The boys volunteered briefly for the first time when we were one of the Official Bloggers for the Marina Bay Countdown 2012. Then, they mingled and brought much joy to the elderly folks from the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre.
We had a few more volunteering activities ever since. But the wifey and I have always been looking for more opportunities to help the less fortunate among us, and involve the kids at the same time too. One such opportunity came up when Community Chest approached me to get the family to help out at its Festive Care and Share Fu Dai event.
In support of SG Care & Share Day, Community Chest arranged for a Fú Dài (Festive Pack) containing sponsored festive items and necessities to be delivered to a person in need (such as a lonely elderly, or a family in difficulty) from its social service programmes. And the number of packs in question? 2,000 of them!
So last Saturday, we together with scores of other volunteers congregated at Dunman High School to help out in the packing of the festive bags. The same afternoon, we were also tasked with delivering them to the seniors in their homes.
We roped in some of the monkies' buddies for the event, and I was very happy to see all of them being so enthusiastic in offering their help!
After a short briefing, the kids were raring to begin.
I think there were close to 30 items in one festive pack so while the adults had to go draw the items from each respective station, the kids assisted by placing each individual item into each bag. Sounds easy but believe me when I say it was tough work... especially the routine can get really mundane after the novelty wear off with the first few bags.
But we had a quota to meet and for that, the kids really did their jobs well. Perhaps it was the awesome company that everyone had during the packing session but all the festive packs were completed just before lunch time!
Yes, we were on the same packing team as Dr. Jiajia and his two adorable sisters. Very cute, and helpful kids! :)
The kiddos then had a well-deserved lunch break, refuelling in anticipation of our next task.
The wifey and I had a little chat with the monkies beforehand to explain what we would be doing and the reason behind the delivery of the festive packs to the the elderly who were living - often alone - in the poorer estates in Singapore.
So after another short briefing, we set off armed with an address list and 21 festive packs in the car boot. Actually, we had more items on top of the 21 packs. Prior to all of this, the boys had also contributed $20 each from their own savings and purchased additional items like 3-in1 Milo sachets and instant oats, which they would pass them to the elderly folks we were visiting.
As we made our rounds in housing estates, the monkies handed the gifts to the elderly and chatted with them a little while. They lived simply, with many of their homes hardly furnished, filled with either cardboard boxes or plastic bags, and were not in the cleanest of conditions. But everyone was friendly, each having a story to tell.
All of them came to the door, received the festive packs with smiles beaming on their faces and shook our hands warmly as we wished them 新年快乐 (Happy New Year). Their faces lit up when the boys passed them the additional Milo sachets or instant oats, and even more so when they found out the items were bought using the boys' own savings.
Overall, the monkies including Ale were terrific sports. They lugged along their own items, held open the lift doors, knocked on doors and exchanged warm greetings with the recipients. Before the event, we had the intention of setting out to spread some CNY festive cheer and bless the less fortunate with some necessities. Well, it turns out that we were the ones who would be blessed instead.
I am not sure how much difference we made to the lives of the elderly folks that we met, but I am thankful we were able to bring some cheer - however little - to them. But for us and the monkies especially, it was a truly sobering experience to see the other side of Singapore that we hardly come into contact with. Most, if not all, of the elders are living alone and it really made me feel truly grateful for all I had.
Family, friends, nice meals, a cosy bed and above all, a warm home.
These are things the monkies often take for granted, that they do not realize they have been blessed with.
Though the Fu Dai event has ended, you can still contribute in other ways. So do visit www.comchest.org.sg for more information.
*Photos with the elderly folks were taken with permission.