Don’t forget the needy during the COVID-19 outbreak

When volunteers are in short supply, these youths are stepping up to help the less fortunate.

Shani Yong

Published: 17 February 2020, 4:09 PM

The announcement that the DORSCON level for COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) had risen to Orange sent many Singaporeans into a frenzy. Schools suspended mass gatherings, some employers let their employees work from home, and many people cancelled social outings in favour of staying home.

This also impacted organisations that rely heavily on volunteers, as school Community Involvement Programmes were cancelled and many individuals who signed up backed out at the last minute.

One such social organisation affected is Willing Hearts, a soup kitchen that sends out 5,000 packed meals to the needy island-wide every day, even on public holidays.

Hearing the plight of these social service organisations, a group of youths stepped up as volunteers to help ensure the needy are not left behind, even in this challenging time.

Volunteers came early in the morning to help prepare food for distribution to the needy in the afternoon PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG

26-year-old Lim Shi Yun is one such youth. After receiving a relayed message that Willing Hearts was facing a shortage of volunteers, she immediately signed up along with her Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) friends to help.

She said: “If there is a shortage of volunteers, the frail, who are not able to get food for themselves, might not receive their food on time, and some might not even be able to get their food at all.

“Even if they go to elder care centres, these centres rely on the food that we prepared to take care of them.”

Shi Yun (second from right) mentioned that Willing Hearts relies on volunteers to operate daily. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG

Youth.SG followed Shi Yun and her fellow YCS volunteers on Feb 13 to see what a typical day looks like volunteering at Willing Hearts. Even before we entered the kitchen at the Kembangan–Chai Chee Community Hub, all volunteers were told to use hair nets provided to prevent contamination.

As I stepped into the hectic kitchen, more than 20 volunteers were already at their respective stations. On one end of the kitchen, cooks were busy preparing scrumptious food for those in need. On the other, groups of volunteers helped to scoop up rice, vegetables and meat on their respective tables into takeaway packages.

In the outdoor kitchen, another 30 or so volunteers sat on stools preparing vegetables. Three tables were allocated to peeling of vegetables, and another two tables were for chopping.

The Youth Corps volunteers bonded over the task of peeling spinach leaves off of their stems. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG

Here I spoke to 29-year-old Nurul Hudah, another Youth Corps volunteer who responded to the mass-sent text. In fact, she took time off from her job just to help out at Willing Hearts.

She said: “My mum was afraid for me, but I reassured her how important it is to help the needy who still need their basic necessities even during this outbreak.

“I hope the seniors whom we are helping will be able to go on with their lives as per normal and not stop because of this epidemic outbreak.”

Nurul Hudah (centre) also used this opportunity to educate her family and friends about the virus and reminded them to maintain good hygiene. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG

The Youth Corps volunteers who participated in this event went on to participate in the ‘Wash-a-dub-dub’ event to teach the seniors and homeless how to maintain good personal hygiene later that evening.

On 19 and 20 Feb, the YCS team will also be volunteering with Food from the Heart, a non-profit charity organisation, to deliver surplus food from bakeries to the needy.

If you are interested to volunteer in efforts like these, you can check out the opportunities here.

In this time of uncertainty and fear, perhaps it is this kind of selflessness that we need more of.

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