PETALING JAYA: The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on people’s lives and upended economies all across the world.
But despite the suffering of patients, the despair of losing a loved one to the virus and the subsequent economic hardship that many have suffered, an army of kind souls have emerged, volunteering their time and donating their money to help bring basic necessities to those most in need of it.
In Malaysia, numerous NGOs and good Samaritans have banded together from all walks of life to help struggling folks especially during the movement control order (MCO) till today during the holy month of Ramadan.
One of them is cardiologist and senior lecturer at University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) Dr Imran Hafidz, who initiated the project Ops Telur Sardin (OTS) to help families rocked by economic hardship.
“The idea behind Ops Telur Sardin came to me when I was at work. I was racking my brain trying to think of ways to help my patients and their families who were surviving on daily wages.
“They were struggling to stay afloat even before the MCO and the quarantine cut them off from their only source of income.”
He said that as a civil servant with a stable monthly income, he was insulated from the economic pressures of the MCO but was aware that many others were struggling to get by on very little.
“I realised I was getting distressed seeing how families who lived just a stone’s throw away from the hospital where I work were struggling to put food on the table.”
Along with his good friend Fadzhil, an assistant administrative officer at UMMC, the duo formulated a plan to bring some form of relief to these people.
Dr Imran himself donated the first RM1,000 to kick-off the initiative. The money was used to purchase small packs of food that he believed would help feed a small family for a few days. These packs included five kilos of rice, ten eggs, two tins of sardines, instant noodles, flour, cooking oil, milk and biscuits.
The first batch was distributed to 20 families around Pantai Dalam in Kuala Lumpur.
Word soon got out about the food packs by OTS and others at the hospital began chipping in. To date, OTS has helped over 2,600 impoverished families in the country.
The duo has also reached out to refugee communities, struggling migrants, persons with disabilities as well as single mothers and fathers.
What originally started as a two-person endeavour has now expanded into a team of 10 volunteers.
They have also collaborated with Asthma Malaysia and Persatuan Siswazah Wanita Malaysia to help secure funds.
The initiative, which began in the first week of the MCO and was intended to help struggling families make it till the end of the partial lockdown, has now been extended till the end of Ramadan.
Imran explains that he and his team had no heart to disband the initiative especially since they have been inundated with requests for urgent help from desperately poor families who have nothing to break fast with.
But why the name Ops Telur Sardin?
“I wanted to make it something memorable. After all, no Malaysian can resist a humble meal of rice, eggs and sardines!
“Eggs and sardines are also the main components of the food pack,” he explained, adding that these were the most basic food required for daily sustenance.
Working on such a project must come with its fair share of emotional moments and Imran has many to share.
“I know of a baby who was fed condensed milk as the parents could not afford milk formula. Within an hour, we got them two packs along with some food essentials.
“Another family said they hadn’t eaten in two days. We rushed a food pack to them that very afternoon,” he said, remembering how moved he felt when he heard the great lengths some volunteers went to, to ensure the food packs reached their destination.
“One of the most memorable incidents was seeing the food packs sent to poor villages around Sabah on a boat by a group of school teachers.”
According to Imran, working on OTS has taught him invaluable life lessons. “Firstly, hunger and hardship know no boundaries be it the old, young or those of different ethnicities.
“Secondly is that in times of difficulty, Malaysians have come together and supported one another,” he said, explaining how amazing it was to hear words of encouragement to keep the initiative going.
He also said total strangers had pledged donations while others offered logistics support to ensure the food packs reached the right families.
“Lastly, I believe we must do more to address poverty holistically because I worry for families who are stuck in a never-ending cycle of hardship due to the lack of opportunities or education.”
To those keen on supporting the good doctors’ efforts, follow OTS on Facebook via the hashtag #opstelursardin and donate to Asthma Malaysia or Persatuan Siswazah Wanita Malaysia:
TABUNG DASISWA – PSWM
Bank: Bank Muamalat Malaysia Berhad
Account number: 1205 000 2016 718
Reference: Ops Telur Sardin