Observed by Chinese Singaporeans from all walks of life, the Chinese New Year is one of the most significant festivals here. While the streets come alive with decorations and families travel from home to home for visits, there are small pockets of individuals who are excluded from the celebrations. To bring cheer to those who lack the mobility or social networks to partake in the festivities, several groups of Microsoft employees based in Singapore raised their hands for volunteering activities in February at Bright Hill Evergreen Home, Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital and the Society for the Physically Disabled.
At the Bright Hill home, laughter rang from all sides as a staff member, decked up as the jovial, rotund Cai Shen (literally “God of Fortune”, a Chinese deity believed to bring luck and wealth) stepped out to distribute candy. The laughs came harder as the Microsoft volunteers, not exactly known for their dancing talent, put up dance routines that they had painstakingly choreographed for the irreverent Korean pop song “Gangnam Style”. The group pooled donations so they could give a hong bao (a red packet that is a monetary gift given on special occasions in Chinese and other Asian societies) to every resident as they are totally dependent on public assistance.
The elderly residents of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital were treated to a dance of another sort—a traditional Chinese lion dance. In addition to leading a group of 20 Microsoft volunteers, the Asia Pacific Operations Center Corporate Social Responsibility Committee invited a lion dance troupe from Dunman High School to perform. The residents greatly appreciated the fun as it had been a long time since they watched a traditional performance. The Microsoft volunteers then distributed 300 red packets and Mandarin oranges (an auspicious Chinese new year food) around the wards to patients and staff.
“The hospital staff said that it’s been a long time since the patients have been so happy. I got pretty emotional and nearly cried. I guess it’s because I feel so lucky to have my family and friends, and I was also reminded that I am surrounded by opportunities to bring joy to others,” said Joseph Lee, Senior Finance Manager, Microsoft Singapore.
Meanwhile, over 60 volunteers from the Microsoft Asia Pacific Finance Team spent time with the beneficiaries at the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), indulging in simple pleasures like Bingo and Sing-a-long sessions. A handful of the volunteers even picked up a skill or two from the beneficiaries who demonstrated how they pack boxes of tea bags for a living. The volunteers also distributed about 180 red packets to the beneficiaries.
“It was important to us that the less privileged in society have someone to celebrate the festive season with,” said Toby Willson, Senior Director of Finance APAC. “Interacting with the wider society helps us gain a deeper understanding of how our work and products impact others. For instance, at SPD, we saw how Microsoft Accessibility technologies are helping service users. Company volunteering can help corporations play a positive role in creating a sustainable future for the broader community.”