Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Major Happening/Memorable Moment No.1 - All Saints Home Flag Day
Despite waking up on the wee hours of a Saturday morning, despite recklessly exposing ourselves to the insanely erratic weather of Singapore (yes, the sun baked us first before the rain soaked us in ‘clemency’ afterwards), despite the 6 agonizing hours of persistent pleading with shoppers to part with their loose change, All Saints Home volunteers went out en masse to seek public donations during the All Saints Home Flag Day earlier this year. Guilty of feigning tunnel vision whenever I see students selling flags, I was soon to receive a painful retribution. Nevertheless, the day ended with very heavy donation tins, and more half-crazed smiles from satisfaction than exhaustion.
Major Happening/Memorable Moment No.2 – ESN Carnival
In a poetic twist of fate, I was placed in charge of the All Saints Home game stall at the carnival and almost as always, the surprise from a harmless decision is more than what I could handle. A record turnout from all the participating homes transformed the carnival grounds into instant pandemonium within minutes. But as some redoubtable kungfu masters from a period drama would put it matter-of-factly to his dim witted disciple, the ancient pugilistic saying will always hold true: chaos may brew on the surface, but order will breed from within. Indeed, I saw lines form at the games and food stalls, I saw prizes distributed to the participants in a seemingly haphazard manner (but everyone was given the prizes they won), I saw performances unfolded one after another in a manner that would make Swiss watchmakers proud, and most importantly, I saw the old folks from All Saints Home enjoying themselves at the carnival.
Major Happening/Memorable Moment No.3 – BBQ at ECP
Controversial at first, but turned out marvelously at the very end. The annual BBQ was a brainchild of the welfare committee at All Saints Home, with the aim to forge closer ties amongst the volunteers. As expected of every BBQs, an epic amount of food was catered for this celebration, with a ridiculous number of people crowding around the smallest BBQ pit on earth. Had it not been for the voracious mosquitoes and ravenous sand flies, the BBQ would only have ended on the following morning.
Major Happening/Memorable Moment No.4 – Singapore Flyers
Charting unknown waters for the first time, All Saints Home volunteers brought the residents to the Singapore Flyers to celebrate the mid autumn festival. Sweeping aside all initial worries and doubts, the weather was gray but did not pour, the schedule was tight but everything ran smoothly, the day was exhausting but never become demanding. We spent the remainder of the mid autumn festival with nearly every resident at All Saints Home in the most meaningful manner to date by bringing moon cakes to their wards and singing oldies with them.
And the above depiction is my summary of the milestone events at All Saints Home for the year of 2009. For the new volunteers who had joined us in our weekly services at All Saints Home this year, I am absolutely certain that you already have your very own set of memorable moments at All Saints Home. Whenever friends or colleagues quizzed me on the reason behind my decision to volunteer, my idealistic (if albeit naïve) answer had always been to do my bit for society. But it dawned on me that volunteering has never been a one-way street. At the home, auntie Puay Lin constantly reminds us to take good care of our health in order for us to avoid all the elderly ailments that plague her now. When we tried to comfort her by taking turns to hold her hands, her genuine show of concern seemed to convey itself through her touch. Andrew never fails to smile brightly at us when we sang in his ward. Despite his serious head injuries, Andrew possesses a courageous and admirable optimism, which silently encourages us when we seek to overcome any obstacles encountered. Dennis is always tolerant and forgiving when we sang off tune occasionally. But instead of getting irritated with the hubbub we make, Dennis is always the most vocal and ready in showing his sincere appreciation for our efforts.
We have a fair number of new volunteers who joined us this year, which means a lot to our fledgling volunteering group. Although I have no idea how you find out about All Saints Home since public recruitment efforts had ceased a year ago, but I am glad that you have joined us in making possible this meaningful endeavor at All Saints Home. In a lot of ways, I believe that the time you have spent with the residents at All Saints Home had given you many memorable moments, just as you have provided them with theirs. Thus, let us continue to create many more memorable moments for the residents at All Saints Home in the coming year of 2010!
Monday, December 28, 2009
How can we celebrate Christmas without carolling, dance, game, glorious food, happy residents and our crazy fun-loving volunteers.
Mr Chan drawing the lucky numbers
Here are some lucky residents that got to dig their hands into the stocking and guess....
