When Penang kuey teow th’ng seller Erick*, 33, (not his real name) contracted Covid-19 last year, he faced a number of serious problems.
He could not properly quarantine himself in his wooden squatter house where he lived with his elderly father. Unable to do business, he lacked a proper income and could no longer afford to buy his diabetic and hypertension medicine.
Due to his health condition, many quarantine centres were not keen to take him in.
Fortunately, Erick had heard about Crisis Relief Services and Training Berhad (Crest), a non-profit humanitarian organisation, and how they provided quarantine facilities for his category of Covid patients.
He reached out to them and they responded.
“He was considered high risk because of his obesity, uncontrolled blood sugar and high blood pressure. After much discussion, we decided to admit him and monitor his condition more closely,” said Crest director Dr Yoong Sao Chin.
“When he was discharged, one could see the joy on his face. On our part, there was great satisfaction in being able to provide medical assistance to Covid patients, thereby easing the strain on the country’s medical facilities,” said Dr Yoong, adding that Erick’s medical expenses were completely borne by the corporate sector and churches.
For the past 24 years, the dedicated volunteers at Crest have been responding to those affected by natural disasters in over 20 countries. The group is motivated by a collective desire to reach out to the poor, refugees and disaster victims. Their aim is to provide aid such as food, clothing, shelter, medicine, basic healthcare and trauma counselling.
Crest was one of the recipients of the Star Golden Hearts Award last year and also a winner of the coveted Gamuda Inspiration Award.
“We are grateful to The Star and Yayasan Gamuda for giving us this award. This recognition indeed belongs to the ordinary Malaysians, many nameless, who tirelessly rose to the occasion in our nation’s darkest moments in 2021 to help infected patients in their path to recovery,” said Dr Yoong.
Since winning the award, Crest volunteers have been in constant action. Early this year, they collaborated with other NGOs, churches and corporate bodies to distribute educational aid, cooking utensils and appliances to flood victims in Sri Muda, Shah Alam, Klang Jaya, Klang and Temerloh, Pahang, helping about 1,100 families.
In early January, a four-day Basics of Disaster Response workshop for 18 volunteers was conducted in preparation for future disasters.
This training provided participants with basic hands-on training on ham radio communication, how to use handheld GPS units, and PPE usage (trained by Hospital Sungai Buloh staff), as well as water rescue and boat handling taught by Angkatan Pertahanan Awam Malaysia.
Although the recent pandemic has significantly impacted Crest’s ability to respond to disasters – with travel restrictions and border closures – the group is optimistic they will be able to proceed with their good work soon.
“New Covid-19 precautions and SOPs will be incorporated into our disaster responses both locally and regionally. These new challenges have strengthened our resolve to lead in crisis situations and assist the affected to recover in dignity,” Dr Yoong said.
He stressed that the group acknowledged the importance of responding to immediate needs during a crisis, but also wanted to emphasise the importance of long-term sustainable works such as rebuilding, disaster mitigation or rehabilitation of a disaster-affected community.
“Most of us at Crest have skills that are strategically positioned to lead in the recovery of disaster victims.
“Hence, it gives all of us a tremendous sense of fulfilment to be able to help many who are strangers, knowing that we can make an impact and an indelible difference in the lives of others,” he said.