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12 September 2012

It was a vibrant and colourful July Friday morning at The Salvation Army's Child Care Centres. Our SA-V Editorial Volunteer, Eileen Boey, share with us the colourful happenings, as youthful volunteers from SMU (Singapore Management University) befriended and conducted activities with the children.

Walking into The Salvation Army Child Care Centre in Tampines I was immediately welcomed by little giggles from the children; reminding me that there’s indeed so much to look forward to on that that wonderful day. Taking steps further into the centre and I soon find a group of Singapore Management University (SMU) students, dressed in orange and blue.

(Above): “Awareness Cards” were made by the children and given out to members of the public, explaining the work of The Salvation Army’s Child Care Centres.
These brightly and colourfully clad volunteers are from starringSMU, the largest community service project held for freshmen joining the university each year.  These volunteers are here as part of starringGIVESBACK, which engages the volunteers in a myriad of activities with beneficiaries of various non-profit organizations.

I walk around the centre, I see the SMU volunteers and the children wearing warm smiles on their faces; evidence that they were indeed connecting to one another. Children are so special and can connect with us when we sincerely reach out to them.  I remember thinking to myself, “What amazing joy these volunteers bring” as I saw them hugging the children, kneeling down to the child’s level as they chatted, holding their little hands and giving them genuine touches of love. And the connection was echoed by Enqi, a freshman SMU volunteer who described the experience as “meaningful and refreshing”.

(Above) starringSMU volunteers standing by with the children at Raffles Place Park for their flash mob. A flash mob refers to a group of people mobilized to meet in a public place for the purpose of doing an unusual or entertaining activity of short duration.

(Above): Interview with Cheryl,
one of the starringSMU student
volunteers in-charge.
I moved on and continued to enjoy those special moments the SMU volunteers were creating. With a flash mob that afternoon at Raffles Place Park, the children and volunteers commenced rehearsals. It was indeed a sight to see even the male volunteers dancing with the children. Some even told me that they didn’t feel shy at all, as we watched them practice their dance steps.

I soon found out that this was one of the four projects that took place in The Salvation Army’s Child Care Centres across the island. And this was to be the third and final day of the project in the centre. This got me curious, I wanted to know why they had chosen to work with children, especially with such a big group of children, which could be challenging for someone not trained to work with children. Nonetheless, they were doing such a great job I couldn’t hold back my curiosity. I approached a volunteer in a white starringSMU T-shirt with the word “EXCO” on it. Her name is Cheryl, meaning dear one, beloved or darling. Indeed she is a beloved child of God. Cheryl was in-charge of the activities at the Tampines Child Care Centre. She shared that the group has previously came two other times and conducted games and craftwork with the children. She shared her deep-felt thoughts and feelings on volunteering for this project. “I want to start from home, from Singapore. Why go overseas when there’s a need to be met here in Singapore already?” She believes that it is vital to meet the needs here where she belongs- even if it’s just a simple need. Thank you, Cheryl, for adding a new perspective towards volunteerism.

Cheryl later brought me to meet a year two volunteer, who returned to help with the children. Melvick told me that since he has volunteered with children with special needs in the past on a one-to-one basis, he would now like to try something on a larger scale. One statement he made left a deep impression in my heart. “It’s not gonna be my last time (volunteering)!” motivated me to go beyond my comfort zone towards giving to others. Thank you Melvick for your wonderful thoughts on volunteerism.

Having danced to a special medley of local favourite National Day songs including Home, Singapore Town, and Together, the volunteers and the children took a little breather. As I sat around listening to the conversations the children were having with the volunteers, it brought smiles, laughter and an extraordinary feeling and warmth inside me.

When I went over to the children to ask if they like the “Jie Jie”s (Chinese term for elder sisters), the children nodded without hesitation, giving such sweet smiles. What better way to hear it than from the children themselves? Cherie and May (in the picture above) told me that it was purely out of interest that they chose to volunteer in this project and affirmed that they enjoyed working with the children.

With the awareness cards all done and packed up and lunch served, we soon gathered the children onto the buses and travelled down to Raffles Place. You could sense the excitement in the air. This was what I saw just before the flash mob started. Amazing isn’t it?

(Above): Volunteers and children with all smiles as they fanned one another, took photos and hugged each other.

Soon came the time for the flash mob as the volunteers and children “invaded” the park and danced to the upbeat mash-up of familiar National Day songs, attracting the attention of the Shenton Way lunchtime crowd. And I enjoyed every moment of the flash mob.

And just as the volunteers and children took their last steps in the flash mob, everyone around cheered and clapped. Yet that’s not the end of the day as the volunteers held hands with the children and took them on a heritage walk to the Merlion Park. It was indeed heartening to see how the starringSMU volunteers carefully planned out the project, having deployed volunteers along the way to guide the way, serve as traffic marshals and provide water.

Finally, I concluded from this whole experience that, with all that the SMU volunteers had put in, they had indeed made a connection with the children and made an impact on them. In return, I also believe that every volunteer brought back with them a deep sense of satisfaction and achievement in their hearts; all because they chose to do everything in love. Let this spirit live on!
(Above): Volunteers and children trying to get a nice group shot while trying to keep the sun from shining into their eyes.