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31 July 2013

It was an “out of routine” morning, as I made my way to Pasir Ris Park, to meet with volunteers from NParks. They were bringing the children from The Salvation Army’s Child Care Centres at Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok East, Ang Mo Kio and Tampines for a special date with nature.

It was a fun-filled day, as the children engaged in sketching (Fort Canning Park), pony rides (Pasir Ris Park), planting (HortPark) and story-telling (Singapore Botanic Gardens).

Mohamad Yusoff, Manager of Pasir Ris Park (which hosted children from the Bukit Batok East Child Care), has been with NParks for over 30 years now. While chatting with him, he shared how he believes this outing is good exposure for the children and introduces them to nature, and as they interact with nature, it helps them develop patience and respect for the animals. In the picture on the left, Yusoff can be seen showing the children the different kinds of snails in the park. He, together with the volunteers and teachers, can be seen encouraging the children to wait patiently for the snails to appear from their shells. To me, I have always thought of snails as just snails, but little did I know that God has created such a variety of snails. There were the telescope snail, giant clam, creeper snail and helmet snail, and while walking around, I saw another volunteer showing the children the smallest frog I have ever seen.
Even though I live in Pasir Ris, I was not aware of the park being such a gem of nature. Yusoff goes on to highlight how Pasir Ris Park itself is a natural ecosystem of mangroves and different species of plants, trees, birds, snails and animals. So besides learning about snails, the outing was indeed an eye-opener for me and the children, to the biodiversity in the parks around us.

Together with us in the park on that day was also another group of student volunteers, accompanying seniors from another non-profit organization. It was really heartening to see so people giving their time. I then asked Yusoff if he could share some ideas for volunteer projects in the park. He suggested volunteers bringing the beneficiaries to the park in the early mornings, between 8am and 10.30am. They can stroll around the park and take in the clean air, walk in the mangroves and/or walk by the beachfront.

In addition, with the biodiversity, volunteers have outdoor science lessons with children. There is also the kitchen garden or the butterfly garden which they can visit. In fact, the kitchen garden, which features various kinds of spices, is maintained by volunteers.

Yusoff shared that he has ever brought beneficiaries who are physically impaired to the Southern Ridges. The beneficiaries loved it, as they beheld the wonderful scenery at the high point of the Ridges in their wheelchairs. When asked about the advice he can give to people who are contemplating to volunteer, he shared that it is important that, as volunteers, we be fully aware of the need of the beneficiaries we serve. We need to also devote time and our heart to the service. While volunteering, he suggests that volunteers treat the beneficiaries as individuals. “I treat the children like my grandchildren and as individuals, not just as a kid”.

As I went along, I met Ms Seah Wee Huang as she carefully took care of the children. Wee Huang has been with NParks for almost 9 years. Smiling as she spoke, she explained that she enjoys seeing people having a good time. What also made the assignment memorable for her is also the ability to interact with the ponies. Wee Huang shared that she has a special affinity to horses as she used to take part in horseback riding when she studied psychology and IT in Hawaii. Knowing that her mum was slightly mentally impaired before she was born, spurred her to take up psychology; so she can learn to understand her mum and others better. Wee Huang suggests that in life, it is easy for one to see oneself as unfortunate, till we see others in need and take action.

Perhaps it is this spirit of giving which continues to drive Wee Huang to give, as such, volunteering is nothing new to her. She used to volunteer with another non-profit organization. She was invited by a friend and continued to take time to visit the physically impaired beneficiaries on her days off, for a number of years. She would help the nurses to feed the beneficiaries and engage in activities with them. At another point in time, another friend also invited her to help out at a special needs school.

When I asked her to share some advice for volunteering, she candidly commented “Just do it! The first time is always fearful but once you overcome it, you will overcome it all.”

And I see this overcoming spirit in her as she continues to give to others her time and effort. “I enjoy mingling with these people and helping them overcome their fear.” And this was indeed evident, as I witnessed how she stayed with the last child and helped her off the pony.

The Salvation Army thanks all volunteers from NParks for making this special date with the park so special.

Article by:
James Lim
Volunteer Resources Manager
The Salvation Army