Our family photo
Thank you to all volunteers for making 2009 is another wonderful year for our volunteering group.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
Sooner, the Hall was fully occupied by our residents, volunteers and RGS girls. We started to serve our residents with “zui kuih” and Chinese tea “xiang pian”, both are their favourite drink and food. The girls were really active while preparing and serving the food, they distributed “zui kuih” and tea to every single resident. They soon got along well with the old folks through communicating with them. Expectedly, the residents really loved the food. Most of them had requested for 2nd serving, especially “zui kuih” (many thanks to Benny, who bought a lot of delicious "zui kuih" to the home). With little guidance given, the girls were efficient in serving the residents. They didn’t mind being assigned any task, including holding the trash bag and going around to collect used cups and plates.
During makan session, there was a mini-karaoke concert performed by one of the residents and of course followed by our most hottest and exciting game of the day, Bingo! As compared to last time when we first tried out this game and only a few residents attended, this time was much more fun with the participation of more aunties, uncles and of course, many volunteers. Each of the volunteer was assigned to assist two residents during the game. Instead of using paper and pencil which is time-consuming, we used two different sets of cards with a wide variety of numbers written on them, the numbers can be easily removed by poking the holes on the cards. While Ah Xing was busy reading out the numbers in both English, Cantonese and Chinese, Jia Hao had written them on a piece of mahjong paper adn stick on boards in front to ensure no number were missed out by anyone and Kee Teck was busy preparing and distributing the prizes.
If the residents didn’t find the winning numbers on their cards, they kept asking over and over again. Everyone hoped to get a straight column, row or diagonal of five winning numbers, once they got it, they shouted and yelled out excitedly. As the game was a matter of luck and prizes such as biscuits, tea packages were given out; it really brought a lot of joy to the old folks. In the end, no matter how lucky or unlucky they were, everyone was happy to get their prizes, including consolation prizes.
Once our game had over, it was our turn to perform mini concert to residents during the singing session. With 24 RGS girls and 8 of us (regular volunteers), you can imagine what a powerful choir we could be! We sang many Christmas songs and some favourite Chinese songs as usual. Though we couldn’t fit in any ward due to the overwhelmed number of volunteers, every time we sang at the corridor where the residents were having their dinner, everyone in the home was able to hear and paying attention to us because of the extremely loud voices we created. And yes, I am not kidding, we were pretty powerful not just because of our loudness but also our “not-so-bad-at-all” voice. The old folks did love the singing session so much, they kept smiling and saying thank you to the volunteers, some were even clapping joyfully. It astonished me that beside the popular Christmas songs that most children know, quite a number of RGS girls could sing Chinese songs (even the old ones) pretty well. And even if some were not very sure about the melody, they could easily follow and catch up with the rest. I could feel the enthusiasm and the happiness in their eyes and smiley faces while they were singing and I guess the residents did feel it as well.
Then we ended our service by debrief and some refreshments. I could tell that the girls were tired, they were sweating all over but they looked happy, still. Every single one of them was to share their feelings and learning experience after the event and this is a summary of what I had jotted down from their reflections:
“This experience was really satisfying, I am very happy to see the elderly smile. This is my first time volunteering at nursing home and I felt that the elderly really need our help. At first I wasn’t expecting that much but after this I appreciate the elderly a lot more, they are really nice and special. Though I have to face communication barrier as some of the old folks can only speak dialects such as Hokkien or Cantonese, somehow I still feel okay when communicating with them, which is really miraculous. At first I was a bit worried and feared and I used to think that volunteering at elderly home is boring and it’s about cleaning up, etc. But now, I find it more about interacting with the aunties and uncles; this 1st-time experience has taught me a lot about how to interact with the elderly which is really meaningful to them. I find out more about the life experience of the elderly. The old folks here are more fun and welcoming compared to those at the other homes that I got a chance to visit. I don’t know what to say, I just love them a lot.” (I seriously love this sentence!!!)
On behalf of the home and the regular volunteers, Sook Ying and Kee Teck also thanked all the girls for helping out. Sook Ying told them not to be afraid of the elderly and that they are like our grandparents, just normal chatting would make them happy. Kee Teck believed that this 3-hour experience is just a stepping stone in their volunteering journey. He also emphasized that no matter what kind of CIP (community service program) they choose to do, either protecting the environment or raising fund or selling charity-concert tickets, interacting with people, especially the elderly is still the best among all. And he welcomed them to revisit us on any Saturday that they are free.
