FEATURES

17 April 2019

Hasta La Vista – Spreading A Sparkle of Joy!

SPF Logo

By Irwan Shah (Photos: Hasta La Vista)

 

25 April 2015 was a day of destruction and sorrow for the people of Nepal after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed their homes. Humanitarian organisations from around the world joined forces to alleviate the suffering of the Nepalese people, including ‘Hasta La Vista’, a private volunteer group formed by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) officers from Ang Mo Kio Division. Formed on 15 July 2015, ‘Hasta La Vista’ aims to reach out to the less fortunate and spread joy to them. Police Life caught up with the members of ‘Hasta La Vista’ to learn more about the group’s early days and their volunteering efforts.

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The Early Days

 

Senior Staff Sergeant (SSSgt) Logeswari Balakrishnan had only one thought in her mind when the news of the quake reached Singapore – to help the Nepalese people. Together with her cousin, Inspector (Insp) Omparagas S/O Superyah, they managed to gather eight officers from Ang Mo Kio Division to join their cause. Donations amounting to about $8,000 were also collected from their families, friends and colleagues.

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Having engaged the help of Mr Madhav, a local contact based in Nepal, who frequently goes trekking with the SPF officers during their overseas leadership programme, the small team of volunteers jetted off for their first mission to a village near Kathmandu. There, they helped a village by purchasing daily necessities, such as groceries and clothing for over 120 families who were affected by the calamity. During that period, they also supported an orphanage by providing them with similar assistance to the village and subsequently becoming its primary benefactor.

 

Formation of “Hasta La Vista”

 

Upon their return from Nepal, the group of volunteers decided to continue to expand their volunteering efforts to orphanages and nursing homes, both in Singapore and overseas. To do so, they had to formalise their group and increase their manpower to better cater to their missions. The group then named themselves ‘Hasta La Vista’, which means ‘See You Soon’ in Spanish as it relates well to their mission – to reach out to the less fortunate with the best of their abilities and make them smile again. Along with their new name, the group also set up an official fund to manage the group’s accounts.

 

Through word of mouth and social media platforms, the group recruited more like-minded individuals to join them. The small group of eight quickly expanded into its current strength of 45 members, with most of them being current and former police officers from Ang Mo Kio Division.

 

A lot of these officers wanted to volunteer for a cause but were unable to find the right avenues to do so. When we shared with them about the work that we do, they were keen to support our cause and decided to join us,” said SSSgt Logeswari.

 

Apart from the SPF officers, the group also managed to recruit “external” volunteers and established new partnerships with individuals from Singapore and its neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar. One of their significant partnerships is with the National University of Singapore (NUS). NUS donated a total of 16 bicycles for the group’s mission to an orphanage in Myanmar in 2018 and six more bicycles for their mission to Nepal in 2019.

 

Overcoming Challenges

 

Setting up their volunteer group was only the beginning. The next step of the challenge was to sustain their volunteering operations and that would mean having a sustainable operating fund. To do so, the volunteers would contribute a certain amount of money every month to their operating fund.

 

Since everyone’s money is in the fund, we always discuss how best to use it. Once we have decided to use the money to purchase something, we will send a copy of the receipt and the exact details of our purchases, such as the items bought and their quantity, to our Whatsapp group. By doing so, we assure our members that the money from the fund is appropriately used,” elaborated SSSgt Logeswari on the importance of transparency and trust which is critical to maintain the integrity of the group.

 

The group must always be prepared to overcome unexpected challenges that may arise while carrying out their missions. Such was the case when they visited their adopted orphanage in Nepal for the second time. The volunteers received news that the orphanage was relocated to a new home. When the volunteers arrived, they discovered that the condition of the place was less than conducive. The house was nothing more than a simple hut with a thatched roof. Its walls were made of thin zinc with barely any furniture inside. After assessing the gravity of the situation, the volunteers decided that they need to improve the living condition for the children. They proceeded to buy new furniture such as a dining table, new beds and thick carpets, in addition to their usual grocery contributions.

 

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Helping the Region

 

‘Hasta La Vista’ has lent a helping hand to many orphanages and nursing homes across the region. Their most recent volunteering effort in Nepal brought them back to their adopted orphanage where the members rekindled their old friendships with the children (some of them are already in their early teens) by taking them on a hiking trip. It was a memorable experience for everyone, and especially for Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Nagaraj S/O Balasubramaniam who was in Nepal for the first time with ‘Hasta La Vista’.

 

As we were travelling back from Nagarkot Hill, one of the children started singing a Nepalese folk song and before we knew it, the bus was filled with their voices. This was perhaps one of the best melodies I have ever heard. It was such a simple tune and yet so touching that it goes deep into your heart,” recalled SSgt Nagaraj.

 

For the members of ‘Hasta La Vista’, volunteerism is more than simply helping the needy. They believe that it is their way of contributing back to society. “It gives me a sense of fulfilment whenever I am able to help someone. I think that is the true meaning of happiness. It brings me joy seeing everybody come together to give their all for the less fortunate,” said SSSgt Logeswari.

 

As they plan for another trip to Nepal next year, the members of ‘Hasta La Vista’ hope to organise more activities for the children from the orphanage. It is especially heart-warming to see how the group rallied both police officers and members of the public to join them in their cause, bringing a sparkle of joy to those in need, wherever they are.


Last Updated on 17 April 2019