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Haze update: Singaporeans join hands to help people weather haze

They donate and distribute masks to needy, or offer homes as shelter

Published on Jun 21, 2013 7:06 AM
 

Amid the haze, groups of people have shown there is a kinder side to Singaporeans.

Several ground-up initiatives to help others have emerged, with one formed yesterday by Mr Jeremy Chua, a liberal arts student at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, United States.

It is called SG Haze Rescue.

The 25-year-old started a Facebook page calling for people to help and donate their excess masks, almost immediately after seeing the Pollutant Standards Index rise to 321 on Wednesday evening.

Mr Chua, who is back home for the summer holidays, was inspired by community initiatives in the US where people offer shelter to the needy in times of crises.

"The haze is a crisis for us, and Singaporeans should come together not to complain, but to do things for one another," he said.

Within a day of making his call on Facebook, Mr Chua received a donation of 200 masks.

He and a group of 10 volunteers spent two hours last night distributing them in five Housing Board blocks at Toa Payoh Lorong 2.

"I see a lot of people complaining about the haze on social media, but hardly anyone is doing anything about it, so I am trying to make a difference and help others," he said.

About 120 people have e-mailed him to offer help.

He expects to receive nearly 2,000 masks by today, and intends to distribute them in the next few days.

He has also started a Google Documents form for people who want to offer their homes to anyone who needs temporary shelter.

Fewer than 10, however, have responded, and one of them is Mr Tong Yee, 39, director of a group of social enterprises known as Thought Collective.

He offered his Namly Crescent home in Bukit Timah, where he lives with his family - his parents, younger sister, wife and three daughters.

"My family's a bit concerned that I am offering our home to strangers, but it is a small risk compared to people's needs," he said, adding that his group of friends are also keen to offer their homes.

As of yesterday, there were no takers, but he said that his home and those of his friends can accommodate about 50 people altogether.

Other civic-minded Singaporeans are also going to HDB flats to distribute masks to the needy.

A group of friends, including Mr Tong and Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Clarence Ching, 18, have arranged for about 5,000 masks to be given to families in four estates: Bukit Ho Swee, Toa Payoh, Jalan Besar and Jalan Kukoh.

Singer Elson Soh, 25, with volunteers from Project Awareness, a group he started to help the needy, will also distribute masks and herbal tea drinks to more than 50 families tomorrow.

"Most of these families do not know how to protect themselves from the haze, and they cannot afford to fall sick because many of them are old and have medical conditions," said Mr Soh.

ateng@sph.com.sg