COVID-19 can't stop these brothers from helping others

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09 Sep 2020 | PEOPLE

COVID-19 can't stop these brothers from helping others

Fighting together in the battle against COVID-19: ME4 Sivakumar S/O Kanagasundaram was inspired by elder brother CPT Deeban to help migrant workers affected by the pandemic.

//Story by Thrina Tham

//Photos by Chua Soon Lye & courtesy of ME4 Sivakumar

English 华文
Brothers ME4 Sivakumar (left) and CPT Deeban both served two-month deployments as part of the Inter-Agency Task Force, assisting migrant workers affected by COVID-19.

From an empty parade square and field to a facility that can comfortably house about 500 migrant workers recovering from COVID-19: Captain (CPT) Deeban's unit – the Motorised Infantry Training Institute – had three weeks to establish a Community Recovery Facility (CRF) in Guillemard Camp.

Tentages had to be set up, along with beds, drinking points, showers and electrical points. When signages on safety measures were being put up, CPT Deeban even roped in his elder brother to get friends to check the translations in languages such as Myanmese and Hindi.

In those first few weeks of April, the Fire Support Officer trainer would often leave home at 6.30am and return at close to 2am.

Every night, his mother would wait up for him. Though she was concerned about her son, she understood why he wanted to do his part in the COVID-19 operations.

"Even though I was coming home late, my mum would be waiting for me to eat. It's these little things, that support from family, that drives us to do more," said the 33-year-old.

CPT Deeban (front) getting suited up in personal protective equipment before heading for duty at the CRF in Guillemard Camp.

As the migrant workers started streaming into the CRF, the team noticed that many of them did not pack sufficient clothing for their stay. So the trainers started collecting clothes, with CPT Deeban's family also chipping in to donate.

"We couldn't go out to meet other people (during the circuit breaker period) then, so everything came from the team's families," he recalled.

After the setup of the CRF, his team continued to manage the welfare of the workers, such as overseeing their meal distribution and waste collection.

CPT Deeban (front row, second from left) with his unit at Guillemard Camp. CRFs were also set up at five other camps to provide temporary accommodations for migrant workers recovering from COVID-19. The running of these CRFs was eventually handed over to facility managers, to provide specialised care of these patients.

His experiences over his two-month deployment spurred his younger brother to join him on the front line.

Military Expert (ME) 4 Sivakumar, 28, said: "I saw him coming home late from his duties, and seeing him so exhausted yet so determined (to continue) made me want to be a part of that and help in whichever way I can."

On 4 May, he joined the Forward Assurance Support Team (FAST) at Kranji Lodge 1 dormitory to support the dormitory management in tackling the spread of COVID-19.

ME4 Sivakumar communicating with dormitory staff to coordinate the movement of the migrant workers within Kranji Lodge 1.

As the number of cases were high, ME4 Sivakumar took the option to live in an accommodation outside of home. He did not want to risk transmitting the virus to his 67-year-old father.

This was a tough time for the close-knit family. CPT Deeban explained: "I still came home almost every night, but my brother was staying outside for two months. It reassured us when he video-called, especially for my Mum who would be waiting for his calls."

ME4 Sivakumar added that these calls with family and friends helped to keep his morale up and prevent work from becoming too overwhelming.

The FAST deployment worked closely with the medical team to monitor the patients' health and manage their movements, and introduced safe distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus.

They also ensured the well-being of the migrant workers, and helped them with issues such as remittance and banking.

"The COVID-19 situation was new and the ops was unprecedented. We just focused on our tasks and communicated (with the workers) frequently," said ME4 Sivakumar.

For the Air Force Engineer from 507 Squadron, it helped that he had his brother fighting alongside him on the front line in Singapore's battle against the virus.

"In a way, it felt like when I first joined the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) –nervous and asking him about how it's going to be.

"To know that this is something my brother also went through was of great support to me."

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