Heart Strings, Connecting Youth – Youth Volunteer Council
Testimony from Tan Wei Ying
1. How is your volunteering experience with Heartware?
My volunteer experience with Heartware has been a journey of learning and self-discovery.
I remember my first application to Heartware was for a leader’s role in the Heartware –National Day Parade Hospitality Management (HW-NDP) 2009. This was when I was waiting for my ‘A’ Level examination results.
At that time, I did not manage to get the leaders’ role, but was instead assigned a general volunteer’s role. No doubt, I was disappointed but still continued with the general volunteer’s role, never regretted so. Those HW-NDP days were so fulfilling as I looked forward to every Saturday, bonded with the team, engaged the public, and got inspired by my leaders.
Muiteng was one of my leaders then. After the enriching experience, it spurred me to join other events by Heartware, playing various roles: A member of the Youth Planning Committee ® in the Chingay Parade 2011 and HW-NDP 2014 and 2015, a general volunteer in the North Run 2014, and supporting roles in other adhoc events.
These provided exposure to different responsibilities which immersed me in many perspectives. It allowed me to reflect upon my strengths and weaknesses, as well as to learn and develop new skills.
From being a student to a working adult coping with time management, the journey doesn’t stop. Till now, Heartware still takes the effort to engage its database of volunteers and keep me updated of its volunteering opportunities through social media channels and emails. I find this connection great because from there, I can still sign up for events and programmes that I can contribute to and learn something new from each participation.
2. How has Heartware helped you to grow and develop?
Each role (e.g. general volunteers, leaders, YPC®) presents a unique set of responsibilities Yet all of the roles have one thing in common to make the project successful: Teamwork.
As a general volunteer, I learnt to take instructions from my leaders, communicate, and work with my peers. I also grew more confident in talking to people.
While in the YPC®, my members and I worked together to develop the project from nothing to something. The challenges were really great as we were new to the processes and there was a lot to do – from documentation to submissions to recruitment and deployment.
We offered help to one another. I learnt when and how to delegate the work, especially since I had teammates as young as 17 years old.
Undeniably there were conflicting opinions or intense discussions. Sometimes the Heartware staff would help to neutralise the situation in a subtle way.
I remembered once, before the start of a meeting, we were shown a video on penguins under the attack of a predator, but overcame that obstacle by working together. The video enlightened us and reminded us again about teamwork. I learnt to put myself in other’s shoes, respect one another’s opinions, and see an issue from different perspectives so that we can empathise better.
Sometimes when we were too engrossed in the process, we tend to forget about each other’s feelings while trying to put our ideas across. It was really important to know when to stop, take a step back, and look at the overall picture. Furthermore, our decisions could affect our teammates and other volunteers, so I also learnt to consider these implications and risks before making a decision.
Through these experiences, I feel that I’ve become a more mature and resilient individual.
3. What have you gained volunteering at Heartware? (Eg. making friends, helping people, know more about yourself)
I have made new friends, definitely. When my teammates and I became close, we continued to hang out even after the projects ended. We will remember and talk fondly about the days during planning and operations. How we often stayed up late at the Heartware office, the paperwork that we needed to print and bring for operations, the dead rat that we found near our admin table on one deployment, replying emails at 2am and then setting a curfew the following year to not reply emails after midnight…
We progressed to talk about work and life, sometimes even seeking advice from each other. We may not meet often now as everyone is now working, but we do check up on each other from time to time in our chat group. Everyone will start to update each other. It is encouraging to know that we continue to be there for one another even when so much time has passed.
I feel what I’ve gained the most are the intangibles: fulfilment and satisfaction from the experience. These were not instant gratification during the planning or operation phase. At the end of the projects, when I looked back, I knew that the team had overcome the challenges well and had made a difference in someone else’s life.
For example, we once had volunteers who had relatively serious medical conditions (e.g one who could not be exposed under sunlight for long; another had just recovered from brain inflammation). They had applied to be part of HW-NDP. At that time, we questioned if we could provide them with a safe environment to work in. Eventually we accepted them and ensured that their well-being were taken care of by their leaders. They managed to pull through and it was fulfilling to know from their feedback that they had enjoyed the experience. All these couldn’t be measured, but deep inside my heart, I felt happy and touched.