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~~~~