Coronavirus: Rain or shine, these Singapore athletes will deliver your food to you

SINGAPORE – Unlike the arrogant and vain queen Cassiopeia of Greek mythology whom she is named after, sambo athlete Cassiopeia Lim sports a deep tan from spending many hours in the sun as a Grabfood delivery rider.

Since March, she has been out on the streets delivering groceries and food after she was unable to find full-time employment owing to the Covid-19 crisis.

The 22-year-old, who was previously a full-time lifeguard at Resorts World Sentosa, had switched to a part-time role to train for the SEA Games last year, when she won a bronze in the sambo women’s 80kg. Sambo is a sport similar to catch wrestling – a classic hybrid grappling style and combat sport – and judo.

With the coronavirus outbreak forcing sports facilities to close, Lim, who graduated from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) with a Higher Nitec in early childhood education, sent out at least 10 job applications, with no success.

“Initially I was doing Grabfood while looking for a job and when Covid-19 blew up, I couldn’t really be employed full-time,” she told The Straits Times. “I was planning to work in a pre-school while trying to get my diploma, but some of the places I applied to said they had frozen recruitment.”

So Lim now puts in 7am-3pm shifts, five days a week on her bicycle, pedalling up to 2km per trip for deliveries within her Woodlands neighbourhood. Each trip earns her $5 and a “good day” of 15 to 16 orders can see her pocketing up to $80.

While she does not find the work tiring, Lim said her takings dipped by 30 per cent during the two-month circuit breaker and Ramadan period with more riders signing on and people choosing to stay home and cook instead of ordering take-out.

As she does not want to take money from her parents, her earnings go to paying her bills and motorcycle loan, and some goes into the piggy bank as she is saving up for commercial insurance to switch to her motorbike for deliveries.

Her father is also a Grabfood delivery rider while her mum is a lab analyst.

Having two riders in the family of four – Lim has an older sister who is studying in the Singapore Management University – can offer some friendly rivalry.

She added: “Sometimes I bump into him (her dad) and we challenge each other to see who can hit more deliveries per day. He usually wins because he stays out longer, sometimes up to 12 hours from 5am to 5pm.”

Like Lim, other local athletes such as silat exponent Riansyauqi Mistam and national Under-19 floorball player Irwan Shaiful are also pitching in to help their families during this pandemic.

Riansyauqi, who won a bronze at last year’s Asian Championships, has spent the last few months working at Domino’s Pizza, delivering food around Pasir Ris on his bicycle. The 19-year-old, who is a mechanical engineering student at ITE College East, said he did not want to “laze around at home” during this difficult period.

His father was retrenched from his job as a merchandise flow supervisor – he now works as a team leader at NTUC – while his mother, a procurement executive, had to take a 30 per cent pay cut.

The silat exponent said “the least I could do is to work and find my own source of income and not ask them for pocket money anymore”.

“It can be tiring but I think of the pros. I’m an athlete and can take this opportunity to maintain my stamina and keep fit, train my core so I tell myself that this is not a wasted effort,” added Riansyauqi, who intends to juggle studies, training and work when sports restarts here.

He earns about $600 a month and gives $100 each to his parents, while using some of the money to buy treats for his two siblings – an older brother who is 22, and 13-year-old sister.


Irwan Shaiful doing food delivery in Pasir Ris. PHOTO: NANI SHARIFF

Meridien Secondary School student Irwan, 15, has also been busy helping his mother with her home-based food business. His parents are bus ticketing agents but could not work due to the travel restrictions enforced during the pandemic.

In between school and Zoom training sessions, Irwan and his elder brother take turns to deliver up to 10 orders a day in Pasir Ris, while his mum takes care of the orders outside their neighbourhood.

Irwan said he had wanted to join his dad as a Foodpanda rider “to help my parents out” but he is not old enough to sign up. So the resourceful young athlete reached out to friends, adding: “Helping my mum do deliveries was my idea and most of her customers are my friends. I post shout-outs on Instagram about her food and some of them ordered.”

On the perception some have of delivery riders as “not having a good education”, Lim points out that she has met fellow riders who are university graduates. And while they sometimes have to endure long waits and impatient customers, she gets joy from a simple thank you, or when customers offer her drinks.

The camaraderie shared on the road is also something she enjoys, adding: “The other riders try to share their knowledge, like teaching the newer people where the good areas to wait for orders are.

“There’s no rivalry between the different company riders, and if they have extra food, they will share it with everyone. It is the nicest thing.”

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