SINGAPORE, Sept 1 — In her hunt for Singaporeans who were giving back to their communities during the Covid-19 pandemic, TODAY journalist Nabilah Awang found herself having to teach an elder how to install and use video conferencing application Zoom in order to conduct the interview virtually.
Before the pandemic, the interview could easily be done face-to-face.
However, with restrictions in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Nabilah had to become a digital service provider of sorts in order to put the piece together.
Her news feature on how ordinary Singaporeans were spreading cheer during the pandemic was one of the award-winning entries featured in Stories of a Pandemic (Soap), a book that was launched last night.
The book is an anthology of real-life accounts, commentaries and visuals that were published in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It features 34 winning entries of the Soap awards, a monthly award created last year by The Majurity Trust to recognise outstanding works that document the crisis in Singapore.
The Majurity Trust is a philanthropic organisation formed in 2017 that seeks to work with donors and charities through its research, to guide funding to under-served areas in Singapore’s communities.
Aside from Nabilah’s piece, TODAY had two other features published in the book:
Nabilah’s news report on the plight of Malaysian workers who were stranded in Singapore following Malaysia’s border closure in March last year
TODAY senior journalist Navene Elangovan and former TODAY journalist Tan Yin Lin’s report on the public reaction to the revelation that the police can use TraceTogether data for criminal investigations
Nabilah said: “(Even though) there were many challenges covering that report (on Singaporeans spreading cheer), I felt like it all turned out well once you got to hear their experiences.
“These people who helped other people have struggles of their own. It’s quite amazing to hear them all and see how Singaporeans pulled through and rode the wave.”
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was the guest-of-honour at the book launch, singled out Nabilah’s story in his opening remarks as an example of how Singaporeans came out to support one another during the crisis.
“(It) showed how people responded and looked out for one another. This was despite their own challenges with some of them having lost their jobs,” he said.
During his speech, Heng reflected on the Government’s experiences handling the pandemic. He also spoke about how the sacrifices of healthcare workers on the frontlines had inspired him.
At the book launch, some of the award winners who were present told of the behind-the scenes work that went into what was published.
One of them was social entrepreneur Cai Yinzhou who won a Soap award in February last year for his piece on the recommendations to safeguard the migrant worker community in Singapore.
He is the director of Citizen Adventures, a company that organises tours and social initiatives in Geylang and Dakota Crescent. Cai has also been championing the welfare of migrant workers.
The migrant worker community here is still coping with challenges such as financial insecurity and mental health struggles right now, he said at the launch event.
He believes that it will take a long time before dormitory conditions that were in the spotlight last year will improve.
Illustrator Josef Lee and photographer Edwin Khoo, who both won awards under the Best Visual category, spoke about how their works allowed them to feel like they were doing “essential” work at the height of the pandemic, at a time when the spotlight was on essential workers.
Khoo said: “As artists, sometimes we are viewed as non-essential (because) we are only good at creating beautiful things.
“But beautiful things are what gives people hope and I hope that our photographs, illustrations and visual work can continue to bring more hope amid this crisis. — TODAY