Photo credit: JEFF CHEONG

Treating our frontline workers to free coffee and tea

These Singaporeans gave away 2,020 cups of coffee to appreciate our bus drivers, firefighters, cabin crew and others working on the frontline of COVID-19.

Wan Munirah

Published: 12 March 2020, 10:14 PM

The past few weeks have not been easy for our frontline workers as they continue the fight against COVID-19 in Singapore. To show their appreciation towards workers working tirelessly behind the scenes, Jesher Loi, 34, and Jeff Chong, 43, got together to treat bus captains, healthcare workers, firefighters and cabin crew to free cups of coffee and tea.


Together with a team of volunteers, Jesher and Jeff went to several locations across Singapore, such as Tampines Bus Interchange, selected hospitals and airline companies.


The idea started brewing when Jesher and Jeff shared their ideas with each other.

Jesher, director of branding and market development at Ya Kun Kaya Toast, said: “We both had the idea of doing something like this. The missing piece of the puzzle for me was how to reach out to the frontliners.

“Jeff instantly jumped on it and reached out to some organisations. One thing led to another and it slowly gained traction once people heard about it.”

Meanwhile, Jeff, deputy president at DDB Group Singapore, wanted to show his appreciation for all frontline workers, beyond the healthcare community.

“I felt that we needed to be inclusive and look at frontline workers as a larger community, beyond healthcare.

“After a phone call [with Jesher], I found out he had the same idea and we decided to work together,” said Jeff.


Jesher Loi (left) and Jeff Cheong (right) set out with a goal of giving away 2,020 cups of coffee and tea.


Planning the coffee distribution, however, took several weeks of preparations, placing the pair through several unexpected hurdles.

They faced some issues in reaching out to the various organisations and getting their permission to distribute the drinks.

Jesher recalled: “Sometimes we were told that we had the window of opportunity in two days’ time, and then we were told to wait. But we understood the situation and wanted to accommodate to their schedules, so we stayed flexible.”

“When word got around and they saw how a simple gesture was able to lift up the spirit of the staff, we had more requests before we knew it,” added Jeff.

Once the pair received the green light, they assembled a team of volunteers, ranging from young working adults to their own employees, to kick-start the initiative.

Jesher shared how his team had to multi-task while preparing the canisters: “It takes an average of five to seven minutes to prepare the canisters. For some drop offs with 20 canisters, our outlet staff spent two hours preparing them while managing the regular walk-in customers!”


Each canister was decorated with stickers filled with uplifting messages.


While the team was eager to show their appreciation towards the frontline workers, they were surprised by their initial reactions. Some seemed hesitant when the volunteers offered them drinks.

“Once they saw our volunteers handing out the cups and others stepping forward, smiles would appear and they started coming forward and opening up to us. Often times, we would just make conversation with them and hear their stories and those were very enriching moments,” recalled Jesher.


The team surprised the firefighters at Central Fire Station over breakfast.


For Jeff, their visit to the Central Fire Station was especially memorable.

“It was a lovely experience as it was an out of the ordinary routine our paramedics go through daily. We also presented ‘Angel Eyes’, an original song that I wrote for the frontline workers,” said Jeff.


On top of treating the firefighters to hot drinks, the team contacted *SCAPE to invite a busker, Keona D’Souza, to lift their spirits.


Now that they’ve reached their goal of giving away 2,020 cups, what’s next?

“The thanking must not stop but for Ya Kun to continue this, we will need support from groups or the community. If bringing cheer by giving out coffee is what we can do, we will continue,” added Jesher.


“We would love to continue this but we are looking for ways to make this sustainable,” said Jesher (right).


Similarly, Jeff hopes that their initiative will inspire other Singaporeans to start their own projects within their means.

“The big difference between SARS and COVID-19 is social media. There is a lot of information and misinformation out there that can sometimes spark a lot of fear in people.

“But I am encouraged to see more people organising their collective efforts to stand alongside with frontline workers through social media too. All of us have the ability to start something and make a difference,” shared Jeff.

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