Thuma Mina/Send Me - The Call to Volunteer in the Fight Against COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world into survival mode with many South Africans unable to work or go about their daily life, prompting UKZN’s Mr Tony Singarum to volunteer his time by spreading awareness about the virus and assisting Law Enforcement Officials with compliance regulations in his community.
A Council-member and Senior Governance Officer at the University, Singarum says he could not sit on the fence and felt the urge to assist in making a difference to ‘save the lives of our people during this pandemic.’
‘My skills and expertise acquired from the University, together with information from our medical experts, gave me the confidence to volunteer to assist.’
Living near an informal settlement, where the majority of people are unemployed and many of those who have jobs are not able to work because of the lockdown, spurred Singarum to take action. ‘They had no money for food and were suffering,’ he said. ‘Women and children were going to bed hungry, while others, in desperation, would approach me for help. It pained me immensely to see their suffering so I assisted with transport using my own vehicle and food.’
He also found many people were unaware of the compliance rules of the Disaster Management Act and more work was needed from law enforcement officials to educate individuals about the Act. Singarum distributed information pamphlets to vulnerable members of the community to help ensure compliance at a time when those contravening the law could be either jailed or heavily fined. ‘The results of a survey conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council are comforting in that they found public knowledge about COVID-19 is very high (97%), indicating our work has assisted in creating awareness about the virus’ he said.
Singarum credits the University’s website and the creation of the “war room” for providing up-to-date COVID-19 information and paid tribute to Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Nana Poku, whom he says inspired the UKZN community to join the COVID-19 community mobilisation campaign and volunteer services to create awareness about the spread of the disease.
Singarum is no stranger to community work and activism. ‘I’ve been a volunteer for as long as I can remember, starting from my childhood days in the church and my community. In the early 1990s, a call was made to the public from the Durban SAPS Flying Squad for volunteers to assist with answering the emergency hotline (10111) and I signed up as a volunteer with them,’ he said.
The highly infectious virus was a cause of concern for Singarum, but he followed the necessary guidelines to protect himself and his family. ‘I was obviously very conscious of the risks associated with this pandemic, not only to myself but also to my family. I took the necessary safety precautions by regularly sanitising, washing my hands, wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing at all times.’
He quipped that washing his hands so often had given him ‘baby soft skin’ again!
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer