WHEN it comes to providing humanitarian aid, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) Sibu branch has been there for the people for the past five decades.
Since its formation in 1965, it has provided prompt service to the community.
“The Covid-19 pandemic really tested our resolve but we were equal to the task as we are well-trained for emergencies.
“Our members were present especially at vaccination centres to help medical personnel carry out vaccinations smoothly,” Sibu MRCS chairman Penghulu Chua Hiong Kee said.
During the movement control order period, the branch worked with government agencies and local NGOs in organising activities such blood donation campaigns for Hospital Sibu, distributing hand sanitisers, food aid and infrared thermometers, donating personal protective equipment to Hospital Sibu and sending discharged Covid-19 patients home from hospitals.
In Chua’s words, “we have touched the hearts of many people” as the branch was fully committed to providing voluntary service during the pandemic,
Chua also reflected on the endless community contributions of Sibu MRCS over the years.
Top of its list is the yearly blood donation drive. The number of regular blood donors under the branch has increased to between 700 and 800 now.
“Last year we organised 18 blood donation campaigns and managed to collect 9,403 pints of blood. Previously, we saw a low turnout of female blood donors. Now the number is increasing, especially among youths,” he said.
The branch has also worked to raise public awareness about blood donation and one of its key initiatives was the establishment of a blood donation centre at its headquarters.
“Recruiting blood donors, particularly among the Chinese community, was a challenging task. It took years of public education efforts to encourage more Chinese to participate.
“Slowly, with the help of NGOs within the Chinese community, we built up the blood supply to hospitals,” Chua said.
Chua, who joined the movement in 1971, considers himself lucky as his predecessors had laid a good foundation for him to take over as branch chairman.
Today, at the age of 70, he continues to render his services to this noble cause, setting an example of dedication and unwavering commitment.
He recalled the early days when he and a group of service-oriented friends decided to become MRCS Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) members.
“In those days, it was very meaningful. We were young and eager to give back to our community. We had a strong sense of purpose, thinking about how we could help the local community,” he said.
For many young women at the time, joining the MRCS meant pursuing a path to acquiring essential first-aid skills and eventually becoming a nurse.
However, Chua and his male companions had different motivations – they sought to gain first aid knowledge and, most importantly, to serve their community.
“We were eager to learn about first aid and acquire skills to assist those in need within our local community,” he added.
After more than five decades of service, he has never regretted joining the MRCS, calling it one of the best decisions he has made.
“It allowed us, as young people, to make a significant contribution to the community,” he said.“That was our ultimate goal: to offer our skills and services for the betterment of the public.”
Reminiscing about the challenges he faced during his time as a committee member, Chua noted that it was not always smooth sailing.
The branch initially operated from a rented residential house before eventually moving into the current headquarters at Jalan Awang Ramli Amit in 1981.
Back then, the building was made of wood, but it has since been replaced by a sturdy concrete structure, thanks to the generosity of the Sarawak government and the people of Sibu.
The building was inaugurated by the late Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’akub, who was the then head of state.
Chua expressed his gratitude for the foundation laid by the former committee members and chairmen, making his current role much more manageable.
“I can say I was lucky because all the foundation was laid by former senior members.
“When I took over, the only things we had to do was to try to innovate and introduce more activities,” he said.
There is still room for improvement in terms of recruiting members as well as finding a support system, as MRCS is a non-profit organisation.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of recruits has not risen, even in schools. That’s why we aim to have smart partnerships and get more NGOs involved in Sibu MRCS to complement each other in our efforts to render services.
“As a VAD, you do not have to participate in all activities. It is enough to just respond if we need manpower,” he said.
“Let’s join hands and make a big difference in Sibu,” he added.
On recruitment, Chua said applications can be made online at the MRCS Community website.
Currently, Sibu MRCS has 2,852 members, comprising Life Members (59), Ordinary Members (157), Youth VAD Section (6), Cadet Section (1,082) and Junior Section (1,548).
Chua hoped that parents and teachers would encourage students to join MRCS and other co-curricular uniform bodies.
“We can train individuals to be more disciplined. Nowadays, I find that many people have a selfish mindset. They only think for themselves.
“This is why it is important to educate our future generation to grow up as public service-minded individuals. They are our future leaders,” he stressed.
Chua also said Sibu MRCS was currently working hard to turn its “First Aider In Every Home” programme into a success.
“Through this programme, we educate the public on basic first aid. As we all know, first aid during an emergency can save lives,” he said.
Being the branch chairman for almost 14 years since 2009, Chua said he will continue to render his service even when he steps down one day.
“I am 70 this year, which is considered to be old already. I cannot stay for too long because there are new leaders coming up and they have a lot of new ideas that can bring change.
“If my health is still okay, I will still be available and I will continue to render my service.
“Whenever my service is still needed, I will come back, especially as a volunteer member,” he added.