Lifelong Learning

Nov 07, 2019   |   Fan Wenrui

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In our increasingly fast-paced metropolitan society today, our quest for knowledge does not simply end at classroom doors. Conversely, the attitude of lifelong learning has become increasingly prevalent – not just among our youths, but also among our seniors too!

Our seniors attached to the Support Our Pioneers (SOP) programme are no exception.

In the spirit of active aging, our seniors have committed themselves to learning new skills ranging from calligraphy to balloon sculpting to Mahjong. With their newly equipped superpowers, they are also not at all hesitant to take on the role of mentors to our SOP volunteers.

The intricate shift in the relationship of beneficiary-volunteer to mentor-mentee is an admirable and laudable one.

Being old does not mean that one has to stop learning! (or teaching!)

That is especially true for Yishun Resident Mdm Lily Wong, who passes on the various skills she has picked up along the way to our volunteers.

After volunteers Felicitas Ang and Darrelle Teo saw the astoundingly breathtaking calligraphy on her wall and indicated their curiosity and interest towards learning calligraphy, Mdm Lily dug up all her calligraphy materials, and made it her personal goal to teach them.

The most unbelievable part? She learnt it during her free time down at a Senior Centre years ago!


Felicitas and Darrelle with Mdm Lily, posing with their calligraphy masterpieces

Mdm Lily’s current passion is Mahjong.

This is why every visitation at Mdm Lily’s house has now become a Mahjong session. Volunteers interested in learning Mahjong could drop by her place to learn the basics of the game or even engage in a few rounds of Mahjong sessions if they have time to spare.

Mdm Lily patiently mentoring our Yishun SOP volunteers on the gameplay of Mahjong


Mdm Lily, answering to the doubts and queries of our SOP volunteers on the placement of Mahjong tiles.

Calligraphy and Mahjong – it seems that Mdm Lily has transformed Yishun into a cultural immersion hub! Mdm Lily is truly an inspiration to all of us, and the volunteers at Yishun are blessed to have forged such a meaningful friendship with her.

Keeping in the same vein of tradition and culture, another important part of our Chinese tradition is the proper usage of chopsticks! Known as one of the most popular eating utensils among Chinese Singaporeans, chopsticks are omnipresent in household kitchens and restaurants alike.

Nevertheless, there is still an overwhelming majority of Chinese Singaporeans guilty of their alien contortions when using chopsticks to dig into their favourite dishes.

This is precisely why Tanjong Pagar Resident Aunty Lan immediately brought out a plate of chopsticks to teach our volunteers the right way to handle chopsticks when she unexpectedly found out that volunteers Cassidy, Jing Rong and Kelly did not know how to use chopsticks in the proper manner (not the criss-cross way)! As an ex-Chinese teacher, Aunty Lan is a strong believer of preserving our Chinese roots and even selflessly took on the role of passing down traditional knowledge to the next generation.

Keep on practicing, volunteers! Don’t let Aunty Lan down.

Aunty Lan and Yishun SOP volunteers showing off their mastery of chopsticks.

Meanwhile, all the way at Lengkok Bahru, creativity is oozing thanks to Mdm Sim, who has dabbled her hands in cooking, terrarium potting, and now balloon sculpting.

Here she is teaching our volunteers how to sculpt their very own balloons.

Mdm Sim caught in action, her nimble hands working hard at transforming an ordinary balloon into an extraordinary work of art.

Mdm Sim, showcasing her fabulous balloon sculpting skills to our SOP volunteer

Balloon sculpting enhances one’s patience and manual dexterity, while giving balloon sculpters the freedom to unleash their inner creativity and artistic talents.

The art of balloon sculpting puts volunteers’ patience and agility to test, as even learning the basics of balloon modelling– weaving and stuffing are no easy tasks!

As our volunteers followed Mdm Sim’s clear and concise instructions  and constant guidance, they began to master the basics of balloon sculpting– teddy bear twists, loops and bubbles. Soon, the balloons began to take shape and emerge into animals of various shapes and sizes.

A mini empire of rubber animals began to grow and expand as more hands joined in.

Be it learning calligraphy, Mahjong or chopsticks handling, our volunteers could reconcile with their Chinese roots and have a more nuanced and in-depth understanding of the Chinese culture and traditions.

Our volunteers’ eagerness to pick up new skills from our seniors is nonetheless an impressive first step out of their comfort zone, as it requires courage and long periods of  determination and perseverance to establish and strengthen the mentor-mentee bond between our seniors  and volunteers.

Furthermore, the embarkation of journey to learn a new skill may be tumultuous at the start, but it helps to broaden your perspectives, enable you to see things in a new light and even enlarge your social circle as you make connections with new people. Your future self may even come back to thank you later, as you’ll never know when your newly-mastered skills will come in handy!

With the spirit of lifelong learning going strong amongst SOP volunteers and seniors, don’t you feel the itch to try something new, or even pick up a new hobby?

Don’t hesitate to learn something new now, for you may uncover something new about yourself!