The power of gratitude
“There was a sense of satisfaction for being part of something big. The soup kitchen I volunteered at supports families with low income, the disabled and the elderly and it made me realise there are people within our community that are struggling just to put food on the table. It was an eye-opening experience and I look forward to doing this more often,” - Bijil Balachandran, Employee Relations Advisor.
In a bid to flatten the curve and control the spread of the COVID-19 virus within the community, Singapore entered into an unprecedented two-month ‘circuit breaker’ period from April to June 2020. Under the circuit breaker, the public is required to stay home where possible and practice safe social distancing at all times.
This means people are only allowed to leave their homes for essential purposes such as buying groceries, exercising, seeking medical attention and other necessities. Schools and non-essential businesses have closed and many workplaces have implemented work-from-home arrangements, leaving Singapore’s usually bustling and high-density city almost void of human traffic - we’re ranked #3 on the list of the world’s most densely populated countries!
Unfortunately, it’s not just human traffic that has come to a halt. Donations and volunteering numbers have also dropped significantly since the onset of COVID-19. As the country focused its attention and resources on battling the pandemic, there was also an urgent need to uplift the most vulnerable in our community who are among the hardest hit by this situation.
The Invictus Fund
The risk of infection through close contact meant social service agencies would have to adapt to new ways of service delivery quickly. Recognising this, Singapore’s National Council of Social Service responded by setting up The Invictus Fund to ensure continuity of critical social services for vulnerable individuals and families amid these challenging times.
Vishnu Shahaney, Head of South East Asia, India and the Middle East at ANZ says “many of our staff expressed how they wish to play a part in something meaningful and impactful, which triggered our fundraising effort in support of The Invictus Fund.
“It’s been heartwarming but not surprising to see that many feel a personal responsibility to help those whose livelihoods and wellbeing are being impacted by the current disruption. Our purpose at ANZ is to shape a world where people and communities thrive and we knew we would be able to make a larger positive impact if we combined all our efforts,” he says.
Going the extra mile to rally support from his team mates, David Arms, Head of Trading and Product Desk Risk Management at ANZ, pledged to cycle 300km on his stationary bike in support of The Invictus Fund and sped past the virtual finishing line after 11 grueling hours.
“When ANZ Singapore decided to support The Invictus Fund, it was already aligned to my thinking. I decided to do my bit to try and make a difference. I was thinking of those people, for who this strange reality we find ourselves in, is actually their normality. Whether they’re sick, disabled or the elderly, they need our help every day,” David says.
David Arms cycling 300kms on his stationary bike for charity.
In just two weeks, employees from ANZ Singapore raised a total of SGD75,186 (≈AUD $82,000) including matching by ANZ*, to help ensure the vulnerable groups in our community receive the care and support they need to help them thrive.
Helping social service agencies is just one aspect of caring for the vulnerable. The strain on resources and the needs of vulnerable groups continue to increase during this pandemic.
Giving their time
Bijil Balachandran, Employee Relations Advisor at ANZ, says many groups are impacted by the unfolding events of the COVID-19 situation. While some are receiving aid from the government and the public, many non-profits and service organisations still require hands-on support from volunteers, donations and essential items to keep their operations running.
“There was a sense of satisfaction for being part of something big. The soup kitchen I volunteered at supports families with low income, the disabled and the elderly and it made me realise there are people within our community that are struggling just to put food on the table. It was an eye-opening experience and I may have stepped up to volunteer during this time but look forward to doing this more often,” Bijil says.
Volunteering at the same soup kitchen, Nelson Chua, Senior Corporate Lawyer at ANZ says the volunteering experience has helped reignite his faith in the human spirit.
“Everyone is purposeful, polite and professional, and being surrounded by the kindness of other volunteers has a healing effect. It has reminded me to be grateful for the things I have,” he says.
Bijil Balachandran at Willing Hearts, a soup kitchen that prepares, cooks and distributes ~6,500 meals per day to those in need.
Bridging the gap with our skills
Businesses are badly hit and some companies have shut their doors for good due to COVID-19. To help businesses stay afloat, Evi Sukardi, Business Execution Manager at ANZ, conducted a virtual pro bono business clinic on renewable energy for a social enterprise facing challenges in these uncertain times.
There were also unique needs of the community that surfaced during the pandemic. With the increasing cases of COVID-19 among migrant workers in Singapore, there was an urgent need for translators to help the migrant worker community with issues such as rent, food availability, work disputes and more.
One of the individuals who came forward to offer his linguistic skills to the Bangladeshi migrant worker community in Singapore is Manish Shroff, Director, Specialized Industries at ANZ
To help bridge the language gap, Manish spends his weekends and evenings on weekdays as a Bengali translator, interacting virtually with migrant workers who are mainly from Bangladesh. The spirit of volunteering runs strong in his family where his wife and daughter are also active volunteers in the community.
“Volunteering as a family has revealed the true meaning of giving, especially when we’re able to use our resources collaboratively in times of need. We believe in the ‘attitude of gratitude’ and the whole experience has taught us to value the human life with a different perspective,” he says.
Bengali translator, Manish Shroff (left) regularly volunteers to distribute food and essentials to those impacted. Also pictured: volunteer from the Paya Lebar Kovan Community Club (right).
Communities benefit from business support