Creating ripples of change amid COVID-195 min read . Updated: 06 Nov 2020, 05:04 PM IST
Through its COVID-19 Charity Aid programme, Barclays is working with charities across the region to help vulnerable communities access the support they need to get through this crisis.
Andy breathed a sigh of relief when he saw familiar faces at his doorstep. An elderly man who ran his errands using a wheelchair, the lockdown period had been quite an ordeal for Andy. Buying groceries and paying bills without any help amid the circuit breaker imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 was a challenge.
He was in for a pleasant surprise when volunteers from Singapore Red Cross, in partnership with Barclays, were at his doorstep, checking on his health and offering help. Later they were back again, to deliver groceries and assist Andy with bill payments.
RISING TO THE OCCASION
Thousands of vulnerable people have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Leading corporates have been rising to the challenge by accelerating their community efforts to help those in need. One such example is Barclays. The British universal bank partnered with leading Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) – including Singapore Red Cross, HealthServe Singapore, The Food Bank Singapore, Plan India, and Magic Bus India Foundation, among others – to make a difference. Through its global £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package, donations with matching colleague contributions and fundraising efforts, it has stepped up its community support initiatives.
In Singapore, Barclays’ charity partners distributed food, offered shelter, and orchestrated awareness programmes among vulnerable communities and low-income families that were most at risk. The focus areas included elderly people, individuals with disabilities, pregnant women, children, migrant workers, and those with limited access to government support.
LENDING A HELPING HAND
A short distance away from Andy, in a Factory-Converted Dormitory (FCD), Gazi, a migrant worker who makes his living in Singapore on a special work pass, was struggling to make ends meet.
“It was a difficult phase," Gazi recalls. “When I was about to recover from an injury and get back to work, the circuit breaker was announced. All of us at the FCD were really worried because we didn’t have any other source of income. Thanks to the groceries supplied by HealthServe and Barclays, we could lay our worries to rest and get back on our feet." HealthServe Singapore also provided temporary accommodation to around 550 migrant workers for two months, while supporting over 4,200 people from FCDs with food supplies. Besides, the NGO offered medical assistance to more than 750 workers with chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Much like Gazi, Leonard, an elderly man who lives with his aged caregivers, was finding it difficult to stay afloat amid the circuit breaker. “Things took a turn for the better when Barclays and Singapore Red Cross delivered care packages to more than 800 people in our community centre," reveals Leonard with a smile. “The package had everything we’d need for a month – food supplies, household essentials and health and hygiene products. With timely help right at our doorstep, we felt safe and supported."
So far, the charity partner has also supported 80 low-income families with food vouchers for two months and distributed 500 sanitation kits.
The Food Bank Singapore is another NGO partner leading Barclays’ efforts. To ensure that nobody goes without food, the organisation collects excess food from food suppliers and shares it with elderly care homes, family service centres, and soup kitchens. In association with Barclays, The Food Bank Singapore has supported around 52,000 low-income households across the country with over 77,000 cooked meals.
EMPLOYEES TURN COVID-19 WARRIORS
Employees are also stepping up to contribute in tangible ways in the fight against COVID-19. Kerri Wong, a Barclays employee, enjoys sewing as a hobby. When Singapore was facing the second wave of COVID-19 and a subsequent shortage of face masks, Wong along with fellow sewers signed up for a local community initiative. Together, they sewed 300,000 masks for the migrant worker community who were at high risk of infection.
The experience gave Kerri and the team of sewers a new sense of purpose. She says, “I never thought sewing would become such a valuable skill. The ability to serve society and bond with fellow home sewers has been an incredibly enriching and uplifting experience for me."
The Food Bank, a charitable partner of the bank in Singapore, provides food to the less privileged. Food Bank’s volunteers deliver 10,000 meals across the country every day. Its operations were affected amid the circuit breaker. This meant that the daily needs of the beneficiaries could not be met. Food Bank required volunteers to continue their operations. Benjamin Goh who works with the risk management team at Barclays, Asia Pacific, along with his family, signed up as volunteers to deliver dinner to residents at the Lengkok Bahru, Redhill area.
“Our typical day started at 4.20 p.m. with a drive to our food collection point where we received and organised the food we needed to distribute. We delivered 100-140 meals which took us about 1.5 hours to complete," discloses Goh.
The beneficiaries ranged from the elderly who are on their own and those who have fallen on hard times. A heart-warming smile or a Terima Kasih or Kam Sia (thank you) from the beneficiaries made their effort worthwhile. They bonded with the children in the area who would greet them and play guessing games about who would be bringing their supper.
A RAY OF HOPE AND HEALING
The COVID-19 crisis has severely impacted societies and economies worldwide and pushed millions into the brink of poverty. With the fallout from the pandemic accentuating existing risks and creating new ones, purpose-driven organisations provide a ray of hope with their commitment to give back to society.
For instance, Barclays has been working with charity partners such as Plan India and Magic Bus India Foundation in India to provide support to hard-to-reach underprivileged communities. Be it supplying nutritious food, monetary aid, protective gear or helping in the organisation of health and hygiene workshops, the efforts are aimed at providing equitable, inclusive support to underserved communities.
“Now more than ever, businesses must amplify their societal impact and focus their efforts on protecting and rebuilding communities. Together with our people and partners, we want to play our part in ushering a wave of hope and healing amid the crisis," Jaideep Khanna sums up.
*All programme beneficiary names changed to respect their privacy