Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Who Can You Rely On, and Why?": Interview with Wicknesh Maratheyah

This week, SG Assist interviewed Mr. Wicknesh Maratheyah, SG Assist's Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), also managing director of Voltz Energy Singapore. In this interview, he discusses his personal reasons for supporting SG Assist, as well as the reasons why he believes in SG Assist's potential to transform the lives of ordinary Singaporeans.

At first glance, it may not be obvious how Wicknesh's job as a managing director at Voltz Energy, an electricity comparison platform established in 2017, led to his decision to support SG Assist.

Voltz Energy's goal is to empower Singaporeans to "make the right decisions" when choosing affordable electricity plans. Meanwhile, SG Assist is an app that allows working adults to check on their loved ones at home. Using the virtual platform, caregivers can swiftly respond to their loved ones’ needs without leaving the workplace by requesting for Kampong Heroes—trained community volunteers—to assess the situation.

So how do Voltz Energy and SG Assist relate to each other? For him, his work for both is inspired by a common goal: what drives him is his desire to help people in whatever way he can.

"My focus in life is always about helping people in terms of basic necessities," says Wicknesh. "I'm a Singaporean born and bred, so another aspect which we are all looking at is the family."

To Wicknesh, the family unit is a "basic essential need in life," which is why he believes in the vision of SG Assist. The closest that Singapore has come to creating a platform that engages its citizens in real time is perhaps the myResponder app, launched by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in 2015. One core function of the app is to alert CPR- and AED-trained residents to cardiac arrest cases within a 400-metre radius, enabling them to respond to and de-escalate medical situations before the arrival of emergency medical services.

SG Assist, too, shares the same goal of quick response and de-escalation - but, as Wicknesh asks, "If you think about it, is there an app that covers the whole demographic? No." While the myResponder app priorities cardiac arrest cases, there was a lack of a platform devoted to serving all kinds of medical situations. Thus, this inspired him and the other founders of SG Assist to create an app that would serve all Singaporeans, regardless of why they might need it.

His relationship with his mother also inspired him to work on SG Assist. After his father passed away when he was just ten years old, his mother single-handedly raised him and his siblings to adulthood.

She was only fifty years old when she began experiencing heart palpitations, which was revealed to be a symptom of bronchitis. He recalls an incident during which his mother suffered heart palpitations and a panic attack while he was at work. As this was in the early 2000s, she was unable to contact anyone for help by phone; she also did not have a helper on whom she could rely for assistance. Fortunately, one of Wicknesh's aunts happened to visit their home to distribute wedding invitations, which allowed his mother to receive the help she needed.

In a similar non-emergency situation today, the dependent at home - for example, an expecting mother or homebound parent - could notify their caregiver about an onset of illness via the SG Assist app. The caregiver could then request a Kampong Hero to visit their dependent at home to assess the situation.

Working adults are often too busy to constantly monitor their parents' health, but Wicknesh points to another phenomenon in Singapore: elders born in the Merdeka generation prefer to live an independent lifestyle. "But what they don't realise is that, no matter how independent you are, when your body shuts down, you just can't do certain things."

Wicknesh believes that a community-based effort would have a transformative impact on Singaporean society as it empowers vulnerable citizens and caregivers alike. This is especially necessary for a modernised, work-oriented society that Wicknesh says results in a predicament of, "Who can you rely on and why?"

That's why SG Assist would only be effective with a kampong lifestyle, he adds. To him, the Merdeka generation was an embodiment of the kampong spirit, when neighbours were more communicative and eager to interact with one another.

When asked whether he believed Singapore still has the kampong spirit now, he offered: "I think they want to [have the kampong spirit], but I don't think they have the ability or facility to execute it," which is the reason why he believes in the power of SG Assist: with luck, it could become the foremost community-based platform to reignite our kampong spirit.

"You should be alert at all times," says Wicknesh. "Prevention of escalation. That's our primary objective."

The importance of alertness and awareness makes up the core of SG Assist's vision: that caregivers are always up-to-date on the health and well-being of their less able family members.

With lofty but attainable goals in mind, SG Assist aims to provide a sense of security to both caregivers and their dependents. For more information on SG Assist, visit our website today at

Written by Liyana Adnan

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Interview with Angelyn Tan

Angelyn Tan, a recent junior college graduate and current intern at Singapore Teachers' Academy for the aRts, shoulders the burden of planning out her entire future at only nineteen years old. She, like many young Singaporeans, worries about many things: what she intends to do in the next months, years, and decades. At the moment, her biggest anxiety is charting out a future where she can balance both her family and personal life. In this interview, she tells SG Assist about her relationship with her parents, her worries about the future, and what she thinks of the SG Assist app. Read more to find out.

As a design intern, Angelyn is a cog in a well-oiled machine operated by experienced arts educators and artists. Her work involves graphic design and illustration, content writing, marketing, editing, publishing, logistics, and connecting with local artists. Her creative streak is evident in her choice of work, and one that informs her arts-oriented ambitions for the future.

