There was a little boy sitting along the corridor with his mother, engrossed in some YouTube videos when we came to give them their dinner.
Just as we turned our backs to head to another housing unit, I heard a voice, soft but sweet, from behind.
When I looked back, he was standing up, waving at us with the brightest smile flashed across his face, hands grasping a nugget from the box of food we gave.
Though it was just a passing interaction, it really touched me as I never thought our simple act of blessing someone with dinner could make a person so excited and happy.
The warm smiles and greetings of the residents, such as that of the cute little boy upon receiving his dinner, are a sight that I would never trade for anything else in the world.
Small actions like these that have the potential to make someone’s day motivates me to never stop giving back and volunteering.
This incident was from a food distribution I did last month, when we had the chance to visit four blocks in the Jalan Kukoh neighbourhood.
Life has certainly not been the same since COVID-19 first spread to our shores.
Following the news closely, I realised that there were many communities who were greatly affected by the pandemic. Being stuck at home, I really wanted to do something with this time to serve in whatever way possible.
The opportunity to lend a helping hand arose back in May 2020. During the Circuit Breaker, I was roped in by two of my school seniors who started Comm.UnitySG to distribute food and clean rental flats.
This is a ground-up initiative involving youths from different schools working with New Hope Community Services to serve Singapore’s homeless and displaced. New Hope provides temporary shelters to those in need and helps them to get back on their feet.
After my seniors stepped down to prepare for their International Baccalaureate (IB) exams last year, I started to coordinate the whole project along with two other volunteers.
This year, I am one of the four people leading Comm.UnitySG. We provide direction, brainstorm new activities and mobilise volunteers from other schools when we have outreach events.
Apart from food distribution, shelter cleaning and rental flat refurbishments, we were able to start providing academic tutoring services for youth beneficiaries under the HOPE scheme late last year.
We have also been blessed with the chance to reach out to the Jalan Kukoh community by organising events during Christmas and Chinese New Year.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we implemented a befriending system where volunteers spend time with residents over dinner in their flats, instead of all of us eating together in a large group.
Our student volunteers also put together entertainment during these events, ranging from songs to magic tricks. This was done through a rotation system: volunteers would take turns to bring the residents to a common area to watch these performances at different timings.
In addition, we gave out goodie bags prepared by our volunteers as well as other donated items that New Hope would like us to help distribute.
A couple of months ago, we were planning to hold another event at Jalan Kukoh in line with Hari Raya Puasa in May. However, in a turn of events, we were notified to cancel our programme due to the tightened COVID-19 measures.
I remember discussing our next steps with my other co-leaders heading Comm.UnitySG.
“What shall we do now?” That was the only thing that rang through our heads.
As it happened, during that same period, there was a bonding event that was organised for our Year 6 cohort in school. One of the segments happened to be Charity Cafe, where various volunteers came together to man booths raising funds for different organisations.
Thinking that it would be a perfect avenue for us to still do something for our cause, we signed up to be one of the participating groups and raised funds by running a photo booth throughout the day. This yielded us about $200 in profits.
Then came the next question: What was the money going to be used for?
As we began to read about how F&B businesses were hit hard due to the COVID-19 restrictions, what really compelled us to begin ideating the food distribution initiative was seeing fellow Singaporeans serving the community.
For example, Instagram initiatives like @wheretodabao provided elderly hawkers who may not be the most technologically savvy with some online exposure to promote their businesses.
We were inspired by these actions to also play our part to meet this need in whatever way we could.
Instead of relying on donations by individuals or organisations as in previous food distributions, we decided to order food from businesses that were badly affected by the pandemic instead.
We ended up supporting K.S Cafe, a social enterprise in Kampung Siglap that was just beginning operations.
Truly, this food distribution initiative has given us so much more than what we have given.
For all of us involved in this recent food distribution, it was (and still is!) exam season as we gear up for our IB examinations in November. And when we first came together to discuss our idea in June, it was just before our Common Tests.
Because of our studies, it has been one to two months since we last volunteered, but being able to volunteer again brought a much-needed reminder that there is really so much more to life than the endless pursuits that sometimes unknowingly blind us.
When I look beyond myself and my social circles, I realise how small I am compared to this great big world He has created, and how much more I am called to serve.
Keeping up the balancing act of juggling volunteering activities with the many demands of junior college, exams and life in general has definitely been a wild ride with its many ebbs and flows.
There have been some rough patches and bumps, with occasional lost sleep, frantic rushes to catch up with schoolwork and missed outings with friends, but I must say that it’s all been extremely worth it.
Sometimes it’s very easy to be caught up in the highs of a one-off volunteering experience or just perceive it as something very fun to do.
While volunteer work is enjoyable and extremely rewarding in many ways, my journey in Comm.UnitySG has allowed me to experience firsthand just how challenging volunteering can be.
Planning an initiative or event from ground zero requires more preparation than one would expect, especially since you are dealing with beneficiaries’ lives, handling money and being held accountable to various organisations.
But the journey culminating in this food distribution initiative has opened my eyes to see the hand of God more evidently than ever before.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
I’m honestly amazed by how true this verse is in my volunteering journey. From beginning to end, God answered all our questions and doubts in His time, and in His special way!
He not only answered our questions regarding how to use the money we raised, but also opened up the opportunity for us to serve another community in need — F&B businesses.
He has indeed made everything beautiful in its time.
Just as Isaiah said to God, “Here am I. Send me!”, it is truly a privilege to get to serve, no matter where and when God ordains. Sometimes, all we have to do is trust and hold on to our simple faith.
To be loved by God is the biggest blessing and most precious form of love I have received in my life. Having received His love and goodness, I want to spread this to the communities around me.
For me, this is my biggest “why” for volunteering.
Beyond the sense of fulfilment and humbling life lessons that volunteering brings, I believe that being able to love as He loves, and serve as He serves, is one of the most significant blessings I will get to experience in this life.
As long as I can do something to serve someone out there and impact one life at a time, that is enough for me.
My prayer is that I can be faithful in the little that I have and be a good steward of the opportunities He has given me to serve.
Interested to volunteer? Comm.UnitySG is organising a youth tutoring programme for primary and secondary school students from low-income families. This programme will run from August until October/November.
If you would like to find out more about Comm.UnitySG, more details are also available on their Instagram page.
- In your life, how have you seen God making everything beautiful in its time?
- How can you share God’s love with others around you today?
- What does serving others mean to you? Are there opportunities that you can explore?