When people care, national borders don't matter

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 03 Sep 2020

WHO would have thought that my one-week visit to Wuhan in early January 2020 would turn out to be my only overseas trip this year.

Four days after I returned to Malaysia on Jan 16, the coronavirus which was yet to be named was spreading like wildfire in Wuhan.

On the eve of Chinese New Year, a good friend of mine had to cancel his leave to return to work in Wuhan. That was when I realised the outbreak was not "just a flu".

As a descendant of Hubei province, I decided to donate to the "Save Wuhan" campaign that my friends in China started before CNY.

The situation was deteriorating by the hour, and we saw medical frontliners in the province struggling without personal protective equipment (PPE) to save the lives of others. It was even more upsetting to see families not being able to unite for CNY especially as, at that time, some goodbyes would mean farewell forever.

The outbreak also galvanised a once loose community of Hubei natives in Malaysia and Indonesia to show solidarity with the birthplace of our ancestors.

On the first day of CNY, I decided to mobilise fellow Malaysians and friends to donate to Wuhan through the #OpsHarapan #WeCareWuhan donation drive. I did wonder what a small country like Malaysia could do to help China, an international manufacturing base, as we don’t have many factories producing PPE. So, what could we donate to Wuhan that was critically needed?

My friends in the media picked up my online postings and published our efforts nationwide, and the #WeCareWuhan

drive snowballed overnight.

Against all Chinese traditions, I called friends who are manufacturers of gloves in Malaysia to ask for help.

UOA Group, Top Glove, Mahsing Foundation, Malaysia Airlines, MasKargo, Yunda Express, Julie’s Manufacturing and many mid-tier companies in Malaysia were among our key supporters, too.

We were also fortunate to obtain support from the SME Association, Jalan Alor Hawkers Associations, religious institutions, students from kindergartens to secondary schools, political and corporate leaders, members of the media and the public.

To all the people who donated in cash and kind, we thank them for their generosity and trust in #OpsHarapan. It was amazing to see that everyone viewed the #WeCareWuhan drive as a humanitarian movement and that Malaysians must help Wuhan contain the spread of the virus.

Family members and friends came together to support us, and strangers who volunteered became friends. Without them, we would not have been able to make the #WeCareWuhan drive successful.

I remember seeing our volunteers asking the public to donate whatever they could, telling them every little helps.

With help from our friends in Malaysia and Indonesia, and with the support of Malaysia Airlines and Yunda Express, #OpsHarapan managed to deliver more than RMB3.5mil worth of PPE to Hubei Province.

And just as we were wrapping up the donation drive and getting back to our daily lives, the outbreak began in Malaysia. This time around, the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia and our friends in China began to send us medical supplies.

China stood resilient, provided leadership in the battle against Covid-19 and has proven its ability and capacity to cope with a pandemic of this scale.

The Malaysian government has been communicating with Chinese medical experts, drawing lessons and experiences from them to support us in our efforts to contain the outbreak. We have seen bilateral exchanges of academics, scientists, healthcare workers, leaders and community leaders extending their expertise and resources, and supporting each other in terms of findings, analysis, and strategy.

The early responses and strategies adopted by China, such as early reporting and situation monitoring, large-scale surveillance in contact tracing, and preparation of medical facilities and supplies, are among the successful measures in controlling Covid-19.

China provided leadership to many countries by sharing its experience in prevention and treatment measures and effective and targeted public health emergency governance.

Malaysia received the largest consignment of medical supplies, including the much-needed ventilators and face mask, from China.

I would say that the year 2020 is a difficult year for many. In terms of health, economy and even socially, it hasn’t been easy for anyone. In such tough times, it is important that we remain united regardless of nationality and ethnicity because the virus is a threat to all mankind.

When China was suffering from the outbreak in January, information shared by China and references provided by the World Health Organisation together with the international scientific community should have been sufficient to encourage the world to establish preventive measures in anticipation of a possible worldwide pandemic.

China has successfully provided leadership, become a role-model and demonstrated solidarity with many countries in the Covid-19 pandemic by showing all of us how it grasped the health crisis beyond the medical, political and administrative fronts.

China’s assistance in terms of supplying PPE, medical equipment and experienced medical teams has helped many nations.

The world has been at war with the coronavirus since January 2020, but I believe that regardless of how many challenges we have to face together, this experience will give us strength and peace to rebuild.

I expect more and even bigger challenges ahead of us, but I also choose to believe that we will all continue to act with empathy and kindness.

I trust that we will improve and change the way we think and act and be more mindful of everything we do. We all look forward to rebuilding lives and communities that have been affected by this pandemic, and I hope that alongside these challenges, we will find some positive long-lasting impacts for all of mankind.

Ng Yeen Seen, Founder and CEO of Centre of Research, Advisory and Technology (CREATE) and founder of #OpsHarapan

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