I Have Better Things To Do

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“Why should we help them?”

A question from a 15 year old student had stumped me.

It was a little past the half-way mark of our first lesson in community problem solving, and students were immersed in their discussions on how best to help their assigned charity organisation. All was going smoothly. Until now.

“Well, why not? What do you mean?” As someone eager to champion any amount of good deed, I was admittedly defensive, even for just a bit.

“These organisations have volunteers helping out, right? They also have staff and a set of nurses and professionals to take care of the residents there. So why should we help?”

Slouching slightly in his seat with his features set in a defiant expression, this student had asked a difficult, fundamental question. A question we don’t ask ourselves enough. A question I didn’t have a fantastic answer to without sounding standoffish or politically correct.

He’s right, I found myself thinking. In all seriousness, we have better things to do.

And yet if I imagine the world full of people who have better things to do, then only a few will go out of their way to help others. Would we want to be a disintegrated society lacking in empathy? How can we let that happen?

IMG_8300-20180523-124948 Class 3 Discipline from Northbrooks Secondary School delved into their very first service learning engagement as a class at Sree Narayana Mission Home for the Aged Sick, a President’s Challenge beneficiary organisation. 

 So, why help?

 We help because not all help really counts.

There has been much debate on whether helping truly benefits the beneficiaries, or if it was done to feel better about ourselves. The case in point is that helping must always be directed towards addressing real needs. Effort is wasted if it wasn’t taken into account. And if deeds were done just so that we can say “Yes, I’m a good person because I’ve helped someone”, then there was no thoughtful measure towards providing for others what was truly needed.

This problem can be tackled if we train our youth leaders and volunteers to review their engagement efforts after groundwork experiences. Heartware-Character and Citizenship Education Leadership Programme uses an adapted version of the Social Lean Canvas to ensure students align their plans to the purpose of the cause.

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 Student VIA leader Shannon from Northbrooks Secondary School attempted the adapted Social Lean Canvas for the first time. The Canvas challenged the students to assess their target audiences and plans to serve. 

 Another reason why we help is because we need to see, and we need to know.

A frog in the well knows nothing of the great ocean, and indeed this ocean holds a myriad of creatures (or people) with life stories and knowledge that are just waiting to be tapped on. We do not want to be people who know only the things that happen to cross our path; that is being ignorant of other realities. We want to be actively seeking out different sides to society and expanding our knowledge and sensory horizon.

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Student Haziq from Northbrooks Secondary School striking up a friendly conversation with an elderly from Sree Narayana Mission Home for the Aged Sick. They talked about hobbies – one of which was badminton – a common love for both student and elderly.

 We love nothing more than to hear our volunteers testify that they have been exposed to and moved by the stories of individuals and beneficiaries they never would have come to contact with, had they not chosen to volunteer. To see and know, and feel for others is like rain nourishing the driest corners of our hearts.

I know now that some of the greatest learning points come from asking difficult, fundamental questions. In retrospect, I would have told the student that even when faith wavers, we should always do our best to assess real needs, render help and resources wisely, and always open our hearts and minds to bring cheer and positive impact to the lives of others.

That will be the better thing to do.

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 This article was written by a Heartware Network staff, under the efforts of the President’s Challenge .

Initiated by former President S R Nathan in 2000, the President’s Challenge is a movement supported by the kindness and generosity of people from all walks of to care for the less fortunate.

 This year, Heartware Network will do our part in the President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive, launched by former President Mr Tony Tan in 2012, to develop an inclusive society with the involvement of our youth volunteers. We hope to inspire our youth to stay resilient, be proactive in serving others with a HEART, and develop them into community champions.

 Know more about the volunteer opportunities you can serve in at www.youthbank.sg