“I can’t believe that people have not forgotten about us. This year’s Valentine’s Day is definitely a very special one to us,” said Lynette Thng Wei Ling, the Nurse Manager of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, with tears in her eyes. When most people were having a candlelight dinner with their loved ones, nurses had to celebrate the special day with their patients and colleagues.
On 7 February 2020, when Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to orange, the circulation of many unverified information had resulted in panic and unrest. Some residents rushed to the supermarket to stock up their groceries, some healthcare workers had to endure discrimination in public, some workers and students from China were even forced to move out from their residences as a consequence of pressure from their landlords or housemates.
Coincidentally, Valentine’s Day arrived a week later. Tzu Chi volunteers prepared care packages, fruit baskets, large greeting cards and origami hearts to show appreciation to those fighting COVID-19 in the frontline, including healthcare workers, educators, and volunteers. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Tzu Chi’s initiative was supported by Dell Global B.V., which mobilized 10 employees to fold over 200 origami hearts, while an ITE lecturer had led 22 students to contribute more than 100 origami hearts.
In the afternoon of 14 February 2020, Tzu Chi Singapore CEO and volunteer representatives split into three groups to visit Tzu Chi personnel working at Tzu Chi’s Medicine and Education establishments around Singapore. They also extended their love and care to three partner hospitals, namely Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH).
These three hospitals are each bonded with Tzu Chi in their unique ways. TTSH and Tzu Chi have been cooperating for many years, especially in providing aid and support to HIV patients and kidney dialysis patients. Whereas for KTPH, the hospital had co-organised the “HPH (Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services) & Environment Symposium” with Taiwan’s Tzu Chi Foundation in March 2015, to promote healthy lifestyle and environment protection. Last but not least, the Lakeside Family Medicine Clinic, which is run by Tzu Chi, has periodically refer cases to NTFGH. All three hospitals have quite a number of Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) volunteers too.
The Most Special Valentine’s for Healthcare Workers
A representative was assigned by the hospital to receive the token of appreciation from Tzu Chi CEO and volunteer representative. The CEO of Jurong Health Services Mr. Foo Hee Jug, who also helms the NTFGH, said, “Our healthcare workers work tirelessly to ensure that COVID-19 outbreak is under control, and we really appreciate what Tzu Chi has done for us.”
Associate Professor Chin Jing Jih, the Chairman of the Medical Board of TTSH expressed that at times of crisis, healthcare workers need to feel respected and cared for, just like all of us. He added, “Fortunately, many organisations have come forward to help in this situation, this makes us feel more confident in overcoming this difficult time.”
After listening to the sad stories from healthcare workers, the CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore), Mr. Low Swee Seh said sorrowfully, “If I could hug them, I would.” He reckons that we should empathize with these healthcare workers at this trying period.
“Spread love, not hate. Then we can prevent the number of infections from increasing,” Low further said.
There is a special implication for sending this token of appreciation to the medical personnel on Valentine’s Day, and that is to turn limited love into infinite love for all beings. For that purpose, Tzu Chi has also launched a “Spread Great Love” activity to encourage local residents to share their well wishes and messages to the medical personnel on an online message wall in the form of texts, images or videos.
An Activity Graced by a Member of Parliament
Coincidentally, Dr. Lee Bee Wah, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC), was visiting the Buddhist Tzu Chi Traditional Chinese Medicine Free Clinic (Khatib) on the same day to express her gratitude to the healthcare workers at the free clinic. Dr. Lee said, “I am here today on Valentine’s Day to thank everyone and Tzu Chi for the sacrifices they have made to help others.”
Dr. Lee put her palms together followed by a deep bow to show her deepest respect. She later handed out a box of chocolate for each healthcare worker on duty that day. She exclaimed, “Tzu Chi has a lot of exemplary practices. The residents in this area have given feedback that the volunteers here are very kind. I have always felt that the residents of Nee Soon South are very blessed.”
After the DORSCON alert level was raised, Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) has also increased its outbreak relief measure by setting up a COVID-19 Epidemic Relief Committee. They hope to gather efforts from everyone to combat the outbreak, and further strengthen the mental support for the society.
Apart from adhering to the measures announced by the Government at all Tzu Chi establishments, three sub-projects are also rolled out in the epidemic relief project as follows:
- Tzu Chi Epidemic Relief Programme – for staff and volunteers working at Tzu Chi Missions of Medicine and Education, as well as three partner hospitals.
- Temporary Settlement Program for Returning Workers – for Chinese national workers who are placed in a temporary quarantine facility.
- Epidemic Relief Programme for Tzu Chi Care Recipients – for over 700 families that are receiving Tzu Chi’s long-term aid.
Apart from the Tzu Chi Epidemic Relief Programme, Tzu Chi will also be launching the Temporary Settlement Program for Returning Workers on 17 February. This male dormitory can accommodate 400 Chinese workers who have been put under the Leave of Absence (LOA) for 14 day and are unable to return to their own residence due to various reasons. Tzu Chi will be working together with the management of the temporary quarantine facility to share positive and encouraging information with these workers through a public address system, and solve the needs and concerns of the quarantined workers the best they can.
Under the Epidemic Relief Programme for Tzu Chi Care Recipients, Tzu Chi will make calls to the aid recipients and carry out activities to calm and placate its 700 over aid recipients. Besides ensuring that the aid recipients are receiving reliable information regarding COVID-19 and that these aid recipients and their families are not severely affected mentally nor financially, Tzu Chi volunteers will also make sure that there is no major disruptions to groceries and pre-cooked meals supplied to these aid recipients.