'Tis the season of giving new Christmas gifts, as well as old and unwanted items.
This is evident from the never-ending piles of multi-coloured plastic bags spilling out of the Salvation Army donation drop-off booth in Bishan, and across all the charity's other drop-off booths in Singapore recently.
A reader, who stays at the nearby block overlooking The Salvation Army headquarters in Bishan, told Mothership the area for leaving donations in-kind has been treated as a "rubbish dump".
From a Dec. 22 photo that the reader shared with Mothership, a sea of donated items in cardboard boxes and plastic bags could be seen spilling out of the designated donation drop-off area.
Donated items were stacked haphazardly into a pile under a white tentage.
Items that have spilled out of the tentage were covered with plastic groundsheet that served as a makeshift shelter to protect the donated goods from the elements.
The reader likened the donation drop-off booth to a "rubbish collection centre", where she said a broken chair was amongst the items donated and added that the situation was "getting from bad to worse".
Referring to it as a "sorry state", the reader said the pile of rubbish had extended beyond the area behind the white tentage facing the main Marymount Road.
This sight was also seen by The Straits Times (ST) on Dec. 28.
Steady stream of donors
Mothership visited The Salvation Army Headquarters at Bishan on Dec. 30, and saw that the situation had improved tremendously.
While there was still an overwhelming pile of donated items within the drop-off booth, they were accumulated within the white tentage, as compared to the earlier scenes on Dec. 22 and 28.
This could partly be due to the closure of the drop-off booth at Bishan, where there were notices encouraging donors to drop off their donations at another Salvation Army drop-off booth located within Tanglin Family Hub.
However, based on the steady stream of donors trickling in by the minute, the public were apparently unaware of the closure.
This included a couple with a yellow suitcase filled with items.
They lingered by the guardhouse contemplating what to do next.
Other donors who arrived were apparently undeterred and crossed the barricades to leave their items behind.
The couple and other donors proceeded to sidestep the barricades to drop off their items as well.
Most of these items were clothes, as well as a portable gas stove, books, an electric hand mixer, a baby pram, and four dark grey chairs.
Mothership understands that the drop-off booth was closed off to allow for the items to be loaded onto trucks, where as many as 12 to 13 of these trucks transport the donations away daily.
All donation drop-off booths overwhelmed
The situation was similar, albeit to varying extents, at The Haven and Tanglin Family Hub -- the other two donation drop-off booths.
Most of the donated packages were stacked into a pile that was contained within the drop-off booth at The Haven, which is located at Pasir Panjang.
Bulkier items, such as furniture and bicycles, were scattered around both sides of the booth.
There was no shortage of cars turning into The Haven, where the drivers stopped in front of the booth to unload the packed items from their car boots.
Amongst these donors was a 41-year-old man, Ian, who was there to donate some toy trucks that he said his kids had outgrown.
Ian, who was in the process of tidying up his house after the Christmas festivities, said he had intentionally set aside these items for donation as they were still in good condition.
Ian shared he was unsurprised by the sight by the stacks of donated items, as he saw the ST report before going down to The Haven.
On the contrary, a middle-aged couple, who said they were regular donors at The Haven, remarked that the sight came as a surprise as it was out of the norm.
The couple went to the drop-off booth to give away a fuschia swimming noodle in a white plastic bag, as well as other objects packaged in a mid-sized white paper bag.
According to the couple, the swimming noodle was brand new, but their child no longer needed it.
Tanglin Family Hub
Over at Tanglin Family Hub, the drop-off booth was filled with donated items.
The amassed donated items bled into the neighboring plant nursery's space and spanned across one side of the driveway, making it difficult for cars and vehicles to manoeuvre through.
This spillover was due to the drop-off booths visibly filled to the brim with donated items, and a donor even resorted to climbing over miscellaneous objects within the booth to place his donations.
The donor, who arrived in a black family car, had made several rounds around the Tanglin Family Hub upon his arrival as he did not know where the drop-off point was.
The car was filled with items to be given away, one of which was a Philips air fryer that the donor had been gifted but hardly used.
The donor ended up giving away the air fryer to a middle-aged couple after striking up a conversation with them.
And it appeared that the donor was not the only one who was confused at the sight at Tanglin Family Hub.
Another donor, 31-year-old Gabriel had arrived at Tanglin Family Hub with three navy blue paper bags filled with rolls of neatly folded up men's wear, some of which were buttoned down shirts.
As Gabriel walked down the cluttered driveway, he bore a visibly confused expression.
When Mothership approached him, Gabriel admitted he did not know where to leave his items.
Gabriel shared that he had outgrown the apparel now that he was a father.
These were clothes that he wore during his university years, but were still in good condition.
After taking in the disorganised mess of donated items before him, Gabriel ultimately left with the items he had intended to donate still in hand.
He shared that he will consider donating these items to other organisations, such as It's Raining Raincoats, where they could be put to better use.
Other donors simply left their things at the sheltered walkaway that was beside the drop-off booth.
The post added that the drop-off booth at Hope Centre at Changi was also closed and will not be taking in new donations, which explains the snaking line of stacked donated items.Speaking to an employee at the plant nursery beside the Tanglin drop-off point, Mothership found out that the situation has more or less been the same for the past two weeks.
The employee said one of the reasons for the growing amount of donated items was due to The Salvation Army's lack of manpower and volunteers.
Up to 10 tonnes of donations daily
Speaking to ST, Paul Chay, the general manager of Red Shield Industries said the organisation receives up to 10 tonnes of donations daily, and three folds of this amount during the month of December.
Red Shield Industries is the social enterprise arm of The Salvation Army that processes the items donated.
Mothership has reached out to The Salvation Army for a comment, but understands that its offices are currently closed for the holidays.
More items donated
Chay also told ST that the total collection in 2021 is 24 per cent more than 2020's, and the highest since 2016.
This sentiment was echoed by the founder of It's Raining Raincoats (IRRC), a local non-profit organisation for migrant workers, Dipa Swaminathan.
Speaking to Mothership, Dipa said she has seen an increase in the amount of items donated over the years.
This is despite IRRC's strict screening regiment, where interested donors are required to detail the donated items to IRRC volunteers, and this could potentially include attaching accompanying photos of the items.
After the items have been approved by the volunteers, and dropped off at their homes, the volunteers will again go through the items and conduct another round of quality checks.Dipa said this was to not waste the donors and IRRC volunteer's time and efforts, while at the same time, ensure that the donations are of good condition, and are ultimately useful and beneficial to the migrant workers.
What to donate
According to the Red Shields Industries website, these are the items that can be donated:
- Clothing for children and adults
- Shoes, bags, accessories
- Mobile phones
- Home furniture like desks, chairs, cabinets, and beds
However, these items should be in "still good condition".
For instance, clothes donated should not be stained, torn, or dirty.
Red Shield Industries does not accept donations in the form of food and medicines.
However, IRRC accepts food donations that are unopened and not expired.
Where else to donate
If you are keen to donate some of your items, you can consider the following:
- To the needy via Facebook groups like Buy, Sell, and Bless, Blessing for Muslim needy, SG blessing of items for low income families, and Give away/donate items free-of-charge for those [who] might need,
- Pass it on
- To reduce, reuse, and recycle via Facebook groups like sgfreecycle, greenwarehouse, and recyclable stuff to giveaway (Singapore)
- Books beyond borders
Top image by Mothership reader & Fiona Tan