To me, this experience majorly changed my perspectives towards kids nowadays. I used to think that kids are playful and sometimes, thoughtless. I used to think that little teenage girls are pretty bimbo and crazy about Disney Channel’s characters such as Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers or whatsoever which I find totally pointless (given the fact that I don’t understand why my 13-year-old sister can spend hours standing in front of the television and dancing + singing Hannah Montana’s music and that Hannah Montana was voted by TIME as one of the most influential people in the World in 2008?!). Now I believe more strongly that many young students do have a sense towards community, especially the underprivileged and those students deserve as much respect that adults do. I believe that they deserve to be considered young adults, not kids.
I also agree to a point raised by Siew Weng – one of the ESN (elderly sector network) volunteer yesterday during the Volunteer Management and Organization Workshop that we should take better care of the CIP students, except the fact that they may come and go after only one session. By welcoming and helping them, we are actually planting a seed by first raising awareness. We may still get the fruits a few more years down the road as those young students grow up and start to think about volunteering regularly at those places they have once volunteered.
I believe this is not a touch-and-go experience for every single one of us. There will be something that would stay long, deep in our hearts. The young students have understood more about the elderly, they would love their grandparents more and wholeheartedly, they would spend more time with them during the last journey of their life. And to the elderly, the beautiful and happy memory would stay with them as well, they would remember about those youngsters that brought to them laughter and wonderful songs. And to us, we are happy to be the bridge between the two distant generations that seem to be of so much difference but more or less share the same thing, that’s childhood, regardless of whether it’s their first or second time.
As one of the student volunteer said, the old folks here are much more welcoming compared to those in other homes, I believe that attitude doesn’t come easily between people who were once strangers to one another. I believe that mutual trust is built up and tested by time with effort put in from both parties. And till this moment, I am confident to say that we have more or less achieved that, we as regular volunteers find ourselves more or less related to the elderly in All Saints Home. We would miss them and they would miss us if we can’t manage to meet one another every Saturday. It’s sweet to know that in life, there is always someone being by your side or just being there for you. We keep the old folks here going by adding life to their years, they keep us going by their smiles and happiness, and this fantastic volunteer gang of mine keeps me going and bonded. How about you? What keeps you going? Volunteering simply keeps me going, as much as my family and friends always do.
P.S: sorry for not taking photos during the makan + bingo session (so you know how busy we were and how excited we were to totally forgot about it!) By the way, Christmas is knocking at your doors, our home is decorated beautifully with lots of creative ornaments made by the nurses. Here are some of the pictures:
Do come down and join us for our home Christmas celebration on the 19th of December 2009. Looking forward to it!!! Wohorhorhorhorhor~~~~
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Since there was never an All Saints Home tee shirt for the volunteers to begin with, the events committee has to resort to standardizing the color of the volunteers’ attires for any outdoor activities. So far, red seems to be the committee’s favorite color and until recently, white was endorsed as the color for our outing to the Singapore Flyers. Realizing that it will come to a point where the choice of colors will eventually run out for our activities, the volunteers proposed the idea of designing a tee shirt exclusively for our volunteering group.
The demands for the tee shirt design became stronger after we have won the tee shirt design competition at the ESN carnival. As akin to cornered animals when driven to desperation, I often have to rely on the most unsavory of tactics to wriggle myself out of this predicament. More than once, I simply brushed away this idea by counter-proposing an offer, which comes cross as frivolous at best.
Alas, the straw that eventually broke the camel’s back was finally unstrung last week, when Carolyn broached this topic to me again. Tired of throwing up half-baked excuses, I have capitulated to the fact that we do need a tee shirt uniquely designed for the All Saints Home volunteers.
At this juncture, I would like to urge all the volunteers to provide me with ideas for the tee shirt design. No matter how bizarre or seemingly ludicrous the ideas may be, all suggestions to the tee shirt design are welcomed. After all, this is a tee shirt designed to represent all the volunteers in All Saints Home, and your contribution to this design will make the entire affair more meaningful. Thus, I sincerely hope that you can contribute your ideas enthusiastically to the design of the All Saints Home tee shirt together. And with a stroke of luck, we might be wearing this tee shirt to the next outdoor event!