She has applied to various universities in the United Kingdom to study English Literature or History – in some places, both. For an avid literary student, to go to a university in the UK to study the arts would be a dream for Angelyn – after all, it is the birthplace of the literary canon, with opportunity aplenty to pursue a career in the humanities. However, another part of her identity pulls her back to Singapore – her family.

She cannot bear to leave her parents alone in Singapore. Her parents are both fifty-six years old, which means that by the time she graduates from university, they would be in their early sixties. “I’m very close with them because I’m an only child,” she says. She believes that it is a natural consequence of there being “no one else around” to keep her parents busy. She doesn’t expect this relationship to change in the future: she would rather stay in Singapore than travel overseas to pursue more lucrative opportunities, if only to stay close to her parents.

In fact, Angelyn doesn’t intend on moving out of Singapore at all. She says that she wants to be ready to provide for her parents if something happens to them. “I don’t want to be overseas and receive news of something happening to them while I’m not around, and I can’t help them.” Her sentiments are broadly adopted throughout Asian culture, in that her filial loyalty supersedes all else.

Angelyn believes that the SG Assist app has the potential to help young Singaporeans make more prudent decisions if they’re assured of the health and safety of their parents. “I’d definitely use the app,” she says, because according to her, it would mitigate her fear of something happening to her parents without her knowledge. In a high-pressure situation where loved ones are suffering from a medical emergency at home, it would enable working adults like Angelyn to request swift assistance from a Kampong Hero nearby.

She also says that she would be open to volunteering as a Kampong Hero if an opportunity presented itself. As SG Assist is a community-based effort, generosity of spirit like Angelyn’s has the potential to rejuvenate the “kampong spirit” in modern Singapore. She expressed even more excitement about becoming a volunteer when told that she could learn first-aid skills, CPR techniques, and how to use an AED so that she could help a nearby resident in an emergency.

The purpose of SG Assist is to empower everyday Singaporeans in their relationships with their loved ones and their work-life balance. For future working adults like Angelyn, the app will enable them to both oversee the safety of their parents, as well as volunteer to ensure the safety of others if needed. To learn more about SG Assist, visit our website today.

Written by Liyana Adnan

Our thanks to Angelyn Tan for sparing the time for this interview.

Monday, February 25, 2019

"I would help again": Interview with Lynne Solomon

Every week, SG Assist interviews everyday Singaporeans to ask them about their relationship with their family , and how it affects their work and personal life. This week, we interviewed Lynne Solomon, a 51-year-old entrepreneur and craftsmaker.

Lynne Solomon was home alone when she heard a frantic knocking at the door. When she opened it, she recognised the house-helper who lived with an elderly man in the HDB flat adjacent to hers on the same floor. At first, it was difficult to understand the helper due to her panic, but Lynne eventually understood that the elderly man had suffered a fall and was unconscious. Immediately, she left the house to assist her neighbour.

The elderly man, who was about eighty years old at the time, had apparently fallen in the bathroom as his helper was bathing him. To her horror, the elderly man, who was already suffering from a myriad of medical conditions, was unconscious and unresponsive. Frightened and unsure of what to do next, she sprinted across to Lynne's flat and requested assistance.

Lynne recalls not being especially close to her neighbours. The elderly man was mostly home-bound and lived in a five-room HDB flat with only his helper. "It was too big of a house for him to live in alone," she says. The children lived in their own houses and visited only occasionally. "Maybe it cost too much for him to live with them," she adds. The first thing that she asked the helper was: "Have you called his children? Are they with him?" To both questions, she answered "no." She did not even know their phone numbers.

Lynne called 995 and waited at the scene of the emergency and asked the helper for the necessary medical information to convey to the dispatchers over the phone. The emergency services soon arrived and thanked Lynne for her assistance. 

Without the help of a Kampong Hero like Lynne Solomon, the extended time in which he would have not received the proper support from emergency medical services would have exacerbated his condition.

When asked if she would offer her help again if a similar situation arose, Lynne said, “Yes. I would help again.” Lynne's inspiring display of 'kampung spirit' is one that should be emulated, especially in a society in which Singaporeans rarely have close relations with their neighbours. It is also admirable the calm yet efficient way in which she handled the situation so that the emergency medical services could swiftly address the situation.

SG Assist looks up to Kampong Heroes like Lynne as role models embodying the ‘kampong spirit’ in today’s society.

Written by Liyana Adnan

Thursday, February 21, 2019

"The scariest thing is seeing your parents grow old": Interview with Tay Yi Ling

Interview: Tay Yi Ling

Every week, SG Assist interviews everyday Singaporeans to ask them about their relationship with their family, and how it affects their work and personal life. This week, we interviewed Tay Yi Ling, a nineteen-year-old junior college graduate.

