Friday 10 May 2013

Service with a passion: Singapore Red Cross Awards 2013

Three long-serving volunteers with the Singapore Red Cross were among those honoured at the society’s inaugural awards
By Kenneth Low, TODAY, 9 May 2013

He was still a student at Gan Eng Seng School when he joined the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) on the encouragement of his parents, who were excited by the prospect of having someone in the household who could treat burns and cuts.

More than four decades later, Mr Tang Chun Tuck, 59, remains deeply committed to the SRC, serving as senior adviser for its youth wing and being involved in various committees, such as for its Flag Day, charity draw and international bazaar.

Among the SRC’s longest-serving volunteers, Mr Tang, along with Mr Kek Siew Kok, 76, and Mr Wan Fook Kum, 72, were recognised at the inaugural Singapore Red Cross Awards yesterday, held to mark World Red Cross Day.

As volunteers, the three have helped out during some of the worst disasters in Singapore over the years — including the Spyros tanker explosion in 1978 and Hotel New World collapse in 1986 — by driving ambulances to ferry survivors to hospitals and by providing psycho-social support to survivors and the families of victims.

As for what motivates them to continue volunteering for so many years, Mr Tang cited the “passion” and “fulfilling relationships” with fellow volunteers.

Agreeing with him, Mr Kek, the oldest SRC volunteer, added: “Relationships are important because they make it easier to do things. Volunteers are especially willing to help if they feel that they are one with one another.”

As the longest-serving non-teacher in the SRC’s youth wing and its former Honorary Secretary, Mr Tang has weathered storms with the organisation. Reflecting on his experience during the Hotel New World disaster, he said: “I cried when I first saw the bodies coming out because, at that time, they did not handle (the bodies) properly.”

He had to go off to regain his composure before rejoining the other volunteers so he would not discourage them, he added.

Today, the SRC and its volunteers are better trained to deal with such events, he said. For instance, the organisation has introduced “formalised” psycho-social support to better prepare volunteers when dealing with traumatic experiences.

The former civil servant, who was also involved in relief efforts for the 2004 tsunami, was presented with the Outstanding Service Award. Mr Kek and Mr Wan were both presented with the Commendation Award.

Other winners of the awards included retired Lieutenant-General Winston Choo and the Lee Foundation, both of whom received the Humanitarian Award for their efforts to further the cause of humanity.

A total of two Distinguished Service Awards, three Outstanding Service Awards and 15 Commendation Awards were given out.

Four Friends of SRC awards were also presented to organisations that have been supportive of the SRC. One of the winners in this category was Barclays, which was lauded for roping in employees to help with the SRC’s projects and for donating much-needed resources.

Red Cross ex-chairman to get its top award
Winston Choo lauded for raising stature of humanitarian society
By Janice Tai And Sabrina Tiong, The Straits Times, 9 May 2013

TO MANY, the Red Cross used to mean "youth in white uniform waiting for people to faint", joked its former chairman, retired lieutenant-general Winston Choo.

But leading the outfit through large-scale humanitarian relief operations in the region has provided him with experiences that were heart-rending and fulfilling. The former defence chief is one of 29 volunteers and organisations set to receive prizes from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the inaugural Singapore Red Cross (SRC) Awards later this month.

The 72-year-old will be given the SRC's highest honour - the Humanitarian Award - for transforming the society into an internationally recognised and respected humanitarian organisation.

While the formal recognition was appreciated, Lt-Gen (Ret) Choo said the most compelling gratification came from his personal encounters with those who needed help.

The soldier, who was the SRC's chairman from 1996 to 2008, became an emissary of peace when he coordinated efforts to send about $5 million worth of food to Indonesia as it was hit by a triple blow in 1997 - famine, drought and the Asian financial crisis.

He recalled how his team had to give vitamin D injections to Indonesian villagers then. Because they were so thin, the jabs had to be administered on their rear.

"They were so desperate that they had no qualms lifting their sarong," said Lt-Gen (Ret) Choo. "It was heart-rending but fulfilling for us to do this kind of work."

When a tsunami struck the country in 2004, he managed the disbursement of $89 million for the reconstruction needed.

The SRC is also recognising others who have given their time, expertise and resources to further its mission, such as Mr Tang Chun Tuck, 59, who will receive the Outstanding Service Award.

Among his contributions, he was a volunteer when the Hotel New World collapsed in 1986, providing psycho-social support for the survivors. Commendation Award recipients Kek Siew Kok and Wan Fook Kum, who has served in the SRC for 48 years, were also part of that operation.

One of the things Mr Wan, 72, did was to take care of survivors by serving them refreshments when they emerged from the ruins. Mr Kek, 76, who is SRC's longest serving volunteer, was in charge of ferrying survivors to hospitals. He led the society's ambulance service for over 10 years.

No comments:

Post a Comment