From Olympian nurse to food delivery rider: PM Lee pays tribute to 6 everyday heroes at National Day Rally

These are some of the everyday heroes featured in this year's Rally. PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, WOODLANDS HEALTH, MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION, DNATA SINGAPORE PTE LTD, SPORTSG

SINGAPORE - In his National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 29), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded the strength that Singaporeans have shown amid what he called the crisis of a generation.

From those on the front line of the fight against Covid-19 to those who went beyond the call of duty, these are some of the everyday heroes featured in this year's Rally:

Olympic rower and nurse Joan Poh embodies best of being Singaporean

Both require her to be completely immersed in the moment, putting aside all other distractions to focus on the task at hand. PHOTOS: JOAN POH/INSTAGRAM, SPORTSG

Olympic athlete Joan Poh's twin passions - rowing and nursing - are linked by a common thread.

Both require her to be completely immersed in the moment, putting aside all other distractions to focus on the task at hand.

"When I'm a nurse, I'm 100 per cent the nurse, to make sure I do not short-change my patients," she said. "And when I'm rowing, I'm 100 per cent focused on rowing."

On some days, it can be challenging to meet the demands of trying to excel at both, said Ms Poh, 30, a member of the national rowing team.

She said: "Of course, there are other things screaming at you in the background, all your other responsibilities.

"It does mess with your head a bit, but you have to mitigate that and be present in your nursing responsibilities, and every stroke and kick I take at training."

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Food delivery rider channels experiences to make short film

Mr Ruzhael, the youngest of four siblings, signed up to be a food delivery rider when he turned 18, to help his family financially. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Battling physical and mental fatigue on the road during long work shifts is the greatest challenge for a delivery worker, says Mr Mohammad Ruzhael Marwazi.

The 20-year-old Institute of Technical Education College Central student, who spends about 20 hours a week working as a delivery rider, drew on his own experiences to produce a short film on the difficulties faced by delivery workers.

The film, titled Kejar, or chase in Malay, clinched an award at national film competition ciNE65 Movie Makers Awards this year.

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Mr Ruzhael, the youngest of four siblings, signed up to be a food delivery rider when he turned 18, to help his family financially.

"I'm a student and I have no other sources of income, I started doing food delivery to cover my own expenses," he said.

He has had to deal with frustrated people on both ends while on the job - busy staff at food and beverage outlets as well as impatient customers waiting for their food, Mr Ruzhael said.

"But I just try to keep calm, tell myself, 'maybe that person is having a bad day', and try my best to defuse the situation," he added.

Passenger service agent switches to cargo operations

Ms Aisha Abdul Rahman honed her skills by using the forklift to lift empty containers during breaks. PHOTO: DNATA SINGAPORE PTE LTD

Ms Aisha Abdul Rahman, 41, has been living her childhood dream by working as a passenger service agent at Changi Airport for the past 14 years.

But like many other aviation workers, she was worried about her job after the borders were closed in March last year amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms Aisha, who has five sons aged between five and 18, was also looking after her elderly parents, who are both about 70 years old.

In April last year, Ms Aisha was temporarily redeployed by dnata to help out at People's Association events such as the TraceTogether token distributions at the Whampoa Community Club.

When she was offered a new role as a cargo agent late last year, she jumped at the opportunity. Despite not knowing much about the cargo sector, she was determined to adapt and learn the ropes quickly so that she could go back to work at the airport again.

Ms Aisha said: "I didn't even know how to ride a bicycle, but now I have to operate a forklift. I also had to learn how to handle pharmaceuticals and sensitive cargo."

She honed her skills by using the forklift to lift empty containers during breaks. She has been able to do her job without any problems since she started in February.

Ms Aisha was held up as an example of someone who has gone beyond their call of duty at the Rally.

On her determination to adapt to contribute to Singapore's air hub, Ms Aisha said: "Changi Airport is like my second home... I just love working there, I just love my job."

