“‘Hey, You Got Mail!’ (HYGM) is an initiative where we design and deliver handwritten cards to socially-isolated elderly in nursing homes. By purchasing a card for your loved one for $2, you support sending another to a senior which will be personalised with your messages.

I draw recreationally and this initiative started when I asked my friend Joanne to join me in doing some digital art commissions. We usually donate the profits to COVID-19 relief organisations.

But Joanne was thinking why not make our purpose more meaningful? Donating money is fine but why not target a specific group with intention?

There are so many COVID-19 relief organisations that offer monetary incentives; but, we decided to focus on the elderly because not many offer emotional and mental support, especially to those who are socially-isolated.

I myself was very moody during Phase 1 of the circuit breaker. The lack of social interaction made me even more sian. That got me thinking about those who may not be able to be with their family and loved ones during such times. It’s even tougher for them.

Occasionally we’d come across articles of seniors who are staying alone in old estates. Nobody’s visiting them during the circuit breaker but we didn’t have any connections so we didn’t know how to reach out to them.

We decided to start small and target those in nursing homes instead. Ever since visitations were not allowed, staff have to conduct their own activities in the absence of volunteers who usually fill up the residents’ free time.

But even nursing homes have their own limitations. Due to the lack of manpower and resources, they can’t always be conducting activities. As a result, the residents are more inactive and socially-isolated than ever.

I believe there are initiatives out there that do video calls for the elderly. That’s great; but, physical cards were our choice of reaching out to socially-isolated seniors. At HYGM, we do things old school for good reason.

We believe that nothing can recreate the feelings of warmth when one holds a personalised handwritten card. We want to share that warmth with the seniors to remind them that they are not forgotten.

Because we’re still in Phase 2 of the circuit breaker in Singapore, no visitors are allowed at nursing homes. So we deliver these cards to the staff and they will then pass them on to the residents on our behalf.

We have gotten pictures from some of the nursing homes that really warmed our hearts. It was very nice to see smiles on the faces of the elderly when they’re looking at the cards. We hope that it serves as a constant reminder that they’re not alone in this.

When we first started out, we had so much free time because school hadn’t started. But now, our team members Triston and Advait are doing their National Service while Jiwon Joanne, Wei Lin and myself are in university.

I think I speak on behalf of my team that being able to do this has been very fulfilling, even though there have been challenges. To be able to share this joy of receiving handmade cards with the seniors and hearing the reactions from the staff is just very heartwarming.

Even though we’re not physically there with the seniors, knowing that we made an impact – no matter how small – reassures us that we’re on the right page. We’re doing what we intend to do, which is to spread good vibes, one card at a time.

And if you want to start something or do something for others, all you have to do is just sit down, plan it out, maybe get a few friends who may resonate with what you’re feeling and work together.

If you have the passion and determination to see things through, it will work out in the end, no matter how long it takes. You just need that perseverance to do it. You’ll never know until you try.” – Jaslyn, 20

Interview: Arman Shah