COVID-19 volunteers in Singapore


Singapore has been battling the spread of COVID-19 for almost five months, and to say that it has been exhausting is an understatement. Other than the fear of the pandemic itself, Singaporeans have also been riddled with uncertainty over things like our jobs and finances, making this period a particularly trying one.

Despite the pandemic, we’ve seen our fair share of inspiring Singaporeans stepping forward to give back to the community. And amongst these people were the volunteers from the SAF Volunteer Corps (SAFVC), who continuously made time despite their busy schedules to help out.

We spoke to 4 of these volunteers, who shared their experiences and stories with us. 


Volunteer #1: Julia Chua


COVID-19 Volunteers - JuliaImage credit: SAFVC

Full-time job: Medical technologist at National University Hospital (NUH)
Volunteer job scope at SAFVC: Medical Trainer

Being a frontliner during a pandemic takes courage, but handling high-risk blood samples that could potentially be COVID-19 positive is next-level stuff. 

This, however, is just Julia’s typical 12-hour workday for you. On top of her full-time job, she also juggles volunteering with the SAFVC. Her duties here include providing medical and laboratory training to NSmen, as well as performing blood tests and cross-matching.

Back when COVID-19 cases started to soar, Julia was one of 134 volunteers from the SAFVC that helped support the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) efforts to contain the virus. She was deployed to one of seven SAF Contact Tracing Centres, where she helped to check in on the well-being of people serving out their stay-home notices. 

SAF call centreImage credit: SAFVC

Julia easily made hundreds of calls during her deployment, but one particular elderly lady left a lasting impression on her by taking the time to strike up a conversation. “She kept asking me how I was, and whether I was doing okay. She had no idea who I was, but she still wanted to check up on me. I was very thankful for her kind words, and in a way, it helped me affirm that my volunteering efforts were worth it.

She also highlighted the drive and professionalism from the NSmen working alongside her as one of her main motivations, adding that it helped seal her confidence in the SAF’s ability to keep Singapore safe under any circumstance


Volunteer #2: Nur Qistina


COVID-19 Volunteers - QistinaImage credit: SAFVC

Full-time job: Head of Education and Training at The Global Citizenship Education Group
Volunteer job scope at SAFVC: Auxiliary Security Trooper (AST)

Another volunteer who was in the thick of the action was Nur Qistina, an education provider at The Global Citizenship Education Group. Having always wanted to explore military-related opportunities, she decided to jump onboard with SAFVC to help out with security operations.

Like Julia, Qistina was deployed at one of the SAF’s contact tracing centre and found herself being drawn deeper into the emotional aspect of her job. She said, “I realised how important my role was to bridge the social interaction void they faced at that point.”

She also added that she was humbled to be able to witness the tireless backend workings of the SAF and experience the camaraderie that comes with being part of a strong team fighting towards a united goal: to create a safe and healthy environment for all Singaporeans.


Volunteer #3: Soni Arjun


COVID-19 Volunteers - Soni ArjunImage credit: SAFVC

Full-time job: Director at Deutsche Bank
Volunteer job scope at SAFVC: Auxiliary Security Trooper (AST)

Picture a banker, and you’d imagine two things: 1) someone who dons suits and ties to work on the daily, and 2) copious amounts of OT. But even as a Director at Deutsche Bank, Arjun still finds time to train for marathons and volunteer as an Auxiliary Security Trooper with SAFVC, where he usually supports on-ground security operations.

Arjun shared that doing so is one of the ways he gives back to Singapore after being a PR for many years. He was amongst many SAFVC volunteers who served during the pandemic. His role involved compliance checks on individuals serving out stay-home notices

During his deployment, many Singaporeans went out of their way to thank him for his service – and that, to him, made it all worthwhile. “It sounds like a minor thing,” he said,but it’s really moments like these that warm my heart and makes me want to continue serving the public.

SAFVC NDP Arjun serving in the volunteer contingent during NDP 2019
Image credit: SAFVC

For Arjun, volunteering was something that allowed him to make meaningful connections – and the teamwork he saw amongst his peers was one of the things that inspired him to do better for the benefit of others. 

The fact that I can continue to work in corporate but also play a role towards the defence of Singapore is like having the best of both worlds,said Arjun.


Volunteer #4: Kuan Yeh Cheang


COVID-19 Volunteers - Yeh CheangYeh Cheang (far left)
Image credit: SAFVC

Full-time job: CEO of 1RWave
Volunteer job scope at SAFVC: Auxiliary Security Trooper (AST)

Businesses have been hit hard these past few months, and Yeh Cheang’s own engineering company, 1RWave, isn’t exempt. One would imagine that a CEO of a company would naturally make his company’s survival the top priority but Yeh Cheang shares that, on a personal level, volunteering holds just as much weight.

He, too, was deployed at an SAF contact tracing centre with the task of reaching out to those on stay-home notices and recounts that he was glad to have the opportunity to be on the ground and help others in times of a crisis.

But the thing that left a lasting impression on him were the National Servicemen on duty. “We ended up swapping stories about our journeys in national defence.” he said. “The more I heard from them, the more I could tell how proud they were to be part of the SAF. And that really gave me a new perspective on just how much our National Servicemen have sacrificed to keep other Singaporeans safe.

He added that his son had also recently signed on with the SAF, which strengthened the father-son bond between them.


Singaporeans who volunteered during the Covid-19 pandemic


If there’s anything that our history and Social Studies lessons have taught us, it’s that our NSmen, NSFs and Regulars are the reason why Singapore remains safe. However, serving alongside these groups of people are the volunteers from the SAFVC, of whom we rarely hear about.

Through the stories shared by Julia, Qistina, Arjun, and Yeh Cheang, we’ve managed to catch a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of some of their operations during this pandemic. But they aren’t the only ones. In fact, the entire SAFVC has been working tirelessly over the past few months to ensure that Singaporeans remain safe during this pandemic. 

Aside from the duties featured here, there are 30 other roles across domains like engineering and counselling, so there are a bunch of ways to contribute. All new volunteers will undergo training in a safe and progressive manner to learn the relevant skills, so rest assured you’ll be well-prepared before embarking on your first deployment.

Without a doubt, Singaporeans are a naturally busy bunch. To help all their volunteers out, SAFVC will issue deployment schedules way in advance whenever possible, so busy bees who want to contribute can plan their schedules early without worrying about having too much on their plate.

Should you wish to help make a difference, you can join the SAFVC by submitting their application form to safvc@defence.gov.sg. You can also swing by their website for information on the available roles as well as their eligibility criteria.

Join the SAFVC as a volunteer today


This post was brought to you by SAFVC.
Cover image adapted from: SAFVC