SINGAPORE - Most people celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries by going for a meal, but Singaporean police officer Muhammad Firdaus and his wife chose to spend theirs helping Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
Mr Firdaus and his wife Najihah Jofrie flew to Bangladesh on Oct 20, a week before he turned 36.
The officer-in-charge of the Community Policing Unit at Geylang Neighbourhood Police Centre said he wanted to do something to celebrate not just his birthday but also his wedding anniversary, which falls a day after his birthday. The couple got married five years ago.
"We normally go overseas," he told The Straits Times. "But I decided to make it special this time."
The couple, who have no children, went to several Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh - including the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia. They went with four other volunteers as part of a Singapore-based, registered aid facilitation volunteer group called SG Qurban.
More than 500,000 refugees have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar since August.
During their week there, they distributed aid to hundreds of refugees from 8am to 5pm daily.
"We gave out rice, bottled water, milk, bread, biscuits and snacks and toothbrushes," said Mr Firdaus, who has been with the Singapore Police Force for nine years. "For the women, we also arranged to buy sarongs. The mums there don't even have anything to carry their babies with, they will even drop the child when trying to collect aid."
Mr Firdaus, who has gone on aid missions before as part of his work and also privately, said he was worried about Madam Najihah, 32, who was doing such work for the first time.
"She has asthma and is not that sporty. And Bangladesh can be tough. It was very hot, I was quite concerned, but she was putting on her A-game every day."
Mr Firdaus and the other volunteers distributed 2,400 packs of rice a day, "but that even is not enough", he said.
The group gave out 48,000 kg of rice, 14,000 litres of water, 10,000 loaves of bread and 10,000 packs of milk in total for this mission.
Asked about the logistics of the operation, he said they got visas from the checkpoint in Bangladesh and visited a designated area where volunteer groups get approval from the Bangladesh army.
The group brought its own aid supplies bought with donations they received. "Even $1 can mean 2kg of aid," said Mr Firdaus.
The couple returned to Singapore on Oct 27.
One of Mr Firdaus' friends, who gave his name only as Mr Ho, had alerted The Straits Times about the trip.