If there is a positive to be drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the ubiquitous spirit of volunteerism in Brunei Darussalam.
From the onset of the first reported coronavirus case in early March, medical frontliners were called upon to deal with any health emergency that may arise. Quarantine and isolation centres were set up to keep at-risk individuals from the public to contain the outbreak.
Due to the complex web of measures in place to limit the spread of the virus, more manpower was needed to ensure smooth operations.
As such, an ad-hoc committee of youth volunteers was set up with coordination from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) with the aim of assisting the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Education (MoE) in frontline assistance and community projects.
Based in Dewan Imtiyaz of Pusat Bahagia, Kampong Pulaie, the COVID-19 Volunteer Operation immediately drew 400 youngsters eager to join in on the cause.
Over the course of the next few months, over 1,500 students, fresh graduates and volunteers from various organisations and corporations, such as the National Service Programme (PKBN), Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) and Brunei Darussalam Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) worked tirelessly to support the various national measures to stem the tide of the unprecedented global health crisis.
Volunteers were omnipresent in key areas such as Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital, health centres, quarantine and isolation zones and Brunei International Airport. In addition to conducting temperature checks and taking down crucial information, they also delivered food not only to medical frontliners and underprivileged families under various community projects.
While medical frontliners had been vital in fighting against the novel coronavirus, the volunteers played an instrumental part in ensuring that the delivery of these measures was smooth sailing.
Their contribution in the health crisis did not go unnoticed.
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’zzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam announced in a titah during the Israk Mikraj celebrations that these volunteers, along with medical frontliners, would be rewarded with a monthly allowance of BND400 for their commitment and bravery. They were also featured frequently in the daily COVID-19 press conference for their commendable work ethics.
Later, when the BruHealth app was introduced to aid the nation in contact tracing in the case of a new outbreak, the volunteers were once again called upon to assist the public in the use of the new application.
Now that the country is in the containment phase of the COVID-19 outbreak, the volunteers are continuing their efforts in supporting the government in seeing the crisis through to the end.
The spirit of volunteerism in the country is very much needed, and very much alive.