EVERY effort counts. And in this ongoing battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, the effort to vaccinate all Malaysian residents – both local and foreign – is vital to protect society, save lives, and return some semblance of normalcy to the nation sooner rather than later.
Hence, I couldn’t help but feel immense pride when over 200 Sunway University and College students – both local and international – signed up to become volunteers at the Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre (SPCC) vaccination centre (PPV).
In fact, they have actively contributed to the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme since May.
I recall speaking to Shahd Abbas Hussein Oman, a medical biotechnology undergraduate from Sudan who told me that he volunteered because serving people was a fulfilling experience. Nursing diploma student Lim Zhi Xin shared that this was an opportunity to improve her soft skills while accounting student Nur Alysa Mohd Salisham said she felt blessed helping the elderly and was motivated by their gratitude.
Small but significant contributions
The SPCC PPV handles up to 5,000 vaccinations daily while the national daily vaccination rate has averaged approximately 360,000 since last month.
This means our students would have played a role in supporting about 1.5% of the national daily vaccination rate.
Now, this number may appear small but in the grander scheme of life and death, it is truly significant.
Our students are also volunteering with the Greater Klang Valley Special Task Force.
Each person assisted by our student volunteers means another step taken towards protecting society, themselves, and their loved ones.
It means reducing the severity of potential Covid-19 infections and the probability of death.
It also relieves our nation’s overwhelmed healthcare system, which in turn helps our nurses, doctors, and everyone in the front line.
As of Aug 1, over 21 million vaccine doses have been administered, with 30% of the adult population having received both doses.
We are getting so much closer to our goal of vaccinating 80% of the population, which should be achievable by October.
My heartfelt congratulations to the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force and everyone involved. Keep it up! You have our support.
Rising to the occasion
Prior to volunteering at the PPV, our students were briefed on the risks involved and given guidance on staying safe by adhering to the standard operating procedures.
We were heartened to see most remained undeterred by the risks ahead.
Our international students saw this as an opportunity to offer help to the nation they call home as they pursue their studies here while our local students saw it as service to their beloved country.
The last year has been challenging for everyone. Lives have been lost and livelihoods have suffered.
The education sector has not been spared, with campuses closed and teaching and learning shifted fully online, bringing with it various device and Internet bandwidth challenges.
Our students have been deprived of a campus experience, facing mental health issues and missing out on social development with their peers.
Despite these adversities, our students have stepped up. And it’s not just our Sunway students, but many more from all public and private education institutions throughout the nation.
Student volunteers nationwide have truly been exemplary.
Value of volunteering
Not only does volunteering provide hands-on learning which is essential to help young people connect with society and their communities, it also empowers them to make small contributions to help others, particularly those in need.
The benefits of volunteering are profound and volunteers gain benefits which range from increased self-esteem, better mental health and the ability to acquire valuable job skills.
These experiences will allow them to make more informed choices about university and career options, as well as instil a lifelong interest in giving back to society.
A research conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, in the United States, in 1999 found that volunteering was positively associated with values measured post-college.
The five values were “helping others in need, participating in community action programmes, participating in environmental clean-up programmes, promoting racial understanding, and developing a meaningful philosophy of life”.
Clearly, the benefits of volunteering are limitless.
Our first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman once said, “We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the months of August and September – during which we celebrate our National Day and Malaysia Day – are crucial for us to stay united towards achieving our vaccination goals.
To those leading the fight – our doctors, nurses, police and military officers, People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) personnel, and PPV volunteers whom we fondly call our frontliners – I would like to convey my deepest gratitude to all of you.
You are our patriots – thank you for your sacrifice and service.
We are not out of the woods yet, so let us stay united, keep up the effort and hopefully soon, we will be able to celebrate our National Day together again.
Prof Dr Elizabeth Lee is the chief executive officer of Sunway Education Group. A veteran in the field of private higher education, Prof Lee is also an advocate for women in leadership. She has been recognised both locally and internationally for her contributions in the field of education. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.