Not too long ago, I was meeting a potential volunteer and the way she explained her motivation for wanting to support our work left me pondering after I left the meeting. “When you have been poor, it stays with you,” was a statement that hit me weightily. I could understand the words, but I doubt that I will ever be able to fully understand how a generosity of the heart emerges from hardship.
I guess hardship affects us differently. For some who have overcome it, they find it difficult to understand why others cannot do so and for some living with it, they find much joy doing whatever they can to alleviate the difficulties experienced by those around them. Many of those we support have discovered that by reaching out to their neighbours, their quality of life improves. I am particularly grateful and inspired by those who have moved out of rental housing but come back to support their old neighbourhood whenever they can. I find their efforts reassuring maybe because as a child, I was told that as we make new friends, we should keep the old.
20 persons showed up during our last Volunteer Orientation on a Saturday morning. This session provides potential volunteers an overview of the organisation, what we do and why, as well as what is expected of them. In the process, people get to know each other and reveal a little bit about themselves and why they came for the session.
An older man recalled his own experience of living in a rental flat with 9 others where meals were usually a bowl of rice with some soya sauce. He has done well for himself and would like to support families living in rental housing. His lived experience tells him that regardless, these families could do with some encouragement rather than criticism.
Another grew up in the slums of Delhi and his ticket out was the Marine Corps of the Indian Navy. Though not originally from Singapore, he was convinced that there must be a way for our children and youth to break out of the poverty cycle. Perhaps, he was assured when a young man from a single-parent family with little resources shared that he is an officer in the army and will soon enter the National University of Singapore.
We have many volunteers from different countries and this we find heartening because it creates the presence of a common humanity that unites people in understanding and kindness. A Vietnamese lady with a PhD explained that having been lucky enough to escape life under tin roofs, she felt a sense of duty to do something for those who are struggling in one way or another.
Finally, I would like to share how a police officer decided to volunteer because of his experiences on duty. He shared that it was most painful arresting parents in front of their children. Once a 6-year-old boy opened the gate and started having a friendly conversation with him. He was impressed by the child’s precocity but when the boy heard the click of the handcuffs, he started sobbing because he knew that he will not be seeing his dad for a long time. This officer was aware that when breadwinners are incarcerated, families tend to turn for the worse and the likelihood of children taken into care is high. As such, when he is off-duty, volunteering is a duty.
Enjoy your weekend.
Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in the world all on your own. ~ Albert Schweitzer