“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” – Mother Teresa
Creating ripples of good is exactly what NUS hostel residents are doing. Even with their busy schedules, residents have still held space in their hearts for the communities around them. Be it residential colleges, halls, or student residences, all are actively involved in different community engagement projects. With so many willing hands and eager hearts, the impact that these projects have made, is extensive. To celebrate and better understand the community engagement scene in the NUS residential landscape, in this article, Reslife will spotlight three different community engagement projects. Read on to learn more about the impact of these projects, how to get involved, as well as the valuable lessons our residents have learnt along the way!
1. College of Alice and Peter Tan (CAPT), Active Community Engagement (ACE) Elderly
CAPT is well known for being a residential college focused on community engagement and active citizenship. Under the ACE wing of CAPT, there are eleven main committees supporting different communities that CAPTains can sign up to engage with on a regular basis. One of the committees is ACE Elderly, a collaboration between CAPT and Sheng Hong Welfare Services (Lifepoint Centre).
The main aim of ACE Elderly is to strengthen digital literacy among the elderly, while also allowing CAPTains to form deeper connections with them. Estherlyn Ng, Year 3, FASS, Project Director of ACE Elderly AY 20/21, explained, “Our project consists of five bi-weekly engagement sessions spanning the whole of Semester 2. The topics we’ve covered before are: Managing Phone Storage, Google Drive, Google Maps, PicsArt, and Instagram. In every session, there will be a “challenge” segment for the elderly to apply what they just learnt. For example, during our Google Maps session, we actually explored the vicinity with Google Maps to see if they knew how to get to a particular location,” Estherlyn added.
In terms of how the sessions have impacted her, Estherlyn reflected that she has learnt how to be more patient in her interactions with the elderly, as well as the importance of empowering them through the tasks. For instance, she noticed that many tasks that were intuitive for younger users, such as closing advertisements or moving pictures while editing them, turned out to be much harder for the seniors. “In situations like these, you need to be patient and give them the space to try it out on their own before stepping in. This shows that we respect them and believe that they are capable of doing it themselves,” she explained, “After all, our role as a volunteer there is to befriend, guide and empower them through the activities, instead of doing it for them”.
Ultimately, interacting with the elderly has brought Estherlyn much joy, and she loves listening to the wisdom and life lessons that the elderly participants are always keen to share. Additionally, she is now more patient and understanding when it comes to teaching her grandparents and even parents about how to navigate mobile applications.
For those looking to start volunteering with the elderly, Estherlyn advises you to come with an open heart and mind, “You might have some fears or worries about whether you can communicate effectively or make a difference, but don’t let these fears stop you. As long as you are willing, I believe that you can definitely gain a lot through your experience and also greatly touch the lives of these seniors!”.
2. Raffles Hall, Project RHino
The next project we want to spotlight cares for a community on the other end of the age spectrum – youth! Raffles Hall Information Outlet or RHino as it is affectionately called, is a tuition clinic aimed at providing free academic support for less privileged students from Secondary 1 to 5.
When asked how this project was birthed, Lim Choon Wei, Year 2, FASS, Project Director of Project Rhino AY21/22, explained, “We noticed that the pandemic was limiting the number of face-to-face academic lessons in school, thus more students were turning towards paid private tutoring to improve their academics. However, since this avenue of support is not easily available to the less privileged students, Raffles Volunteer Corps felt that it was imperative to address this issue through the formation of a tuition clinic.”
Project RHino collaborates with Bukit Batok Community Club (BBCC) to source for students attending secondary schools within the Bukit Batok constituency who might need more academic guidance, and over the span of two weeks, six sessions have already been conducted on Zoom this academic year, each lasting 1.5 hours. “During the sessions, our volunteers will check with the students on the type of help that they require. For example, volunteers might help students with their homework, go through topics that they are slightly weaker in, or even get them to do practice papers,” Choon Wei added.
Daniel Koh, Year 2, FoS, Project RHino Tutor, reflected that the programme has been meaningful to both the students as well as tutors, “Most of the students feel that the project is empowering, and this motivates them to sign up regularly for our sessions. Although as tutors, we are only required to help our students with their exam preparation, we usually also share our own study tips and advice, such as study methods or how to cope with stress. This allows the students to be better equipped to tackle their academic challenges down the road, even when we aren’t there to help them, just like how teaching a man to fish will feed him for a lifetime”.
A key advantage that Daniel and the other Project RHino Tutors have in relating to these students is that they have been in their shoes not too long ago and thus can understand what these students are going through. This allows the tutors to be better equipped at being a mentor and helping these students cope with their academics. For this reason, if you’re a young adult and engaging with youth is something you’re interested in doing, there’s no better time than now to look for opportunities to do so!
Overall, not only has Project RHino has made a positive impact in the lives of over 100 students from schools in collaboration with Bukit Batok CC, it has also inculcated a spirit of volunteerism amongst the students in Raffles Hall, inspiring them to seek out other ways that they are able to contribute back to society.
3. Prince George’s Park Residences (PGPR), Pawlunteer
Apart from projects engaging with youth and the elderly, a project to support our furry friends is also being conducted in PGPR. The Pawlunteer Project is a new project started in August 2021 that gives the residents of PGPR an opportunity to give back to the animal community in Singapore. It is a partnership with Animal Lovers League (ALL), a no-kill shelter that houses over 500 dogs and cats.
Parisi Shirke, Year 3, Business, Project Director of Pawlunteer AY21/22, highlighted the heart behind the project, saying, “We planned this event to give our residents an idea of what it’s like to help and care for the many abandoned and homeless animals, and how doing so might benefit their lives in a meaningful way”.
Every Saturday morning, a group of dedicated PGPR residents will make their way all the way to Sungei Tengah, where ALL is located. For the next four hours, they will brave the unique smell of 500 dogs and cats, working hard to clean the cages and walk the dogs (or have the dogs walk them!) while also picking up lots of dog poo.
Although the work is hard, and it can be tiring at times, overall, Delwyn Lee, Year 1, CHS, Pawlunteer Participant, has had a positive experience in the Pawlunteer project. For instance, he has learnt many new things, such as how to properly interact with and read the dogs and cats, as well as some components of what it takes to run a shelter in Singapore. “This experience has been nothing but positive, and I love that I am able to work with many different people from different walks of life, bonded by our love for animals and our desire to provide them with a better quality of life,” Delwyn reflected.
Delwyn enthuses that it is the “best feeling ever” when a dog or cat in the shelter goes up to greet him without prompting, indicating that they feel trusting of him. Apart from that, another great memory Delwyn has of his time in ALL was when he witnessed a dog being adopted. “On my first day, I got to see one of the dogs being adopted by a forever home. It was such a moment of celebration, since the goal of a shelter is to eventually find each dog a loving family, and this finally happened for that dog,” he explained.
Apart from inculcating a deeper love for the animals and a passion for animal welfare in volunteers, the Pawlunteer project also seeks to illuminate the importance of adopting instead of shopping for pets. “We hope that our volunteers will be able to share their experiences at the shelter with their friends and families, and shed light on the issue of the many abandoned dogs and cats in shelters that need a forever home. Even though they may not be the purest of breeds, that is no reason for these animals to be deprived of a loving family,” Parisi emphasised.
These three community engagement projects we have spotlighted are but a drop in the ocean of other incredible projects that are occurring in the different residences. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of others and grow in the process, check out the community engagement projects in your residence and see if there are any that pique your interest. Together, let’s cast some stones across the waters, create many ripples of good, and make the lives of others a little brighter, one person (or animal) at a time.
Know any other community engagement projects we should cover? Tell us in the comments or DM us on our IG @nusresidentiallife!