Ever since the haze started, Singaporeans are beyond upset, watching the PSI as though they are watching the stock market.
Angry and to a certain extent, helpless as we feel, this haze has proven how Singaporeans carry a lot more love and have bigger hearts than we are probably usually willing to show or admit.
Because of the haze, self-organized help groups like Sg Haze Rescue was born. This group scours all resources possible to obtain N95 masks and gathers volunteers to distribute the much-needed masks to families that are unable to afford them. True, some people may be making money out of the situation by jacking up the price of the masks that people usually don’t even pay attention to, but there are also those who are willing to part with their money just so that needy elderly who cannot afford the masks get them.
Other than masks, other groups go around giving out liang teh and water to elderly or workers who are either unaware of the seriousness of the haze or have no choice but to work in the haze. I’m proud to say that my friend, Zaki, and his girlfriend, were among those who took it upon themselves to bless strangers in this manner.
And then there are those who, while hiding from the haze in their air-conditioned homes, think of others who may not have air-conditioning at home and (believe it or not), open up their homes to strangers who may need some cool, filtered air when the haze is bad. Kudos to you, Daniel and your wife, for having such a big heart.
Yes, annoying as this haze is, it has united Singaporeans together, whether to grumble about the haze (most of us have, via Facebook at least), or to join efforts to be a blessing to fellow Singaporeans.
On top of all this, we have all gained knowledge in ways we probably never thought we would. From buying surgical paper masks, to learning that N95 masks are the way to go, to learning to recognize what makes the N95 masks we use authentic, what we know about masks have changed almost overnight.
And then there’s international relations. While Indonedians Ministers say they will not apologise for the haze, other Indonesians who are in Singapore, are going around apologizing for what the forest fires in Indonesia are doing to us. Sure, the apology doesn’t make the haze go away, but it’s touching to know that there are people who care enough to say sorry.
On top of all this, our own government has stepped in, offering medical subsidies to those who are physically affected by the haze. While some think that our government can do better or do more, I would think that handling the haze problem is really not that straightforward because it involves international relations, so whatever can be done on the ground to help Singaporeans is certainly welcome.
Because the severe haze has struck during the June school holidays, children are unable to enjoy the great outdoors as they wish they could. But this has also pushed creativity levels in parents to occupy the children. Growing up, I was never good with art but to keep my daughter occupied while staying home from the haze, I have done more than I did when I was a kid myself. From making puppets, to painting, I tried whatever I could to keep my daughter entertained.
Of course, we pray that the worst is over and the skies will be clear from now on, even though the forecast says that the haze is not over and we are not out of the smoke yet. Most of us have braced ourselves, armed with N95 masks and (for some of us) air purifiers, prepared for what could be ahead. And we have also not forgotten others who need help but may not be getting it.
If the haze this year has taught me anything, it is that Singaporeans can, and have come together through this, emerging stronger.