Meet the Singaporean - Joyce Lye

Meet the Singaporean - Joyce Lye

Joyce Lye has felt the effects of the rising cost of living as she continues running Kampung Senang (‘Happy Village’), the eco-conscious charity organisation she founded in 1999. However, this has not stopped her from helping those in need. Joyce tells us more about how Kampung Senang first started and what keeps her motivated after 24 years. 

Joyce recalls pivotal moments in her life that inspired her to start Kampung Senang in 1999, after leaving her full-time banking job. 

 “My father was a physician who used to treat the residents, and he didn’t charge them as many couldn’t afford to pay him. But they would give us fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables and even eggs. To me, that was the real kampung spirit, and I still miss the friendships from those days. This is the reason why I named my foundation Kampung Senang,” the 70-year-old recounts.

In 1999, Joyce decided to leave her full-time job, and contribute back to society by setting up the Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation. 

Kampung Senang helps beneficiaries adopt healthier living by encouraging them to switch to a plant-based diet. They also distribute free organic vegetables to individuals with chronic illnesses.

“The produce that we grow is not for sale; it’s solely for our beneficiaries,” explains Joyce. “We’re an organisation that cares for people and their well-being, and we want to empower them to live a green and healthy lifestyle to prevent illnesses.” 

In 2003, Kampung Senang launched the ‘Gift of Good Food’ scheme. Every week, a group of dedicated volunteers deliver organic produce to individuals with chronic illnesses across the island. “We started helping some isolated seniors back in 1999, but it was during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) period in 2003 that we began distributing food and organic produce to cancer patients. We want to encourage them to eat healthily and recover well.” 

Kampung Senang also runs the Eco-Harmony Cafe & Shop, which started off as an eco-friendly community kitchen in 2007, and now serves vegan food that is open to the public. It also has an organic farm in which they grow their own herbs and vegetables. 

However, Joyce is beginning to feel the effects of the recent rise in cost of living, and is bracing herself for an increase in Kampung Senang’s operational costs. 

“The rising cost of living isn’t something that’s new to Singaporeans; it has been happening for a long time,” says Joyce, recalling how a bowl of noodles would cost 50 cents in the past; now, it's easily $5 or more. She expects to have to pay more for ingredients, delivery, shipping and other costs in the coming months, which will impact her operations as her team needs to buy produce for the café to supplement what they can harvest from their farm. Nevertheless, she remains adamant about maintaining the price of their food.

(Photo by Type A)

“If (customers) can’t enjoy plant-based food because of the GST increase or higher prices, we’re depriving them of the chance to adopt healthy living habits, which we’re putting in so much effort to promote,” explains Joyce. 

Joyce believes that there are ways to cope with rising cost of living – and sometimes, all it takes is for us to go back to basics: by adopting greener and healthier habits, such as consuming plant-based food.

Despite possible financial challenges, Joyce is determined to continue providing healthy food for their beneficiaries. To keep their initiatives going, they are relying heavily on donations and fundraising activities. 

For Joyce, her motivation for all that she does with Kampung Senang is based on two fundamental beliefs: embracing a healthy, natural lifestyle, and keeping the kampung spirit going.

(Photo by Type A)

“The kampung spirit is what I hope to see more of in the Singapore of today,” says Joyce.

– Joyce Lye, 70, founder of Kampung Senang