While most Singaporeans were hunkering down at home during the Circuit Breaker period – wondering which drama series to watch next, or when they would be able to meet their friends for bubble tea again – 23 year-old Rini Shazwani Roslan was out in the sun, running from block to block, distributing food to the less privileged.

For those affected financially by COVID-19, financial support like the Temporary Relief Fund and the COVID-19 Support Grant was welcome relief. But volunteers like Rini also help ease the financial burden of daily necessities and food.

 



“Volunteering is natural to me. Whenever I see an opportunity for me to help, I will always ask if I can be part of the team. I want to help.”

Because of her desire to help others, Rini joined voluntary welfare organisation Jamiyah Singapore, as a Human Resource Executive a year ago.

This was not her first experience with Jamiyah FoodBank; she was part of the food distribution team in 2019. But 2020 would be so different – the Ramadan period was entirely within the Circuit Breaker. This meant that Muslim families would not be able to have iftar – the breaking of fast – and Hari Raya gatherings together with members outside their households.


Photo credit: Jamiyah Singapore

It was a harder blow for those living alone in rental flats. Many would have looked forward to the annual time of cheer, festivities and reunion, but were now faced with the prospect of celebrating Ramadan and Hari Raya Puasa by themselves. Some had also experienced a loss of job or income due to COVID-19.

You are not alone

Rini and her team from Jamiyah were determined that those badly affected should not feel alone during this time. They went door to door to over 500 households, distributing bento boxes so that they would have ready meals to break fast.

Besides bento boxes, during weekend before Hari Raya Puasa, they distributed special Meat-for-Eid hampers – festive packages that contained ingredients for Raya dishes – so that their beneficiaries would be able to enjoy some semblance of normalcy and festive cheer during this difficult period.

Whereas in previous years, beneficiaries could queue to collect the festive hampers at a centralised location, congregating in one location in the middle of a pandemic was not advisable.

“It was very much different this year… Because we had to personally visit the homes of the beneficiaries, and that required us to cover quite a bit of distance.”

Running from door to door, carrying hampers that weighed about 3kg each on both hands, was no mean feat for petite-sized Rini. While trolleys helped to alleviate the load, the journey across multiple floors and different blocks in Bukit Batok ensured that they were exhausted by the end of the day.


Photo credit: Jamiyah Singapore

Once, pressed for time as they had a long list of households to cover before iftar, they were on the receiving end of a beneficiary’s harsh reply, as their hurried knocking was misperceived as being disrespectful. Thankfully, the misunderstanding was quickly cleared up.

Despite these challenges, Rini pressed on.

My favourite part is when I get to interact with the recipients. I get to learn a thing or two about their lives. This drives me to continue giving my time and energy for all my volunteer work.
Rini Shazwani Roslan

Photo credit: Jamiyah Singapore

Not content with just a cursory ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’, Rini often makes an effort to chat with them, asking how their day went, or how their health was. Older recipients often remark how grateful they are to have a listening ear.

She remembers fondly an encounter with an elderly lady. Her son had gone to work and she was alone at home. To protect seniors, which are one of the vulnerable groups most susceptible to COVID-19 infection, Rini had to maintain a safe distance – meaning she could not enter her home. However, it was clear to her that the hamper would be too heavy for the elderly lady to carry into her flat by herself.

Worried that her son would be back too late before she would have time to prepare for iftar, Rini helped to arrange for one of the elderly lady’s close neighbours to share some cooked dishes with her, so that she would be able to break fast in time.

The gesture touched her deeply. Before Rini left, the lady earnestly made some doa (prayers) for her and her teammate, thanking them for caring for the less fortunate.
It may not be a grand display of their appreciation, but it is the simple and thoughtful gestures like these that are valuable to me, because it serves as a lesson and reminder to always remain grateful for everything that I have.
Rini Shazwani Roslan

Photo credit: Jamiyah Singapore

It started at home

Rini attributes her love for volunteering to her parents and grandparents.

Growing up in a family of active volunteers, since the age of 9, Rini would follow her grandparents to the neighbourhood mosques and elderly homes to help out and spend time with the seniors there. 

Her parents, whom she regard as the most generous people she knows of, also had a big influence on her. Her mother often cooks – not just for friends and family – but also for charity events, while her father would always go the extra mile to help those in need.

From following her elders as a child, volunteering eventually became her own way of life.

While working life meant that she would not be able to help out in mosques and homes as much as she used to, Rini tries her best to volunteer at Jamiyah’s other outreach activities whenever the opportunity arises.

Asked if these volunteering activities take away precious personal time from her, she answers, “I have never really seen volunteering as an activity that will take up my personal time… Because I see that as my personal time.”

She adds, “I really enjoy the satisfaction after meeting the beneficiaries and helping them out.”

Asked about her hopes for young people like herself, she says she hopes more will join her in stepping up and giving back to society.

And it doesn’t have to be grand gestures, she says.

“If we see an elderly person downstairs, feeling alone, we can make their day just by sitting down with them, talking to them. You don’t have to be an active volunteer, going door to door, meeting a lot of people.”

“The smallest act of kindness can go a long way.”


Photo credit: Jamiyah Singapore

While COVID-19 has been dubbed the crisis of a generation, Rini believes that the key for Singaporeans to bounce back from it is to be united in our efforts, and to stand by one another.
If Singaporeans can volunteer our time and effort, we can really make a significant impact in the lives of many people during this difficult time.
Rini Shazwani Roslan 
While she acknowledges it is a tough period for young people now, especially those who are still without a job, her hope for her peers is that they would not lose sight of their goals and what they want to achieve.

“Opportunities do exist, even in this current situation.”

“Keep an open mind, be kind and compassionate to others, because you don’t know what they may be going through. Help other people – who knows, you may be helping yourself as well.”

Volunteering her time has served as a reminder for Rini to always remain grateful for everything she has been blessed with in life.

Her message to her fellow youth: “I certainly hope that volunteering will have the same impact on you too!”

This article is part of a series of stories of Singaporean youth who have come forward to help the community, during this fight against COVID-19. 

Many have stepped up during this time to help Singapore overcome COVID-19.

For more stories of youths who embody the #SGUnited spirit:

Find out how you can do your part for the community: sgunited.gov.sg