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Unknown to many, this outing to the Singapore Flyer was the first outing for the residents organized entirely by the All Saints Home volunteers. All previous events, which had involved the participation of the residents from All Saints Home in outdoor activities, were collaborative efforts between our volunteers and the other volunteering organizations. Hence, as we were relatively untried and inexperienced in organizing this type of event, the committee for this event (Sook Ying, Carolyn and I) took an extra cautious approach in the planning of this outing. The number of volunteers required for example, was at least 20% more than that required of events organized at All Saints Home, to cater for any unforeseeable circumstances that may require for additional manpower.
Nevertheless, despite all the planning effort, the staging of this event was still fraud with obstacles. The obstacles that could potentially threaten to turn this event into a complete disaster included the logistical demands required for transporting the residents from the home to the location of the Flyer, and gathering adequate volunteers to run this activity. These 2 obstacles were further exacerbated by the fact that information on the number of residents who could participate this outing, were only made available to us only at the eleventh hour. Thus, we scrambled like mad to allocate each resident participating in this outing with a volunteer when we finally received the list of 13 residents who were going for this outing. As simple as it may seem, the allocation required meticulous consideration. As we do have quite a number of non-mandarin speaking volunteers, there was a need to pair up the volunteer and resident in such a manner where both could speak a common language. In addition, we also had to assess if the volunteer is able to push the resident on his/her wheelchair with relative ease. Thus, we tried our best to allocate the volunteer with a resident that could best match their physical profile.
As only 13 residents from the home were participating in this outing, a good majority of the residents remaining behind would not be able to join us in the Mid Autumn celebration at the Singapore Flyer. Thus, Carolyn had decided to buy 10 boxes of moon cakes as an after-lunch treat to all the residents at All Saints Home with the money provided by this event's sponsors. Alas, to lug all 10 boxes of moon cakes and the equipment needed for the outing to All Saints Home by herself would be unduly harsh on our venerable chairlady. But what do we have to fear when there is the always dependable Benny, clad in the humble ESN Carnival Tee-shirt and driving his MPV to the rescue? Like the noble cavalier from a bygone era, Benny has always offered the use of his car when the need to transport equipments to a remote venue arises. Furthermore, he had always rendered his service for all major events as a photograhper. And thus, Carolyn and I were whisked off in Benny’s car when he arrived at Carolyn’s place with his wife, Janette, and the 4 of us promptly reached All Saints Home at 9 am sharp.
Since this outing consisted of 2 major events (the trip to the Singapore Flyer and Kia Hiang restaurant), we were running an extremely pressing schedule. Thus, when we learnt that Rimei and Meng Kwee were helping us out for this outing, we were elated beyond words. The volunteers were quickly briefed by Sook Ying on the activities of the outing, and brought to their attention the point of rendezvous after the Flyer ride. Subsequently, the volunteers were paired up with their residents, and the start to a long and tiring day had officially begun when the bus chartered for this outing arrived.
In my previous entry, I had mentioned residents at All Saints Home are mostly wheelchair bound. Therefore, each resident would have to be painstakingly carried by the nurses from the bus to their wheelchair when they alight, as the buses chartered for most outings are rarely designed to be wheelchair-friendly. At the same time, the volunteers will need to unload the wheelchairs hastily from the bus and unfold them from their stowage position. The process is equally tedious during boarding, as the nurses will still be required to carry the residents to their seats on the bus, and the volunteers will fold the wheelchairs to their stowage position just as hastily, and gingerly carry them onboard the bus.
But we were soon to forget the toils earlier when we finally arrived at the Singapore Flyer. Arranged into 4 different groups, all the residents, volunteers and nurses were ushered into 4 different capsules by the Flyer’s staff, that were reserved specially for All Saints Home. Needless to say, the residents were visibly enlivened by the entire experience as we marveled together at the enthralling sight of the city’s skyline, which had deservingly served as the backdrop for Singapore’s F1 night race. I had never taken a ride on the Singapore Flyer before this, and had always wondered what was all the fuss behind this gigantic merry go around that offers nothing more than a fancy name. But now, I had to eat those words, whole. The resident whom I had the opportunity to speak to, remarked of the tremendous changes in Singapore’s busiest district, and continued that he has never imagined that he was able to be view the sight in front of him from such a height. The brief, but meaningful exchange left a profound impression on me, and I was glad that we were given the opportunity to stage this event.
