Stories of Transformations

Compilation of Speakers

On 3 July 2017, Heartware Network hosted a Fundraising Gala Dinner with the theme of ‘Take Heart, Transform Lives’ – a motif that encourages resilience in the face of adversity and transformation through acts of servant leadership. The Dinner, which was graced by President Dr Tony Tan and his wife Mrs Mary Tan, was filled with anecdotes of personal journeys that left indelible impressions on all who attended.

Check out these special testimonies from three outstanding ladies and volunteers of Heartware Network!

“Success is a journey, not a destination.”

EZ0C0110Testimony by Joan Cheong, Sec 5 NA student from Yuying Secondary School.

I started my journey with Heartware Network back in 2015 where I participated in the aRWSome Apprenticeship. This was a preparation programme that taught me the standards of preparing and storing food, serving customers, and keeping the food and beverage outlets safe from danger. I was given a place in the Food and Beverage – Front of House industry, where we were trained to serve customers in outlets such as the China Bistro in Universal Studios Singapore.

Before the apprenticeship, I was concerned whether I would be able to execute my duties well. I was afraid of receiving complaints from the customers. But you never know what you can achieve until you try it.

During the two weeks of apprenticeship, we didn’t simply serve dishes on the table. We did this mindfully, and with high standards. We made sure to serve the food with care, such as preventing it from spilling, and serving it away from children to avoid accidents. Even as we communicate with the patrons, we must be sure to do so with utmost respect. During the peak hours, I had difficulty carrying out my duties efficiently, but with the help of the Captain of the day, we were all able to remain focused and execute our duties at hand.

IMG_6132Joan was attached to the Resorts World Sentosa F&B – Front of House industry as an apprentice.

Imagine how thrilled I was, to not just graduate from the programme as an apprentice, but to also receive the Best Apprentice in the Food and Beverage – Front of House industry! I was thankful for the support and guidance by my mentors and the Heartware Network staff. I have learnt to work with people of different ages and respect them as my colleagues. I learnt the top-class standards of what it means to be in the F&B industry.

I wanted to contribute my time and efforts more, so eventually I mustered the courage to volunteer in the Home Team Show and Festival Hospitality Management earlier this year. There, we were trained to address the guests’ needs and concerns during the event. In such large-scale event, we volunteers learnt to work out solutions spontaneously when problems arise. This reminded me of my apprenticeship days, when I learnt to adapt to new surroundings and be quick on my feet to straighten out any issues that cropped out.

IMG_3669Joan deployed as a volunteer public usher for the Home Team Show & Festival 2017.

All these experiences I have gained have helped me to become a person who is now able to work with different types of people and know the joy of making others’ happy. Compared to who I was before, I became a more outspoken and sociable person. I now have a wider network for support.

I feel that life becomes more meaningful once you know that you are the cause of something great, and how many people you can leave an impact on. To finally quote Arthur Ashe, I want to always be reminded that “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome”.

“If they haven’t given up, why should I?”

EZ0C0119Testimony by Erika Eden Ong, JC2 student from Raffles Institution (Junior College)

I first started as a volunteer tutor last year. I was assigned to tutor a Primary 4 bubbly and exuberant girl, and would occasionally tutor her Primary 5 sister. Both sisters were referred to Heartware Network by an external organisation, and I got to know belatedly that their father has been incarcerated.

It was an absolute privilege to have met these two lovely girls, for they taught me the little things in life.

They taught me compassion, and their warmth never failed to melt the icy thorns in my heart. I remember my tutee playing with my Graphic Calculator during our break time, and she showed me her masterpiece: On the GC screen, it spelt “I L-O-V-E Y-O-U”. They taught me resilience in the face of adversity, as they constantly challenged themselves to conquer their weakest subjects at every tuition session.

Once, my tutee shed tears of frustration when she stumbled upon a math problem she knew she was familiar with but could not solve it still. Yet, this exact little setback sprang her back onto her feet. She spoke with conviction, “Jie Jie, I will try again.”

IMG_2807Erika covering homework with her tutee in Tuition Programme 2016.

