Saturday, September 24, 2005

Moon Cake Festival (Mid-Autumn)

I celebrated a really memorable Mid-Autumn Festival with the old folks at the All Saints Home last week on 17 September. I decided to be a regular volunteer recently. Why did I volunteer? Well because I was influenced by a friend who is a volunteer in one of the youth's homes since he likes interacting with the youth and he often shared his stories with us. He told me to join a home that I feel comfortable with. I was also influenced by my dear cousin, Michelle who once volunteered at the Happy Lodge. I became particularly inquisitive in volunteering when I saw the bookmark in the form of love-shaped displaying pictures of the old folks and the underprivileged at NUS.

After graduation, with ample time, I decided to surf the net and check out for more information relating to volunteering. I then came across the National Community Social Service (NCSS) website. Very coincidentally, NCSS was organizing a new program known as “Volunteer-A-Day” (VAD)so as to introduce volunteering to the public. If the public are interested in volunteering, they can be regular volunteer in one of the homes they like.

I chose All Saints Home since it is at Tampines, a heartland located at the eastern part of Singapore where I have lived for the past 24 years. The program involved three sessions on Saturday afternoon. On the first Saturday, I went to NCSS for a briefing on the program and was taught the correct way on handling the wheelchair since we’ll be dealing with mostly wheel-chair bound beneficiaries. I thought that I must be crazy since I went there alone and my cousin, Michelle who had just returned from the Yunnan trip did not join me. Anyway, I mentioned that I wanted to contribute to the society, so that’ll be my first baby step.

On the second week, we went to the respective home that we had chosen when we signed up for the program. At the briefing at the chapel hall, senior volunteers from other homes were there to guide us on our very first day at the All Saints Home. The senior volunteers gave us advice on how to handle the wheelchair and feed the elderly. As an introvert, I had to step out of my comfort zone as some old folks were reluctant to talk. However, most old folks brightened up upon seeing us and they readily shared their stories and tips on longevity, particularly a 96 year old aunty. There is a saying that we are known as "Weekend grandchildren" to the old folks. Another elderly also shared her experiences during the Japanese Occupation. It left an indelible memory on her as she was so agitated and her face contorted with fear when she recalled the old suffering days. Oh yes, most of the residents speak mostly Chinese dialects like Hokkien and Teochew, with some Cantonese. So it’s a chance for me to brush up on my smattering Teochew and to learn new dialects.I was rather upset when some of the old folks expressed their wish to leave the world earlier as they felt that life is meaningless.

As a Buddhist, I was rather taken aback. It is an innate instinct of all living beings to stay alive. It must be some kind of bad experience that prompted them to say that. Indeed, most of their children left them in the home and rarely visit them. Some rich children defaulted payment despite being professionals. I’m not sure if it was due to sheer ungratefulness or other compelling reasons. However, I learnt that when chatting to the old folks, we should not be too judgmental. I would just be there patiently listening to them. As the senior volunteers told us, all they need is really a listening ear.

On the third Saturday, a “Kia Kia”(Outing. Hokkian literally translated- Walk, Walk) session to the Chinatown was organized. However, I did not really join the session as I also had to attend the National Day Preview. Thus, I left upon reaching the Raffles MRT. Even though, it was a short period, at least I felt happy seeing that the old folks were so excited of the trip as they spent most part of their days cooped up in the home. As most of the old folks once lived at Chinatown, touring the place there brought back fond memories for them. However it drizzled that day, so there was a change of plan.On the Mid-Autumn festival, mooncakes and Chinese tea were served to the elderly who really enjoyed it since mooncake is only eaten on this special occasion.

The residents throughly enjoyed the game with prizes. Aunty PL who was initially reluntant in joining the event due to lingering pain near her pelvis area decided to join in the festive program when I exclaimed how exciting it would be with delicious mooncake. :) In the end, she had two pieces of mooncake. The recent Mid-Autumn festival program was made possible by a group of young and energetic volunteers who are mostly students, who took their time and effort in planning and organizing the program. They had delivered a well-executed program which included raving performances by the choir and modern dance group from Dunman Secondary School. Guitarists from other home also joined us. Kudos to them!

Prior to the event, I was still a little apprehensive on committing too much time because I was not sure if I could manage when I start my career. Well, at least as for now, we meet on every alternate Saturday. Well, if it can make someone's day, why not?I like to share a meaningful message by one of the experienced volunteers, Edmund Quek. To all the "Weekend grandchildren", keep up the good work!

Versatile in our roles
Optimistic in our aims
Lovely serving the 'home'
Unassuming in our actions
Nicely attached as a group
Tenderly efforts from all
Earnest in our time contribution
Extending our care and love
Riding a meaningful and joyous journey!

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