27 August 2020
On 15 Aug 2020, a group of 10 NUS students from the Seeds of Good Programme headed down to serve residents who live in Henderson Road Block 91-93.
More fondly known as "Jwblazers", the group comprises Juzar, Jedrek, Wei Siew, Bryan, Luoyi, Alicia, Zesheng, Ethel, Roland, and SiQi. This group name was derived from the first letter of each of the ten teammates. They spoke of their challenges and how it was like working with their community partner, Beyond Social Services (BSS).
Preparing care packages at the void deck for the Henderson residents.
COVID-19 threw a curveball to their plans and Bryan revealed that they had to abandon their plans which took three months to conceive. He said: “The original block party had to re-adjust to keep to safe distancing measures including reducing the number of volunteers to 10."
He added: “It was tough to maintain social distancing in a small void deck especially during the popular time belts.” Despite having no prior experiences in crowd control, the group managed to make quick judgement calls and come up with solutions to control the crowd.
Getting down to meet the residents’ needs
Wei Siew remarked: “One of the most powerful learning moments occurred during our interactions with one of the staff from BSS. The staff reminded us to find out more about the difficulties residents are facing during events or door knocking so that we can better tailor future efforts to their needs. This was a major revelation because we were just focussing on the current task. I think that this is one of the reasons BSS has been able to keep their outreach efforts sustainable.”
The group of students also encountered genuinely needy residents. “There was a grandmother who could not walk out of her house and told us that she was only having one meal a day which was brought to her by a social worker. Even residents who are desperately in need of help, may refuse to ask for help. For instance, an aunty told us, ‘If you want to help, help. If not, I'm too paisei to ask.’.
“We learnt that for social work to be effective, we need to actively reach out to the needy instead of passively waiting for them to voice their concerns. There is also a need to deal with the negative stigma associated with people who have financial struggles or they may have to suffer in silence,” Luoyi added.
A knowledge exchange – learning from one another
Jwblazers had designed a myriad of activities from mosaic design activities to sunflower making and kit distributions. “A beautiful mosaic pieced together by encouraging notes from the residents showed me how meaningful it was to have that sense of Kampung spirit with our neighbours ” said Alicia.
"Seeing the complete mosaic manifest before my eyes was a profound moment for me,” Bryan remarked.
Roland mentioned: “At the sunflower craft making station, though we had intended to assist residents to make sunflowers, many of the elderly went ahead to share their handiwork experiences with us, and some even offered suggestions to improve the sunflower making process. This led me to see that it is important to tap on the strengths of the residents.”
The excitement in the air, the conversations with the residents, the growing familiarity with the beneficiaries made the team realise the planning and replanning were all worth it.
Group members teaching and assisting craftwork with residents participating in the mosaic design activities.
Jwblazers has demonstrated the spirit of unity and shown us what it is like to foster genuine community ties within the residents of Henderson.
Juzar summarised: “I am lucky to have found great teammates who all share a common work ethic of giving our best efforts. We pulled through with the guidance of our NUS mentors and community partner BSS, not forgetting the residents we were serving and I am proud of myself and team of having completed this project successfully.”
For more information:
Seeds of Good Programme
Diversity and Inclusion Grant
(Call for proposals 27 Aug - 20 Oct 2020)