Being part of the NUS Libraries family means that every day, we meet customers with widely differing and often complex needs. Empathy is thus an important trait to have when we engage with our community. It makes us understand issues from the customers’ point of view, and gives us the opportunity to resolve a customer’s pains, rather than fulfil some cold KPI. Empathy begins with a genuine interest in the people around us. We learn from and are always inspired by the people we walk with. This inspired us to develop the #WeWalkWith initiative.
NUS Day of Service became the perfect chance to hold our first #WeWalkWith event. On a sunny Saturday morning (3 September 2016), more than 20 of us paid visit to the Lions Befrienders Senior Activity Centre at Ghim Moh, which serves as an activity centre for senior residents who live in 2-room apartments. Besides organising refreshing exercises, nostalgic sing-a-alongs and fun games, NUS Libraries colleagues also forged warm friendships with the enthusiastic uncles and aunties.
At the end of the day, we were sad to say goodbye to the more than 40 residents who had turned up to join us in our first #WeWalkWith expedition. I daresay that we went away with a better appreciation of issues that the silver generation face daily. It taught us to dig deeper into the root causes of difficulties, rather than settle on surface, unimportant problems. Our empathy has been widened simply because step by step, #WeWalkWith our community, both within and without NUS Libraries.
Selected Thoughts from NUS Libraries Volunteers
It was a joyful experience to volunteer for this event. The event felt more like a party below the block than a volunteering event. Everyone, whether a volunteer or silver friend, was sporting and eager to make the morning a fun and happy affair. Even though there were some obstacles such as language barriers or unexpected little errors, with the help of one another, we managed to make everyone smile at the end of the morning. Interacting with the silver friends at the centre also made me realise how smiling and spending a little of our time with them warmed their hearts. How simple it is to make another person’s day, yet how arduous it may seem when we have a few hundred other priorities to see to. Perhaps we only need to change just one little thing at a time. I definitely gave more and received more than what I could on a typically Saturday morning.
— Lyndia Chen
I was taken by surprise by the absolute “Joie de Vivre” of our silver friends. Their determination to live life fully and deeply, whatever the circumstances, is very inspiring!
— Sukanya Naidu
My pink crane finally has a partner, thanks to the multi-talented karaoke-champ uncle. To me, the event epitomised their varying talents, and their sheer joy in gifting us their camaraderie, knowledge, including, tips, and yes, some tricks as well.
— Jamila Osman
Usually I would volunteer to be with the kiddies (kindy kids) whether it is to teach or to play games. Interacting with our elderly friends on Sat was a new experience for me. Surprisingly, they are as joyful as the kiddies. They were the ones who asked me to sit and talk to them as I walked around. They were the ones who told their stories without me prompting much. They were the ones who showed me that if you want to, you can really have a good time. The best part is when they were folding their origami lanterns. A Cantonese song was playing in the background and two of the ladies sang along as their fingers were busy folding. Occasionally, they looked up at each other and sang in unison. One elderly did not say anything. He sat quietly folding quickly but messily. I left him on his own as I think he could not see very well. But he remembered every step and used all the paper we gave him. I was taken aback. When I praised him, he smiled and started to speak in Cantonese.
— Kah Wei
It is a positive and enriching experience for me. The elderly enjoyed themselves with our activities and engagement. We too, enjoyed entertaining them.
— Andy Quek
The seniors really enjoyed themselves to the old-time favourites during the sing- along session. Some humming, some singing and some were waving their hands in the air. One stout looking elderly man stood out. A very cheerful and chatty man belted out a Hokkien song swaying along as he sang with gusto. The audience responded to the beautifully-sung rendition with thunderous applause all round. He smiled and nodded glowing with adulation. It was such great positive and uplifting energy, and it was wonderful to see the seniors and our colleagues having a whale of a time.
— Yan Chuin
It was an enjoyable and meaningful morning for me on last Saturday. The Silver friends made me felt much younger and energetic during the happy hours with them that morning. While we care for and #WeWalkWith the Silver friends, I think we benefited much more – bonding with our own colleagues outside office and inspired by the positive attitude of the senior generations.
— Ah Too