When her sister, who had always been aiming for polytechnic, looked at me dead straight in the eye and told me that she wanted to go to Raffles Institution, I was lost for words. Her determination silenced me. They taught me to be enthusiastic about learning new things. To see them grow into more inquisitive learners every week was my biggest pride and joy.

It is ironic, isn’t it? We volunteers were supposed to teach them knowledge, skills and values, so as to transform their lives. No, my tutees transformed mine instead. I never expected a meeting with these tutees to impact me this deeply.

We live in Singapore, a country that values economic progress. Like any other society, we are sure to have groups of people who are left behind – the poor, the uneducated. When we live in a comfort bubble, myself included, we easily forget that there are those who are underprivileged, who struggle to break out of this vicious cycle of poverty.

I remember how badly I wanted to give up at a point of time in my studies, to find an easier path to escape the dismal grades that constantly appeared on my common test reports. But when I think of those two girls, who could have been in worse home circumstances than I was in, I can’t help but remind myself: If they haven’t given up, why should I?

I am not the best tutor, neither am I the most capable in imparting important values and knowledge to my tutees. Yet, I volunteered again this year because I still wanted to be a part of something meaningful. My new batch of tutees continue to inspire me in everything they do, and these volunteering experiences will be etched in my mind forever. I look forward to what else my future in volunteerism brings me.

“How much you have matters little…”

EZ0C0133Testimony by Priyadharshini Santhanakrishnan, awaiting university admission.

‘Take Heart, Transform Lives’, the beautiful theme for tonight is indeed, a sentiment which resonates deeply within me for I believe it pays tribute to the nature of youth volunteerism – growing as you give. Following my four-year journey with Heartware Network, with much confidence, I can attest to it for I have grown. From a wide-eyed 15-year-old, I have developed into someone who is inspired, passionate and empowered to make a difference.

I began my volunteering journey with Heartware Network at National Day Parade 2013 as a general volunteer. In the National Day Parade Hospitality Management, us volunteers pour tremendous number of hours on the ground and behind-the-scenes, to ensure that we can give the public the best hospitality experience. Not having had much volunteering experience prior to that, I was awed by the dedication and enthusiasm I saw in my leaders. Week after week, I saw that their spirit remained undaunted by all the challenges they faced during deployment. Instead, they were determined to learn from those challenges and improve the experience for the public and their general volunteers.

IMG_0427The volunteer family for National Day Parade 2013 Hospitality Management.

I believe I must thank them for showing me what it means to be a volunteer, and not to just volunteer. They led by example, and showed that being a volunteer means taking pride is your work, being accountable for your actions and giving your best.

Though volunteering for national events taught me a great deal about passion and dedication, the experiences I hold dearest are from my interactions with the elderly through Support Our Pioneers Programme. Raised in a rather sheltered environment, it was indeed through this programme that I first saw such run down living conditions in Singapore. While this made me appreciate how fortunate I was and motivated me to then serve more, it was also from the elderly I met here that I learnt a thing or two about giving.

IMG_5123Priyadharshini with Support Our Pioneers volunteer Ming Ming, knocking on the elderly’s doors for visitation at Taman Jurong.

I have met elderly who they themselves, require assistance for daily household chores, yet make it a point share the simple pleasures in life with others. For example, just weeks ago, I met this aunty who has already undergone several surgeries for her ailments and has yet another one scheduled soon. With all the medical conditions, even going shopping for groceries was becoming a chore. So, imagine my surprise when she shared with me that during the fasting month she cooks dinner for 3 other households. These households were of 2 other elderly and a single mother who worked long hours. She didn’t live the most comfortable life but she said she felt fortunate and wanted to share her blessings.

Elderly like her taught me that to make a difference, how much you have matters little, as long as you are willing to give. Regardless to situation, everyone has the capacity to care and something to offer.

These 4 years with Heartware Network have taught me that through my words and actions, I too can make a difference. I have been inspired and given multiple avenues to explore what it means to be a youth volunteer. Thank you Heartware Network for the opportunities you have provided me with.