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AZLINA AHMAD (b. 1981)

KINDNESS ADVOCATE, MOTHER OF 3 & FOUNDER, #SMILESSALAMSG

Azlina Ahmad started #SmilesSalamSg in 2018, when her family, including her 12-year-old daughter, mother and friends made a trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to build and install water filters. The mother of three had made similar trips with the Singapore International Foundation since 2014, but had taken a short break after giving birth. Her daughter was keen to go on the trip, but SIF has an 18-and-over age restriction, so Azlina decided to plan one on her own.

This involved working with a local non-profit organisation, Water for Cambodia, to build biosand water filters from scratch. These low-cost filtration systems made of concrete can produce clean water from contaminated sources, and are suitable for rural villages. Prior to the trip, Azlina had managed to raise the amount needed to pay for 20 filters by pledging to run for certain donation amounts.

Four hours into their first day of work, her daughter started complaining about being dirty and tired. She recalls: “My husband went to her and said ‘We told you it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be messy. But this is what we are going to be doing.’” Slowly, she started to understand, especially after they visited the villages to install the filters and give out donations to the children, including her old clothes and bags. “It was a good eye-opener for her.”

While there are existing volunteering opportunities in Singapore, Azlina prefers her self-initiated trips. “When I’m here, I’m actually quite committed to my family and my full-time job, and it’s a bit difficult to set aside time to do volunteer work. I’d rather add volunteerism to my trips rather than go for holidays,” she says.

Azlina started #SmilesSalamSg to spread joy to people’s lives. Though the community is still small, she hopes it can encourage a pay-it-forward culture of kindness. Her next trip to Cambodia, meant to take place in June 2020, has been postponed due to COVID-19. But Azlina is still raising money and plans to install the filters as planned, with the help of friends there.

During the Circuit Breaker period, Azlina spread joy & kindness within the community by initiating several projects such as Project Neighbourliness, Community Project: Care Packs for Healthcare Workers & Staff & Project Raya: Distribution of Duit Raya for children in rental flats. She hopes to continue this ground-up movements to encourage everyone to spread and inspire kindness.

To know more about #SmilesSalamSg, visit its FB @SmilesSalamSg & IG #SmilesSalamSg.