Scraped your knee? They'll patch you up

SINGAPORE - She and her partner were cycling along East Coast Park when she came across the fallen cyclist.

There had been a collision and the woman cyclist fell and hit her head on the ground. She was not wearing a helmet.

Miss Aye Hnin Yu sprang into action. The Singapore Red Cross volunteer and trained first -aider helped the woman up and tended to the grazes on her limbs.

But the situation quickly became scary when the woman, who is in her 40s, complained that she was giddy.

Miss Aye examined her and found faint red dots on her scalp. Realising she could be bleeding internally, she quickly called for an ambulance.

"I was very worried for her. I kept talking to her to make sure she stayed awake," she said.

As they waited, the woman, who was alone, said she was grateful for their company.

"She told my partner and I that it was good we were there to help her," she said.

The woman was taken to hospital.

Such accidents scenes are part and parcel of her volunteer work, said Miss Aye, 28, who was originally from Myanmar and is now a Singapore citizen.

The technical specialist at Hewlett-Packard is one of 140 good Samaritans who zip around the park on mountain bikes each weekend to tend to anyone who needs their aid.

The First Aiders on Wheels initiative, launched by the Singapore Red Cross on Feb 4, is a community service programme.

Its volunteers come from all walks of life and range from tertiary students to working professionals between the ages of 18and 60.

Each weekend, Miss Aye joins a group of eight to 10 volunteers at the park.

Everyone is assigned a different role.

Two pairs of volunteers will act as roving first aiders. Armed with a first-aid kit, one pair will cycle between the first-aid booth near the Siglap Park Connector and the Xtreme Skate Park in East Coast Park.

The other pair patrols the stretch between the booth and the Playground@Big Splash.

Between them, they cover a distance of about 10km. The remaining volunteers are stationed at the booth and attend to anyone who approaches them for help.

Since the programme's start, more than 180 casualties have been treated. On average, the volunteers treat up to 10 people a day. Common injuries include abrasions, bruises and cuts.

'Not a chore at all'

Clad in white T-shirts with the Red Cross emblem and red and white helmets, the volunteers are active from 3pm to 7pm on Saturdays and 10am to 7pm on Sundays - the periods when the park is most crowded.

For Miss Aye, committing her leisure time to this cause is not a chore at all.

Volunteering is "one of (her) biggest hobbies" and she has been working with the Singapore Red Cross for two years.

With more than 10 years of volunteer experience gained since high school, it was no surprise that she signed up for the programme.

The athletic young woman, who enjoys outdoor sports such as cycling, sees her volunteer work as a form of exercise and socialising.

Made friends

Having worked closely with the other volunteers over the last few months, she counts them as friends. She has even inspired her colleagues and friends to join her on weekends.

Ms Serene Chia, Singapore Red Cross' head of community services, said the programme was launched as the organisation "felt there was a need to work closely with the community".

"Since we're known for first aid, it was a good avenue for us to provide such services," she said.

The organisation chose East Coast Park as it is one of the more popular parks and it is working closely with NParks for this programme.

While Ms Chia did not rule out the possibility of expanding the programme to include other parks, she said the Red Cross has nosuch plans at present.

Mr Saravanan, one of the team leaders, urged fellow Singaporeans to step forward to help those in need.

The 45-year-old works in the military. When the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in 2004, he was sent to help casualties.

He returned with a new perspective on life and began volunteering actively.

He said: "It's our responsibility to look out for each other."

This article was first published in The New Paper.