Joanne Yep

Hey, You Got Mail! : Three Lessons I Learnt From Running A Ground-Up Initiative

Hey, You Got Mail! (HYGM) is a non-profit ground-up project centred around spreading good vibes to the elderly in Singapore in a fight against social isolation. The project began about a year ago during the circuit breaker season. It started with a group of friends (myself and five others) who wanted to use our time at home to do good for the community. The rest is history.

Being a part of this project has been a great experience that has taught me alot of things. Today, I’d like to share with you three key themes that have strongly shaped my Hey, You Got Mail! experience and the lessons I’ve drawn from them.

The first theme is gratitude. Looking back, the project would never have reached where it is now without the people who believed in us. When the team sent out our first batch of cold emails to the nursing homes, we were hesitant on whether we would receive any replies. Rejections were not unexpected given how new the project was at the time. Despite that, we had the privilege to meet many caring staff members who kindly took the time to let the project happen.

“Do let me know about the project details and when we can get started.”

“The images and concept that you are working with is very unique and the umbrella will certainly ignite our Residents' curiosity. 🙂
May we enquire on how you would like us to follow up on this collaboration?”

These were some of the replies that we received which developed into deeper partnerships that allowed us to reach out to the elderly seniors in our partners’ care. Through the combination of people who believed in us, be it the staff from our partner nursing homes/senior activity centres, oscar@sg, our volunteers or supporters, this project managed to happen. All this began because someone decided to give us a chance. A personal takeaway I have is to always give others a chance where possible. You never know when your “yes” could pave the way to something new for someone else.

The second theme I would like to share about is growth. One fine day, I was having a rather heated discussion with Triston, one of the co-founders of HYGM. We were talking about reviewing the process of how our door-to-door distributions were being carried out. For context, the concept behind the original idea was to create an opportunity, via the distribution, for our volunteers to reach out to elderly seniors in their homes. That day, we were arguing about the focus of our distributions. A major challenge we face is deciding on whether we should be looking at breadth (meaning reaching out to as many seniors as possible) or depth (revisiting the same group of seniors over and over for longer term sustainability). So far, our distributions have been extremely breadth focused and we haven’t revisited any area that we’ve been to. Shifting the focus from breadth to depth would shake up HYGM’s model of operation to an extent and cause a lot of internal restructuring. This would entail a lot of changes.

It is in situations like these where growing into circumstances is crucial. It is often unpleasant to abandon the status quo, especially when status quo appears to be enough. But familiarity sometimes breeds complacency and the latter is something we try to shy away from. Throughout the last year, HYGM has internally restructured, broken down and restructured again. I’ve learnt that while breaking things down and demolishing past progress may feel counterproductive, it is not necessarily so. Only from the rubble can we see the mistakes in our foundations and correct them. It is then that the rebuilt product can be the growth that can keep with the times.

The final theme is inspiration. Throughout the course of the project, I’ve been floored by the abilities of the people I’ve come into contact with. I’ve seen the talent and drive people in my fellow co-founders, the heart for others in our volunteers and the wisdom in our partners. Being in the company of such people only drives one to do better. In March, we had a distribution at Kampong Glam with the assistance of PEACE-Connect SAC. We liaised with the personnel in charge, Victor, who had travelled halfway across Singapore on his off day to help make the distribution happen. I was inspired by his dedication to the community, watching on as he kindly conducted briefings for the volunteers at the distribution.

He told us, "Volunteering starts from the heart. We should come forward with the right perspective with our prejudices left behind. This is the way we should go forth."

Having the privilege to come across so many dedicated individuals has inspired me to become a better version of myself. I agree with Victor’s words and let’s keep our hearts open and be inspired by the people around us.

To conclude, Hey, You Got Mail! has brought me on a rollercoaster of experiences and learning opportunities. I hope this speaks to you and if you ever feel a stirring in your heart to do something for others, I hope you act on that feeling and do it. A moment’s impulse last year, brought an entire project together. So, who can tell what the future can bring?
Joanne Yep

More about Hey, You Got Mail!

The battle against social isolation, in the case of this project, cannot be fought on individual fronts. And so, creating opportunities and empowering individuals have become a keystone to Hey, You Got Mail! If supporting the elderly in Singapore speaks to you, follow us on Instagram @heyyougotmailsg and head on over to our website at and see how you can contribute!

Join us and let’s become a part of the solution together.