Covid-19, Circuit Breaker And Beyond: Order Of Malta, Singapore’s Unwavering Efforts To Reach Out To The Needy And Sick
The first case of coronavirus infection was confirmed on 23rd Jan in Singapore and it raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange from yellow on 7th Feb. This set off alarm bells for all Singaporeans especially those providing care to the critically ill and elderly who are especially vulnerable.
With stricter precautionary measures introduced – non-essential large-scale events were to be cancelled or postponed and avoidance of being in close and sustained contact with others – it was clear that life will be different and our modus operandi must change.
As expected and understandably so, requests were received from our beneficiaries to postpone or cancel our scheduled activities for the sick and elderly. All outreach activities except the Night Mission (outreach to the Homeless) came to a complete halt.
The Night Mission continued with strict precautionary measures in place. This went on till 3rd April, a few days before the Circuit Breaker started. The commencement of the Circuit Breaker means an end to all movement and activities except essential services.
Charitable organisations were scrambling to organise their outreach efforts in accordance to the strict guidelines of the government so that the needy can still receive support during the Circuit Breaker.
At the eleventh hour, I received an urgent call for help.
Mattresses and Pillows for an Emergency Shelter for the Homeless
An urgent call for help was received in the afternoon on 4th April for thirty brand new single mattresses, pillows, bedsheets and blankets to equip an Emergency Shelter for the Homeless. The requested items must be delivered by the next day which is a Sunday. This Emergency Shelter must be up and running by 6th April before the start of the Circuit Breaker at 23:59 hours.
I promptly responded to confirm that I will take care of the thirty new mattresses and thirty pillows. Immediately the excitement started! All furniture stores that I called had run out of mattresses. The reason given was the same – contractors were buying up the mattresses for their migrant workers.
4th April being a Saturday when most stores operate half day did not help the situation and the impending “lock down” added to the frenzy. Almost everything will come to a complete halt on 6th April from 23:59 hours.
Finally, after approximately 12 phone calls, I found and secured thirty mattresses and thirty pillows! I was in a state of euphoria! By this time, it was already evening.
This “find” was almost miraculous as the owner of the furniture store told me that her store was already closed for the day but she had transferred the calls to her handphone. I explained the urgency of the order and told her apologetically that I needed the mattresses and pillows by tomorrow (Sunday, 5th April). I had expected a negative response but to my surprise, she cheerfully agreed to assist. She shared that she used to be a volunteer at a charitable organization and fully supports assisting the poor and needy. She promised that she will personally drive to her warehouse the next morning to get the goods and deliver them to the designated place. Praise the Lord!!!
I am more than convinced that God has sent an angel to me in a time of need. This lady has not only blessed me but the thirty Homeless who will be sleeping on the pillows and mattresses.
Meal Delivery Service to Rough Sleepers at the Shelters: A Collaboration with the Catholic Welfare Services
This project, initiated by the Catholic Welfare Services, started on 7th April, the first day of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker.
Due to the strict precautionary measures on movement and social distancing, rough sleepers on the streets were strongly encouraged to move into temporary shelters during the Circuit Breaker for their safety. During this period, movement was strictly prohibited unless it was for essential services. Hence, the need to deliver food to the rough sleepers at the shelters.
The meal delivery service was intended for the full duration of the Circuit Breaker from 7th April till 4th May. However, with the extension of the Circuit Breaker till 1 June, the project was extended accordingly.
The Singapore Association of the Order of Malta is supporting this initiative by sponsoring 300 meals to rough sleepers at the shelters.
This outreach is still very much needed despite the end of the Circuit Breaker as many rough sleepers have lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic and those who managed to be re-employed or found a job are earning a meagre wage.
“Drivers on Call”
Two members signed up as “Driver on Call” during the Circuit Breaker period to meet the needs of the rough sleepers, when required.
Outreach to Needy Youth Cancer Survivor and His Family – A Collaboration with VIVA Foundation for Children with Cancer’s VIVA Life Programme
John (not his real name) is a youth cancer survivor who lives with one parent and 2 teenage siblings in a small one-room rental apartment. Their sole source of income is the ComCare Finance Assistance. According to the parent, after paying all essential bills, they are left with approximately $100 for general expenses. John’s parent who was an ad hoc worker became unemployed since the start of Circuit Breaker. Besides the heavy burden of sustaining survival, John’s health is a constant concern.
Clothing and books kept on makeshift shelves and belongings left on the floor are constantly dusty. John’s parent believes that the dust collected on the exposed clothes, books and belongings is causing John to fall ill frequently.
The parent is anxious about John’s frequent bouts of illness and convinced that a wardrobe and chest of drawers will be a great help in resolving the health risk caused by the dust.
The Singapore Association of the Order of Malta donated a wardrobe and a chest of drawers to address the health risks posed to John and promote a sense of well-being for the family.
As COVID–19 upends global markets, Singapore is experiencing its worst economic contraction since 2008, leaving the urban poor hit hardest. When lower-income people lose their jobs or get a pay cut, it hurts much more because they have little savings, if any, to fall back on. In essence, the pandemic has resulted in a significant increase in the number of people in need.
The Singapore Association of the Order of Malta may not be able to reach out to every person in need but it is committed to serving the needy and sick to the best of its ability.
Order of Malta, Singapore
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”