Posted by: kasacvolunteers | March 16, 2008

Melissa on Volunteering at KASAC

I would like to think that my first foray into volunteering with KASAC was an accidental one. I never intended to volunteer with elderly because my initial impression of them was a group of cynical, unexciting and stubborn individuals. Plus, my previous experiences with toddlers had been so much fun that I kept wanting to go back to working with them. Little did I know that a compulsory school assignment to KASAC would change that.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect when I first received news that I was to be posted to KASAC. I kept wondering if an SAC was just a fancy name for an old folks’ home. I remember asking myself if I was going to be working with elderly who were bedridden and sad. Was it going to be difficult communicating with them, given that my Mandarin was not fluent and that I had limited ability to speak in dialects?

For starters, an SAC is not another name for an old folks’ home. It is somewhat like a day centre for the low-income elderly living in the nearby Housing Development Board (HDB) blocks. The centre staff run programmes for the elderly to keep them mentally and physically fit. For instance, I fondly remember my first morning at KASAC was spent joining the elderly to perform their morning exercise routine, among other things.

Along the way, my inability to speak fluent dialects got into the way. However, that led me to get to know the multilingual friendly staff at the centre. The programme coordinator, Mr Robert Chua, was helpful in translating what the elderly said to me and was also very willing to share anecdotes about his experience working with the elderly. He even took us students to visit and deliver lunch to the bedridden elderly. I also had the chance to see for myself the special elderly-friendly features that were installed in these one-room flats.

It was an eye-opener for a sheltered youth like myself. I was stunned to see that the elderly here lead such spartan lives. Through later projects where we paid visits to the homes of the Indian elderly, my Indian schoolmates and I found out that some of the elderly do not own televisions and an occasional few do not even possess a mattress!

With the financial assistance they receive from the Government, they are quick to ration the money, sometimes surviving on just one meal a day. Old age also brings on its own problems, from arthritic joints to backaches and weaker immune systems, but in spite of it all, some of them just remain so sprightly and smiley. As a teenager trying to find my place in society, it never fails to baffle me: just how do they stay cheerful when they have so little?

That said, I’m sure they have their sad moments too but they try not to show it. Volunteering at KASAC has taught me that happiness is often about finding contentment in immaterial things. Furthermore, the elderly’s zest for life continues to inspire me and that alone keeps me going at volunteering with KASAC.

Cheers, Mel

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