Tan Chuan Jin – Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?

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While I often chat with them when I meet them, I haven’t gone so far up the value chain to know the middle man and the whole set-up. I was most happy to join a group of young Singaporeans from Youth Corp on a project they initiated – to get first hand insight into the lives of elderly cardboard collectors: what motivated them to do what they do; and the challenges they face. The youngsters devoted their weekends over a 2-month period to befriend the cardboard aunties and uncles on the streets in the Jalan Besar area, and spent time talking to them to understand what they are going through in life.

They shared with me that they were surprised by their own findings! The normal perception that all cardboard collectors are people who are unable to take care of themselves financially is not really true. There will be some who do this as their main source of income. Some do so to supplement what they have. Some prefer to earn extra monies, treat it as a form of exercise and activity rather than being cooped up at home. They do this to remain independent, so that they can have dignity and not have to ask their families for help.

For members of the public, the simplest thing that one can do for these people is to talk to them to understand them. More often than not, people make judgements without finding out the facts of the matter, in this instance, the stigma surrounding cardboard collectors. But of course, for those who genuinely need financial help because they are unable to find other jobs to supplement their income from cardboard collecting, the government will do what it can to help these people. If you know of individuals who need help, do let us know.

I’d like to thank Zaihan Mohamed Yusof who started it all with his article http://www.tnp.sg/news/when-cardboard-gold in The New Paper. The youngsters picked up on the idea and followed up. Cheers to Koh Cheng Jun (Tm Lead) and Muhammad Syazwan Bin Mohamed Suhri who were with me on the ground, and thanks to the team who shared their thoughts with me…Goh Pei Yi Valerie, Janarthanan Ahalya, Khoo Lay Keat Bryan, Lee Jun Xian, Serena Mok Jia Xin.

Inspired by you guys for taking that extra step. We all can too!

Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?

Tan Chuan Jin – This is where the road ends for the collectors. They have been coming here for years. The middle man will collect, weigh and pay the collectors. And then a disposal truck would come and ferry the boxes away.

Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?

Tan Chuan Jin – Of the various uncles and aunties I spoke to, this lady in the background was the one I had most concern with. She sounded open to needing help. SSO has her details and will refresh and review again to see if circumstances had changed since they last knew of her situation.

Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?

Tan Chuan Jin -The gentleman on the right is the assistant to the middle man. I spoke to Mr Lim to look out for these folks and to let our SSO know if there are concerns.
Too late! My colleague Sharon Chua and her SSO team had already established the links.

Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?

Tan Chuan Jin – Quite tiring leh! Which reminds me that I have loads of boxes to clear at home too!

Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?


Tan Chuan Jin – Aunty is 80! Lives in Toa Payoh with her sister in a 4-room flat. They are in the karang guni trade. Flat is paid up.

Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?


Tan Chuan Jin – Encik is 82 and has 6 children but doesn’t want to depend on them. His wife has some ailments. They are both managing. Our SSO knows of them.
Syazwan is one of the team members on the project.

Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?


Tan Chuan Jin – Some of the youth members, journalist, my SSO colleagues after a meaningful morning out in Jalan Besar area.

Source – https://www.facebook.com/TanChuanJin1/timeline/story?ut=43&wstart=0&wend=1438412399&hash=2077685250133713923&pagefilter=3

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