Let’s celebrate the everyday women who are making an extraordinary difference - behind the scenes, and on the frontlines of a global pandemic.
"Rachel (in maroon) with the Grab Platform Experience team prior to announcement of the circuit breaker measures."
Rachel Tay, Team Lead for Platform Experience, Grab Centre Operations
While many of us are practicing social distancing at home, trying out new recipes and scrolling through Netflix for something new to watch, others are keeping essential services like transport up and running smoothly during the pandemic.
Rachel Tay, who heads up the Platform Experience team at Grab, is part of this army.
“My job is to support our driver-partners at Grab with their operational needs. Those who need help with services like lost and found, returning or collecting of their Caltex cards, and other essential tasks can come down to our operations centre via appointment so that we can help them,” shares Rachel.
“It’s been a busy time for us at Grab, and there have been challenges. A lot of troubleshooting has to do with getting our driver-partners used to some new arrangements that have been put into place because of the circuit breaker. A lot of them aren’t that tech-savvy and we’ve moved a lot of services online, so we still get driver-partners who will come down to the operations centre for help.”
While it’s been an unprecedented time for Rachel, she adds that she wouldn’t get through the current crisis if not for her team.
“My team and I have been navigating this unfamiliar territory together, and trying to see what works best; in terms of our working arrangements and seeing how we can help one another out,” she explains.
“As much as it’s been a stressful time for us, it’s even scarier for our driver-partners because their livelihoods have been affected by the drop in demand for transport services. So that motivates my team to find new ways and opportunities to assist them through this period of uncertainty.”
Rachel is particularly heartened how well her teammates have coped with the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on their jobs.
“I definitely see a lot of my colleagues stepping up. We have a mix of those who are single as well as mums in our team. So I’ve seen them take the initiative to help each other out and it’s really made me treasure the team as a whole,” says Rachel.
“The main takeaway for me through this period has been to treasure the time that we have with our family and friends. It’s also important that we just stay at home, so we can flatten the Covid-19 curve and [life can] go back to normal as soon as possible.”
Cheryl Chong, Co-founder, The Social Co
While the pandemic has turned lives upside down, it has also brought out the best in humanity.
Corporations and individuals alike have stepped up their relief efforts to serve communities in need during this harrowing time.
One of those individuals is Cheryl Chong, our Great Women Of Our Time alumni and social impact change-maker, who relishes giving back to society in positive ways.
“Covid-19 has brought challenges to us in our daily lives and as a society,” she explains.
“Many vulnerable groups in our community are going through unprecedented tough times and could do with a boost from the rest of us. The Social Co just wanted to rally our networks and efforts to do what we can in supporting our community.”
Part of their efforts includes providing essential supplies to migrant workers who have been hard-hit by coronavirus infections.
Together with their partners, The Social Co was able to put together 1,600 care packs that included snacks, toiletries and protective face masks. These were distributed at migrant worker dormitories across the island.
“We are grateful to have been able to partner various government agencies, including those under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), particularly the National Youth Council (NYC) and SportSG, to direct our care packs to areas of need,” says Cheryl.
“I hope our efforts during this period will drive long-term changes and improvements in the living conditions of migrant workers.”
It’s easy to paint a gloomy picture of our new normal under the nation’s circuit breaker measures, but Cheryl wants to give special credit to those who are doing their bit to become part of the solution.
“Singaporeans have a lot of heart. Our campaigns to recruit volunteers, as well as our fundraising efforts, were met with a lot of positive support. We also see many ground-up initiatives [that are] supporting vulnerable groups,” she says.
While Cheryl is heartened by the displays of solidarity shown by the public, she encourages people to keep up their efforts.
“No contribution is too small. The youth, especially, can step up and take action by rallying or mobilising their friends within their spheres of influence to support groups that need a boost to get through these tough times,” she advises.
Sharon Wong, Founder & CEO, Motherswork
Among the first wave of people to feel the brunt of Covid-19 on her business was Sharon Wong of Motherswork.
The premium baby goods retailer has multiple stores located in China that were hit when several cities were slapped with lockdown orders due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“What is challenging about Covid-19 is a question I get asked every day since January 27, 2020 – the first day our stores in China were told to close indefinitely. It’s not that I’m unfazed by the situation in Singapore. The truth is, as an entrepreneur, the only constant is change,” she explains.
“With the ever-changing consumer buying habit, the responsibility of having a team and the unpredictability of the world around us, we’ve had to learn to navigate the roadmap quickly, adapt and change. When China went into lockdown in February, we had Singapore to carry us.
“Then, when Prime Minister Lee announced Singapore was going into its version of a lockdown, within minutes, my team was on the phone planning manpower distribution and how to continue to roll out our operations during the circuit breaker. There was no time to stop to think. There was only – action. So how are we doing? We will survive Covid-19. We must survive! There are a lot of mouths to feed.”
Despite the uncertainty and challenges her business is facing, the mum-of-three isn’t letting Covid-19 dampen her fighting spirit or her desire to pay it forward.
“When the pandemic started to take a toll on our healthcare workers, we felt the need to step up as a business. They are exhausted physically and mentally from looking after the infected. The least we can do is to ensure they eat,” she explains.
“And so together with Gourmet Food Holdings, Zouk Group and Grab, we delivered 2,500 meals to these unsung heroes. I baked 500 cookies, and my team was supposed to pack, but with circuit breaker measures in place, my kids ended up packing.”
Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, but Sharon is keeping her chin up.
Are You Feeling Stressed Out?
