As a freelance editor and translator, Zhuan Lee, 38, is no stranger to working from home. But, with schools having switched to home-based learning on Apr 8, she found herself – like many parents over the last week – having to entertain her five-year-old daughter, JC.
Since Zhuan was spending more time at home with her family – her husband, a Chinese-language teacher at SJI International, is also working from home – she came up with a creative solution to occupy her daughter, while spreading a little cheer at the same time.
In a Facebook post on Apr 9, she wrote: “I got my five-year-old to write & draw on these kraft paper bags, and subsequently put a canned drink and an apple or a small packet crackers in each. (Never mind that she drew some upside-down!). As I've begun to shop online a lot more during this period, these will be shared with delivery personnel bringing us our purchases.”
Zhuan described her gesture of preparing “little Thank You packages for the delivery men & women who have been & will be working tirelessly during the days of COVID-19” as a “fun activity for kids staying at home”. As she shops online every month, deliverymen from Redmart, Ninja Van, Q100 and CJ Logistics drop by often.
Over the phone, she told CNA Lifestyle: “One of the guys told me that he had to make more than 100 trips a day, with barely enough time to eat or use the toilet. I felt terrible. I told myself that I needed to get some Thank You packages done for all these delivery personnel. Also, I had spare kraft paper bags at home, and my five-year-old was asking for something to do, so I asked her to write Thank You on the bags. It gave me 15 minutes of peace. I think most mums would appreciate that!”
She added: “I always make it a point to get my daughter involved, because I see this as a priceless opportunity for spontaneous education. It may be difficult for parents (or me at least) to explain the whole coronavirus situation to a five-year-old. It's much easier to teach her about helping out and paying it forward when others are in need.”
I had spare kraft paper bags at home, and my five-year-old was asking for something to do, so I asked her to write Thank You on the bags. It gave me 15 minutes of peace!
Zhuan’s Thank You packages are just one way she is trying to lift spirits during these trying times.
The week before (on Apr 3), she offered to help cook a meal for those in need. Posting on Facebook, she said: “The market for freelancers may currently be grim, but it's still within my means to help out as much as I can. Giving a shout out especially to friends in the Bishan/Sin Ming/Ang Mo Kio areas, if you know of anyone staying in the neighbourhood who needs a meal every now & then, feel free to drop me a message!”
As she cooks her family’s meals every day, she told CNA Lifestyle that she doesn’t feel like it’s much of a difference to cook one or two more portions. So far, nobody has come forward to request a meal, but her invitation remains open.
“I want JC to know that although we don’t have much, compared to other people, we still have the means to do something to help. So when we can, we should,” she explained on the phone.
Apart from delivery personnel and her neighbours, Zhuan has also reached out to migrant workers toiling away on the North-South Corridor. The construction site is within a stone’s throw of her four-room HDB flat in Bishan.
In a Facebook post on Mar 31, she wrote: “As we give thanks and cheer our healthcare workers on every day, I've been watching another group of people toiling away for several weeks now. They work 6 days (or I think sometimes even more) a week to help build Singapore up bit by bit, literally right by my doorstep.
“Coronavirus or not, these guys have been working extremely long hours under the scorching sun, building the upcoming North-South Corridor/Expressway (scheduled for completion in 2026). The only shelter they have from the heat is at our void deck. I genuinely hope that they're well taken care of during & after working hours, given ready access to masks, sanitisers, drinking water, personal hygiene products etc.
“Yesterday afternoon, JC and I brought some drinks, snacks & apples to thank them for their hard work. It's not a lot, but I also wanted to take this chance to teach my 5-year-old to never take things for granted. While many of us have the privilege of working from home, these construction workers work outdoors continuously, because nation building does not & cannot stop. And ultimately we have these foreign workers to thank for playing irreplaceable roles in making Singapore what it is, or is going to be, in future.”
Posting her efforts on social media, she clarified, is not to brag, but to raise awareness of the plight of others. Often, when something is out of sight, it’s usually out of mind. Or when something is so mundane, it doesn’t even register as an issue.
“We live in a country where there’s not much poverty to be seen – not unless you go out specifically looking for it. And since there’s already so much negativity on social media, I hope that by posting about what I’m doing, more people can be empowered to make this depressing situation more uplifting.”
It may be difficult for parents to explain the whole coronavirus situation to a five-year-old. It's much easier to teach her about helping out and paying it forward when others are in need.