Although we were told that the ride would last 40 minutes, the entire ride felt more like 15 minutes to us! I guess this was largely attributed to the fact that we took countless number of pictures in the capsule, and spent most of the time explaining each building towering over the Singapore River to the residents. After disembarking from the capsule, we continued to take numerous group photos with the Flyer in the background, before boarding the bus to Kia Hiang restaurant. Predictably, the residents were hungry after spending the entire morning at the Flyer. This was especially true for the residents in our capsule, as a certain someone had forgotten to bring our share of moon cakes, which were intended as snacks during the Flyer ride (I guess I will be put to death after posting this entry). Hence, the residents and volunteers alike, dug heartily to the meal at Kia Hiang restaurant, which had generously given us a whooping 50% discount off the total expenses.
After I had unglamorously polished off the last grain of rice from my bowl, we proceeded to wheel the residents to board the chartered bus and made our way back to All Saints Home. The end to a long and tiring day was finally in sight. Although they were worn out from the barrage of activities, the residents had thoroughly enjoyed the outing. I guess the most heartrending encouragements to the volunteers came (again) from Dennis, who said (I could not remember his exact words, but it goes something like this), “I am already very happy that you (the volunteers) took the effort to do this for us, and I’m thankful for that.” Although I did not tell Dennis this, but I guess I would be echoing the sentiments of the rest of the volunteers, when I say that his encouragements further reinforced our passion and energy to continue our volunteering work at All Saints Home.
Mission Impossible did not end immediately after we wheeled the residents back to their respective wards at All Saints Home, as we proceeded to distribute bite-size slices of moon cakes to the rest of the residents in the ward. In fact, we even managed to find the strength to conduct our usual singing session to most of the residents as they savored the moon cakes in their wards. As the last of the moon cakes was distributed, we were at once relieved that Mission Impossible had finally been accomplished! I did not have the opportunity to thank all the volunteers who had lent their aid to this outing in person, and hence, I shall proceed to do it now. The reason why this outing was so important the All Saints Home volunteers, is the fact that from henceforth, we are able to retort with certainty that All Saint Home volunteers are capable of staging a successful outing on our own. The significance of this capability implies that, with the experience garnered from this outing, we would be able to do more for the residents by staging a similar outing in the future. All these would not be possible without the services of the volunteers, who had joined us in this meaningful Mid Autumn Festival outing. Whether it was the Vietnamese trios, who had taken valuable time off from their preparation for the exams, or the sacrifice of Anitha, Benny, Janette and Esther, who could have spent a precious Saturday afternoon with their family, or the selflessness of Emily, Run Biao, Tina, Anne and Shikhar, who could be taking a much needed respite from work by sleeping in late for the weekends, I guess the gratitude I had expressed here will not be fully sufficient. More than you would realize, any recognition in the success of this outing really belongs to you.
I was also reminded of the steadfast dedication of Rimei and the tireless effort from Meng Kwee. Although Rimei was unable to join us in the Flyer ride, she had provided invaluable assistance in ensuring that all the residents and volunteers were safely disembarked from the capsules, and gathered at the point of rendezvous. Thank you Rimei and Meng Kwee, I hope that we could have the pleasure of roping you into our activities in the future. In addition, from all the volunteers and residents at All Saints Home, we would like to thank all the sponsors for this event (one of them is a volunteer initiator person, VIP), the Singapore Flyer and Kia Hiang Restaurant for their stellar services in providing all the necessary assistance to us, and of course, the generous discounts off our total expenses for this outing.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
This is the first Senior citizen cum volunteer appreciation organized by All Saints Home that I’ve attended and to me, it was amazingly impressive!
We arrived earlier than usual, at around 12.30 pm. The home was decorated so nicely that once you just entered the familiar greyish gate, you could tell there was going to be a small carnival brightening up the place. That simply made us so excited even before the event began.
We gathered in our volunteer room and prepared many lovely and colourful gift packages with ovaltine, biscuits, etc for our beloved old folks on this special occasion. Surprisingly, we found out that these stuffs actually came from some warm-hearted individuals who really care about the welfare of our uncles and aunties.
