Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Befriending The Elderly at Love Navigator 2014 with NYP’s Mentoring Club

 Back in secondary school, I remember knocking on doors to collect newspapers, picking up beach litter and doing some spring cleaning in school classrooms. I did it mainly because I needed to obtain a certain amount of CIP (Community Involvement Project) points each year. However, I came to realise that community service projects are not just about points, it’s about giving back to the community. Recently, I was invited by NYP Mentoring Club for their elderly befriending event called “Love Navigator”. Here are some highlights of the event.

What is Love Navigator? 

Love Navigator is the result of a collaboration between Mentoring Club, NYP Community Service Club and the Woodlands Pacific Healthcare Activity Centre, with students from Yishun Secondary School (YSS) also participating in this event. It aims to get students to befriend the elderly from the Woodlands Pacific Healthcare Activity Centre.

What is NYP Mentoring Club?
The NYP Mentoring Club is a CCA that allows NYP students to mentor their secondary school counterparts. They go over to secondary schools to mentor the students and help them succeed and contribute to society. The club’s goal is to help secondary school students achieve academic success while helping them improve their life skills.

The start of Love Navigator

When I first arrived, I met the friendly people from NYP Mentoring Club who were getting ready for the elderly, and the students from YSS. Some of the elderly were already there preparing materials for the upcoming Cultural Activities. Once everyone was present, it was time to start the first activity of the day.

The first activity was the Rotational Chat. Each group consisted of a few YSS students plus a Mentoring Club member and some seniors as well. The purpose of the Rotational Chat was for the YSS students, NYP students and the elderly participants to interact with one another. I had a conversation with a few elderly people. Ifound  Mr Tan, a 78 year old retiree ,who was a former policeman of almost 20 years, most interesting.

A chat session with Mr Tan, a 78 year old retiree 
Although Mr Tan was Chinese, he told me that he was a Peranakan and could only converse in English and Malay. He told me stories of how he had to arrest all sorts of criminals and that it was a most interesting job because he got to experience something new every day. Also, during his Kampong days, he mentioned that he had to climb trees to grab some fruits and looked around and scoured for food as his family was very poor – a far cry from what most Singaporeans experience today.

Mr Tan’s wishes and advice for the future generation
I also asked him about his wishes and advice was for youngsters like us. He mentioned that he wants everyone to share and not be self-centred as he noticed that youngsters nowadays are too engrossed with their phones and they are not willing to help other people out. Back in his day, everyone loved to help each other out and they felt happy doing so.

Another piece of advice that he gave to us was to acquire as many skills as possible so it will be easier for us to handle whatever difficulties life throws at us. That’s one of the biggest lessons he learned back when he was in the police force.

Time for Cultural Activities
After the Rotational Chat session, it was time for the students and the elderly to engage in some fun, hands-on activities. They made lanterns out of red packets, ‘Ketupat’ mats made out of light and dark coloured paper, and they did a bit of drawing and colouring.

The Cultural Activities were a great opportunity for the elderly, NYP students and YSS students to interact and bond with one another.

Chinese Chess Session with the Elderly 

There was also a Chinese Chess session with the elderly. Mr Tan played Chinese Chess with some of the students from YSS. The students and Mr Tan  enjoyed the session a lot and they were very engrossed with the game as well. Personally, I don’t know how to play Chinese Chess but I liked the fact that the elderly and the students enjoyed themselves during the activities.

Lunch time and photo-taking session
 After the Cultural Activities session, it was time for lunch and photo-taking. The elderly were kind enough to cook food and provide some refreshments for everyone. There were loads of delicious food like Putu Mayam, Curry Chicken, Chickpeas, Green Bean Soup, some fresh fruits and much more. Bonding with the elderly didn’t just stop during the activities, we even continued to bond with them during lunch.
After a short lunch session, it was time to take a photo together with everyone. We took various shots including fun shots with the elderly. It’s clear that everyone had such great time with each other. A number of the elderly people told me that it’s great to mingle around with the students. They also told me that being retirees, they usually had nothing to do so they were grateful to be coming down to enjoy fun activities with the students.

Chit chat session with more elderly people
While the club members were busy preparing for the next session after the lunch, and the photo-taking session, I mingled around more with other elderly people and asked them what life was like during their time.
 “Auntie Sam”, one of the elderly ladies, was one of the most well-known  people at the centre. She shared her background story about working in the accountancy industry for twenty over years and a little bit about her family. She said her daughter is now studying social sciences in a local university and that she managed to get in because she always told her daughter to put her education first. She gave me advice saying to never ever give up and to always seek the opportunity to learn new things whenever I can.

There were  some others whom  I talked with on that day itself. Most of them told me to enjoy life and never stop learning. They mentioned that if you don’t enjoy your life, you will live your life with regrets and if you keep learning, you will have many skills that you can use to help you survive through the toughest times in life.

Ending off with an appreciation session and more photo-taking opportunities
For the last part of Love Navigator, everyone gathered back into their respective groups for the Appreciation session. Each person was given a heart-shaped piece of coloured paper and  had to write down what they had learnt and what they appreciated about the event.

Almost everyone had a lot of great things to write about the event. A YSS student, who went by the name of Zong Wei, enjoyed the part about interacting with the elderly, Cultural Activities session, and the food. He also enjoyed the “Ketupat” mat-making.
This poster was designed by Kenneth Tan, a Year 2 SIDM  student and member of NYP Community Service Club.

Edsel Li Zhenhao, Executive Secretary of Mentoring Club and Overall-in-charge of Love Navigator 2014 said, “There will definitely be more editions of Love Navigator because apart from the satisfaction gained from doing the event, we were happy to see the elderly and students had fun along with the community and volunteers that were committed to run the event.”

Overall, I had a great time during the Love Navigator event. The event was a success and I learned a lot from the secondary school students and the elderly. Some important lessons I’ve learnt from the elderly include gaining a lot of skills, never be self-centred and always be willing to help other people out. I also took home some stuff and Polaroid pictures to remember the awesome day. I definitely would like to be involved with more community projects like this to give back to the community and I hope that through this article, other students will be able to take up on more community projects as well.


By Hanafi Bin Sedik, Year 2, Diploma in Engineering Informatics

I like to spend my free time and weekends exploring various places around Singapore, taking long walks at public parks and eating delicious food. Not only that, I also like to make videos, write on my personal blog and hang out with my awesome friends and family. I wish to work at a major software company and start my own production company in the future.

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