The Singapore Indian Association, or IA as it is commonly referred to, kick-started its Project COVID Aid on June 2, 2020 by targeting families suffering from financial hardship.
“For them it's not a case of cutting back expenses. It is about survival,” President of IA, Vishnu Pillai told Connected to India. “We were of the belief that we must help those facing greater problems than the usual”, he added.
IA was against public solicitation of funds and decided to mainly lean on their members and their networks to fund the project. Their faith was vindicated when they achieved the requisite financial targets to successfully complete the project solely through their sources and their networks.
The Whampoa Community Club’s case workers provided IA with a list of needy families in Jalan Besar GRC, the constituency IA is located in, through their network of case workers. The initial target was to help 100 households with an essentials care-pack each.
“Certainly nearly everybody has been affected by the pandemic. Many of us have suffered pay cuts, loss of income and such. But we recognized that it would be even harder for those who were already struggling to make ends meet,” says Vishnu.
In addition, IA also allocated care packs to Sree Narayana Mission as well as individuals who contacted them directly.
They made sure to incorporate families of all races and religions as this was meant to be a national initiative and not an ethnic one.
Packing and Distribution
The packing and delivery of the care packs too was done by the Management Committee (MC), members and volunteers of IA, while ensuring compliance with the COVID-19 safety measures.
The preparation work on the care packs, which contained both food items and toiletries, started on July 3, when IA received the bulk of the items. The packing of the boxes started on July 4 with adequate planning and supervision to ensure the safety of all involved.
Despite the fatigue caused by the blazing sun, on what happened to be an exceptionally hot day, the team which included ladies and seniors played their part.
The joy of giving
The distribution was scheduled over 2 tranches, with the first on July 5 and the second on July 11 both carried out successfully, and the volunteers were as elated as the recipients.
The genuine appreciation of the recipients and their bright smiles provided a boost to the team leaving them exhausted physically but in high spirits at the end of the exercise.
The first tranche focused solely on households within Jalan Besar GRC, with the bulk of the care packs allocated to the list provided by Whampoa CC’s case workers.
The COVID chapter
This is a proud chapter in the history of IA and the current MC who had committed at the start of their tenure that community engagement would be one of their target areas, says IA whose activities have all been put on hold since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We still have not reopened as we want clearer directives so we don't fall short of compliance, and more so, to ensure the safety of our members and patrons,” says Vishnu.
It has been a tough time for IA with tough decisions needing to be taken he adds, “The rental waivers imposed by the government has also hit us hard, as we had to waive almost double what SLA waived for us, but it's hard to formulate a national policy where nobody falls through the cracks, so we'll have to find a way to cope”.
The Takeaways from COVID
Besides the Aid Project IA has made good use of the slowdown in other ways. “We have taken the opportunity to do some housekeeping and non-capital intensive upgrades on aesthetics, getting systems put in place, and planning for the near future. Basically hoping for the best but prepared for the worst”, says Vishnu.
The takeaway from this has also been to not take anything for granted. “IA has always been there, both for me as well as our members. Maybe we took that for granted but we surely miss it now”, says Vishnu.
Coming soon after its involvement in SINDA’s Project Give 2019 and the Community Chest Fu Dai 2020; IA looks forward to completing Project COVID Aid and organising many more such activities where they can give back to society.
“On a broader perspective, it was very illuminating to see how people from all walks of life came together to help one another, and we certainly saw a growth in civic-mindedness and public spirit,” concludes Vishnu.