Survivors looked out for S'pore volunteers during second quake

Survivors looked out for S'pore volunteers during second quake
Events executive Ashley Chen, 25 (left), a volunteer with the Singapore Red Cross for Nepal quake relief efforts, speaking with a Nepalese villager.

When the second major earthquake in three weeks shook Nepal on May 12, Ms Lee Siew Yian's host family in Kathmandu tried their best to protect her.

"We all huddled and stood in the door frame of their house and they sandwiched me between them," recalled the 40-year-old travel photographer and humanitarian worker.

"They were cooking for their neighbours, putting up tents for each other, and collecting funds for neighbours whose houses needed repair."

Ms Lee had flown there on May 8 to help a local hospital distribute food and medical supplies and raise funds after the first earthquake on April 25.

Like her, many Singaporean volunteers who went over to aid relief efforts found themselves helped in return by the local community.

Registered nurse Brandon Chia, 22, who was there from May 6 to last Wednesday setting up mobile clinics with relief group Crisis Relief Singapore, experienced the same generosity.

"One day before the second quake, the villagers cooked for my team a large pot of rice, potatoes and dhal," recalled Mr Chia, who tended to the wounded and managed the mobile clinic's pharmacy. "They even gave us a larger portion and ate only a small amount. Even though they had limited food, they still shared. We were rather touched."

As a volunteer doctor with the Singapore Red Cross (SRC), Dr Tan Chi Chiu, 55, helped to lead a medical team in a village in the Nuwakot district for about a week.

Their field hospital, set up with the Qatar Red Crescent, saw around 300 patients a day. The locals were also eager to assist them.

"We were befriended by a number of schoolchildren who wanted to help us in every way possible, such as moving medical supplies using their own tricycle cart, or becoming our interpreters," said Dr Tan, a consultant gastroenterologist with Gleneagles Medical Centre.

"The locals were remarkably cheerful, welcoming and hospitable despite all their losses."

Events executive Ashley Chen, 25, who also volunteered with SRC from April 29 to last Monday, agreed.

"They are really, really warm people," said Ms Chen, who helped to plan and coordinate the deployment of the SRC's resources.

Dr Tan recalled: "Seeing children homeless and without parents and people pick through the rubble was heart-wrenching.

"But when their faces lit up when they met us, I felt that these people still had hope and optimism for life."


Organisations here have been quick to step in to help earthquake-affected areas in Nepal.

Singapore Red Cross

Raised more than $6 million in donations.

Four medical teams deployed, seeing 200 to 300 patients a day. One more team to arrive on Wednesday.

Mercy Relief

Raised $700,000 in donations.

Conducted over 24 distribution operations and eight medical missions.

Six-person medical team has treated 700 patients.

Crisis Relief Singapore

Sent five teams of 65 members, including doctors, nurses and church volunteers. Transported medical, food and other supplies.

Set up mobile clinics and treated more than 1,300 patients.

Singapore-Nepal Relief Community

Sent three shipments of food, medicine, tents and other supplies, weighing more than 900kg.

Two more shipments to reach within three weeks.

Three volunteers helping with supply distribution in Nepal.

St Joseph's Institution International

Students organising an art auction on May 30 and 31 to raise funds for charity Save the Children in Nepal.


This article was first published on May 17, 2015.
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