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Pay It Forward: the Unintended Yet Wonderful Consequence of the MyOHUN Calls for Volunteers

Volunteerism has long been an integral element of health services. It enhances well-being for individuals and societies through the ideals of solidarity and altruism. Volunteerism offers vital assistance to people and communities in need without requesting anything in return. Unexpectedly, one call for volunteers generated a snowball effect of good deeds in a time of crisis.

As COVID-19 cases surged in Malaysia, the Malaysia One Health University Network (MyOHUN), through active collaboration with the Government of Malaysia, activated its second call for volunteers in January 2021 to assist the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre in their efforts to manage the spread of the virus. MyOHUN established multiple social media and networking platforms reaching member and non-member universities, public and private agencies all around the country. It announced the first call for volunteers in March 2020 during the early phase of the pandemic. The call succeeded in enlisting more than 1000 volunteers to help in hospitals with the positive cases and laboratories for COVID-19 screening tests. A second call saw more than 250 health-related personnel respond despite pandemic-induced fatigue and other challenges. Happily, this call captured the attention of the Ericsen Foundation.

"I saw MyOHUN’s post on Facebook calling for volunteers and thought that this is an opportunity to help the overburdened medical system as the rate of infection increased every day because we are in this together,” said Chew Meng Li, the Financial Officer for the “Malaysia COVID-19 Charity Drive” of the Ericsen Foundation. This program was recently launched by the Foundation. After seing MyOHUN’s call for volunteers, Chew Meng Li contacted Dr. Chee Hui Yee from the Universiti Putra Malaysia Teaching Hospital (HPUPM) to offer the sponsorship in the form of medical supplies, small equipment, and consumables. The Ericsen Foundation also contributed to the work on COVID-19 screening for refugees registered under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This medical testing is currently undertaking with the main funding coming from the USAID COVID-19 Emergency Tranche Fund.

"Without this help, HPUPM would not be able to set up the COVID-19 detection laboratory so fast, just within 2 weeks.” Dr. Chee Hui Yee, Associate Professor, Universiti Putra Malaysia Teaching Hospital.

COVID-19 has impacted the communities more than we can imagine. A single act of kindness may directly cushion the negative impact of the pandemic to a degree, but more importantly it may generate a snowball effect of good deeds from all directions.

So…pay it forward, everyone. MyOHUN did!

- Personal protective equipment, distancing, and group size standards in this photo were consistent with local public health guidance and COVID-19 status in the specific country and time it was taken. This may not reflect best practices for all locations where COVID-19 is still spreading. -


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