Heroes Unmasked: Couple and friends give away 6,600 free masks after procuring them with own money
SINGAPORE — After seeing on the media how Singaporeans were scrambling to get surgical masks due to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, Ms Jennifer Le decided to do something. She did not tell her husband her plan — until he saw her packing masks at home and found out what she was up to.
SINGAPORE — After seeing on the media how Singaporeans were scrambling to get surgical masks due to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, Ms Jennifer Le decided to do something.
She did not tell her husband her plan — until he saw her packing masks at home and found out what she was up to.
A Vietnamese who has been a naturalised Singapore citizen since 2005, she and her two Vietnamese friends chipped in S$200 to buy 600 masks from an online Vietnamese seller on Facebook so that they could give them away for free to those who want them.
Her husband later expanded on their efforts, buying 6,000 more masks through his own contacts — and all 6,600 masks were given away within minutes over two separate days at three venues this month.
Surgical masks have been out of stock at pharmacies and retail outlets since late January, with people turning to online sources. Others queue when they find information on social media of new stocks arriving but these go fast as well.
When TODAY contacted Ms Le, she declined to give her full name and other personal details and did not want to be interviewed, saying that she was merely trying to help and did not want more publicity.
Her Singaporean husband Martin Lim, 45, a photographer, spoke on her behalf instead, saying that his wife was inspired to do this because of what she saw happening in Vietnam.
“The rich people in Vietnam began to buy face masks after the prices shot up. They would then pay people to set up stalls and give out the masks for free.”
He explained that his wife wanted to carry over here the same graciousness seen in Vietnam and encourage Singaporeans to share.
He said that they are just ordinary Singaporeans trying to help. There was no paying other people to set up stalls either, because they did and organised everything themselves.
When his wife received the 600 masks they ordered, she and her friends began packing them into packs of three at home.
At first, Mr Lim said that he was kept in the dark about his wife’s activities, but after he found out, he managed to buy 6,000 masks at a premium price through his connections. He did not want to disclose how much they cost.
While packing them into packs of three at home, they remembered to take care of their own personal hygiene and wore masks when distributing them to the public, Mr Lim added.
On Feb 5, they went to Sengkang MRT Station near their home to give away the first 600 masks.
Then on Feb 16, they went with more friends and headed to Toa Payoh Hub Atrium and Hougang Mall.
A distribution notice was circulated on Facebook and the turnout was, as expected, strong.
“Many Singaporeans came to get the masks and what we had were gone quickly,” Mr Lim said. The masks were snapped up within five minutes in Toa Payoh and 10 minutes in Hougang. The giveaway was supposed to be from 6pm to 7pm at both places but it was over before the hour was up.
Mr Lim said that they decided on the two latter locations because they wanted to go to mature public housing estates where there tends to be more senior residents who were vulnerable to contracting the virus.
They were also near separate MRT lines — Hougang along the North-East Line, Toa Payoh along the North-South Line — “so we won’t have the same people at the same time”, he added.
He and his wife decided not to work with any charity groups or hospitals because they preferred to do it themselves.
“We hope more Singaporeans will step up and be encouraged to share. Don’t hoard the masks because there are people who are in need of them and do not be kiasu (afraid to miss out),” Mr Lim said.
“We definitely want to do this again, but only if we can find a reasonable seller.
“The prices (of the masks) continue to get higher as the demand increases.”
Related topicsWuhan virus coronavirus Covid-19 masks giveaway Hougang Toa Payoh
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