Mother’s Day is just around the corner but this year it will be different for me. For the first time I will not be with my mother to celebrate her.
I work in Indonesia, but my family is back in Malaysia and due to the global restrictions in travel, I am currently apart from them. While thinking of my own mum, I started to wonder about some of the women who work in our field operations. I recently learnt about these local heroines who are on the front lines of their communities, embodying the spirit of ‘gotong royong’ which means teamwork for mutual benefit.
Mdm Mery – Sewing Superhero
In East Kalimantan, Mery Melano Fernando is an inspirational woman. The wife of one of our mill managers, Mery has been leading a group of women in hand-sewing reusable masks for employees and community members since the outbreak started.
She decided to volunteer in this mask-making initiative as part of the Indonesian Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and has been instrumental in raising awareness about the virus and getting more women in her community to participate.
As Mery lives a distance away from the city, she had to take quite a journey just to get the fabric for the masks – a total of nine hours! Imagine that!
But the arduous journey did not dampen her spirits. When she got back, Mery took it upon herself to organise the 12 women in the volunteer group. She gave them roles suited to what they were each good at, and planned logistics so they had flexible working hours to be able to carry out their daily tasks at home while making the masks.
Mery, and her group, have produced a thousand ready-made masks for employees.
My colleague Beni shared this story about Dr Kurnia with me. Her dedication to her work and community brought me to tears.
Dr Kurnia – Dedicated doctor and supermum
Dr Kurnia is our doctor in East Kalimantan’s Jakluay estate clinic. She is also mother of a young child who she is still breastfeeding.
When the outbreak started, she had to prioritise the well-being of her community over her family. Together with paramedics, Dr Kurnia has spent long hours at the 24-hour clinic, treating and tending to patients since 19 March.
Even during breaks, they do not go home, to prevent transmission of the virus to family members. It has been challenging for the medical staff, but especially for Dr. Kurnia who has had to disrupt her child’s breastfeeding schedule and replace certain feeds with formula milk.
What affected me most was when she shared that good intentions aren’t always appreciated. There were times some patients were disrespectful to her and her paramedics. For example, when they reprimanded patients for not wearing masks, there were some that were furious and said hurtful words.
Dr Kurnia reminded us, “Our profession as doctors and paramedics is to be professional in all situations. This includes instances when there are angry patients. We must be firm in enforcing these measures, to safeguard our community against the virus.”
To date, Dr Kurnia and her paramedics have treated around 90 suspected cases of COVID-19, of which 86 were negative and four are still under surveillance. The clinics are working closely with the local estates in a special task force to oversee all suspected cases.
Heroines like Mdm Mery and Dr Kurnia really demonstrate the spirit of gotong royong in the field. I’m sure there are many more like them out there, working in the front lines, holding down the fort – my heartfelt thanks go out to them.
There are many people who are away from their mothers and families this Mother’s Day or Ramadhan season (just like Beni and I are), especially our frontliners. Take some time to show them your appreciation, and reach out to those around you who might be going through the same struggles – you never know who might need your words of affirmation.