When they were told that they were the 14 most active youth volunteers in their neighbourhood, those present were most surprised. Many said that whenever they helped with food distributions or community events, they were just doing what they have always seen their friends and neighbours do. They were just going about their lives normally and never thought that they were volunteering or that we were noticing their efforts. Nonetheless, they appreciated being recognized and were proud that they had been helpful to others.
The idea that they had been contributing and could continue to do so seemed to ignite an enthusiasm to do more. They started discussing what they would like to see happening in their neighbourhood and started making plans to introduce the game of volleyball to the children. We were heartened that these young people have taken to heart our message that they have to create the neighbourhoods that they want to live in.
The opportunity to contribute proved to be empowering experience for Syafirah, a 20-year-old who trained in visual merchandising. She was one of 5 youth co-hosting a social immersion programme for students from the National University of Singapore. On a virtual call, she showed photos of her family and volunteer experiences. She recounted that volunteering had widened her circle of friends and given her a sense of confidence, she never imagined had existed within her.
Kathir, 16 years-old, related how together with some friends they collected notes of encouragement from neighbours for a friend who was hospitalised because of a serious epileptic seizure. These notes were then folded into origami flowers. When he delivered them, his friend was not conscious but Kathir believed that he was aware of his presence because when he explained what he had brought with him, his friend’s pulse increased significantly. The friend has passed on but Kathir would like to think that his friend passed away knowing that he was well loved and cared for by all in his neighbourhood.
Our youth also took the students on a tour of their neighbourhoods and sharing what different places meant to them. Rushaimi, 20 years old pointed out an open area with mixed feelings. He said that he had many happy memories kicking a ball there when he was younger but added that it was also where he hooked up with undesirable company and got into some trouble. He has gotten over all that now and smiles to himself when he wonders if the barriers that are currently installed to prevent ball games are also meant to prevent younger children from getting into trouble. Rushaimi also showed a lift landing where he used to sleep when his home was more crowded years ago. “It was common for many families to do so, we just kept the place clean and comfortable,” he mentioned as a matter of fact.
One objective of this programme was to help broaden the identity and image that those in disadvantaged communities have of themselves. We wanted them to draw strength from their lived experiences and convey that confidently to others. Hence, we are so proud that these youth demonstrated that regardless, all of us have worth and are able to enrich the lives of another.
Wishing you good health and peace of mind.
There are so many men and women who hold no distinctive positions but whose contribution towards the dvelopment of society has been enormous. – Nelson Mandela