30 April 2020: Yale-NUS students, staff and faculty reach out to serve communities amid trying times

By Ethel Pang

Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology) Keng Shian-Ling. Image by Yale-NUS College.

Amid the challenging and anxiety-inducing COVID-19 situation, several members of the Yale-NUS community have come forward to support different groups within society.

Early this month, Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology) Keng Shian-Ling set up a pro-bono counselling service for frontline healthcare workers in Singapore, titled ‘We Stand With You’. Asst Prof Keng is coordinating the service alongside two of her former students from NUS They presently have 38 psychologists and counsellors volunteering their services on the platform, most of whom volunteered after just one weekend of Asst Prof Keng getting the word out through personal networks and social media advertising.

Asst Prof Keng said, “Health workers are a population particularly vulnerable to psychological stress and burnout due to heightened workload, high risk of infection, and possibly also isolation from family members. I want them to know that as they are working hard to save lives on the frontline, we are ready to do our part to support them as mental health professionals.”

Healthcare staff can register for the free service using this link.

Senior Manager of Athletics & Recreation Andy Loe. Image provided by Andy Loe. 

Meanwhile, Yale-NUS Senior Manager of Athletics & Recreation Andy Loe has been working to show appreciation for a different but no less important group of people. On 9 April, he made a Facebook post urging Singaporeans to do their part in supporting migrant workers by sharing small acts of kindness during this challenging time.

Mr Loe said, “These unsung heroes are so close yet so far from us. Something that really struck me was the image of people, those who could afford the time and money, rushing to the supermarket while the cleaners were busy clearing the trash at the rubbish chute. I felt it was necessary to do something for [our migrant worker friends], and to use this as a teachable moment for the younger generation.”

Therefore, Mr Loe decided to purchase surgical masks and food for ‘M’, a long-time cleaner of his estate, and urged others to do the same. His Facebook post was very well-received, and he shared that his WhatsApp groups were soon flooded with messages from relatives and friends supporting his action.

“Gratitude and kindness are the greatest source of self-confidence and strength we can give to others,” said Mr Loe. The COVID-19 situation has taught me to respect the past, cherish today, and prepare for the future. We should take a moment to reflect on how we can collectively give to others and prepare for the future during this trying time.”

Ethel Pang, Class of 2022. (Left) Image provided by Ashbel Chioh for Yale-NUS College.

On a similar note of working to mobilise community support for migrant workers, Yale-NUS student Ethel Pang (Class of 2022) is part of a ground-up movement called Welcome In My Backyard (WIMBY).

Last month, the Singapore government announced the decision to rehouse migrant workers working in essential services in empty residential blocks in Redhill Close and Taman Jurong. This sparked off WIMBY, a community effort to foster welcoming attitudes towards migrant workers among local Singaporeans, and counteract prejudices and ‘nimby-ism’ (not-in-my-backyard sentiments) that may sprout in these stressful times.

WIMBY’s website and social media pages encourage netizens to share notes of welcome and appreciation for migrant workers in the ‘Welcome Notes’ initiative. A group of volunteers are working to translate these notes into Bengali, Tamil, and Mandarin so that they are understood by the migrant worker community.

When Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong shared about the initiative in one of the community WhatsApp groups, Ethel, who had volunteered with NMP Ong before and who lives in the vicinity of the Redhill Close blocks, readily volunteered to be the campaign’s ‘Ambassador’.

Ethel said, “I have been immensely inspired by the many community initiatives run by fellow Singaporeans who are working tirelessly to serve those who are most vulnerable and in need. It is a challenging time for all of us, but that is why mutual solidarity and support is more important now than ever before.”

Adriel Yong, Class of 2023. Image provided by Adriel Yong. 

Another student who is contributing in this time of need is Adriel Yong (Class of 2023), who put together a public directory listing summer internship and work opportunities for students in Singapore who are affected by COVID-19 cancellations.

Adriel shared, “I was speaking to an upper-year student who shared that the recruiting season for internships and employment opportunities was particularly tough in these COVID-19 times. As I asked around more, I realised the situation seemed quite dire, with job offers rescinded and internships put on hold.”

I had secured an internship in February so it did give me capacity and spurred me to help others to secure opportunities in such a stressful and pessimistic environment.

Therefore, he decided to create a public spreadsheet collating available opportunities, reaching out to employers like Carousell, Dell, Grab, the National Youth Council, and GovTech, all of whom have posted vacancies on the directory. Adriel’s schoolmates and friends Isabelle Tan (Class of 2023) and Harindrar Jay (Class of 2023) are among those who secured job opportunities thanks to this directory.

Adriel added, “I had secured an internship in February, so it did give me capacity and spurred me to help others to secure opportunities in such a stressful and pessimistic environment.”

Image taken from Spotify.

On a more lighthearted note,  Alistair Ryan’s (Class of 2020) ‘COVID-19 Quarantine Party’ playlist on Spotify, which includes tracks like Don’t Stand So Close to Me by The Police, and Cover Your Mouth by The Bird And The Bee, is a well-curated, topical playlist which may provide a welcome reprieve during this two-month-long circuit breaker.