Mr Ng Shi Han
Teacher, Chemistry & Mathematics
Member of Save That Pen
Which social organisation have you been volunteering with?
What are the aims and objectives of this organisation?
I am part of Save That Pen, an initiative managed by three of my university friends and myself. The vision of Save That Pen is 'Zero Waste'. We aim to use pens, an item that we use on a daily and regular basis, as a metaphor for things that we dispose of readily in our everyday life. Hence, we collect unwanted pens and hope to give them a second life, by refurbishing and refilling them and give them to the less privileged. We also hope that through our outreach programmes, people whom have come across 'Save That Pen' will be more aware of our '3R' efforts and start to do their bit by using refillable pens, and later to reduce, reuse and recycle other easily disposable items.
Why did you choose that organisation?
I went to University of California, San Diego for an exchange programme and during my time there, I learnt to prepare and sort out the recyclable items in my household trash, and bring them out for the collectors. That was the first time I learnt that I have to wash and dry the aluminium cans and plastic containers. The supermarkets charge customers for usage of plastic bags, aluminium cans and plastic bottles and by returning them, customers can actually get rebates. After I returned back to Singapore, it became obvious to me that as a modern and developed country, there is a lot of room for improvement in the way we deal with our environment in Singapore. 'Save That Pen' was just founded then and was recruiting new blood. I contacted them and the rest was history.
What motivates you to take up volunteering and what do you hope to achieve through your volunteering?
There are two main reasons why I continue with 'Save That Pen' since we started in 2010. First, I have a strong belief in the power of education. Through the passing on of knowledge, people would become more aware of the impact of their actions on the environment. You never know when your influence would stop. Hence, staying on with 'Save That Pen' allows our team to continue to work with people, sometimes with like-minded people, sometimes with people who may not believe in our cause, but at the end of the day, we treasure the chance for people to hear what we have to say, and the chance to help those that need our pens. Secondly, on a personal level, I feel that I am still learning new things and developing myself as I explore different possibilities with the team of passionate people. We have a dynamic team with every member possessing different strengths - planner, proposal writer, orator, presenter, executor, logistics manager. We take up different roles within the team and complement each other very well.
What is your greatest satisfaction and challenge while volunteering your service?
My greatest satisfaction is knowing that people have benefited from our initiative and more people are more aware of what we do. It is amazing to hear stories or receive emails, telling us how they have benefited or how they have adapted the project to be carried out in their own schools or organisations. For example, River Valley High School did a recycling bin decoration competition and unwanted pens can be used to vote for their favourite design. Though we do not work to be recognised, it is definitely great to receive affirmation for our efforts. We were awarded the Esprit de Corps Award during the Spirit of Youth Awards 2017 by NTUC. This award recognizes teams that have demonstrated great teamwork and commitment.
One of our greatest challenges lies in logistics. We have collected close to 90,000 pens so far and this large number of pens requires a lot of storage space. Recently, we ran into problems of storage as we no longer have a space in NUS. Hence the items are currently stored in our homes. We are also in the midst of collaborating with a community centre to bring the initiative into the heartlands.