When the DORSCON alert level went from yellow to orange last week, long queues at supermarkets formed across the island, as some Singaporeans misguidedly rushed to stock up on necessities.
While others criticised their behaviour, something else weighed heavily on 21-year-old Nur Hazeem’s mind.
The student at Yale-NUS College tells The Pride: “Many supermarket staff had to work overtime in order to ensure that stocks were available for the next day’s purchase. As images of them hard at work circulated on social media, my friends and I wondered if we could do something meaningful for them.”
Hazeem founded The Signpost Project in December as a youth-led volunteer group to befriend tissue paper sellers and cardboard peddlers.
But Hazeem, along with his team, decided that they wanted to do something to show their support for those workers affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
On the morning of Feb 9, they decided to write notes of encouragement and distribute them to workers at nearby supermarkets.
“We felt that since these workers are ensuring that Singaporeans have a constant supply of food and necessities, why don’t we supply them with some gestures of kindness?”
The volunteers dropped off about 30 of these notes to supermarket workers and polyclinic staff while making the rounds for their befriending sessions with the tissue paper sellers and cardboard peddlers.
Said Hazeem: “Initially, some of the workers were quite confused when we approached them. But it wasn’t long before the confusion turned to smiles. The notes were very well-received, and we saw staff with tired faces whose eyes lit up as we offered them a note of thanks.”
The Signpost Project is going to keep doing this and Hazeem also hopes that more Singaporeans can show support in their own ways.
In a Facebook post, he wrote: “As Singaporeans all around rally their support for the unsung heroes in this country, let’s start making small actions to make each hero’s day. Giving up seats for our frontline workers, small little notes maybe or even small gifts of appreciation.
“As for all those who want to hoard toilet paper, come support your local tissue paper uncle and aunties! They can give you really good discounts and you may also be treated with really interesting stories about their lives, too.”
A call for support met with great enthusiasm
When Sherry Soon, 38, had the idea of putting together care packages for staff at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, there were several hurdles.
When the founder of local volunteer group Be Kind SG asked NCID on its staff numbers, she realised there were 7,000 employees.
This meant a staggering number of packages had to be prepared by a group made up of volunteers with their own full-time jobs.
From soliciting sponsors, to transporting and packing the items, to delivering the packages, the process needed a lot of manpower, but it was not advisable for volunteers to gather.
Fortunately, Soon was able to tap on her network of friends and companies for help. Many replied quickly that they were keen to do their part.
She said: “I approached the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, who helped us to secure 7,000 empty goodie bags from various organisations. I spoke to brands like Khong Guan, Nestlé and Bayer (which distributes Redoxon), and they were all eager to contribute their products. A friend of mine also helped to canvass for donations that could be used to purchase half the Milo drinks that we needed.”
To add a personal touch to the care packages, thank-you cards are being prepared by students from a large number of schools in Singapore, as well as inmates from the Singapore Prison Service (SPS). The Singapore Kindness Movement also helped to cover the cost of the card materials for SPS.
Soon tells The Pride: “For the students especially, it’s a platform to express appreciation to these healthcare workers. Their teachers also see it as a good chance to share with them a lesson on gratitude – being grateful towards the people who help to keep them safe.”
Other sponsors who have come forward include Coca-Cola, Ricola and Pathlight School. All the donated items will be packed at Anglo-Chinese Junior College and three MINDS centres. Social enterprise Infinite Transports Pte Ltd has also offered to deliver the care packages for free later this month.
Soon is grateful and amazed by all the support, and sees it as proof that Singaporeans can come together amid difficult circumstances.
“Personally, I was worried that the fear in the community would lead us to develop a me-against-the-world mentality, which then means we’re not willing to help each other. I think by sparing a thought for those working on the frontline, there (will be) a sense of unity that we can benefit from, too.
“I can imagine that those working in the hospitals are facing their own worries and fears too, so I hope our gesture shows them that we do care about them, and are rooting for them.”
While Be Kind SG’s initiative is only for NCID and TTSH staff, Soon encourages Singaporeans to share their own tokens of appreciation with more people.
She says: “It’ll be good if we can also make thank-you cards for janitors, security officers and supermarket staff, among others. It will be great to spread the love around, as they are less visible and may not receive as much encouragement and support.”