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The Best and The Worst

The opening lines of Charles Dickens' book "A tale of two cities" are well known by many: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Dickens was writing about the messy state of affairs in 18th century England, but he might as well be writing about our present situation around the world.

It is clear that this COVID-19 epidemic has caused great hardship to people all over the world. For Habitat for Humanity Singapore, it means that all of us have to cease operating in a near lock-down situation with the exception of the most urgent cases in Singapore, for fear of infecting our clients or staff. The impact, of course, would reach our beneficiaries overseas as well, as we cannot send volunteers overseas anymore for an extended period of time. This situation is multiplied all over the Habitat world. And of course, donations have dropped like a stone, as everybody is occupied with many other issues at hand, chief of which is whether one would still have a job.

We are all experiencing a range of mixed feelings, reading about the foolishness of people defying safe distance measures, mocking the government effort at every turn (wear or do not wear face mask?); and worst of them all, reading about the many deaths and hardship faced especially by the poor and disadvantaged around the world. A photograph of Indian migrant workers huddled like animals in a group being sprayed with disinfectant by misguided government officials comes to mind. Indeed "the worst of times", "foolishness", "incredulity", "darkness", "despair".

At the same time, we see glimpses of "the best of times", "wisdom", "belief", "light", "hope" in the midst of all the mess. My eyes well up with tears as I see video of imported doctors and nurses leaving the Wuhan hospitals after they have completed their mission, hugging each other in tears while being saluted by the local police and applauded by the local residents. We read about people reaching out to those who are homeless, sewing face masks for distribution, preparing free food for healthcare workers at the front line.

We see the world rethinking about many things and systems that we have taken for granted, or ignored before, like how many places can now see the blue sky and wild animals because human activities have ceased. Even in Habitat Singapore, we are now revisiting the cause of the foreign workers in view of their horrible living conditions, an effort we started back in 2008.

It would seem then that whether this crisis would turn out to be the best, or the worst of times is almost wholly dependent on how we react. Like what many people on social media are saying, "It takes a virus to..." What is in that blank would depend on what is it we will do in response to this global threat. Will it bring out our best, or bring out our worst? Prayerfully it is the former and not the latter.

Let us fight this good fight together, resisting the negativity and amplifying the positives by our determined effort. While the days again are trying and uncertain, give and share of your time and resources with others, because we are all in the same boat. Be creative and think out of the box for new approaches and solutions to the problems of the world around you. At Habitat for Humanity Singapore, we are certainly trying our very best to do that.

I have always thought that at any one time, we can be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Would you join us and be part of the solution? May we emerge from this mess on the right side of history; may this be the best of times for us all.


Got some extra funds saved up from cancelled holidays or the $600 Solidarity government payout? If you’re fortunate enough to not be financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask you to consider sharing a portion of your extra funds and #PledgeYourSolidarity with Singaporeans who need a little extra help.

Just 20% (or $120) of your payout is enough to buy a brand new bed frame for a vulnerable senior, plus a little extra for cleaning supplies. Your pledge will go a long way in ensuring every Singaporean has a safe and clean home to take comfort in during this "circuit breaker" - and for the rest of their lives.

Share your surplus; #PledgeYourSolidarity with Singaporeans


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