WHEN news of the recent floods in the east coast of peninsular Malaysia reached the ears of senior citizen Alice Ong in Malacca, she knew she just had to help.
The 64-year-old grandmother of five decided to take the next available bus to the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang, to join the volunteers sending donations to the flood victims.
She arrived in the evening of Dec 30 and jumped right into the task handed to her at the bustling army base collection centre.
“I knew they needed help. We as Malaysians need to do what we can to help those in need. I live alone and decided that my services were needed here and so I came,” she said.
On her first night at the base, the energetic retired Chinese medical practitioner slept on the grass outside due to lack of shelter.
New to the place, she had no where to go and was happy enough to find a spot to rest for the night on the army base.
“I had no problems sleeping there. I knew I was safe because it is an army base. The only problem I had were the mosquitoes,” Ong said with a laugh.
The next day, several foreign cleaners working on the base spotted her and invited her along to their home for the night.
Ong is no stranger to volunteer work, having also helped out during the tsunami 10 years ago in Sri Lanka and believes she will continue her work at the centre for another week.
“I will continue to help, whenever possible, I have done it before and I will do it again. In fact, I might assist the victims in Kuantan directly if the situation is right,” she added.
Just like her, Mohamad Faiz Izmanisah, 27, a volunteer with the NGO Small Changes, decided to pitch in and help the volunteers send out aid to the flood victims.
The young man said he believed it was only right to help people in need during their time of suffering.
“This is my first day here but I think we need to do more for them. I will definitely come back to help if I am free,” he said.
Volunteer Saravanan Manickam, 46, meanwhile, turned up with his entire family to donate some essentials as well as lend a hand where needed.
He said he was compelled to help pack the food aid for the flood victims after looking at the hardship they were going through.
“I also got my children, who are used to volunteer work, involved to instill some good values in them as well,” he added.
Also spotted at the site was Mohd Raizal Mohd Rais, 40, from Sentul who turned up to donate essential food items to the victims.
Raizal said such incidents could happen to anyone and it was only right to assist when possible.
“This could happen to anybody at any time. Today it is them; tomorrow it could be us. I also wanted my children to learn the importance of helping others,” he added.
Raizal said his wife was once a victim of a flash flood while studying in Gombak and she understood the trouble such catastrophes could cause.
“She knows the pain a flood victim goes through and suggested we do our part in helping the people,” said Raizal, who had already donated essential items several times.
He also donated cash to help with the post-flood rehabilitation efforts in the affected areas.
Thanks to all these volunteers and donors, the once quiet and unaccessible army base has become a hive of activity as people drive in and out of the facility.
The energy and spirit of kinship was contagious and general warmth filled the place.
The group of volunteers have become like family to one another and they even had an impromptu New Year’s Eve celebration together.
A uniformed body volunteer who declined to be named said Army Headquarters Chief of Staff Major General Datuk Mazelan Kasap decided to gather all the volunteers for a small celebration on Dec 31.
He climbed up a forklift, called about 300 volunteers together and regaled them with his experiences in the army while waiting for the countdown.
They even called out all Jan 1 birthday babies for a small celebration with a cake brought by another volunteer.
“It was a beautiful celebration, everyone got together to celebrate the dawn of the new year. It was nice to see everyone regardless of race come together at a time like this,” said the volunteer.