Children-At-Risk Empowerment (CARE) Association was where I had my very first exposure to genuine volunteerism and community service way back in late 2006. Under the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Leadership Development Programme (LDP), together with a group of five others, we were partnered with the said association to undertake a six-month project under the guidance of undergraduates and professors from the Singapore Management University (SMU).
I have always looked back at the LDP as some sort of an appropriate anchor point, largely because it provides a tremendous contrast to many of my current endeavours. Unlike many of my counterparts who were inspired by great individuals or random occurrences to provide them the impetus to serve – the degree of truth, questionable – I was a hundred percent conscious that my participation was merely for the sake of my portfolio. No, not a single shed of altruism or selflessness; but pragmatism: for my curriculum vitae, for my potential applications, for my future. In essence, all my priorities and focuses were, simply put, screwed up.
It was hypocrisy at its best.
In all honesty, I think it would be a fair assertion to believe that many of the groups – including mine – did not fully comprehend the notion of volunteerism and community service. Personally, a lot of the projects felt like they were geared for the sporadic presentations and sharing sessions; in the sense that events and activities had to be glamorised to seem as if much has been accomplished, and that takeaways were tangible. On hindsight, the workshops and outing we had with a group of students from Fuhua Secondary School paled miserably in comparison to what the association had been dedicating itself to for years. Yet, we were more focused on our rehearsals, our presentations, and how to make ourselves and our project shine. Needless to say, sustainability was non-existent.
Things did change when I decided to roll with the dice and try out as a facilitator for Camp Synergy at Fuhua Secondary School in 2007. It was nothing glamorous – no fancy presentations, no newfangled initiatives or concepts – just a good old facilitator with genuine companionships and interactions with the kids. Ultimately, my perspectives did not exactly take a three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn for the positive, but my subsequent experiences with CARE at Pasir Ris Secondary School in 2008 and 2009 slowly shaped my views towards volunteerism and activism. There was the eventual realisation at some point of time that – with effort, courage and determination – service can be directed outwards for a good cause; and not remain inwardly complacent and selfish.
More importantly, the camps managed my expectations. It is very tempting to go through a three-day camp as an organiser or facilitator and think that the personal impact has been tremendous; that real change has been ushered in. Such a mentality seems to be engineered upon the premise and urgent need for students to produce Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and real results to show for during their interviews or evaluations et cetera. Yes, we as facilitators can provide inspiration, companionships and be good role models; but for real impacts to be effected, one has to dedicate huge amounts of effort over an extended period of time.
CARE has involved itself in an assortment of simple, yet constructive activities to reach out to youths who may come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and probably suffer to cope with various aspects of their lives in school or at home. Through camps, lessons and ad-hoc initiatives, their efforts are testament to what back-to-basics volunteerism can yield for both beneficiaries and even volunteers. I am thankful for what CARE has done for me, and hence am slightly ashamed that I have not been able to give back as much as my abilities allow me to. I resolve to be part of the good work CARE has been so deeply committed in, and soon go the extra mile to make the lives of the youths much better and brighter.
For more information about CARE and what they do, visit http://www.care.sg/. If you – or your friends – are interested in volunteering for school camps and other activities, email Mona at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.