Sacrifices We Must Make

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When we think about Singapore’s seniors, we often have the impression that they are living their silver years in retirement, in joy and happiness. But this is not necessarily the case.

I have volunteered for Heartware Network’s Tuition Programme and National Day Parade, but I spent the longest in Support Our Pioneers – three years since 2015. It’s a programme to empower the youth to help the elderly through visitations, activities, and outings. And it’s through this programme that I was exposed to the many difficulties our seniors face. Like what?

Like things as simple as feeding their own mouths. Like working long tiring hours while battling chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. What’s worse – some have family members, but their sons and daughters don’t visit because they see their parents as burdens to bear. I’ve seen seniors who can’t enjoy companionship, or can’t afford the necessary needs to survive.

Lincoln 2016-1-20180130-144501 Christmas caroling for the elderly.

It made me want to volunteer and Make A Difference, no matter how small. We do visitations in selected area and talk the elderly to understand them better. Once I joined the programme, I realised that seniors we see all around us are more than meets the eye. They have a plethora of stories and problems that they seldom voice out.

I was attached to a household with 3 generations living in a 1-room flat, and the daughter of the senior is a single mother. I have been with this family since 2016. My interactions with them often leaves me heartbroken because the elderly is not working, and is solely dependent on her daughter. The family sometimes doesn’t know how to apply for government assistance, so this is where volunteers can step in to lend some assistance.

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A snapshot with our resident elderly who often waits for the volunteers at the void deck.

For instance, I tried to help the child register for the Financial Assistance Scheme in her school when the mother was clueless. These small acts really go a long way. The child can now at least have $120 for annual transport subsidy – an amount that as much as some of our pocket money, but means the world to them.

Although the programme is wonderful, there are many sacrifices I had to make. For a person living in Bedok, my assigned site at Yishun is a long way from home. Visitations are on Saturday mornings at 9am, so I have to wake up at 7am and catch the public transport to arrive at the visitation site on time. It’s tiring and dreadful, especially when school ends late on Friday. Sometimes I wanted to give up.

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Gathering with the Yishun volunteers early Saturday morning.

Still, there was so much joy in this endeavour. The child in the aforementioned family – her smile – really brings so much happiness to all the volunteers. The interactions with the seniors makes us want to go back every time.

And we must also understand that the elderly have made their own fair share of sacrifices. When I interviewed them with my fellow volunteers, we found out that many of them were unwilling to accept our assistance because of pride. They hesitate to ask an 18 year old to help. But these are some sacrifices we all have to make to come to a compromise, so that we can help each other.

Elizabeth Andrew, a famous politician in the UK, once said:

“Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time.

But what they have is the Heart to do so.”

We are all busy. But I urge all of us to spare some time and try to volunteer with the Heart, and make a difference no matter how small in the community.

Lincoln Low, 18, Dunman High School 

Volunteer, Support Our Pioneers 2015-2017

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