What I Can’t Learn from Classrooms

Sep 21, 2018   |   Bernice Koh

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Hello! My name is Bernice and I am 15 this year, currently studying in Yuan Ching Secondary School.

I got to know Heartware Network as I had the interest of volunteering since 2015 (ever since seeing a post on Instagram from Heartware that year!), leading me to volunteer this year as I’m finally 15.

Because of the President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive provided through Heartware Network, I was exposed to a good array of volunteering opportunities to choose from. So I volunteered for the recent Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore (MDAS) Live Above Carnival, a beneficiary organisation of President’s Challenge!

The MDAS Live Above Carnival was held in conjuction with World Duchenne Day on 8 September 2018, and aimed to spread awareness of the Muscular Dystrophy in Singapore. It also celebrated the courage and strength of individuals with muscular dystrophy, who did not allow their conditions limit them from living fulfillingly. The carnival had a number of highlights such as Human Library, Power Soccer Matches, and Wheelchair Simulation Course!

I was assigned to help out at the Human Library, where we made sure that the sessions were conducted within designated time slots, and also to introduce to the members of the public on what the sessions or the carnival is about.

Listening in at the Human Library – a personal highlight for me. (Psst, I’m second from the left!)

In Human Library, a beneficiary or the caretakers would be the ‘book’, and they would share about their daily lives with muscular dystrophy, or their lives taking care of people with muscular dystrophy to a small group of people in each session.

Interacting with the public was an interesting experience as I had the opportunity to help raise awareness for the condition, and also share to the public more on ways they are able to help them, be it through volunteering or through donations for MDAS.

As for interacting with the muscular dystrophy client, it was an extremely enriching experience as I got to learn a lot from them, and their daily lives with the condition. They were so friendly as well throughout the whole event, and we gave out brochures together to get people to visit the carnival.

My favourite part of the event was sitting in to listen for some sessions of Human Library. Listening to the perspectives of three different individuals was not only inspiring, but gave me a chance to see life from the eyes of those people.

 

What went down in other stations: MDAS client Daryl shared his experience as a boccia player with the public.

 

Boccia is played by people with severe physical mobility problems. The aim is to roll your ball as close as possible to the target ball.

There was also a simulation station where participants wore extra weights on their arms to mimic the heaviness and lack of limb control experienced by people with Muscular Dystrophy. This made it harder for them to shoot down the cans.

For the first sharing, I got to listen to a teen of my age with muscular dystrophy.

I was amazed because even though we were the same age, he saw life in a very positive light as compared to me, even he was faced with a debilitating condition.

What more, he was taking triple science and literature, was a chairman for his CCA, played games AND still managed to sleep early every night! I was surprised. As a peer, I struggle with getting enough sleep due to poor time management.

Listening to him had taught me how I should be positive in life always, and that also, if we fall, we always have to pick ourselves up to be stronger than ever. He became a positive role model for me.

For the second session, I listened to the mother of another teen with muscular dystrophy, and how she took care of her two sons while juggling with work. Her son who was beset with muscular dystrophy was her top priority in life, and she would ensure her son was well before proceeding with work. Her sharing had taught me how a parent’s love is strong, and it made me realise how parents are the amongst the most important people in our lives, and they care for us no matter who we are.

In the last, most inspiring session was done with the President of MDAS, Mr Kenneth Chan Siew Kiong. One of his sons had muscular dystrophy, and he shared how he attended to his son’s condition while balancing his career and other family duties.

As a youth, I would not have understood or experienced on some of the things he shared, but I still learnt how important it was to have trust, be it in ourselves or our loved ones. We also have to overcome our hardships and adversity to become stronger in everything that we do.I truly found every bit of volunteering for this MDAS Live Above Carnival a meaningful experience. It showed me how we should always, always, be appreciative for what we have in life, and to always be strong. Remain positive, because there would always be a brighter side to any situation, and overcome difficulties with determination. And we cannot do all these alone.

Our family and close friends would always be there for us when we need them, regardless of who and what we are. They are support system that we should appreciate the most.

I’ve also gained a lot of values from volunteering, that I would not be able to learn just from day-to-day classroom lessons.

I’ve learnt to be a better communicator, to be more confident, and also teamwork. Compared to the past, I’ve definitely became more brave in talking face to face with people, especially the members of the public. I used to only be confident in talking to crowds at once, but not in a more personal, face to face manner. I also learnt how essential teamwork is, and that we do better as a team.

Speak of teams, here were my teammates for the day. I was still busy listening in at the Human Library, oops!

Other than that, there is so much joy and happiness in volunteering. I made many friends with common interests, and was exposed to people from different backgrounds and cultures.

And it was also really nice to feel appreciated – at the end of the day, when I feel tired and worn out, everything feels worth it when people just come up and say “Thank you for your hard work”! Those words truly made my day, so no matter how tiring things are, I always feel that with sincere effort from us, someone else’s day can be brighter.

I will always come back and volunteer. Be it for President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive or other Heartware Network events. It is always worth it to volunteer, because you gain more life lessons than you expect.