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Youth Corps Singapore volunteer steps up just so a family can survive

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Without Sylvia Wong’s help, 61-year-old Auntie Jenny and her daughter with special needs’ won’t have the basic necessities needed to survive the COVID-19 situation.

On Saturday (Apr 4) morning, Sylvia Wong joined the throngs of people queuing at the wet market near her place in Choa Chu Kang to get enough meat and vegetables to last a family of three for a week. 

It might have been easy to think that she was panic buying, especially since the government announced stricter measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 just a day earlier. No one would have batted an eyelid, too, considering the queues at the different stalls in the wet market. 

But instead of heading home after getting the groceries, the 24-year-old project executive headed to Hillview - a 10-minute drive away - where she dropped off the bags of groceries and breakfast for an elderly she knows as auntie Jenny. 

The 61-year-old senior is unable to head out for grocery shopping because her daughter, who has special needs, cannot be left alone at home. Her husband, a Singapore permanent resident, is stuck in Kuala Lumpur because of the Malaysia lockdown. 

"When the virus outbreak first started, I was still able to head out to buy stuff with my daughter from the nearby supermarket," Jenny, who did not want her full name to be disclosed, told Youth.SG. "But now, it isn't safe because my daughter isn't following instructions to not touch her face while outside. I felt very trapped and helpless… not having to worry that I have nothing to cook for my daughter is a relief. Sylvia is a tremendous help." 

Sylvia-with-vegetables
Sylvia bought vegetables, fish and chicken from the wet market for Jenny. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/NIGEL CHIN

Sylvia, who volunteers with the Youth Corps Singapore (YCS), first got to know about Jenny's plight last month. 

A friend of Jenny, who is involved with the Big Brother Big Sister programme under YCS, alerted the organisation about Jenny's plight. YCS put out a call for help to its volunteers and Sylvia stepped up. 

"When I read that she couldn't get groceries for her family, I wanted to help her out as much as I could because food is a basic necessity and I understood her need to remain at home during this point of time," said Sylvia, who spent about two hours on Saturday getting the groceries. 

"I think the time spent is a small sacrifice when compared to helping her get the basic necessities she needs to survive - especially in the current COVID-19 situation, where being out and about doesn't come as easily for her." 

sylvia-wong-dropping groceries
Sylvia dropping off the bags of groceries right outside the lobby for Jenny to collect. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/NIGEL CHIN

Saturday was the third time Sylvia has helped to get groceries for Jenny, who would send her the groceries list via WhatsApp. It was also the first time they tried contactless delivery - in light of the recent measures announced. When Sylvia was done purchasing the items, she sent a message about her location and the amount spent, before heading over.

When she arrived at the lobby, she placed the bags of groceries right outside the gate to the lobby. Jenny then came down, collected the items, and placed an envelope containing cash for Sylvia to take after she went up. 

auntie-jenny
Auntie Jenny placed a white envelope filled with cash on the gate so Sylvia can collect it after. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/NIGEL CHIN

"My girl, my husband and I know we are very, very blessed," said Jenny, who described Sylvia as a genuinely sweet and helpful person. "Her mother has done a superb job [raising her]. To imagine youths of her age willingly helping people that they don't really know and at such troubling times, I am beyond words. 

"I am surrounded by many youths that often complain, and more those that demand rather than give. Sylvia has shown me that not all youths are like this." 

Jenny added that one can't imagine the amount of relief Sylvia has given to her in such a time. However, she also expressed her concern for Sylvia as she has to put herself at risk in the crowded market. 

Sylvia-queuing
Jenny is worried about Sylvia putting herself at risk just to help out. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/NIGEL CHIN

Sylvia does have the option of going to a supermarket to get the items and she did so the first time. But the items were either bruised and not fresh, or out of stock, prompting Sylvia to head to the wet market instead - a perfect example that shows Sylvia is helping Jenny out of the goodness of her heart, instead of doing it just for the sake of it. 

"I enjoy my time spent helping people," shared Sylvia, who is part of the Special Needs Cluster with YCS. 

"Sometimes the connections we make during our volunteering events will also give us a wider perspective into things and possibly gives us lessons to learn as well."

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/NIGEL CHIN

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