“They are very accepting of me even though I am not a part of them. It is such a nice community.” Michelle, a student volunteer from Clementi SAC @ 366, shared smilingly as she recounted her volunteering journey in Lions Befrienders. A Croatian, Michelle moved to Singapore 14 years ago with her family. While she could have spent her time on her studies and pursuing other interests, Michelle committed herself to volunteer with the seniors as it rekindles fond memories of time spent with her grandparents.

An avid art lover, Michelle initiated the art classes in the centre and introduced various art resources for the seniors to explore arts in a safe environment. One of the classes involved empowering the seniors to be the potter to their clay; they could paint anything they want on a blank piece of paper. An idea that initially seemed daunting turned into a class the seniors enjoyed thoroughly. They were free to express their stories and personalities through their artwork. Unfamiliar with the concept of painting, a handful of seniors struggled as they were stretched beyond their comfort zones. However, the constant encouragement from Michelle and the other volunteers lifted their spirits and motivated them to complete their masterpieces.

As most seniors speak only Mandarin or dialects, the language barrier was a huge challenge for Michelle to overcome, especially having to engage a class of over 10 seniors by herself. Despite the language barrier, Michelle goes out of her way to interact with the seniors by gesturing with her hands and observing their body language. She studies their expressions, which guides her in perceiving their needs and emotions. Michelle also goes the extra mile to research on Singapore’s holidays and festivals to incorporate the festivities’ themes into her art classes. To deliver a better learning experience, she invites her classmates along to the classes, where they back her up with the translations while she manages the seniors’ needs.

The relationships established between Michelle and the seniors show how we can always find new means to communicate, even without words. It is our genuine desire to connect with and our commitment to the seniors that makes a world of difference.“At the end of the day, language is not that big of a deal but our presence and us choosing to spend time with them,” said Michelle.

We hope that these stories would inspire you to reach out and touch the lives of others.

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