Coronavirus: Want to bond with the family during this time? Grab a basket of care

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee (right) taking a wefie with Mr Gunalan Shiva, 46, Mrs Jacintha Francis, 38, and Caelan Gunalan, 11, family volunteers for Share-the-Care movement. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - On Sunday mornings, the Gunalans tend to head out for breakfast and busy themselves with chores - but this Sunday (March 1), they decided instead to pack gift baskets for the community amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

These baskets, which will be given to people who sign up for them, are part of a Families for Life (FFL) Council initiative. They contain games such as snakes and ladders, five stones and and craft activities meant to encourage family bonding. There are also materials to create red ribbon badges, to be given out to "unsung heroes" in the community such as cleaners and canteen operators.

Jurong resident Caelan Gunalan, 11, packed baskets and created badges with notes of thanks for doctors, nurses and cleaners at a Jurong activity plaza on Sunday.

"They are helping patients who are sick, and don't have regard for their own lives. They are really the unsung heroes," the Primary 5 pupil said of healthcare staff. "It's also a good way to show our appreciation towards those who go the extra mile to keep our estate clean."

He plans to give his family's basket to a doctor at a general practitioner clinic near their home, and add a some hand sanitisers to it.

His mother, housewife Jacintha Francis, 38, chimed in: "We know doctors who are working really long hours. We wanted to show them our appreciation."

The Gunalans and dozens of other volunteers gathered near Block 442 Jurong West Avenue 1 to pack the baskets on Sunday, part of an FFL Council movement known as "Share-the-Care".

After an hour, they had packed more than 100 baskets, a start to the 1,000 the council hopes to distribute to people who register for one.

People who would like to get their hands on a basket - and pass it on to other people afterwards - can register here.

FFL Council chairman Ishak Ismail said: "In such times, we recognise that people are spending time with their family and we want to encourage that. But the 'care and share' spirit is about looking at the community as a family too... to not just protect our family and look inward. To see that there are people out there who are helping us clean the environment, and working tirelessly."

The items in the baskets come from groups such as FFL, the People's Association, National Library Board and the Dads for Life movement. Share-the-Care is part of the wider #SGUnited movement, which encourages people to help the community during the coronavirus outbreak.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee told reporters at Sunday's event that the outbreak has been "more than just a public health concern", given its impact on work arrangements and the economy.

He added: "The Government and the community are putting in effort to tackle Covid-19. But family is the cornerstone, and at a time like this - and we don't know how long this will last - families pulling together will enable Singaporeans to overcome the strains, especially the psychological strains, of the impact of Covid-19."

Also there on Sunday to help out was Mr Bryan Tan, 44, chief executive of Dads for Life and the Centre For Fathering.

Mr Tan, who was joined by his three children, wife and elderly mother, said the session gave him a chance to "demonstrate to our kids what it means to be resilient in this time of uncertainty".

Admitting that he is more worried about dengue fever than the coronavirus, he added: "This whole incident gives us the opportunity to reinforce certain values we want to pass to our kids - cleanliness, cleaning up after ourselves, being socially responsible and resilient."

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