At 1 o’clock, the hall was already adorned with a lot of bright-colour flowers and balloons. We saw many old forks wearing little red and yellow scarves already sat nicely in rows arranged by the home nurses. Many of them dressed up prettily and handsomely, they all looked very happy with smiley faces. Even their wheelchairs were also decorated eye-catchingly with colour paper and ornaments. Every time we welcomed a pretty auntie/handsome uncle into the hall, our nurses and volunteers would blow their whistles so loud that I just wanted to cover my ears with my palms but instead I decided to clap to join the FUN! Our old folks looked like some famous and attractive artists whose appearances were extremely important in all the festive events. And guess what? They will be performing to us many items later. I still remember last year when I performed a Chinese dance item during the Moon-cake festival to the elderly, this time, I no longer felt nervous as I would be the audience watching our old folks’ performance. The experience was really new and different.
Speech by Board of Director
The performances were really enjoyable and worth-watching. Either items performed by the old-folks themselves or a combination between the old folks and the nurses, either they danced or sang, all were so fun and lovely that made us, volunteers, smile, laugh, scream and even shake our bodies along with the cheerful music. The festive atmosphere was everywhere that it made every single person who was sitting in the hall feel involved and that they have a part to play! Despite the fact that our old folks are not very mobile, when they were on stage, they looked so confident and professional, no trembling, absolutely natural, it was like they had been practicing their items for the past few weeks. With the help of the nurses and ASH staffs, the elderly really put in a lot of efforts in perfecting their own performances and making the whole event a success. There was not just English and Chinese music, we did hear Indian dance music, the first time in ASH I believed. The “Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin” song, the L.I.M.B.O ROCK dance, the New York, New York dance in which the auntie looked like “a runaway bride” and many performances were really memorable to all those who attended.
Volunteer appreciation for schools, organizations and our regular volunteers who have contributed to ASH!!!
And then we had prize presentations for our very own old folks^^
After the main event ended, we had a mini food and game carnival for our old folks, this reminded me of the ESN carnival last week which was really interesting and enjoying! This time, besides choosing their own free food provided by different stalls, each old folk was given special $5 coupon to buy food from Kopitiam and/or play games. As many other old folks, my auntie really enjoyed her food, she kept saying “Good! Good!” while eating half-boiled egg and drinking coffee. Though the food hall was a bit small and squeezy causing trouble for us to move the wheelchairs, everyone was really tolerant and nobody complained from the beginning till the end of the makan session.
Our lovely volunteer group photo!
7 ESN babies wearing the “add life to years” T-shirt designed by Wei Zhong, haha, what a FUNNY coincidence!!! =))
I had a nice talk with Anitha after the whole event; it was pretty surprising that she needed to rush somewhere to teach the children Bible right after our ASH event. She said that God gave her time and it was her turn to give time to the elderly and spread the love for God. We both agree that volunteering really helps us to relieve our stress and makes us feel good. The old folks are more or less like the kids who always want to be cared and loved. Every time we feed them food, they always ask us to enjoy the food as well. They like to play fishing games and ball games; they enjoy and sing along the songs that we sing no matter how terrible our voices can be. And yes, absolutely, being an elderly is sometimes having a second childhood, the lovely and memorable time that we all wanted to come back to.
Time is flying so fast, it has been more than one year since the first day I came to All Saints Home. I still remember one year ago, on the 5th July 2008 when I just stepped in this place, everything was so new to me, the home, the old folks, the other volunteers as that was the first time in my life I had been to a nursing home. Now, things have not changed, just that my feeling is different, if you think language barrier is a big issue then believe me, just a smile on your face may brighten up someone else’s day. Things have become so familiar that I am sure that I can remember almost every single face I’ve met in ASH, not just the old folks, the volunteers but also ASH staffs.
To all not-so-new (old) ASH volunteers: keep up the spirit as we will have many more coming years to volunteer our services and better our elderly’ lives.
To all new ASH volunteers: welcome to ASH, you would love this place and don’t worry, you will become old (I mean experienced) volunteers one day!
Really enjoyed the nice dinner!!! HAHA, we don’t call this a group of volunteers but rather a FAMILY! (: