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Heroes Unmasked: ‘I aim to bring back kampung spirit’ —

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

his website hosts thank-you notes to Covid-19 staff.

Published March 11, 2020 Updated March 12, 2020

From left: Ms Charissa Goh; Mr Nigel Teo; a clothing stall operator in Tampines; and Mr Desmond Choo, Member of Parliament for Tampines Group Representation Constituency.

As Singapore battles the Covid-19 outbreak, TODAY’s Heroes Unmasked series highlights those who are doing their bit to spread kindness and compassion during this period. In this instalment, we speak to Mr Nigel Teo, who created a website for people to express their appreciation for frontline healthcare workers and others during the outbreak.

SINGAPORE — In early February, Mr Nigel Teo started a simple website where people could submit positive stories and messages of gratitude for frontline healthcare workers and Good Samaritans. Since then, his passion project has gained so much traction that he is giving out 3,000 donated surgical masks and 600 bottles of hand sanitiser to those in need.

The 39-year-old tech entrepreneur is also launching a mobile application this weekend to enable neighbours to share items and services, from food and healthcare items to piano lessons and haircuts, as they navigate their way through the Covid-19 outbreak and beyond.

Mr Teo, who runs several other tech projects, said that the idea for his online appreciation wall came after Singapore’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level was raised to Orange on Feb 7.

“There was a huge explosion of fear and negativity on WhatsApp chats an social media. But I realised that there were a few people out there trying to spread positivity, even though by and large, the population was focused on things that were negative,” he told TODAY.

To encourage Singaporeans to share positive messages, he launched a website that displays thank-you messages submitted by people through WhatsApp or Google Forms.

Mr Teo said that his intention behind the website is to encourage Singaporeans to foster a spirit of neighbourliness toward one another.

Since early February, his website has received more than 80 submissions. Most of these praised frontline healthcare workers, noting that they had to work longer hours and had to wear protective gear while performing their duties.

One such contribution read: “I see them in their N95 (mask), shield, goggles and I bet they have a hard time breathing but they still wear them anyway as they have to protect themselves, others and their loved ones.”

Mr Teo told TODAY: “What encouraged me is that people actually took the time to write posts to thank others. Someone even wrote a song for the doctors and nurses.”

He added a live statistic tracker for the global Covid-19 outbreak to the website. Together, the two features have garnered a combined total of nearly 80,000 views.

A few weeks later, Mr Teo received 3,000 surgical masks from a donor who wished to stay anonymous and to recognise Mr Teo's efforts to spread cheer among Singaporeans.

Mr Teo also applied for a grant from the Singapore Strong Fund by The Majurity Trust, and received a subsidy to buy 600 bottles of hand sanitiser.

Last Saturday (March 7), Mr Teo and a few of his friends gave out 900 masks and 300 bottles of sanitiser to hawkers at Tampines Round Market and residents living nearby.

He said: “We decided to focus on the hawkers because they work in areas with high traffic, but no one really pays much attention to them during the outbreak. They are a group that would appreciate hand sanitisers and masks.”

They also invited Mr Desmond Choo, Member of Parliament(MP) for Tampines Group Representation Constituency, who facilitated the distribution and spoke to the hawkers.

“It was good that the MP came, because if we went ourselves to give out the masks, people would be suspicious of who we were,” Mr Teo said with a laugh.

He intends to give out another 900 masks and 300 bottles of sanitiser in the near future, but added that he has other plans for the remaining 1,200 masks.

To further spur Singaporeans toward caring for others, Mr Teo is creating an app called GoodHood.SG for neighbours to send messages to one another. He had originally started planning for it in December last year, but realised he could use the app to help communities stick together during the Covid-19 outbreak.

He intends to launch GoodHood.SG this weekend, and the app will also serve as a marketplace where people can sell or donate items to their neighbours and offeR services such as music classes. Users will register with their postal code in order to connect with those living in their neighbourhood.

Mr Teo will be giving his reserved batch of masks to users of his app, in order for them to share the masks with their neighbours and “kickstart the spirit of paying it forward”.

“Ultimately, my aim is to bring back the ‘kampung spirit’. I’ve spoken to some people who tried doing this and they said there’s no such thing as neighbourliness. I was quite disheartened because I don’t think it’s true,” he said.

He hopes that GoodHood will be a long-term channel for Singaporeans to socialise and connect better as a community.

“I hope that GoodHood won’t end with Covid-19, but will continue to blossom into something that is meaningful for Singapore.”



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