This International Volunteer Day, we bring you not one but two good stories by our volunteer writers and photographers!

As the talk of the Giving Season drew nearer, Mona, one of our volunteer writers excitedly asked us if there were stories she could cover and of course, the answer was a resounding “yes!”.

This International Volunteer Day, we shine the spotlight on our volunteers who came together to tell the stories of non-profits and how they are empowering beneficiaries.

Pushing the Limits at YMCA

The excitement of camping

If you’re a Singaporean of a certain age, it’s more than likely that you’ve had a camp experience. Camps are almost a rite of passage – the excitement of staying overnight, games, and the final campfire highlight. Sound familiar? YMCA Singapore’s Y Camp Challenge is all this and more, focusing on individuals with special needs, either intellectually or physically challenged.

Overcoming challenges to transform themselves

The camp is run by trained volunteer facilitators and staff, who care for and manage the participants, helping them to step out of one’s comfort zone. Repeat campers show quite the transformation, from being a little reluctant and passive during their first camp to being much more engaged and leading in subsequent camps.

Breaking Limits

Yee Wen, a ex-camp participant shares that she decided to participate as a camp committee member as she wanted to “learn new things and improve (herself) to become a better person”. The participants and volunteers grow not just through the games they take part in, but also through overcoming both internal and external challenges. And Y Camp Challenge provides a safe space to do exactly that.

This story is written by our volunteer writer, Mona Thyagarajan, MSW

Ageless Art at Sree Narayana Mission

Warm welcome

There is a welcoming vibe as you enter Sree Naryana Mission’s (SNM) premises. It looks more like a school than a Nursing Home, with its open gathering area, smiling staff, warmth and general spirit of camaraderie, not to mention its numerous art works gracing the walls, corridors and display cases at every level of the building. A closer glance at their labels tells you that all these art pieces have a life of their own. They are the handiwork of SNM’s very own artists – the elderly residents at this, their 224-bed Nursing Home in Yishun.

A favourite among residents

SNM’s Art Programme has been one of the organisation’s most popular programmes for their residents. It started out informally on an ad-hoc basis, but for the past 6 years has been more focused and consistent as demand grew and the benefits became more obvious. The Programme Coordinator at the Mission or one of the many dedicated volunteer artists working with the organisation like to keep things fresh so the art activities are different every week, but keeping in line with residents’ interests and catering to a varied range of physical ability. From finger painting to ceramics to rolled paper art, the Art Programme has done it all.

Not about the product, but the process

Participants are given basic guidelines – and then it’s up to them! There are no rules, it’s a relaxed programme, yet it has some very clear aims. Apart from the more obvious impact on the participants’ mental and emotional health, there is also a more tangible rehabilitative benefit, as most of the activities help participants improve their motor skills and hand coordination. And then, there is the interaction aspect of the programme.

Bringing people together through art

The Art Programme also involves volunteers from the community, companies, schools and tertiary institutions, pairing them up with one of the participants so that participant and volunteer work side by side and have the opportunity to interact. The intergenerational bonding has put a smile on their residents’ faces, staff have noted, so it has been gently incorporated into the programme.

Mutual sharing seems to be a keyword in Sree Narayana Mission’s work. The very spirit of free flow contribution between communities permeates every programme and service. Deva, one of the staff (Ops & Corporate Communications) at SNM sums it up perfectly. “We aren’t a walled institution.” Deva says. “We bring eldercare to the community. We support the community – and the community supports us.”

This story is written by our volunteer writer, Mona Thyagarajan, MSW

Photos courtesy of our volunteer photographer, Mano Comat