Beneath the Surface, We’re All the Same – An NDP19 CR3 Journal

Jul 04, 2019   |   Shayene Gilflores Winfred and Sarah Manalac

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On 29 June 2019, the day of the third combined rehearsal of the bicentennial National Day Parade had an entire village on the grind to make it a successful event. Performers, volunteers, technical teams, and spectators were all here for the show.

Amongst them was a small team of Heartware volunteers who were preparing to befriend and accompany beneficiaries from two President’s Challenge benefitting organisations: Methodist Welfare Services and Down Syndrome Association Singapore.

This team of volunteers were made up of a wide variety of people. Some were heavily involved in past years’ National Day Parades, and others were first-time volunteers.

Then there were Heartware media volunteers (a.k.a. us!) intent on capturing as many satisfying moments as we could gather, basking in the joy and excitement of our co-volunteers and beneficiaries.

Quaint in number, powerful in impression! Our volunteers were ready to receive the beneficiaries. PHOTO: Sarah Manalac

The hustle and bustle along Suntec Convention Centre becomes a conduit for channelling high spirits and positive expectations amongst volunteers. Still, the day starts off on a slightly awkward foot…

Under the activation of community service, three groups of people – smiley children and their caregivers from the Down Syndrome Association Singapore, jovial seniors from Methodist Welfare Society, and eager volunteers from completely different backgrounds gathered in the same location.

We stood around, eyes making brief contact, and shy smiles occasionally peeking through. There was a distinctive difference in the groups at first, but it was a gap that volunteers were willing to bridge.

As we made our way together from the reporting venue at Suntec Convention Centre to the Padang, simple introductions got us acquainted with our beneficiaries for the evening. Small conversations turned into stories of interest, and these stories brought our worlds closer.

Acts of kindness by beneficiaries too. A senior assisted volunteer Nicholas as he sorted food packs on the way to the Padang. PHOTO: Shayene Gilflores Winfred

Our group eventually settled down at the Yellow sector of the Padang. It was just minutes before show time when the core essence of community service spoke through.

Both the volunteers attached to the beneficiaries and the Heartware – National Day Parade Hospitality Management volunteers worked seamlessly to distribute food packets and drinks to the beneficiaries. They provided assistance where necessary, and ensured that the beneficiaries were comfortable and well-taken care of.

It was a heartwarming sight: People with no obligation to one other, seeking chances to serve and spread kindness through their actions.

As the music became louder, volunteers and beneficiaries fell into the escalating pace of the performances. Volunteers and beneficiaries waved Singapore flags to the upbeat rhythm, cheered in excitement, and belted to common National Day songs. Despite language barriers, some volunteers helped their beneficiaries understand the happenings of the parade and eased them into enjoying the show.

In the sea of endless red and white, we were no longer three distinct groups, but one in heart and soul. It was simply an amazing sight, how we could so easily reflect togetherness beyond the physical and social gaps.

Because of the hospitality of the volunteers, beneficiaries could have a great time at the show. PHOTO: Shayene Gilflores Winfred

One of the parents of the beneficiaries from the Down Syndrome Association Singapore, Anita Low, expressed that the event was meaningful, and made even more so with the inclusion of children with special needs and seniors.

“The volunteers were really needed to actually lead them and guide them through the platforms instead of leaving them on their own to fend for themselves amongst the crowd.”

Programme coordinator Clara Loy from Methodist Welfare Services thanked the volunteers who took care of the seniors during the show.

“The volunteer team was dedicated and attentive to their needs, such as providing transport and snacks, as well as ensuring that everyone got on the right bus after the parade. Well done and keep up the good work!”

Anita Low, 57, came to the parade together with her 14 year-old daughter, Anna, as supporting members of the DSA(S). She has been with the organisation since 2012 and displayed immense enthusiasm throughout the parade performances. PHOTO: Sarah Manalac

Beyond helping the beneficiaries, volunteers were also thrilled to find a friend on other volunteers.

18-year old Nanyang Polytechnic student Nikkol Sage was a first-time volunteer with Heartware and affirmed that she signed up for the volunteering event alone.

“I managed to get to know other volunteers. I talked to the beneficiaries that we accompanied, and seeing the smiles on their faces ended up becoming the source of my own happiness and assurance throughout the event.”

Volunteer Nicholas Yan, a Telemathics student at SIT, had served in past National Day Parades as a Heartware General Volunteer, and even a Volunteer Leader for the SEA Games back in 2015.

“It was a new experience for me as a volunteer for President’s Challenge, and a twist from my previous volunteering experiences. It was very fulfilling, now that I got a first-hand experience on how to make someone’s day during the show.”

As a seasoned volunteer, Nicholas also shared that the involvement of the beneficiaries from Down Syndrome Association Singapore and Methodist Welfare Services played a major role in making his experience for this year’s NDP show memorable.

“I realised that when you work with these beneficiaries, you should look at their abilities instead of their disabilities. You look at the positive end of everything, learn to interact better with them, and improve your communication skills.”

The same pride everyone has for our nation will not be overshadowed by the differences in their ages, races, abilities and histories. PHOTO: Sarah Manalac

The success of the National Day Parade emphasised how different cultures and life experiences shape what we now know to be our own close-knit society. In light of the stories told in this bicentennial year, we left the show grounds not as strangers to each other but as representatives of a united community.

Unity comes when we can positively impact the lives of others. Head down to to check out Heartware’s volunteering opportunities today!