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Care Recipients Experience a Touch of Warmth during a Trying Period

With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the community in recent times, some of Tzu Chi Singapore’s care recipients have been unwittingly affected as well, facing possible infections and quarantine orders. However, through distributing COVID-19 relief care packs and other forms of help, the organisation has managed to alleviate some of their worries during this difficult period.

Disclaimer: All activities depicted in this article were conducted in compliance with the COVID-19 rules and regulations at that given time.

Tzu Chi volunteers leaving several essential items outside a care recipient’s home. (Photo by Teh Siau Ching)

On 5th October 2021, Tzu Chi volunteer Ms Lim Hong Leng received a text message from her care recipient Mr Hashim’s mother enquiring about the availability of Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits. Curious to know the reason behind the sudden query, she decided to probe further. It was soon made known to Ms Lim that her care recipient’s family was faced with some unexpected challenges. Mr Hashim’s elder brother had been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 and this also resulted in the entire family being given a quarantine order. Hit with this sudden news, they were worried about the possibility of getting infected and wanted to get tested, but it was unsuitable for them to leave the house.

On hearing the family’s plight, Ms Lim decided to step forward to help them buy the essentials that they required. Other than the ART kits, care packs and other necessities such as fruits and vegetables were sent to the family almost immediately. Together with another volunteer, they later also bought more essential items for a second time to last the family through their quarantine period.

For Ms Lim, despite the potential dangers of being exposed to the virus, being able to lend a hand to the family that she has been caring for was something that came naturally to her.

“I was not really worried about the dangers because as long as we follow the preventive measures and maintain safe-distancing, we can give the family the items that they need,” she explained.

“When we knew of their situation, we wanted to help but were also unsure of how we could. So, we just tried to quickly provide help in any way that was possible to calm them down. It might be a small act to us but for the family, it could actually be of great help.”  

During this period of uncertainty, it was particularly worrying for the 19-year-old unvaccinated Mr Hashim. As he has a serious health condition, he was still unable to go ahead with vaccination until the doctor’s assessment at the end of the year. In order to better protect Mr Hashim, extra precautions were taken during the quarantine period for the family. For instance, his mother and main caregiver Mdm Kamariah would help him with daily self-testing and temperature taking while also ensuring that there was proper sanitisation at all times. Therefore, with this additional need of ensuring Mr Hashim’s safety, the help from Tzu Chi in terms of providing groceries and ART kits was especially crucial and timely.

“Tzu Chi has supported us a lot during this period. The volunteers would check on us daily and ask if we have enough ART kits or food,” shared a visibly grateful Mdm Kamariah. “When they delivered the groceries to us that time, we felt very appreciative and thankful. During this difficult time, it’s nice to know that there are people outside who care about us.”

 Tzu Chi volunteer Ms Lim Hong Leng (left) shopping for groceries for her care recipient and his family. (Screenshot by Pan Zaixiang)

 A volunteer sending a text message to the care recipient’s family to inform them that the items have been delivered to their doorstep. (Photo by Teh Siau Ching)

 Concerns Faced by Other Care Recipients

Other than Mr Hashim and his family, several other care recipients affected by COVID-19 have also received much needed aid from Tzu Chi during this uncertain period. According to Tzu Chi volunteer Ms Tan Moi Siu, her care recipient had received a Health Risk Warning (HRW) on 15 September 2021 and was very worried about not having ample ART kits at home to do the required testing. On hearing this, Ms Tan and her husband immediately scrambled around looking for the test kits. As there was a shortage of kits in Singapore at that time with demand increasing by several folds, the process was made even more challenging. Eventually, they gathered all the kits they could find, some of which were their own, and passed it to their care recipient. Naturally, the elderly man was immensely appreciative of the help rendered.

“He was very thankful that we were able to help ease his worries,” Ms Tan shared. “Subsequently, after Tzu Chi delivered the care pack to him, he was also very grateful for the care and concern shown.”

The cases mentioned thus far are just two of several other care recipients who have benefitted from the personal care shown by the organisation during this testing period. From care packs to groceries and ART kits delivery, the concerns of the affected care recipients and their families have all been taken care of in the best way possible.     

Care and Support

To determine the level of support as well as the type of care pack to provide to the affected care recipients, a “Care Report, Trace Support” work model was established on 25 September 2021. Based on this model, the affected care recipients would first be calmed down before determining the type of support to provide based on the instructions received from the Ministry of Health (MOH). There would also be contact tracing done to track other volunteers who might have visited the care recipient in recent times. 

In particular, the giving of care packs indicated how the organisation constantly had the well-being of its care recipients in its thoughts. Delving deeper into the contents of these care packs, it was clear that great thought went towards the choosing of essential items. According to Tzu Chi Charity Development Manager Goh Leay Ying, they would contain basic health items such as masks and ART kits, as well as other nutritious Jing Si products. The hope is that the care recipients would be able to feel the care and well-wishes from Tzu Chi through the conscientiously packed care packs.       

“Usually after receiving the message that they need to quarantine or are infected, many people would not dare to go near them. So, we hope that by providing support and care packs, they will not feel so isolated and are able to calm down,” Ms Goh explained. “We hope that they will also know that Tzu Chi will always be around to accompany them during their journey to recovery.”

While the task of gathering items and compiling them together into a care pack might seem like merely a menial one, the rise of several obstacles along the way made it rather challenging. Firstly, due to the rise in community cases and to ensure safety, volunteers were not activated to help with the packing process. Thus, manpower constraint was one hurdle that the staff had to overcome. Additionally, there was also the difficulty of estimating the needs of the care recipients and their families. Due to anxiety, some of them could have over-estimated their needs and thus it was important to ensure that there was proper judgement exercised over the allocation of limited resources.

Despite all these potential obstacles, the team at Tzu Chi eventually did manage to overcome them, pushed on by a single-minded focus to help the affected care recipients. As of 24 November 2021, the number of COVID-19 relief care packs sent out stands at an estimated 45. The total number of affected care recipients' households who have received some form of aid from Tzu Chi due to the latest spike in infections is approximately 51. Separately, a total of 666 COVID-19 protective care packs consisting of supplies such as masks and sanitisers have also been distributed to all households under Tzu Chi's care.

During this trying period where every Singaporean has been trying their best to simply stay afloat, the care recipients arguably have it tougher given their already challenging living circumstances. Thus, with the aid and support from Tzu Chi, the aim is to hopefully ease their worries during this pandemic period and provide renewed hope for the future.    

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