Hardship Makes the Man


Scots-American Preacher Peter Marshall once said, “When we long for a life without difficulty, remind us that oaks grow strong under contrary winds, and diamonds are made under pressure.”

Because winds of change are ever-present in our lives, if we do not learn to stand our ground, who knows when we will be uprooted and swept away. Instead of running away and seeking shelter from the storm, our students under the Heartware-Character and Citizenship Education (HW-CCE) Leadership Programme learnt to embrace and grow from difficult moments and lend support for one another.

At an age where people’s opinions are everything, what are some trying times experienced by our students?

It’s hard to speak out.

Despite conversing daily, many don’t understand that the voice is an important tool for reflection and change and growth. When our students were nudged to speak in front of a crowd, their mouths often clamp shut! It is frightening to be seen so openly, and to hear only their own voices in the presence of many. Words just won’t come.

So we scaled our students slowly from modules on body language and voice projection, to answering simple questions in class, to eventually delivering important messages to others.


Students lined up to try project their voices effectively across a room.

Heartware Network Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony 160617-7-20171030-161530

Kelly spoke on the best and hardest moments as an apprentice at Sands Skypark .

One of the HW-CCE leaders, Kelly, made her first speech on her apprenticeship experience in front of directors, mentors, parents, and peers. She initially requested to back out as she was very uncomfortable with the arrangement. She later expressed her thankfulness at being given this opportunity to share and grow out of her fear.


Brittney taking the spotlight for a moment to brief students on game instructions.

During the last lesson at Serangoon Garden Secondary School, Brittney mustered her courage to facilitate a blindfold game for both her HW-CCE peers and students from a junior class. She persevered through awkward silences and a relatively unresponsive audience. The experience could have left her demoralised, but she quickly picked up herself with the re-assurances from her friends and facilitators present.

It’s hard to make others understand.

Once our students found their voices, the next challenge is to use it right. They often have great ideas or images in their heads, but find it challenging to translate these thoughts into messages that everyone can understand.  Ineffective communication is the downfall of many leaders – something that the students are having a first taste at in a safe environment.


Anneivia and Jing Wen had a hard time explaining to their juniors the gameplay of a captain’s ball match with tweaked rules. A facilitator stands nearby for moral support, ready to jump in should they need help.


Ee Kiat and Jordan elicited confused stares when they shared their VIA project’s S.M.A.R.T. goal. Feedback from fellow VIA leaders and facilitators helped them understand how they can improve in their message delivery.

It’s hard to accept failure.

We define ourselves by outcomes, so when we don’t do well in something, even if it is minor, it is easy to feel defeated. For some students who do not want to appear uncool in front of their friends, they downplay the significance of ‘failure’ and may even resort to putting others down to make themselves feel better.

Failure, however, means that we have the courage to try. It is an opportunity to learn something valuable. Throughout the programme, students were praised more for trying hard and helping others rather than just getting the right answers.


As part of a game’s forfeit, a group of students had to form a shape of a heart. They were highly reluctant and embarrassed, until other students in the class offered to create a huge heart together. All for one, one for all!

Congratulations to the graduated batch of 2017 HW-CCE servant leaders and community champions! May they always face hardship with perseverance and poise, and emerge as diamonds reflecting brilliant light.


HW-CCE leaders from Serangoon Garden Secondary School.


HW-CCE leaders from Hougang Secondary School.