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Photo credit: YOUTH.SG/NIGEL CHIN

He spent $1,500 of his own money on face masks for the vulnerable elderly

After seeing his diabetic mother's struggles due to a lack of supplies, Benjamin Wah decided to do something for those in need.

Nigel Chin
Nigel Chin

Published: 24 February 2020, 12:04 AM

A couple of weeks ago, Benjamin Wah wanted to get some cotton swabs for his mother, who suffers from diabetes, as well as hand sanitisers and surgical masks. But the 26-year-old failed to do so, as supplies had run out at local pharmacies such as Watsons and Guardian.

Then, he read news of flippers who were reselling the items for an exorbitant price online due to the ongoing COVID-19 virus, which got him outraged.

“Just imagine, there are also others who are diabetic, and it’s not just my mother. But when they go to the pharmacies and can’t get the stock, they are helpless,” said the corporate gifting businessman.

“A lot of people who wiped out the medical supplies, they do it without realising that people who have an actual need for these supplies, especially the elderly, will suffer because they can’t get it. And that hit me.”

Benjamin, who also read in the news that elderly with weaker immune system are more vulnerable to the virus, spent about S$1,500 out of his own pocket to purchase 3,000 pieces of surgical masks Рof which 2,500 will be given to organisations that need it urgently. The remaining 500 pieces of the masks Рwhich are sourced from Indonesia Рwill be shared among his family and friends.

The affable Benjamin has already given 600 pieces of the masks to the Muslim Kidney Action Association and Home Nursing Foundation on Thursday (20 Feb). The organisations were handpicked by Benjamin’s close associate, Farhan Firdaus, who is well-known in Singapore for his social work.

 

Benjamin Wah (second from left) giving the boxes of face masks to MKAF President Ameerali Abdeali. Standing beside him are Farhan Firdaus and Glenn Tiah. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/NIGEL CHIN

 

“Money has been spent, so my objective is to do my best to help Benjamin to make it worthwhile and make the best out of it,” explained Farhan. “So apart from finding out organisations that needed the mask, I also tried finding out more about these organisations and what they do, and see if they really need these masks, or they are just stocking up for rainy days.”

The 34-year-old added that they are still in the midst of looking for more organisations for the remaining masks. Another organisation that has benefitted from Benjamin’s charitable nature is SDI Academy, an organisation which conducts skills workshops for foreign workers in Singapore – Benjamin was at the academy over the weekend to give eight boxes – or 400 pieces – of the masks to the foreign workers.

“In Singapore, there aren’t too many outreach programmes to foreign workers. And we are going to SDI Academy, instead of the dorms, because these workers are moving a lot – from dorm to work, work to academy, and then back to the dorm,” Farhan shared.

 

Benjamin distributing masks to foreign workers at SDI Academy.
PHOTO CREDIT: FARHAN FIRDAUS

 

It wasn’t easy for Benjamin to get hold of the masks however. It took Benjamin 11 days in total and his connections also had to go to different warehouses to check on the masks from different suppliers to ensure that it wasn’t fake.

Benjamin also had to personally take a ferry down to Batam, where the masks were shipped to, and bring the masks into Singapore.

Glenn Tiah, who has been helping out with this initiative, added that the price of the masks kept fluctuating and Benjamin had to stay connected all the time for updates.

“In the end, the price increased from US$0.25 (S$0.35) to US$0.34 (S$0.49) per piece, because a Chinese buyer went to the factory and offered a better price to snatch the goods. But as I already planned on doing this, I went ahead to match the hike in price to secure the masks,” Benjamin said.

 

The face masks that Benjamin went to great lengths to get.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/NIGEL CHIN

 

Such was his resolve, that even when others asked him to reconsider giving the masks away and to resell it instead because of the demand for it, Benjamin refused them outrightly.

“I went through extra lengths to get the goods with the intention of helping people,” said the former Ngee Ann Polytechnic student.

“If I changed my mind just so that I can sell it at a higher price, then it isn’t right, and I will be no better than those unethical people.”


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