A few decades ago, we never imagined that we would be forced to experience Covid-19 pandemic. In science-fiction movies, film-makers used to illustrate the future with high technology weapons, sophisticated house systems and futuristic fashion designs that would entirely change human lifestyles. Very few of us had foreseen that life in 2021 would be just staying at home, practicing social distancing, wearing masks and rubbing our hands with sanitiser. It is heart-breaking to learn the virus is still raging and mutating despite all the unwavering efforts made by the authorities. Every day, we witness the frontline workers sacrifice their lives and as the cases keep on escalating, we become worried if the frontliners can still cope with the pressure. The frontliners. are our heroes. Do you know you can be a hero too? Yes, you can! Be a volunteer!
You can be a volunteer at Vaccines Administration Centres or known as Pusat Pemberian Vaksin (PPV) to help the government establish ‘Herd Immunity’ under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP). For the record, more than 600 PPV have been established all over the country and they are opened for seven days a week with the operating hours extended until 9 p.m. This means a large number of volunteers is needed to ensure the centres can function efficiently. Having enough volunteers at PPV will enhance the vaccination distribution process which has to be done in an orderly, fast and safe manner. Besides, this will also prevent burn out among the volunteers.
There are many organisations such as Malaysia Vaccine Support Volunteers (MyVac), Angkatan Pertahanan Awam Malaysia (APM), Jabatan Sukarelawan Malaysia (RELA) and other local community organisations which you can choose to be a volunteer. In Johor, for example, the state’s volunteer group known as Southern Volunteers has also played its role to mobilise the vaccination programme. The Johorean youths in each district have been continuously encouraged to join Southern Volunteers to help out with the vaccination process.
Some of you may think that one must possess certain qualifications or experience related to medical fields to be a volunteer at PPV. You do not need to worry about this because if you do not have any medical background, you will be assigned to non-medical duties. At Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), the volunteers perform their duties at different stations. The duties include ensuring venue readiness, sanitising equipment, screening body temperature, helping the vaccine recipients’ MySejahtera registrations, distributing vaccination consent forms, providing queue tickets as well as guiding the flow of the vaccine recipients. Some may have thought the duties of volunteers are easy.
As a matter of fact, the duties are quite challenging as they are exposed to risks and become fatigued when they commit to serve for more than 6 hours. Some of these volunteers are doing it for free – no allowance is paid, some are stationed outside of the hall, some have to stand up all the time, and some have to push the wheelchairs to different stations. There could also be days when the system was down, the volunteers had to call the queue numbers verbally instead of the computerised system. Some of them have to repeat the same script over and over again such as “Go straight, Encik”, “First vaccine or second vaccine?”, “Please scan your temperature here” and “Are you pregnant?” to thousands of people, every day. It is time consuming and energy draining to help everyone in the community receive their vaccines, but as they are responsible, selfless, and engulfed in team spirit, everything is done effectively.
The key in becoming a good volunteer is patience. All volunteers should always be mentally and physically prepared to deal with people’s attitude and behaviour. There are times when volunteers are tested with impolite, impatience and even panic vaccine receivers. These people come from all walks of life with mixed feelings. There are people who are excited; they selfie everywhere, some are unhappy as they do not receive the type of vaccine they prefer, and there are some who try to cheer you up by wearing unique costumes. Apart from all these, the senior citizen group is among those who need extra attention as some of them have lack of confidence to go alone in the hall meeting strangers, some have hearing problem, while others are afraid if they have to pay for the vaccine. There are also those who are worried of the side-effects after the injection as well as those who cannot speak proper Malay language. Volunteers are there and treat them fairly regardless of who they are so that they will feel welcomed.
Being proficient in more than one languages including sign language could be very helpful to the volunteers. At PPV UTHM Johor, it is common to use Malay language with the local people, but the volunteers also speak in English as there are foreign vaccine receivers from countries such as Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. Besides that, there were cases where volunteers had to resort to using sign language as some vaccine receivers had some communication disabilities. It is very crucial to guide, consult, ask and know their problems using the language they understand to ensure they too receive clear and accurate information.
In conclusion, being a volunteer at PPV will leave you with so many invaluable experiences. You will learn how to work with professional teams, deal with people from different backgrounds, and communicate effectively. Volunteering is not a glamorous job. You may not appear on television or become viral on social media. You only work ‘behind the scene’, but as long as you do it sincerely, have faith, you will be rewarded by the Almighty God. Our ancestors had sacrificed themselves to fight war, achieve independence, so that the generations after them can live in peace. What about us? Can we sacrifice for our next generation? Let us open our hearts, lend our hands to serve the community and save the country. Be a volunteer and be part of history!
Iza Nurhidayah Ismail
Centre For Language Studies
Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)