In 2007, a friend and I came across a community of 8,900 refugees who were living in the remote mountains of Thailand in Phetchabun Province. Thousands of children and their families struggled to survive with little food, hardly enough clothes, and no blankets – a situation made worse given that temperature dips (to as low as 0 degrees Celcius) in that region are common.

We started a small campaign in hopes of alleviating their plight. Initially, I thought sending up 4 cartons of warm clothes to Thailand would be a reasonable effort. Between me and my friends, that would be all we could muster in a short time.

As we shared with our contacts about what we were doing, and who this was for, word spread. It was then we witnessed the generosity of Singaporeans. One by one, people from various walks of life saw the call for support and people just came by to drop off their pre-loved clothes. We were overwhelmed!

Before I knew it, my house started filling up with boxes of relief items. By the end of the campaign, we managed to send not just 4, but 400 cartons of relief items!

Critics often label Singaporeans as self-centred and uncharitable. We don’t think this is an accurate picture of who we are. Singaporeans are in fact looking for causes that are genuine, and in our pragmatic nature, we look for those that create real change. Given awareness, Singaporeans will go the extra mile to help communities that have fallen through the gaps.

Thus my team envisioned Project LIVES! to be an awareness and humanitarian campaign, where Singaporeans can find a trusted platform to do good, and understand how they can do good better.

The Project has since taken a life of its own. Students, adults, companies and government agencies coming together to make a difference. Each year, we see close to 1,000 Singaporeans working together – be it in their offices and community spaces, or at the actual loading point to prepare items to help the less fortunate beyond our shores.

My dream is for Project LIVES! to be platform where people are inspired to think, challenged, and inspired to do better good both at home and abroad. As the pace of life quickens as a result of our country’s economic progress, I believe it’s important to pause, reflect and look at how we can nurture empathy in our young.

I hope this campaign can help bridge the social divide, bring greater cohesion and create multiple opportunities for us to inspire each other forward.

While we may take pride in Singapore’s economic prosperity, let’s make this country known for more than that. We can be better neighbours, better friends and a country that truly makes a positive impact in the region.

But it starts here – to be kinder, more thoughtful, and more compassionate.