22 May 2020: Yale-NUS students support each other during time of COVID-19

By Lim Wei Da

While the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted communities around the world greatly, members of the Yale-NUS community have geared up to support one another amid this challenging time. From academic accommodations and health measures by the administration and e-learning classes by the faculty, to assistance and funding support by the alumni, completing this chain of care at Yale-NUS is the peer support and ground-up initiatives by the students.

Celeste Beh (Class of 2020), Vice-President of the 6th Yale-NUS Student Government, worked with the College’s Alumni Council to create an urgent cash fund to assist financially vulnerable students who were affected by the health crisis. A system was created so that students facing urgent need could anonymously receive help from the community. Celeste said, “We understand that some students may not be comfortable reaching out for help, which is why we made the urgent cash fund anonymous.”

Celeste, who is in her final year, shared that although this crisis happened during the hectic capstone submission period, she is happy to give back to the Yale-NUS community.

“What keeps me happy doing what I am doing, no matter how trying the day, is the knowledge that people are dedicated to this community. This year, especially, I think it’s like a parting gift, from the bottom of my heart, for a place that has facilitated my growth in so many ways, and has helped me to find people that I really care about”.

Members of the 6th Student Government preparing cardboard boxes to help students with summer storage. Images provided by Petrina Loh.

Celeste was also involved with other Student Government’s initiatives to assist students. For example, after Singapore announced the closure of schools, many students had to move out of campus in a short time frame. The Student Government  held a cardboard box sale within the same day and worked with external partners to help students store their belongings for the summer vacation.

Another student who wanted to help was Madhumitha Ayyappan (Class of 2023) who worked with the Student Government and the Wellness Committee to provide care packages to the community.

“We wanted the care package to cheer up students during this trying time and protect their health. As such, we provided hand sanitisers, healthy snacks, colouring cards from World Mental Health Day, and a comic strip designed by Huang Huanyan (Class of 2023) outlining what individuals can do to support themselves and the community”, said Madhumitha.

Wellness poster designed by Huang Huanyan which was included in the care package. Image provided by Huang Huanyan.

Besides care packages, Madhumitha, together with fellow student Ivy Liao (Class of 2023), co-organised a talk on dealing with COVID-19 anxieties by a counsellor from the College’s Counselling Centre and a scientist from Duke-NUS Medical School. In addition, they work with the Dean of Students office to conduct mindfulness sessions over Zoom for students.

Attendees of the virtual Zumba class. Image provided by Ashley Chan.

Despite having to move out of campus and having campus life activities disrupted, Ashley Chan (Class of 2022) wanted to ensure that Zumba classes for the community continued.

“When the ‘Circuit Breaker’ was announced, Shanice Stanislaus (Class of 2017), our instructor, offered to continue holding virtual Zumba classes over Zoom. We really loved this idea and worked with her to make it happen. Zumba has always been a great opportunity for members of our community to take a break from their busy lives and bond through a fun and stress-fee workout. We thought that continuing it through an online format (or Zoom-ba!) would be very meaningful at a time when people are under a lot of stress, and would probably appreciate some normalcy and familiarity despite social distancing measures!”

“It has been really heartening to see how the classes still feel so warm and intimate over Zoom. It helps me feel closer to the Yale-NUS community, even as we’re all working out in different places,” added Ashley.