Physiotherapist volunteered to help Covid-19 patients

Despite some apprehension, Woodlands Health senior physiotherapist Mohena Priyaa Selvakumar, 31, who is married, stepped forward to volunteer. PHOTO: WOODLANDS HEALTH

In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, not much was known about easily the virus spread, or how deadly it was.

But one thing was clear: it affected the respiratory system and those affected suffered symptoms similar to pneumonia. Many had trouble breathing.

As hospitals across Singapore geared up in anticipation of a local outbreak of the novel Sars-like disease, a call was made for physiotherapists with expertise in respiratory care to attend to patients, especially those in the intensive care unit.

Despite some apprehension, Woodlands Health senior physiotherapist Mohena Priyaa Selvakumar, 31, who is married, stepped forward to volunteer.

She joined a team of three physiotherapists who served in the Covid-19 ward at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for half a year, checking on patients and helping them clear their airways and do light exercises - all while clad in full personal protective equipment.

"It was definitely a significant time in my career," she said.

"I felt really happy and proud that I was able to give back. It was my way of doing something for the country."

Baby bottle-makers make 'crisis investment' during Covid-19

In April last year, Mrs Yvon Bock, 41, and her husband Leon Bock, 45, decided to make a "crisis investment" into the company. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

From the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the co-founders of home-grown baby bottle-maker Hegen knew they had to boost their online presence and speed up research efforts to differentiate their products from their competitors.

So, in April last year, Mrs Yvon Bock, 41, and her husband Leon Bock, 45, decided to make a "crisis investment" into the company.

This included community outreach efforts and other upgrades, including the renovation of their office space at Alexandra Technopark to include a live-stream room and a demonstration kitchen.

The space is now used to conduct webinars about breastfeeding and demonstrations on how to use and wash their products.

The Bocks also sent their staff for training programmes during the circuit breaker period, such as courses on digitalisation and customer service, to take advantage of the down time when travel was not allowed.

Mrs Bock said: "The pandemic was a wake-up call to change the way we do business."

The couple - who are parents to four children aged between 11 and 17 - have now swapped business travel with more social media campaigns.

Their efforts paid off, and the company has grown even during the pandemic, from a staff strength of 15 last April to the current 45.

The firm plans to accelerate research and innovation efforts, including rolling out initiatives for customers to customise gifts.

Malay professional rises from technician to leadership role

Mr Aarman cut a humble figure when asked how he felt about getting a mention in Mr Lee's speech. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

When Mr Aarman Yazeed joined medical device maker Thermo Fisher Scientific as a technician nearly 20 years ago, the last thing he expected was a leadership role.

Today, he is a manufacturing manager at the United States-based company's Singapore outpost in Alexandra, where he oversees products like specialised scientific equipment for laboratories, which the company makes.

His duties include ensuring products meet the company's high quality standards.

Thermo Fisher Scientific is the only company Mr Aarman, 43, has worked at since completing national service in 2002.

One major highlight of his career has been overseeing KingFisher Instruments - a sample purification instrument designed to automate the extraction of cells.

The instrument has been crucial in helping Singapore in the fight against Covid-19.

Mr Aarman, who is married and has two sons aged four and six, cut a humble figure when asked how he felt about getting a mention in Mr Lee's speech.

He said the credit goes to his supervisors as well as his family for helping him do well in his job.

"I'm honoured to be mentioned by PM Lee. It is good to know the work we do has been making an impact on society. And I'm humbled to get this opportunity to share my story as an employee and a member of the Malay community."

In his time working for Thermo Fisher Scientific, Mr Aarman has always tried to look for fresh challenges.

After operating machines at the company for the first three years, he asked his supervisors for a new role, which led him down the path of assembling instruments.

When asked if he has any advice for other workers, Mr Aarman said staying positive helps greatly, and so does keeping an open mind to learning opportunities.

"Be positive to any changes, because it is through changes that we will learn new things and gain new skills," he said.

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