“We feel that time is very precious to the medical front liners. We saw how difficult it is for them during this COVID-19 pandemic, so we decided to send these (vegetarian bento boxes) to them, at the same time, we could promote vegetarianism to them,” said Tzu Chi transport and logistics team volunteer, Tan Tee Tee somberly.
A meal delivery programme called “Vegetarian Meals for Medical Front Liners” was launched by Tzu Chi Singapore’s logistics team volunteers to deliver vegetarian meals to medical front liners and medical departments twice a week for six consecutive weeks beginning 13 May 2020. This was a gesture to show gratitude to them for safeguarding the nation and rescuing human lives.
Tzu Chi had cancelled many activities during the Circuit Breaker period. But volunteers in the transport and logistics team felt that they should contribute something, and that led to the idea of delivering vegetarian bento lunch to medical front liners. Tan Tee Tee said that medical front liners have only one hour of lunch break, therefore, by delivering free bento boxes for them, they would have more time to rest.
Overwhelming Response in Supporting Vegetarian Meals for the Medical Front Liners
As the saying goes, “Action speaks louder than words.” A communication platform was immediately set up to spread the news of this programme which aimed to deliver a total of around 6000 lunch bento boxes over a span of 6 weeks. Due to the overwhelming response from other volunteers, friends and families, the team managed to collect enough funds to cover the costs for the lunch bento boxes in just two days.
However, the transport and logistics team lacked contacts of medical personnel, therefore, they sought the support from the coordinator of Tzu Chi Singapore Overseas Free Clinic, Tan Siew Chin. Tan managed to contact Chew Lai Hoe, a nurse at Singapore General Hospital Emergency Department and a TIMA member, whom then contacted the person-in-charge of various medical institutions. During the pandemic, Chew is busy with work and had to handle night shifts, yet she was willing to help out. She said, “I am responsible for coordinating the logistics like number of bento boxes, delivery time and place, contact person etc., then the transport and logistics volunteers would deliver the bento.”
Volunteer Tan Tee Tee, who owns a vegetarian restaurant, and his group members were responsible for coordinating the preparation of the lunch bento. They mobilized chefs to prepare the food, volunteers to pack and a fleet of drivers to send the bento boxes to hospitals and polyclinics.
Delivering veggie meals that nourish the body and soul of medical personnel
The volunteers carefully pasted English Chinese bilingual “Jing Si Aphorism” cards onto the bento boxes. Even though the cards had only a few lines of words, they hoped that the Jing Si Aphorisms could bring positivity to the medical personnel, to keep their physical and mental health in-check so they could continue to care for their patients. The cards also contained phrases like “Less meat, more love for the Earth”, “Vegetarian meals for health” and “Go meatless to show love for animals”. Tan Tee Tee confidently said, “Hope the cards could inspire people to do less killing and have love for animals by taking more vegetarian meals.”
On the days of meals delivery, Tan Tee Tee and his team would arrive early at the restaurant to prepare the food and pack them into boxes. In order to keep the bento boxes fresh yet make it in time for lunchtime at the hospitals, the transport and logistics volunteers were put under a roster to deliver the bento boxes. To prepare about 300 to 400 bento boxes in just 4 hours was a race against time, however, with everyone’s cooperation, they managed to complete their mission.
Uplifting the spirit of front liners by warming their hearts
The NCID (National Centre for Infectious Diseases), located next to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital, was one of the recipients of the lunch bento boxes. “We have to face with a lot of issues and challenges in this battle against COVID-19. There are a lot of medical workflow and management systems that need to be readjusted. These have no doubt caused a lot of stress and anxiety to front line medical personnel,” said Dr. Timothy, a resident doctor at the NCID.
Dr. Timothy also said, “I find Jing Si Aphorisms to be very motivating to us. It reminds us to focus on the present moment and inspires us to care more for those who need to be looked after. I would like to thank you all on behalf of everyone, because you have shown so much care and helped those who are in need.”
Timothy also expressed that his colleagues liked the vegetarian bento, and it was a great chance for non-vegetarians to try some delicious vegetarian food.
Regardless of the size of Tzu Chi activities, be it the overseas medical missions or international disaster relief, the transport and logistics team plays an indispensable role. Working outside the spotlight, these heroes always get their hands dirty by coordinating traffic, rerouting pipelines and electric cables, decorating activity venues, setting up tents etc.
“I am quite happy to be contributing while wearing my Tzu Chi uniform,” said a happy Lim Wah Chun. Despite wearing a face mask, her eyes were glowing with so much of happiness. She has always been active in Tzu Chi charity work; however, many activities have been cancelled due to Circuit Breaker. People aged 60 and above are considered high-risk, therefore they are barred from participating in most activities. Lim registered for the meal delivery programme as soon as she heard about the news. She was responsible for packing and delivering the bento lunch. When she received positive feedback from the medical front liners, she felt even happier for being able to contribute.
As the pandemic rages on, we must have love among us to fight the pandemic together for a better future. Dr. Timothy said, “During these difficult times, we need to help each other, so that we can stand a chance to win this war against the pandemic.”