One of the most important dilemmas that teenagers and working adults grapple with today is that of the family vs. career. For Tay Yi Ling, this dilemma is especially pertinent. As a 19-year-old aspiring artist, she is adamant about staying in Singapore with her family, but yearns to pursue an arts education and career overseas, where opportunities and connections are aplenty. The choice is not easy: beneath lies a tangled web of filial piety, financial insecurity, and dreams of independence.

A former student of Anglo-Chinese Junior College, Yi Ling’s dream is to become an artist, though she is not sure yet of what exactly would suit her in the creative industry. She spent the last two years refining her craft by studying H2 Art at the A Levels. Over the past few months, Yi Ling has applied to various art colleges both in Singapore and overseas; she even had an interview with the University of Arts London last December. She shows me the A3-sized folder containing her portfolio during this interview.

Her artworks—mostly portraits of people—are marked with stunning, vivid splotches of bright colour that evoke layers of personality beneath the faces of the people she paints. As she rifles through them, one of the pieces catches my eye. It is a portrait of an old man, with thick daubs of acrylic paint defining his nose and the hollow space beneath his cheekbones. The face of the man stands out, melancholy, and stares back at the viewer. “Who is that?” I ask.

"That's my grandfather," she says.

In 2016, Yi Ling’s maternal grandfather passed away after months of rapidly deteriorating health. After having a non-fatal stroke at around seventy years old, he was in and out of the hospital for frequent check-ups then was eventually home-bound until his passing.

In his eighties, his memory and health grew steadily worse. Yi Ling's mother, a head lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic, was forced to take time off work to care for him. The family even hired an extra helper for round-the-clock supervision, and to take him to the polyclinic for his regular visits. He finally passed at Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Yi Ling's final year of secondary school, before her O Level examinations. When asked for a lasting memory she has with her grandfather, she smiles and remembers fondly, “He used to give me bike rides home from school.”

With the passing of her grandfather, the size of her home seems to be dwindling even more quickly and dramatically. Her sister, who studies film criticism and music at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, returns to Singapore only occasionally. “Two empty rooms in the house,” says Yi Ling. “First my sister, then me. I don’t want my parents to be lonely.” Her reluctance to leave home almost takes on a premature guilt, as she worries about her parents being able to take care of themselves as they age.

Regarding her arts education, she says she would rather go overseas, but she worries about the “three years of death.” When asked to clarify, she means “financial death”, another worry that plagues young Singaporeans today. “I asked my parents about going overseas, and they didn’t say outright to stay local,” she says, “but you can kind of tell.”

SG Assist’s main question is if our mobile app, or similar efforts, can address the concerns of this generation regarding their families and sense of independence. To Yi Ling, preventing her parents from feeling heartache at the thought of their children leaving their nest is of a high priority. Her late grandfather also evokes a sense of worry in her about her own parents, and whether they are able to care for themselves as they grow older. Later, in the middle of the interview, she says, almost apropos of nothing, "There is a quote by someone I don't remember, but he said, 'The scariest thing is seeing your parents grow old.'"

Yi Ling’s worries for her parents and family are not singular; they represent the concerns of a generation that is forced to choose where its priorities lie. SG Assist attempts to bridge the gap between these priorities, allowing working adults to be present in both their lives and their families’ lives. With the help of others in the community, the dichotomy between family and career need not dictate our lives, but transform it, for each of us.

Written by Liyana Adnan

Thursday, January 24, 2019

How SG Assist Started

All efforts start out by identifying a problem. At SG Assist, we’re tackling a problem we face in our everyday lives: our failure to care for our loved ones when they need us the most.

Do you have an elderly parent living on their own? What about a family member with a chronic disease who cannot afford to leave the house? Maybe you’ve had to rush home from work to resolve an emergency, potentially wasting hundreds of dollars on transportation, or risking unemployment by leaving work early or taking too many days off. Not only that, but your relatives worry that they’re a burden on you, even if that’s not the case.

Your greatest fear is a phone call telling you that something has happened to the one you love most, and you aren’t there to help them.

These are the situations we've faced. That’s why we created SG Assist.

SG Assist connects you with “Kampong Heroes” who, at your request, will ensure the wellbeing of your family members by checking on them at home. These community volunteers will assess their mental and physical health using questionnaires specially designed by social workers and medical professionals. In the coming months, SG Assist will implement telemedicine, care transport, and hands-on workshops for our volunteers so that you and your family benefit from the human touch of warm-hearted caregivers from your very own neighbourhood.

We understand your difficulties. We have felt your pain. We WANT to help.

Want to use the SG Assist app to care for your family? Or do you want to take on the role of a Kampong Hero? Visit our website today at to find out more.

"Who Can You Rely On, and Why?": Interview with Wicknesh Maratheyah

This week, SG Assist interviewed Mr. Wicknesh Maratheyah, SG Assist's Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), also managing director of Volt...