SINGAPORE: Singapore will mark Total Defence Day on February 15 with an annual Total Defence campaign. The campaign is a national effort to encourage the public to play a part in building a strong, secure and cohesive nation, to deal with any crisis.
With this year’s campaign theme "Will You Stand With ME", organisers hope to encourage people to be inspired, and step forward to do something for the community.
One such individual is Stanley Tay, a volunteer with First Aider On Wheels.
The Singapore Red Cross started First Aider On Wheels in February last year, and since then, its volunteers have tended to more than 1,000 casualties at the East Coast Park.
Mr Tay, who spends his weekends cycling at East Coast Park twice a month, has been volunteering with the programme since July last year.
The volunteers usually see about 10 casualties on the weekends and have tended to various injuries, from cuts and bruises to more serious ones like heavy bleeding and seizures.
Mr Tay runs his own business but still makes time for volunteer work.
The 27—year—old started volunteering 10 years ago, when he went to Chiang Rai to teach children English, music and art.
But what changed his life was embarking on a volunteering trip to Sichuan province two years after the deadly earthquake.
The then—university student said: "We can’t appreciate the idea until only when we’re there, because the buildings are definitely big and tall. Only when you’re there, you can see how small you are by examining the entire destruction around you."
"That was my first exposure from seeing the total destruction of a certain place. It was really horrific."
Mr Tay met many who had lost loved ones in the disaster and the story of a school principal is one of the many which touched him.
"He was actually running away from the disaster at that point in time, with his friend’s wife behind. For a moment, he was running and still talking to her. The next, when he turned around, she was not there," Mr Tay explained.
"From what he mentioned, the floor opened up, she dropped in, and the floor closed back.
"When we hear from people, you actually feel closer to them. So that’s what made me volunteer and be a bit more involved in the medical side."
However, it was another disaster that firmed up Mr Tay’s decision to keeping volunteering.
In 2010, he was on an exchange programme in Taiwan, when an earthquake hit Alishan.
He said: "I went there on a leisure trip, and I actually see first—hand the entire damage that place has been through — the mudslide, the collapse of all the hills and the knobs and such. So that was when I felt even closer that, I need to... Train up myself to have at least the basic skills so that should anything happen, at least I can be around to provide a certain service or certain skill."
The exposure to disasters may have paved the way for Mr Tay’s volunteer work, but he believes that even without witnessing such tragedy, it is possible for Singaporeans to contribute to the nation.
His advice is to find an area of interest, and make time to volunteer.
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