NTU student volunteers to help hawkers move online

  • An ADM student spends holidays taking photos and videos of dishes for hawkers, boosting their online presence, free-of-charge

By Yong Hui Ting 

Stripped by the Covid-19 situation of her usual gigs, freelance videographer and ADM student Sherry Yap, 24, struggled to find meaningful ways to spend her break. 

But her former polytechnic lecturer gave her an idea — to put her time and skills to use by helping affected hawkers bring their businesses online. Sherry quickly warmed to the idea.

The final-year student told Soapbox: “I was already shooting food videos and posting them on my Instagram as practice. So I thought, ‘Why not use this skill to help others as well?’”

Since May, she has helped three hawkers take publicity photos and videos of their takeaway menus, completely free of charge.

As she had many fond memories of hawker centres, she was compelled to lend a hand to hawkers whose businesses were affected by Covid-19.

The first stall she approached was JC’s Thai Western Delights at Jurong West Street 42, which she frequented and noticed had been receiving poor business even before the pandemic.

Its owner, Mr Michael Devraj, 47, who runs the stall with his wife, said: “When the circuit breaker started, we lost almost all of our regulars. There were many days where no one would come at all.”

A dish from JC’s Thai Western Delights, photographed by Sherry Yap. (PHOTO: Sherry Yap)

But after Sherry began helping him during late May, Mr Devraj now receives up to 30 customers a day, double the number of customers even before Covid-19.

Sherry also provided some tips to help him build his stall’s social media presence.

He said he had always wanted to use social media to promote his business, but never knew how to.  

“Most hawkers around my age or older are very afraid to use social media. We don’t know A or Z about it and we’re afraid of doing something that might negatively affect the business,” he said.

Mr Devraj said he plans to continue expanding his stall’s social media presence. 

Another beneficiary, owner of Chiang Mai Thai Kitchen Katherine Kanyaphon, 39, said that business has improved by at least 20 per cent after she uploaded the pictures Sherry took on Facebook. 

Despite struggling with her own daily expenses, Sherry, who is financially independent and does not receive an allowance from her parents, said she was happy to help these hawkers for free.

A dish from Chiang Mai Thai Kitchen, photographed by Sherry Yap. (PHOTO: Sherry Yap)

“It doesn’t always have to be about money all the time. My friends often tell me not to offer free services, but I feel that sometimes we shouldn’t be so calculative, especially when it comes to helping someone,” she said.  

Even after Singapore entered its second phase of reopening its economy on June 19, Sherry is continuing to provide her free services to hawkers.

With Covid-19 and the poor economy leaving many students struggling to secure jobs, Sherry instead encouraged her peers to use the time as an opportunity to upgrade their skills.

“If you have no job, why not take this time to brush up on skills like videography and help others at the same time? Who knows? In the future, you might require someone else’s help as well.”  

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