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Feeding thousands in Singapore

What does it take to feed 3,000 people in need every day?

If you've never been knee-deep in vegetables, washing enough to feed 3,000 people, you should try it some time.

And once you're ready to branch out, you could try your hand at cutting the vegetables, washing 25-kg bags of rice, deep frying samosas and packing meals.

If you know your way around a kitchen (or are just tall enough to handle a metre-long spatula), you might even be asked to cook up a dish in a giant frying wok.

It's all part of the fun volunteers have at Willing Hearts. The soup kitchen in Singapore delivers 3,000 free hot meals across the country every day to the elderly, disabled or those simply finding it hard to make ends meet.

"We don't judge them. If they ask for food, we'll try to accommodate them," says Tony Tay, 67, the founder of the non-profit.

Great care is taken to ensure the food is soft enough for the elderly who may find it difficult to chew, and there's great pride in producing good-tasting food.

Alongside Tony, an average of 50 volunteers rock up to the industrial-sized kitchen at Genting Lane every morning.

You'll find office workers putting in an early hour or two before work, retirees chatting as they chop, doctors and pilots, expats with their kids, teachers with their students, teams of colleagues and foreign workers volunteering on their days off.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT

It's hard work, of course, but volunteers often return with friends in tow.

Besides the easy camaraderie and conversation, they enjoy an almost immediate return on their labour, seeing people get hot meals towards the end of their shift as they fan out across the island to distribute the food.

I certainly found the experience therapeutic and rewarding — like I had done an honest day's work that immediately mattered to someone.

And I'd like to think that my novice vegetable-washing skills were acceptable to the folks having lunch that day.


Willing Hearts relies entirely on volunteers and donations. A few months after this story first ran, it moved to a bigger space and is feeding even more people now.

Filmed by Sabrina Rech & Tay Cheng San
Edited by Sabrina Rech
Produced by Ashima Thomas
Text by Joshua Lye
Music by Cheating Sons

Want more ideas for doing good through food? Check out our list of places in Singapore where the doing good is in the eating.

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