6 Ways Singaporeans Are Keeping the Kampung Spirit Alive During the Pandemic

For some, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown simply means confining themselves to the four walls of their homes for a period of time; for less-privileged families, it spells a loss of livelihoods and a struggle to make ends meet. This disparity in circumstances has never been more stark – yet, sometimes, mankind surprises us in the most surprising of ways.

Not all superheroes wear capes; here are some ways Singaporeans went above and beyond to help others in need.

Community fridges

A roof over our heads and groceries are basic necessities; yet, for some, these luxuries might not be easily attainable. The charity organisation, Free Food For All; Chong Pang CC Division; and the Darul Makmur Mosque hence teamed up to manage a free community fridge in Yishun, which comprises one of three such fridges in the neighbourhood.

Operating on a ‘take what you need’ basis, the community fridge ensures that everyone has access to basic food staples. The fridge is also stocked with halal-friendly produce. Another initiative in Tampines sees a fridge where residents can put free fish for others to take, with other community fridges popping up around the country as well. 

Donation shelves

Hazwan Tahir/Facebook

Similar to the above, a group of volunteers has set up a set of donation shelves at the void deck of one of Yishun’s HDB flats. Called the ‘JumaatInitiatives’, it allows anyone to contribute and take items whenever needed. The shelves are stocked with dried produce and essential items, and have been met with much support – as demonstrated by the many screenshots of Whatsapp messages shown on their Facebook page.

Distribution of free masks

With mask-wearing made mandatory, many shops and online boutiques have started churning out all types of masks – even those with built-in microphones or acne-prevention properties. However, before these came about, Singapore experienced a dire mask shortage at the start of the pandemic, with many scrambling to procure masks for themselves.

To counter this, Singaporean Adrian Tan and his Vietnamese wife took to Punggol MRT Station to give away surgical masks to complete strangers. 4,000 masks were given away in just 10 minutes on their first day; they then returned on subsequent days to give out even more. After hearing about Singapore’s mask shortage, the couple bought a surplus of masks in Vietnam, brought them back, and decided to share it with everyone – entirely for free!

Various firms also did the same; local company Megacool gave away around 1,000 surgical masks, some of which were also delivered to elderly with disabilities. Home and decor company, U-Gate Design also ordered and gave away more than 4,500 masks, of which some were delivered to an old folk’s home. A quick search on Carousell back then also revealed many sellers giving away masks for free. 

Free supplies in lifts

Collike/Facebook

Never underestimate the power of community. In Punggol, a ‘pay it forward’ initiative saw the community placing free sanitising supplies in the lift. It started with someone placing a bottle of hand sanitiser and masks – other neighbours soon followed suit with other masks, alcohol swabs, and so on!

Ensuring accessibility of information

After alarming spikes in positive cases among migrant workers, NUS graduate Sudesna Roy Chowdhury took it upon herself to build a website – overnight, mind you! – that bridges the language gap between healthcare and migrant workers. This website would enable medical workers to assess the migrant workers’ condition without an interpreter, saving them valuable time. 

The website included Bengali translations of medically relevant phrases and terms, allowing medical workers to assess the migrant workers’ conditions without an interpreter. The website even contained a selection of audio translations, which would save the frontliners’ valuable time in trying to communicate effectively, and ensuring that the workers don’t miss out on any vital information. Better.sg has also come up with translations in Thai, Hindi, and Tamil. 

A couple also churned out a couple of videos to better help the elderly understand the virus and how to better protect themselves. Uploaded on their Instagram profile @learndialect, these videos are produced in Hokkien, Cantonese, and Teochew.

Offering to house others

And when the border between Singapore and Malaysia closed, many Malaysians were left in dire straits. However, they didn’t have to face this challenge alone; many Singaporeans came forth with offers to house them in their own homes, or simply to provide them with food, blankets or clothes. This post by the organisation, Homeless Hearts of Singapore, also includes a form that aims to match suitable hosts and beneficiaries.

Property website, 99.co, also helped Malaysian workers to connect to residents who were offering accommodation. Other invisible heroes included Levin Foo who, together with seven other friends, spent a night searching Singapore’s public areas to gather people who were sleeping in the open, and guided them to a temporary shelter.

Kindness goes a long way and in times like these, a community that bands together is a community that will emerge from the crisis stronger than before. We salute these unsung heroes – all of you make Singapore proud!

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