the families that needed it. The amazing thing is that Mr. Ong is himself a recipient of the food parcels from RfR! Another lady I met once during our distribution told us that she didn’t need the food parcels anymore. When we inquired, she said that her daughter had just graduated from university and they wouldn’t need the parcels anymore. This was so touching, I’d almost teared up then – she could’ve just quietly continued to accept the rations. This is why I keep coming back.”
“Seizing the opportunity to give back…
As young professionals just starting out, Jun Kai and Wee Teng figured they may not have as much as others to give from a financial perspective but they can still give their time and energy.
Jun Kai used to volunteer during his free time in university days and believes that giving back to society makes one a lot more human. Helping another person may not take much from us but can make a huge difference to another. Any effort counts despite how small we think this might be.
An introduction from a colleague led him to Bike Aid and Ride for Rations…a great way of combining an interest in cycling with giving back to the community.
A fortuitous gap in busy schedules allowed Jun Kai and Wee Teng to come and help out at Chai Chee for this month’s rations distribution. Having the opportunity to personally deliver rations to beneficiaries and interacting with them in person “on the ground” will make next week’s ride from Melaka to Singapore all the more meaningful for Jun Kai, who is joining for the first time this year.
Jun Kai has been cycling for about 6 years but has not ventured out of Singapore on his bike before. He is looking forward to the ride and making new friends. We wish him all the best for his ride. Stay tuned for an update on how his adventure goes!”
“Perspectives from a first time RfR participant:
Q: How would you summarise your experience in 3 words or less?
A: Eye-opening, drenched, well planned
Q: What were you most apprehensive about before the ride?
A: I didn’t really know what to expect but I did hear stories about Malaysia’s road conditions. There is a good mixture of road conditions depending on where you are, but generally they weren’t as bad as I thought. The challenge was mostly trying to ride safely in the wet as both days were rainy. Fortunately, our group did not experience any punctures or mishaps due to the weather. Generally, the whole ride was organised so well and supported by a huge team of volunteers so everything just ran smoothly. There was always plenty of clear instruction and lots of food! The safety cars always made sure we had a secure path. Kudos to all the support crew who made this possible! You can really feel their heart and dedication to want to make this event a success. The hotel staff were also really professional and even had a designated area to store our bikes securely.
Q: How many stops did you make each day?
A: About 3-4 each day at planned intervals. This made the ride very manageable. When the group knew I was the youngest rider, they kept loading me up with food so that I could help “pull” the group up at the front.
Q: Did you surprise yourself with the stamina you were able to endure?
A: I think the rain on both days helped to cool us down such that we did not have to stop too long during our breaks, and reducing the risk of heat exhaustion. The second day was tougher as the distance was longer and the legs were not as fresh anymore. It was a rude shock to discover so many flyover bridges on the way to woodlands on the 2nd day while the legs were already drained. It really helps to ride in a group, you encourage and push each other on. I think the trick is also to be well-prepared. Hydrate sufficiently and eat in excess, especially if this is not a typical distance.
Q: What time did you get back?
A: On the first day our group made it to the hotel at Batu Pahat by about 1pm and to the finish line at Sunlove Marsiling by about 3pm on the second day. I was in Group 2 so were a stronger pack of riders. It was my first time crossing the border on my bike, so it was fascinating to learn that we can actually ride in the motorbike lanes across the Causeway.
Q: Would you do it again?
A: For sure! I’m already looking forward to the next one. I’ll probably jio some of my friends to join too! It was a memorable experience as it was my first time out in Malaysia cycling for a great cause and making friends along the way.”
“What I do is really nothing. It’s the volunteers that benefit the most from the RfR program.”
You might be thinking: how can that be?
YeongPin has been volunteering with RfR for about 6 years. He works as a busy hand surgeon and yet on his day off he happily devotes time to help with the monthly rations distribution at Chai Chee.
The thing that keeps him coming back to help after all these years is the energy of the other volunteers. There is so much background work that goes into the process from the coordination of the ride and fund raising right through to sourcing and accounting for the rations and everything in between. The team does this all efficiently and non-begrudgingly. He feels the manual labour he contributes once a month is nothing in comparison.
While it’s obvious the recipients of the rations are grateful for the groceries they receive, having the opportunity to see that gratitude in their eyes first hand is a gift. Not many NGOs give you that full circle experience, which gives confidence that your donation is actually benefiting who it was intended to.
Volunteering doesn’t feel like a burden when you get so much in return.