SINGAPORE - When the Hotel New World collapsed in 1986, the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) had yet to train its volunteers in disaster management.
Despite the lack of training, the SRC volunteers consoled families of victims, providing psycho-social support to the best of their abilities, handing out biscuits and beverages at the disaster site and mortuary.
The collapse of the six-storey building on March 15 that year, killing 33 people, was one of the biggest disasters in Singapore's modern history.
One of the SRC volunteers on the scene was Mr Wan Fook Kum, then 45 and a teacher.
"We talked to them, comforted them, whatever help they needed, we helped them out," said Mr Wan, now 78, who retired from teaching in 2001 but is still an SRC volunteer.
On Saturday (July 13), he shared his memories of the tragedy at the SG Cares "Celebrating Our Culture of Care" mural project event at Chong Pang Amphitheatre.
The four-part project by SG Cares kicked off in March and is part of Singapore's bicentennial celebrations. SG Cares is a national movement dedicated to building a more caring and inclusive home for all.
Each part of the mural commemorates and highlights different elements of the nation's legacy of care and contribution over the past 200 years.
This weekend, around 400 people at the amphitheatre will make paper flowers in the shape of Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, for the mural backdrop. This is for the third instalment, which honours pioneers and organisations that provided social services when the social sector was still at its infancy.
Work began on the first part of the mural, which honours community and religious groups that helped early settlers in Singapore, on March 2 and 3 at JCube where 400 people painted and stamped batik print on small sail boats.
For the second part, focusing on pioneers of healthcare, education and uniformed groups, 600 people moulded small clay bricks and paint ceramic tiles at Suntec City on May 11 and 12.
The SG Cares office plans to move the mural around different locations and will release the information on the locations at a later date.
In 1963, Mr Wan joined the SRC after he witnessed a serious road accident and was unable to help. Now, with more than 50 years of experience as an SRC volunteer, he continues to involve himself in volunteering activities.
"Before you volunteer, you must be committed and know what you are in for. You do not ask the organisation what they can do for you, but what you can do for the organisation. That is the most important thing," he said.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said of the mural project: "Our social service sector was built on the pioneering work of community groups many years ago. Some of them are still active today, and have expanded their services to cater to evolving social needs. The SG Cares movement strengthens ties between government agencies and community organisations, so that we can coordinate our efforts for greater impact, and foster a more inclusive society.
"We will build on our partnerships with Singaporeans and community groups to sustain this culture of care for the vulnerable," added Mr Lee, who officiated the event on Saturday.
Some of the other pioneer organisations recognised at the event include property developer Far East Organisation, Mistri Trust and PPIS (Singapore Muslim Women's Association or Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura). These pioneer organisations have been providing social support to communities since the 1950s and continue to do their part for communities today.
The fourth part of the mural, which honours corporations and ground-up groups that are championing volunteerism, will be done on Aug 17 and 18.
The mural is scheduled to be completed next month.