“I really miss the smiles and greetings from the volunteers, and also the drinks, fruits and biscuits you all provided,” said Zhu Jun Jie, who had completed his National Service in May and voluntarily requested for another three-month extension.
Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) had worked with dormitory operators and government agencies since 15 May 2020 to provide tea service for frontline healthcare workers, for two hours daily at CCF @ Tuas.
Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) Deputy CEO, Brother Khoo Kean Yee said that the foundation had been actively looking for new volunteering opportunities since the CCF @ Tuas project ended. Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, which managed the CCF @ Big Box, was impressed by Tzu Chi’s service at the CCF @ Tuas and hoped to partner with Tzu Chi again to provide the same service to the frontline healthcare workers.
“This is a rare opportunity to cooperate with a medical institution. It allows us to better understand how frontline healthcare workers carry out their life-saving work when disaster strikes, and how second-line volunteers like us can support them better”, said Brother Khoo.
At the peak of the pandemic in May, Zhu was stationed at EXPO, which was converted into a community isolation facility. He was responsible for registering patients, taking blood samples, measuring body temperature, taking X-ray, conducting swab tests, among other duties. When he was transferred to CCF @ Big Box, he noticed that Tzu Chi volunteers were always joyful while serving tea and fruit to healthcare workers, and that puzzled him. However, after he became acquainted with some of the volunteers and hearing their sharing, he became inspired to join them in voluntary work.
Warming hearts through Serving Others
Brother Khoo (in photo below) said that the security at the CCF @ Big Box was stringent as security personnel were everywhere. The tea services were only available in the staff lounges for healthcare workers on the first and third level. After setting up the pantry, the volunteers have been working diligently while adhering to the preventive measures since 8 July. They also reviewed the work processes from time to time to facilitate the volunteers who were reporting for duty daily.
The kindness and friendliness of Tzu Chi volunteers had not only brought joy to the management staff and healthcare workers, their gestures had also touched the security personnel. The volunteers would greet everyone and serve tea and bananas to them. At every opportune time, they would share about Tzu Chi and Jing Si Aphorisms, creating a positive energy in the secluded and isolated facility.
A few weeks later, the volunteers found that several staff lounges did not have a beverage corner. After agreeing on the distribution of resources, four more beverage corners were set up. Despite the additional preparatory work, the volunteers remained joyful. They also constantly reminded one another when supplies ran low, thus ensuring that every beverage corner was always replenished.
As the management staff and security personnel grew more familiar with the volunteers, who are often dressed in blue shirts and white pants, they were also influenced by their words and actions. Goodness had manifested in the CCF as the initial cold shoulders and simple thanks became exchanging warm greetings and expressing gratefulness.
Going the Extra Mile to Prepare Home-made Herbal Tea
One of the volunteers, Sister Lee Kok Heong (on the right in the photo below), who came in every Monday, would make a variety of home-made beverages using rosella flower, chrysanthemum, barley and others. This was her way to make everyone look forward to Mondays.
Due to stomach sensitivity, Sister Lee is very particular about hygiene. She prepared the beverages by herself and ensured that all cooking equipment and holding buckets were thoroughly washed. Sister Lee even consulted a Traditional Chinese Medicine physician on the right way of preparation to benefit those who drink the herbal tea. Sister Lee also added suitable amount of herbal flavourings such as liquorice and plum, so that the taste would still linger in the mouth after drinking. On hot days, she would also add some ice to the drink to make it more refreshing and cooling.
"Due to the limited time at the CCF, the beverages have to be home-made. I need to boil for more than three hours each time before brewing overnight on low heat. This will allow the sweetness and fragrance to permeate. On the following day, I need to strain out the dregs and keep the beverage in an insulated container so that the healthcare workers could still drink it warm," shared Sister Lee who also said that all the cleaning work would be done properly to avoid any healthcare workers falling sick, which would affect their duties.
Brother Khoo Kean Yee, who was on duty every Wednesday, is unlike his spouse, Sister Lee. Brother Khoo, who runs a wholesale business selling Chinese herbs, only knows how to use ready-made ginseng tea. He said jokingly, “All I need is a few packets of ginseng tea, put them into a teapot, pour in some hot water, and we will have hot ginseng tea after a while. Isn’t it simple and convenient?"
"Ginseng tea has a mild sweetness and cooling effect; it helps people stay awake. It also has anti-aging properties and enhances the bodies’ resistance," said Brother Khoo. He would share about the goodness of ginseng tea to people he meets, including the Malays and Indians. Even though they did not have the habit of drinking ginseng tea, Brother Khoo believes in sharing good things to others as he feels that we should do what is right.
Lee Wei Ling who works as a nurse (left in the picture below) said, "The ginseng tea is really nice! My mother is worried that cold drinks are not good for health and wanted to make ginseng tea for me. I told her that Tzu Chi is already providing ginseng tea."
However, Wei Ling was puzzled by the provision of ginseng tea to the frontline workers as ginseng is expensive.
Brother Khoo’s reply to Wei Ling’s question was, "As long as everyone is happy, we will continue to provide it."
On 27 July, the healthcare workers of Ng Teng Fong General Hospital held a gathering in the staff lounge to mark the completion of their duties at the CCF and they would soon be returning to the hospital. More than 30 healthcare workers from various departments gathered for a sharing session to share about their thoughts for the past one month. Everyone did not know one another but became acquainted while battling the pandemic. In order to thank the volunteers for their care and tea service, everyone cheered aloud, "Gan En (Thank you) Tzu Chi".
With the pandemic gradually subsiding, the healthcare workers of Alexandra Hospital have been withdrawn from the CCFs at the end of August, leaving only the healthcare workers from HMI Group to care for the patients. Meanwhile, Tzu Chi’s tea service had also came to an end on 7 September. During this period, the volunteers had served tirelessly and joyfully with a grateful heart in caring for the well-being of frontline healthcare workers.