There are currently at least 9,000 Sri Lankans living in Singapore, more than 1,000 of whom are students. At a time when the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting the world, a local charity has offered to help provide living supplies to Sri Lankan students staying in Singapore to get through the pandemic.
In mid-April, the Sri Lanka High Commission in Singapore received requests from at least 500 students seeking assistance for daily necessities. Most of these students are from middle income families and they are in Singapore for a six-month to one-year diploma programme. Some of them were unable to return home due to the circuit breaker measures, and some do not have a local bank account which makes it difficult for their families to provide timely assistance. Sri Lanka has been under nationwide lockdown since the 20th of March, most families have been hit by the economic downturn, and the international money transfer services of banks are also affected.
On 25th of April, Tzu Chi Singapore prepared 250 bags of living supplies for the students, each bag contains oil, rice, salt, sugar, spices, masks, dry food etc., up to a total of 15 essential items. These relief bags were packed by Tzu Chi volunteers and later handed over to the Sri Lanka High Commission of Singapore for distribution.
Tzu Chi Singapore has specially prepared a Sinhala version of “Jing Si Aphorism” booklet and a letter of encouragement written in the Sinhala language. “Through the letter, they are assured that although they are from Sri Lanka, and may not know any friends or relatives here, our society cares for them, as doing good knows no borders,” said Mr. Keng Lim, the General Manager of Tzu Chi Singapore in an interview.
Apart from Tzu Chi Singapore, Deon Karunarathne, who works in the private education sector in Singapore, has also helped provide dry food supplies to 436 students who are mostly from Sri Lanka, the same country where Deon comes from. Besides Sri Lankan students, Deon also assists students from India, Bhutan, Philippines and some other countries.
On behalf of the Sri Lankan students, Deon thanked Tzu Chi, "We, as the Sri Lankan community in Singapore, greatly appreciate your dry ration donations to help the Sri Lankan students, who are having a trouble time due to covid-19 pandemic. Wish you all the very best and courage to continue this humanitarian operations across the world."
After being hit by the South Asian Tsunami in late 2004, Tzu Chi raised NT$2.9 billion worldwide to help rebuild the disaster hit areas in Sri Lanka. Tzu Chi Singapore and a team of volunteers dispatched from Taiwan were one of the first few rescue teams to reached Sri Lanka. When the emergency phase was over, Tzu Chi built temporary tent areas and constructed 649 Great Love Houses for the disaster victims and set up bases in Hambantota and the capital Colombo to bring in local volunteers.
Today, Tzu Chi Singapore continues to visit Sri Lanka due to geographical proximity. The production of “Jing Si Aphorism” back then comes in handy today as a testament to the love of Singaporeans that knows no borders.