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Carrying out an overseas CIP trip at home


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When their overseas community project got cancelled, this team of medical students started local initiative Nasi Bungkus to help Singaporeans in need.

Reaching out to individuals in need through Overseas Community Involvement Projects (OCIP) has become increasingly popular amongst students. However, the global pandemic has brought the majority of overseas travel opportunities to an abrupt halt – affecting OCIP trips as well. 

Despite having their overseas outreach plans cancelled, a team of nine Singaporean medical students, who returned from their studies in the United Kingdom (UK) due to COVID-19, decided to start their own initiative to help the community back at home. 

The team had initially planned their outreach expedition to Sri Lanka with Healthex International, a student society organisation in the UK that facilitates these OCIP trips to reach out to underprivileged countries. They were going to set up mobile clinics to conduct basic examinations for the locals. 

However, the global pandemic had other plans for the Singaporean team, and they found themselves back in Singapore in mid-March. 

The nine-man Singaporean team was led by Essa Zarook (top centre) and Nikita Bhat (absent). 

"When we returned home, we realised that many people were left economically disadvantaged due to the pandemic. I realised that my team and I could still make a difference – even if it is a small one, by helping those who need help within our own country," said Essa, 23, a third-year student in Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

Wanting to extend their help to as many people as possible, the team reached out to Chef-In-Box, an initiative by JR foods Pte Ltd providing packed meals to disadvantaged families through their Do Good, Send Love campaign. 

The team then started a Give.Asia donation page to support the cause by raising money to fund packed meals for more families in need of aid. 

Wanting to give their project a unique taste of home, the team named their initiative the Nasi Bungkus Initiative

"The words Nasi Bungkus literally translates to 'packed rice', which is essentially what we intend to provide. These packed meals funded by the donations raised will then be distributed amongst the families within the Jalan Besar area, one of the areas with many families badly hit by the economy during the pandemic," said Essa, who is the team lead. 

Besides raising over $9,000 through the donation page within a month, the team also launched a bake sale that raised close to $1,000 for the initiative. The total amount enabled the team to fund for over 2,000 packed bento boxes. 

The bake sale allowed the team to raise more money, as well as provide a tangible token of appreciation to donors who have supported them. 

Reflecting on the project so far, Essa said: "My team and I are extremely grateful for all the help and support we got. We did not expect to raise as much money as we did, and that quickly as well! 

"We did not have any expectations going into this project, but we are all coming out of it with full hearts, and a newfound realisation of how giving and generous Singaporeans can be." 

The team also aims to continuously raise awareness among Singaporeans on issues such as poverty, mental health and impacts of the pandemic within Singapore by using social media as a tool for education. 

"Our focus is to repackage the content in a way where it is interesting and attractive to cater to our target audiences – the younger demographics in Singapore. We hope to continuously educate Singaporeans about the issues the underprivileged face, encouraging individuals to reach out and help anyone they can," Essa said. 

The social media team designed captivating content to engage and educate younger Singaporeans. 

While most of the members of the team will be returning to the UK to resume classes in the coming months, they hope to be able to continuously raise awareness about social issues in Singapore through their online presence. 

Essa said: "We hope to be able to use our current following base on our social media platforms for good and may even attempt to start something again when the team is back next summer. 

"As of now, we will try to keep these platforms going by updating more educational facts to continue raising awareness and educating Singaporeans." 


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