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Two girls’ inspiring mission to deliver breakfast to tired doctors, nurses fighting novel coronavirus

SINGAPORE — Tired and drained from the week that just passed, all Mr Tong Yee wanted to do was sleep in on a Saturday morning. But when his daughters came up with a plan to deliver food to the healthcare workers fighting the virus up close in the hospitals, what else could a father do but drag himself out of bed and support the cause.

(From left) Sisters Ruirui and Rui'en delivering breakfast to a healthcare worker on Feb 8, 2020.

(From left) Sisters Ruirui and Rui'en delivering breakfast to a healthcare worker on Feb 8, 2020.

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SINGAPORE —  Tired and drained from the week that just passed, all Mr Tong Yee wanted to do was sleep in on a Saturday morning. 

The 45-year-old social entrepreneur had spent the week helping people who have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, such as those who are still stranded overseas and others who have lost their income as a result of the crisis. 

But when his daughters came up with a plan to deliver food to the healthcare workers fighting the virus up close in the hospitals, what else could a father do but drag himself out of bed and support the cause.

“To be very honest, (at the time) what I was feeling was resentment. I wanted to sleep on the weekend and I really wished they had just stayed at home and watched television like other children,” the father-of-three said.

Speaking to TODAY over the phone on Sunday (Feb 9), Mr Tong said he was surprised that his daughters — Rui’en and Ruirui — had taken the initiative to execute the entire mission on their own. 

At 10 and six years old respectively, Mr Tong had not expected them to want to take action at such a young age.

“They also paid for (the breakfast) from their own pocket money, so I didn’t have to do anything,” he said.

The mission to bring cheer to the frontline workers started at 6.40am on Feb 8, Mr Tong said in a Facebook post.

“They asked whether we could do something for the people in the hospitals. And I really didn’t feel like doing it,” he wrote.

But after hearing his oldest daughter sing a song she made up to cheer on the doctors in the hospitals, Mr Tong heeded their call and went down to Ghim Moh Market to buy breakfast for the friends he knew in the hospitals who were working tirelessly each day during the novel coronavirus outbreak here.

When he returned, the girls armed themselves with markers and wrote messages on each of the takeaway packets and boxes. 

Photos: Tong Yee/Facebook

Together, Mr Tong went with the girls to the hospitals to deliver the breakfast — local comfort foods such as chee cheong fun, curry puffs and nasi lemak — to the tired and discouraged healthcare workers.

In the past few weeks, he had been receiving messages from doctors and healthcare workers who were feeling beaten down by the ongoing public health crisis.

“I was especially concerned about the younger ones because it felt as if they were taking the brunt of everything. When decisions were being made, they felt that they were at the bottom of the food chain.”

For the frontline staff members who have been trying to do whatever they can to stop the outbreak from spreading further, the surprise breakfast delivery had been unexpected. 

“I think the gesture — that you are remembered and you are seen — was something that came as a surprise to them,” Mr Tong said, adding that he later received dozens of messages from the nurses and doctors thanking him and his daughters for the kind gesture.

The Facebook post where Mr Tong shared his experience has since gone viral and has spurred others who are inspired by Rui’en and Ruirui’s kind gesture to kickstart similar initiatives themselves. 

One such project will be taking place on Valentine’s Day, he said, where more than 2,000 people have pledged to come together and bring Valentine’s Day messages to all the hospitals.

At the moment, Rui’en and Ruirui remain completely oblivious to the attention that their Saturday morning mission has received.

“I don’t know whether to tell them yet, because (social media) can turn vicious very quickly… I think it’s good for now that they know they have made a difference to (the doctors and nurses in the wards),” Mr Tong said.

He told TODAY that his earlier feelings of frustration disappeared when he saw how satisfied his daughters were from spending their morning bringing joy to others. 

“After everything was over, they didn’t keep looking for me for approval. They weren’t doing it to please me. They were self-satisfied that they had spent the morning doing something valuable for other people. I think that was the moment of pride (for me).” 

When asked on whether his daughters have started planning or thinking of the next community project they want to do, Mr Tong said while laughing: “No, they’ve gone back to (watching) Netflix already!”

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Wuhan virus coronavirus doctors nurses breakfast delivery

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