The First Step in the Right Direction

Oct 31, 2019   |   Neo Wei Li

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For our Fundraising and Thanksgiving Dinner 2019, ‘Heart Strings, Connecting Youth – Our Journey Towards 20’, a few of our Heartware volunteers shared their experiences volunteering at Heartware Network. The following sharing is by Neo Wei Li, a volunteer with various Heartware programmes and volunteer leader at HW-NDP 2019. The other sharing by Cheryl Lim can be found here.


Wei Li’s sharing during the Fundraising and Thanksgiving Dinner.

My name is Wei Li. I am a year 2 student from ITE College West and a Heartware Volunteer since 2016. I am here today, to share my story – a story about how Heartware has developed me. From an impulsive kid who never once thought his words and actions mattered, to someone who speaks confidently in front of you today.

I first started as a participant in the Heartware – Character and Citizenship Education Leadership Programme back in 2015.

When I was selected for this programme in Secondary 2, I was reluctant to even participate because, well let’s just say… I was very different back then.

I remember in one of the sessions we had in the library, I was kicked out of the library for not wearing my uniform, and I decided to be defiant and leave the session completely to go and play volleyball at the basketball court.

After about 15 minutes, a Heartware Staff searched for me and gave me a very long lecture on why I should not behave like that. I honestly don’t remember much of it because… I didn’t care then.

But throughout the sessions that I did attend, I remember learning how to face my fears, to work better in a team, and to set goals for myself, amongst many other life lessons.

Wei Li’s first session with Heartware Network during the Heartware – Character and Citizenship Education Leadership Programme back in 2015.

The start of 2016 is not a time I would like to remember. Many of my friends stopped talking to me, and at the same time, I was facing some family issues at home. It made me feel alone. In those darkest days, my closest friend convinced me to give volunteering a shot as it would give me an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.

So I took a leap of faith and started my volunteering journey in Heartware, an organisation I never thought I would’ve joined. I began as a volunteer usher under the Heartware – National Day Parade Hospitality Management in 2016.

At the start, I was afraid to speak up as it was very much out of my comfort zone. At 15 years old, I was the youngest in the group. Despite these setbacks, my leaders encouraged me to find my voice and be more willing to try new experiences even if they made me uncomfortable.

Through this, I discovered a side of me that I never knew existed. I realised that I enjoy talking to people, and I love interacting and socialising with others. I also made new friends, improved my interpersonal skills… all whilst having fun celebrating our Nation’s Birthday. I had never felt this positive in school. Since then, I haven’t stopped volunteering.

2 years later, I finally decided to challenge myself by taking up a leadership role in the same programme that started it all. NDP. Having to bond and manage a group of volunteers is no easy task. I had to establish a distinct line for the volunteers so that they knew when was the time to play, and when they should put their heads together and get the job done well.

It’s not easy to keep the balance. Nevertheless, I persevered and managed to build up a good team of volunteers that ensured a smooth, effective, and fun-filled NDP deployment.

In April this year, I was given an opportunity to join Heartware Academy’s inaugural team of Volunteer Field Leaders. Since then, I’ve managed to run projects together with the staff and team of Field Leaders – one of them being our very own emcee, Tawakul.

I also managed to further develop my critical thinking skills, self-determination, interpersonal, and communication skills. I’m proud to be part of the pioneering batch of Volunteer Field Leaders.

Throughout my journey with Heartware, I’ve done lots of reflection on the way and I realised that I have come a long way. Volunteerism has shaped me into the person I am today. It has been a journey of developing myself while giving back to the community at the same time.

I was never a fan of talking to people. I was the kid that stood in the middle of everything and everyone and I never dared to voice out. Now, I am standing in front of all of you, sharing my story. And all I can say is, I am proud to be who I am today. A person who should’ve just worn his school uniform in the library because there were bigger things to learn.

“Volunteerism has shaped me into the person I am today. It has been a journey of developing myself while giving back to the community at the same time.”

I would like to thank Heartware Network for giving youths like myself opportunities to grow and the constant support in every step of the way.

Before I end, I would like to share a quote from Ernest Hemingway that means a lot to me. “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Volunteering helped me in that way, providing me a first step in the right direction.