COVID-19 SPECIAL: Virus Vigilantes

Spirit of giving

Circuit breaker measures may have halted public and even family gatherings, but Singapore's virus vigilantes are keeping us united with uplifting acts - from donating laptops to offering free meals to helping others find work. Hannah Bock and Chelsea Kiew report

Work for freelancers.
Work for freelancers.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA
Bentos and burgers for healthcare workers.
Bentos and burgers for healthcare workers.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA
Social distancing t-shirts for a good cause.
Social distancing t-shirts for a good cause.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA
Wood for good.
Wood for good.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA
Useful directories.
Useful directories.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA
Bridging the digital divide.
Bridging the digital divide.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA
Free carrot cake for drivers.
Free carrot cake for drivers.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA
A million masks and more.
A million masks and more.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA
Weekly donations to charity.
Weekly donations to charity.PHOTOS: ADVANCED MEDTECH, @SINGAPORESOCIALDISTANCING/ INSTAGRAM, EILEEN TAY, GOURMET FOOD HOLDINGS, JASON LEOW, KIA JIE HUI/FACEBOOK, THE TABLE GUY, TIMOTHY KOH, XPOINTO MEDIA

WORK FOR FREELANCERS

The spotlight is on film-makers in Close Ups a 10-episode video series initiated by 28-year-old Timothy Koh. The freelancer is collaborating with non-profit organisation *Scape. He won the Best Lighting award at its National Youth Film Awards in 2018.

Veteran and aspiring freelancers were invited to share their stories for the series.

Mr Koh and his team of about eight freelancers, who are paid by *Scape, began working on the project last month and aim to release the first episode in the next two weeks.

Freelancers have been hit hard by the cancellation of events during the pandemic.

Mr Koh says: "My biggest inspiration was knowing I could help other freelancers. I also knew young film-makers could benefit.".

BENTOS AND BURGERS FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS

This month, healthcare workers will get to tuck into hearty burgers and slurp up savoury noodles – thanks to four local enterprises.

Gourmet Food Holdings has pledged to donate 500 bowls of pho from Vietnamese restaurant Mrs Pho and 500 Japanese rice sets from one-Michelinstarred Tsuta.

In a press release on April 1, Zouk Group said it will contribute 500 burgers from burger joint Five Guys and 500 bowls of RedTail Bar’s signature congee.

The workers will enjoy sweet treats too – 500 packets of homemade cookies baked by employees of Motherswork, a retailer of products for mothers and kids.

The food will be delivered to the hospitals by drivers from Grab.

SOCIAL DISTANCING T-SHIRTS FOR A GOOD CAUSE

Marketing director John Tan, 32, wants people to get through the circuit breaker period in style and do some good to boot.

On the Instagram account @singaporesocialdistancing, which he started on March 28, he sells T-shirts featuring slogans such as Singapore Social Distancing Club and Anti Social Social Distancing Club.

He has received more than 130 orders so far. After covering his costs, the rest of the sale proceeds will be donated to the Community Chest’s Courage Fund, which supports healthcare and front-line workers and lower-income families affected by Covid-19.

WOOD FOR GOOD

On March 28, local furniture store The Table Guy launched the #WoodForGood Initiative – an online catalogue of raw wood off-cuts, product development prototypes and whole furniture pieces that do not fit into its regular retail catalogue.

The items range from sturdy wood stools to sprawling teak root table bases. New items are added on an ad-hoc basis. This and next month, proceeds from the sale of these products will go to Hagar Singapore, a non-profit organisation that supports vulnerable women and children.

USEFUL DIRECTORIES

Mr Adriel Yong, a student at Yale-NUS College, wants to help students and fresh graduates find employment in these times. So the 22-year-old reached out to employers with hiring ability and created a public directory (tinyurl.com/SummerOpps2020) where he lists available internships and jobs.

He says organisations such as Carousell, Dell, Grab, the National Youth Council and GovTech have posted vacancies.

Responses have been positive from both sides. Students and graduates have reached out to him and some have got multiple interviews within days of applying.

Mr Yong says: “It is rewarding to see the tremendous goodwill from corporations. Many only listed internships after hearing about the situation and realising they were one of the few companies that could still hire. And they did.”

In a separate project, design consultant Jason Leow, 40, has created Tools For Covid-19 (sheet2site.com/s/toolsforcovid19/) – a directory aimed at helping bricks-and-mortar businesses digitise.

BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

Before schools went into full home-based learning last Wednesday, volunteer organisations quickly got into action.

Collectively, Readable, SG Bono and Engineering Good donated a few hundred laptops to students from low-income families, many of whom had only faulty desktops to share among siblings.

Since last December, digital marketing company Xpointo Media has also been collecting laptops for its social responsibility project, Bridge The Digital Divide Singapore.

Typically, they only accept multiple units from corporate entities, but have been taking in individual donations in the past few weeks. Their next batch of close to 100 laptops will be prioritised for home-based learning needs. Non-profit organisations such as Beyond Social Services will distribute the devices to their beneficiaries.

Xpointo Media’s founder and managing director Kathy Teo, 48, tells The Straits Times: “Some segments of society may be left behind in our push for a digital economy. We hope to create more equality – one laptop at a time.”

FREE CARROT CAKE FOR DRIVERS

A stall at Old Airport Road dished up about 150 packets of carrot cake and gave them for free to taxi, private hire and food delivery drivers who dropped by from 10am to 2pm from April 1 to 3.

The initiative, partially funded by local non-profit The Majurity Trust, was started by 32-year-old case manager Eileen Tay and her friend, Ms Elenda Quek, who runs Original Changi Ten Mile Fried Carrot Cake in Choon Guan Coffee Shop.

Ms Quek runs the stall with the help of her parents, Mr Quek Soi Tee, 68, and Madam Lua Geok Choo, 61. A Malay food stallholder also contributed packets of rice. Ms Quek, 32, who also gave out canned drinks, says: “As a self-employed person, I know times are bad for us. Sometimes I talk to the drivers and they say they can barely cover their vehicle rental. Since we are still able to help, I just thought we should do our part.”

A MILLION MASKS AND MORE

Advanced MedTech Holdings, a medical device company headquartered in Singapore, aims to deliver a million masks and more to front-line healthcare workers around the world.

It had been sourcing for masks to protect their employees. However, as the virus spread and stories of healthcare workers without personal protective equipment poured in, the employees started an internal donation drive, which was matched dollar for dollar by the company.

Since the #MillionMaskProject launched on March 26, 200,000 masks have been shipped to countries like Malaysia and Italy. Another 200,000 are on their way.

Senior director of business development Lee Weikang says: “We’ll keep it going as long as we can. If we exceed a million masks, so be it. ”

WEEKLY DONATIONS TO CHARITY

In a Facebook post on April 4, Ms Kia Jie Hui said she would start “a new habit” of donating $100 a week to charitable organisations.

“As the daughter of SME business owners, I know first hand how real the risks and attendant consequences are.”

She said she has contributed to HealthServe, which helps migrant workers, and The Food Bank, which collects and distributes food to those in need, among others.


This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2020, with the headline 'Spirit of giving'. Print Edition | Subscribe