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07 December 2011

A photo with arty big brothers and big sisters...
Children at the Ang Mo Kio Child Care Centre were treated to storybook art on 4 Oct, by a group of volunteers from the Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) School of Interactive and Digital Media. Led by Ms Wendy Tan, their lecturer, the student volunteers read a story from a children's storybook and then participated with the children in a hands-on art session inspired by the story.

It was heartwarming to see the children, child care teachers and the Nanyang Polytechnic volunteers interacting with one another and smiling away, as they worked away on their masterpieces.

We had the chance to hear from them on their experience volunteering with the Child Care children.

Is this your first time volunteering? 
Wendy: Yes, it is my first time with The Salvation Army.
Grace: Happily, nope - though it is the first time I'm volunteering with The Salvation Army.

How have you volunteered before?
Wendy: I volunteered in the Youth Expedition Project (YEP) in 2010. 34 students with 3 colleagues and myself travelled to China, Hainan Island for a community service project. I am also a Docent (Volunteer Guide) with Asian Civilisation Museum. I guide at least once a month in the museum for 2 years now.

Grace: Quite a variety of things throughout the past few years. Volunteering has seen me doing anything from paint jobs for the homes of the elderly to giving tuition to underprivileged kids.

What was your role as a volunteer in this assignment and what did you do? 
Wendy: I organised and facilitated the whole assignment. In preparing for the project, I recruited students, coordinated the dates, brought them to an exhibition for children and subsequently also brought them to the centre for a short visit before the project day. In addition, I assisted to seek funding from my school to buy the art materials.

Grace: I supervised and guided the kids in making their art pieces based on the story read to them. 

What prompted you to volunteer for this assignment? 
Wendy: A few reasons. From my last YEP in China, Hainan Island, we did an art workshop with the less fortunate children in a village and they enjoyed a lot. Then I thought "why not do the same for the less fortunate kids in Singapore?" since many kids in Singapore are still not exposed to art. The fortunate ones get to pick up art with enrichment courses their parents put them through. But the less fortunate ones will not get that kind of opportunity, especially when art is seen as a less important subject in our society. However, many parents and teachers are not aware that art helps promote literacy. If children are encouraged to draw based on the storybook they read, it will inspire them to read more and to learn more. Children who are less expressive will find ways to express themselves through art; expressing themselves and their personality through their drawings.

Grace: I like the idea of experiencing art with children and saw it as something meaningful to engage in during the holidays.

How was the experience volunteering with the children? 
Wendy: The workshop turned out to be more challenging than I had thought it to be. I was quite ambitious and thought that my 5 students will be able to handle 5 kids at a time. But I have observed that the smaller the group, the better it will be as each child will be attended to. Even though so, my students enjoyed the interaction with the kids in the centre very much. We are also quite pleased with the outcome of the artworks.

Grace: It was great! :D I guess the children did enjoy it as well.

The children's masterpieces
What did you like about the volunteer assignment? What makes it memorable? 
Wendy: To see that the children enjoying themselves! Especially the shy ones; they are the most creative. I have come to see that their works are surprisingly beautiful. I think some of them might not have realised the talent they have and I hope they are proud of their own art pieces. I was so excited to see the final output of the children’s work. And most importantly my students also gained a lot from this workshop.

Grace: The kids made this assignment memorable; it was just fun to see the ideas they came up with.

What have you gained from this volunteering experience? 
Wendy: As previously shared, I have learnt that smaller groups would be more manageable for us. As the children are 6 years old, thus we need to attend to the children so as to guide them through with our instructions.

Grace: The idea of future volunteering involving kids and art.

What "words of wisdom" would you give to those who are considering to start volunteering? 
Wendy: Just do it, don’t think too much. If there is a will, anything can be done. I came up with this idea only like 6 months ago and I proposed it to my Reporting Officer (RO). As soon as my RO approved the idea, I went ahead without procrastinating to plan it.

Grace: Open your heart, open your mind.

Tell us a little about yourself.
Wendy: I am an Art Lecturer with Nanyang Polytechnic for 10 years. I graduated with a bachelor degree in Fine Arts and a Master degree in Arts Education. I exhibit my works once in a while and am now already working on my next exhibition. I teach art, make art and think about art almost every day.  Art has become a very important part of my life. Teaching art and design in NYP allows me to get in touch with art almost every day. It is a great pleasure for me to share my interest and impart my skills to others, apart from my own students. Hence, I have decided that I should conduct art workshops for the public whenever I find time. But my focus would be for the less fortunate. It is also essential for my students to be able to share their skills with the society. I want them to leave their comfort zone, work with the community; experiencing that same rewarding feeling I get whenever I am sharing.

Grace: I'm currently studying animation at NYP.

Give me a high five!
The Salvation Army thanks all student and teacher volunteers in this project for making it possible and meaningful for the children.