Poly students to live poorly to raise awareness of poverty

This article is more than 12 months old

Poly students to live on $790 a month in bid to raise awareness on relative poverty

On Monday, he will start work as a warehouse assistant.

His partner is still looking for a job.

The pair only have $790 to get them through each month, including paying rental, utilities and transport.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) students Lewin Low, 19, and Nicholas Fheng, 18,are taking on this lifestyle for the next two months as part of their final-year project.

Nicholas found the warehouse assistant job through a friend while Lewin hopes to work as a hawker's assistant.

Speaking to The New Paper, they shared their motivations for taking on this project.

Lewin said: "Poverty and helping people has been in our hearts. There are people who are poor in Singapore, it's not a third-world problem."


They hope to inspire others to help the low-income community.

The pair met as coursemates in NP's business and social enterprise course and decided to do their final-year project together, calling it Living on Less.

The sum of $790 came from the amount a two-person householdreceives from the Public Assistance Scheme.

As part of the experience, they will move into a rental flat and also stop using their student concession cards for public transport.

Despite that, Nicholas admits they cannot replicate all parts of a low-income lifestyle.

"I agree that we will miss out on certain aspects.

"We are healthy, we don't have elderly parents depending on us, and so on. But we'll do our best to live it out as realistically as possible."

For two months, they will spend a month at each job.

This is because they need special arrangements so they can film their project, Nicholas said.

Lewin, who still has not found a job, said he is even looking at working in neighbourhood markets and small shops.

And he is already anticipating stares when he goes to clear tables.

"People will stare, maybe even tell others to study hard otherwise they will end up like me," he said.

A day out with friends is out of the question, since it is out of their budget.

"This is life for (those living in relative poverty)," Lewin said, adding that he was affronted when a friend suggested that they drop out halfway.

He said: "This project is not about ourselves but (about those living on low incomes).

"I can quit, but they can't. If I can't even pull through this, what does it say about those struggling?"

The pair are inviting the public to join in their project by taking on the $5 a day challenge.


The challenge was launched last October by Singaporeans Against Poverty (SGAP).

SGAP is an initiative by Caritas Singapore, a social and community arm of the Catholic Church.

Five dollars is meant to cover only food and transport for a day.

According to the SGAP Facebook page, the $5 sum came from statistics that showed that members of low-income households spent 25.9 per cent and 8.8 per cent of their monthly expenditure on food and transport respectively.

2012's Key Household Income Trends showed that each person from the bottom 10 per cent of households earned an average of $410 a month.

That worked out to $3.54 for food and $1.20 on transport a day. Rounded up, the amount adds up to $5.