The Samaritans: Got masks...Got air-con room...Got help for all

SINGAPORE - Would you invite strangers into your house to stay the night?

Mr Jeremy Chua would. Not only is the undergraduate, 24, allowing outsiders into his house, he's even taken to encouraging others to do the same.

He is one of the three people spearheading the SG Haze Rescue initiative, a community effort to help those who are affected by the haze.

It started when Mr Chua offered to let his friend stay over at his house as he had no airconditioning at home.

Inspired by Bostonians who offered their homes for those seeking refuge after the Boston Marathon bombings in the US in April, he started a Facebook page.

The page, started in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, has garnered over 4,000 likes since.

It includes links to two separate Google documents for people to volunteer for.

One is for people who, like him, want to provide a safe haven to those suffering from the haze.

The other is for people to volunteer in whatever ways they can, be it by donating masks or helping to distribute supplies.

"Singaporeans have always been known to complain about everything. So instead of complaining, why not do something?" Mr Chua asks. "It's very heartening to see so many people banding together, especially during such times of crisis."

He says he's got more than 120 volunteers who have pledged to help, with many more sourcing for masks.

Mr Daniel Yap, 34, is one of the 14 who has offered his home for anyone seeking refuge. But as he lives in a modest flat with his wife and four young children, he is quite apologetic that he can only offer shelter in the day.

The public relations executive had been thinking of getting an air purifier as one of his sons is suffering from eczema, but never got around to buying it until the haze pushed him to do it. He scoured electronics stores across the country, but most stores were out of stock.

He finally managed to find one online - at a discount, no less - and paid $550 for it.

"I was thinking: why not invite people, especially those with health issues, to come and share the purifier?" Mr Yap says.

Although he has yet to receive any guests, he says: "Anyone who needs help, and I do mean anyone, should come. Our doors will be open to them."

He's not worried about inviting strangers into his home.

"Trust works both ways. You could be afraid of inviting strangers into your home, but they could also be scared of going to a stranger's home," he explains.

"I choose to believe that kindness won't be repaid adversely," he says.

His wife, Madam Marja-Leena, 30, who works from home, will be returning to Finland to visit relatives next week. She is planning on buying as many boxes of N95 masks as she can carry, and distributing them when she returns.

"We're actually hoping to buy them by the carton," she says, a little sheepishly.

The couple received a box of N95 masks from a friend on Friday morning, and had given away more than half of them by that afternoon.

Miss Teng Jin Zhi, 21, who is studying for her Masters degree, is another who has volunteered with SG Haze.

She had seen the Facebook page, and roped in her friend, Mr Gao Rifeng, 24, a managing consultant, to help.

"I don't consider ourselves good Samaritans. It's really just the idea of getting the masks to people who need them," she says.

Miss Teng, Mr Gao and Mr Chua, along with other volunteers, distributed N95 masks to the elderly living in Braddell on Thursday night.

"I hope this sets an example for others. Just go out and help people," Miss Teng says.

Ms Vanessa Frida, 35, a marketing and public relations manager, is another who is intent on doing as much as she can during this period.

She has taken it upon herself to give out fruit to construction workers. On Wednesday, she bought several watermelons and handed them to workers at a construction site near her home.

"They were so shocked. They didn't expect anyone to show them kindness, I think. They just kept saying 'thank you' and smiling," Ms Frida says, with a chuckle. She's planning on feeding the stray animals around the Woodleigh area.

"It's times like this that the animals really need someone to look after them. Humans know what to do, what precaution to take, but the animals have no shelter," she says.

"What I'm doing, it's really nothing much. I just want to help the less fortunate."


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