The pandemic is turning our lives upside down, and some people may be feeling stressed or anxious. Pick one of these quick tips and techniques to beat tension in two minutes flat:
- Interview Yourself: Complete this sentence: “The thing I worry about most is…” then review your answer. What evidence do you have that this bad thing will happen? Now write the same line, but complete it differently. Looking at the issue rationally prevents you turning everything into a catastrophe.
- Let It Out: Sit quietly and hum gently, then focus on feeling it resonate through your body. Or tune into cheerful music and sing along. A long, noisy sigh or deep groan also helps to release stress.
- Cool Down: This cooling breath helps counter stress-induced shallow breathing. Close your eyes and curl your tongue into a tube, with the tip protruding slightly. Breathe in and out, slowly and deeply, through the gap for two minutes.
DR JADE CHEE
Dr Jade Chee, Primary Care Consultant, Mayfair Medical
“Thank you and stay safe, Doctor,” – whenever one of her patients utters these words, Dr Jade Chee breaks into an appreciative smile.
“This little phrase is enough to give my job so much more life and purpose than you can imagine,” she shares.
“I’m grateful to be part of the essential services [team] that renders help in these trying times. In terms of my work schedule, nothing has changed; yet with Covid-19 and the ominous cloud that it brings, everything has changed.”
Like other medical workers, she has seen an influx of patients with mild respiratory symptoms who come to her for reassurance more than anything else.
“Because of the many uncertainties surrounding this outbreak, perhaps the most challenging part as a primary care physician is trying to reassure our patients about something we are still grappling to fully comprehend,” explains the doctor.
“With time, and hopefully, with breakthroughs on the research frontier, I hope we gain a deeper understanding of this disease and will be able to deliver much-needed reassurance with guided conviction.” With so much still relatively unknown about the virus, Dr Jade is also keen to separate fact from fiction.
“Every country is still finding its way in the darkness, every day we learn of new characteristics of this unseen enemy, every hour the headlines report more grim statistics while we scramble to bring the situation under control,” she says.
“Also, news nowadays comes in many forms, some further from the truth than others. There are resources out there to cater to those who have queries, such as platforms like DoctorxDentist, which dedicates live question-and-answer sessions with certified professionals in the field.”
Another phenomenon Dr Jade has noticed since the pandemic’s outset is the psychological toll it has taken on people.
“There’s been an increasing number of patients with insomnia and anxiety issues directly related to Covid-19. It is not uncommon, and there are psychology services still available during this period, so do seek help. It’s ok not to be ok, and you are not alone,” she assures.
“If you know someone who’s going through a crisis, spend some extra time with them to hear about their day or how their family members are doing. It could be the difference in giving them the strength to face the next day stronger than the last, and that’s more than any medicine can provide.”
Do Your Part During The Crisis
Any form of support during the pandemic will make a difference. Check out these portals where you can step up as a citizen and contribute to Covid-19 relief efforts:
SGUnited: Stay updated on community-led initiatives to contribute to at sgunited.gov.sg
Giving SG: Use this charity website to find opportunities to give back at giving.sg/sgunited
Singapore Red Cross: Donate blood to help top up our dwindling reserves at redcross.sg
Food From The Heart: Purchase essential food items for the needy at foodfromtheheart.sg
Beyond Social Services: Provide online tuition for underprivileged students at beyond.org.sg
HOME: Help migrant workers get access to essential supplies at home.org.sg/donate
YWCA: Provide milk and diapers to children from needy families at ywca.org.sg
"Dr Jade Kua (middle) poses with a message of hope alongisde her KKH colleagues."
DR JADE KUA
Dr Jade Kua, Senior Paediatric Emergency Specialist, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
A pediatric specialist who has been fighting against Covid-19 since it reared its ugly head in Singapore, Dr Jade is no stranger to dealing with emergency situations. But even she couldn’t foresee how life would dramatically change as infection rates crept up on our Little Red Dot.
“We pull in 12-hour clinical shifts now. And because I work in Accident and Emergency, it’s pretty intense,” says Dr Jade.
“We initially soaked up the novelty of working in modular teams over extended hours in make-shift tents, as if on an overseas medical mission together. As the weeks wore on, exhaustion and monotony devoured us. Tempers flared over small things like taking team photos or what time we ate dinner. It was the oddest thing.” Still, the good doctor and her colleagues try to look on the bright side and have found joy in the gestures of appreciation that members of the public have shown them.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the good wishes that flooded in from the community. Handwritten notes of encouragement, daisies, and bubble tea kept our spirits high,” shares the Great Women Of Our Time alumni. “Every week of DORSCON Orange sure seemed less depressing than the week before. I think, because of these gestures of kindness, we were able to develop a strong sense of mental fortitude. This, despite long hours and increasing cases of Covid-19, with no end in sight.”
On a personal front, the pandemic has reminded the mum-of-six not to take anything for granted.
“I’m not sure when life will return to normal. I’m sure it will, but I don’t know at what cost. What I do know is that when that happens, I will be much more appreciative of the little things,” she says. “Even when reality sinks, hope floats.”
Staying optimistic, she’s also sure that Singapore will overcome the coronavirus if we’re united in our goal. “Can we outsmart a virus? Maybe not,” she posits. “But we can learn, react, cope and mitigate. And we can do this best, together. The entire community, and extensive healthcare team, working together, with open hearts.
“There is something else everyone in the community can do. Something that won’t cost a single cent. And that is to trust us, healthcare professionals. Trust us as we trust you.”