1. You have started multiple ground-up initiatives during the outbreak of the COVID-19, what were some of the tougher challenges you have faced while executing these initiatives?
Initially, we thought that getting volunteers would be challenging but the result really surprised us. Friends and relatives of staff came on board to make it happen. Hence the challenge was the availability of sanitisers. But we managed to secure 100 litres in 2 days, thanks to resourceful contacts of friends.
Before Singapore went into DORSCON Orange, masks and hand sanitisers were out of stock everywhere. The day Singapore entered into Orange Code, we knew for sure that the remaining storage of masks and hand sanitisers would be taken advantage of by profiteers out there trying to create their own black market.
Hence, I had to rally friends from abroad to help me source for masks while I was still hospitalised. In less than 4 hours, my friends from Cambodia secured a group of suppliers for masks but they needed me to confirm the orders. I needed to check the quality of the masks. So I asked for time off (9 hours to be precise) from my doctor for me to sneak out a day flight to secure the first batch of masks. In less than 9 hours since, I flew to Phnom Penh, tested and secured 10,000 masks.
The initial goal was to reach out 5000 seniors but in less than 3 days the stock was limited and more requests for seniors community groups started to flood in. So I flew back to Phnom Penh and this time the prices of masks went up from USD6 per box to USD12 per box. As I had a baggage limit, I could only secure 25,000 masks. So I had to make a third trip, this time with this staff so that I could secure another 80,000 masks.
This allowed us to extend our reach to seniors, cleaners, security officers and bus drivers.
2. What would you say is your proudest moment/project out of all your ground-up initiatives and why?
The ability to rally my staff members to believe in a collective mission and getting them to even rally their own network of friends. In fact another 2 of my staff members from China secured another 100,000 masks from their contact in China. So we had more than 200,000 masks.
It was good to see staff members suggesting the locations that we could possibly reach out to, they even forked out their own salary to pay for some of these supplies. They wanted to reach out to their own neighbourhood with their own resources and they really put in a lot of effort.
I am happy that more than 100,000 individuals have benefited from our COVID-19 initiatives.
I am also encouraged to see corporate partners coming together to make it happen, volunteering their expertise and spaces.
3. From giving out care packs to helping displaced Malaysians, each of your projects are very different from the next. What were some of your inspirations for starting up these projects?
It started out with a different need when I was discussing with Martin. It was originally to reach out to returning overseas students who were studying in Singapore.These students were unfortunately chased out by their landlord because they had to serve the stay-home notice (SHN).
Upon the approval of the Grant, there was another need that needed to be addressed – the Malaysians who were stranded and were frequent commuters between Johor Bahru and Singapore. The Movement Control Order (MCO) lockdown by Malaysia really caught many by surprise.
So, my team met up and re-channelled our resources. We looked at our resources to see how we could help them. We worked so efficiently that we came out with a rescue concept to address those who were homeless and stranded that very day.
Our “do first, talk later” mindset was the attitude we adopted throughout every campaign. We had no time to seek approval, grants or requests. Do first and decide how to fund or run it later. We had 1,000 sleeping bags, 1,000 pillows, 1,000 sets of the WeCareKit and 1,000 sets of toiletries; left behind because all school camps were cancelled and stuck in our store. So we decide to just give. They needed it more than us.
4. Has there been anyone that has been instrumental in your projects? Why?
My partners and bosses in my day job, Formwerkz. They allowed me to do community outreach while I was still on their payroll. They even contributed in terms of manpower and money to make things happen. Their exact words were, "Go do what is good… don't worry about the company… we will pull through, if you need anything don't be shy to ask."
5. Is there anything you wish you could change about Singapore? Why?
A handful of Singaporeans are not taking Covid19 measures seriously. In order for us to battle this, Singaporeans must behave as if they are carriers of Covid-19 so that they are more aware of how they would react and respond to the people around them by exercising social and personal responsibility. We are fighting a different kind of war. It is time to put our total defence values into practice.
6. What is something you would say to someone who is struggling right now?
Be hopeful. Nobody is alone. We are all suffering in different ways because of COVID-19.
7. What does thriving mean to you?
Being an “Upstander” — Proactively searching for a need and then filling the need by rallying people together to believe in the filling.
No virus is stronger than the nation's unity so we need to be stronger, more united and more resilient.