By Karen Bong
KUCHING, May 16: Amazing Sarawakian volunteers deserved recognition and rewards for their crucial role in helping and supporting the communities during this unprecedented public health crisis.
Federation of Chinese Associations of Kuching, Samarahan and Serian Division president Datuk Richard Wee thus suggested that the Sarawak government can come up with a comprehensive and structured programme to reward the efforts of volunteers for giving their time in a variety of ways to help communities in responding to Covid-19.
“The (state) government can emulate countries like Taiwan, Japan and South Korea which have well designed programmes to recognise people’s contributions, whereby volunteers who have achieved a number of volunteer hours can enjoy or benefit from various incentives or discounts such as for public transport or shopping.
“Perhaps the Kenyalang Gold Card, which is catered for senior citizens above 60 years old, can also be extended to volunteers as well,” he told DayakDaily when contacted today.
Wee emphasised that these everyday heroes from all walks of life have stepped to the fore and put their lives at risk to play supporting roles in battling against the Covid-19 and helping communities impacted by the Movement Control Order (MCO).
Meanwhile, the Federation, which has a sub-committee providing support for disaster management and had been active since MCO was imposed on March 18, had already begun winding down their operation on May 12.
“Initially, our efforts were focus on frontliners with assistance for personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical-related aid. Then it was followed by organised meals for frontliners who stayed long hours in battling against Covid-19.
“As there were more demand and needs, we started to get funds and donations including equipment, essential supplies, food and various goods. We try to fulfill the requests especially from hospitals and medical frontliners,” he shared.
The Federation, he added, even supplied two 20-foot containers converted into working spaces for hospital to operate in its premises compound.
As the MCO was extended, Wee disclosed that their operations grew bigger and so did the number of volunteers who were members of the Federation from 20 to 50.
“But we were grateful and appreciative of all those who have stepped up and collaborate with us to help our communities including food operators like restaurants, various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and many more,” he said.
For the past seven weeks, Wee revealed that they have supported community especially medical frontliners with 20,000 meals, 5,000 packages of food aid, 971 packages of daily essentials, apart from PPE.
“We cannot be perfect, we do whatever we can to fill in the gaps and we are very encouraged by all this.
“We are really grateful and heartened by volunteers who have come forward in this time of public health emergency which is totally different from disasters like fire and flood,” he added.
If there were any lessons to be learnt from this crisis, Wee said people should now be more mindful about health and safety issue especially food handling, hygiene, social distancing and other restrictions to be practiced in daily lives.
“I hope that something good can come out of this and there should be a heightened awareness that things can be unpredictable,” he said.
With this experience and as situation improved, he opined that the state government can look seriously into better preparing Sarawak to face such health crisis without depending on the federal government which had to take care of so many states in Malaysia.
“We can be better prepared, for example in the case of shortage of mask, price increases and all that. I think the state government should have a stockpile of these essentials.
“The state government has done their best but with all the lessons learnt from this, I think Sarawak can have its own readiness that will help in managing public fear,” he added. – DayakDaily