It has been over two weeks since the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. Since then, kind-hearted individuals in the community have offered their help by delivering free pre-dawn meals and sponsoring families with groceries and other necessities.
One such initiative is #SGUnited Buka Puasa, a ground-up community effort that aims to provide up to 20,000 free meals daily in Ramadan. These meals will be distributed to healthcare workers, their families and those in need.
Youth.SG spoke to two youth volunteers from the initiative to find out more about their experience helping the community during the fasting month.
Realising the importance of helping others
For 28-year-old Khairil Bahri Kamal, the COVID-19 situation has affected his family unexpectedly. His parents, who have their own home-based businesses, suffered a massive impact on their orders.
Khairil, who was giving tuition part-time, also felt the pinch. Since tuition classes have been cancelled, Khairil has been working part-time as a Grab rider to make up for the loss.
Despite these challenges, Khairil felt moved to volunteer after thinking about how others around him are coping with the situation.
"I don't have children to feed or elderly family members to take care of. I can only imagine how others are struggling to survive in this time of crisis. I only experienced a bit of their difficulties," said the fourth year NIE student.
"I believe it is up to us, who are physically and mentally capable, to help others. If not us, who else will? People needed help now more than ever, especially lower-income families."
Khairil Bahri volunteered as an usher at the collection point in Eunos Community Club.
PHOTO CREDIT: KHAIRIL BAHRI
Khairil promptly signed up for volunteering opportunities with bukapuasa.sg after chancing upon them on social media. Since Apr 26, he has been trying to volunteer every two days while managing school and his part-time job.
He recalled a moving encounter during one of his volunteering shifts: "Seeing some of my own neighbours collecting the food makes me feel that I need to do more. Not knowing that my own neighbours living in the same block are struggling makes me feel that I am not doing enough.
"However, many of my neighbours recognise me and even thank me for my efforts, although my role is just to usher them to the collection point and to be the 'security' of the day."
Volunteers helping out at a collection point.
PHOTO CREDIT: M3 AT JURONG'S FACEBOOK PAGE
With less than two weeks to Hari Raya, Khairil hopes to continue volunteering for bukapuasa.sg and other non-government organisations (NGOs).
"Indeed, this Ramadan is different. I will try my best to fill as much time to help others and be more understanding towards people who are in difficult situations," he said.
Learning more about gratitude
Polytechnic student Qurratu'aini Abdul Rashid came forward to help as she empathised with families who may not be able to get meals to break their fast during Ramadan.
"I thought that volunteering was the least I could do to provide support to the families in need," said the 20-year-old experience and communication design student.
Qurratu'aini signed up as a volunteer with bukapuasa.sg after hearing about it through Mesra Youth, the volunteer organisation she is involved in.
As some beneficiaries may not have claimed their food, there were plenty of leftover meals after each shift. The sight of leftovers moved Qurratu'aini to think of a way to distribute them.
"My family always prepares enough food for our break fast, so bringing extra food home was not a good option as no one will eat it.
"I decided to give the meals to the neighbourhood cleaner since I have spoken to him a few times, sometimes on the way to school or home. He was really thankful when I gave him the meals.
"He felt paiseh to take the meals, but he eventually took it after I talked to him. I hope that I will be able to talk to him more often and treat him to a cold drink after this circuit breaker ends!" shared Qurratu'aini, who managed to volunteer for three days.
Qurratu'aini helped out at the collection point in Bukit Panjang Community Centre.
PHOTO CREDIT: QURRATU'AINI ABDUL RASHID
For Qurratu'aini, being able to volunteer during Ramadan has given her a new sense of appreciation.
"Volunteering during these trying times really makes you more grateful for the things you have. I have a stable internet connection, which means I can do home-based learning with ease. I never have to worry about not having food for breakfast.
"The COVID-19 situation is terrifying, but it has made us aware of many issues in Singapore. We have had so many incentives to ensure everyone is receiving the help they need. I hope that these acts of kindness do not stop after this pandemic is over so that we can progress to become a better society."
Despite her busy school schedule, Qurratu'aini hopes that she will still be able to volunteer whenever she can.
"I also plan to donate more to the organisations and initiatives that are helping those who are in need," added Qurratu'aini.
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: QURRATU'AINI ABDUL RASHID, ROSES OF PEACE'S FACEBOOK PAGE