Singapore residents lend a hand to Covid-19 relief efforts in home countries

Sri Lankans receiving distributed food rations and masks. PHOTO: SINGAPORE RED CROSS

SINGAPORE - Within a year, Singapore resident Stephanus Widjaja, 46, an Indonesian, had lost 10 friends and a relative to Covid-19 back home.

The business consultant, who has been living here since 2008, felt helpless as he attended virtual funerals of his loved ones in Bandung and Jakarta, unable to return home due to border restrictions.

Mr Widjaja, who is the director of expat group Business Indonesia-Singapore Association, has been involved in fund-raising for Indonesia's battle against Covid-19 for over a year.

Taking part in relief efforts, he said, gives him purpose as he grapples with his loss.

He said: "This coronavirus wave has taken an emotional toll on our community living in Singapore, and I hope we will emerge stronger together after it. I could not see my friends and colleagues one last time. All of us try to channel the helplessness and grief we feel into our work, by raising money or sourcing oxygen supplies from manufacturers across the world."

Residents from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines living here are raising millions of dollars in cash and medical supplies to send home as South-east Asia battles a deadly new wave of Covid-19.

More than 14 residents in Singapore told The Sunday Times they were coordinating efforts to pool together donations, personal protection gear and oxygen supplies for verified support groups on the ground. These include the Indonesian Red Cross Society, Malaysian Red Crescent Society and national relief funds in each country.

The Indonesian embassy in Singapore hosted a virtual meeting on July 5 with the diaspora community here, after which a fund was set up to coordinate donations and supplies with the Indonesian Ministry of Health and national board for disaster management.

A spokesman for the embassy said: "The embassy is working alongside Indonesian companies and individuals as well as Singaporeans to coordinate relief initiatives. Regular updates on the status of the fund are put up online."

The initiative brings together companies and business groups such as East Ventures, Indonesian Professionals Association Singapore and IndoTech SG.

As at Saturday (July 17), about $571,000 had been raised to purchase 1,000 oxygen concentrators. The target is US$1 million (S$1.35 million).

This comes after a collaboration between Temasek Foundation and local companies to send over oxygen concentrators earlier this month.

Ventilators in use at the Indian Red Cross Society Bel-Air Hospital in Maharashtra. PHOTO: SINGAPORE RED CROSS

Besides companies and business groups, housewives, students and professionals have also pitched in over the last few months, raising funds by selling meals and used items, among other things.

Malaysian and Filipino residents here have been making individual donations to social service organisations back home.

Some Singapore Management University (SMU) students who are part of SMU Barkada - an interest group for Filipino students - worked with peers from the Philippines to raise awareness about relief efforts for those affected by Covid-19 as well as Typhoon Vamco and share information on their social media platforms.

The Malaysian Association in Singapore's president Aarathi Arumugam said the association has been sharing details of verified Covid-19 relief initiatives in Malaysia with its 800 members on its social media platform.

Many of the listed initiatives collect donations to provide essential goods like rice, flour, oil and diapers to those in need.

"It is important to ensure we can share genuine initiatives that are not fraudulent. We also focus our efforts to help Malaysians in Singapore who may be affected by border restrictions due to Covid-19," she said.

Similar relief efforts were coordinated by the Indian community in Singapore in May when a third wave of Covid-19 infections ravaged the country. More than $1 million was raised in just over a month through a fund launched by the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association on April 26.

The Singapore Red Cross raised $24,000 for communities in South Asia and South-east Asia affected by Covid-19 after putting out a call on July 6 for donations.

The Singapore Red Cross raised $24,000 for communities in South Asia and Southeast Asia. PHOTO: SINGAPORE RED CROSS

Self-taught artists Cherinda Willianty and Dwi, who wanted to be known by her first name, have spent the last month creating and selling artwork to contribute to the Covid-19 relief fund.

So far, they have sold four paintings - priced at about $50 each - through their Instagram page

The artists, both 35, find pockets of time to finish the paintings in between their work in the banking sector.

Ms Dwi's uncle died three weeks ago in Indonesia and she said painting has helped her cope with grief.

She said: "What started off as a hobby has turned into a donation initiative. The situation is so bad we are constantly worried about our families and friends. We just want to play a small part in helping our countrymen from afar."

The artists find pockets of time to finish the paintings in between their work in the banking sector. PHOTOS: ART.CLUB.FOR.DONATION/INSTAGRAM

How to help


Readers can contribute to Covid-19 relief efforts for Indonesia through the Indonesia Pasti Bisa (IDPB) Safeguards Oxygen initiative spearheaded by Indonesia companies, business groups and the Indonesian embassy in Singapore.

To find out more information about the fund, visit the Indonesia Pasti Bisa website.

South-east Asia

Until Aug 17, readers can contribute to Covid-19 relief efforts for countries in South Asia and South-east Asia by making online donations at this site.

Cheque donations are to be made payable to "Singapore Red Cross Society" and mailed to Red Cross House, 15 Penang Lane, Singapore 238486. Leave your name, postal address and indicate "Intl COVID-19 Response" on the back of your cheque.

Readers can also transfer money via PayNow to UEN S86CC0370EFR2. Indicate "Intl COVID-19 Response" under the bill reference and key in the amount you are giving.

Bank transfers are to be made to HSBC 142038546002. Please state "Intl COVID-19 Response" in the reference section.

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