First introduced to Lions Befrienders by a colleague, Mr Chaw Kean Yau has been a befriender to seniors residing in Pipit Road for the past four years. The 30-year-old engineer is no stranger to voluntary work, having served with the World Vision and other charities back in his hometown in Malaysia. In his free time, he enjoys playing sports like badminton and table tennis.
What is the one unexpected thing you have learnt about the senior(s)?
The seniors are like kids as well. Sometimes it is more effective to talk to them like a child instead of using reason or logic, for example you don’t have to be very solemn or serious with them, but you can treat them like your peers. That was an interesting realization for me because in my family we were raised to be respectful and there were things you just don’t discuss with your parents. In a way, I feel that I can talk to the seniors about anything and it’s okay.
What do you think are the challenges in befriending seniors for someone relatively young like yourself?
I don’t really feel that age is crucial. In the beginning, when you’re still new to the senior, they will not be so open. But if you break the ice and visit them regularly, they will slowly open up to you. I think the challenge is how to keep the befrienders motivated and consistent in their home visits (to the seniors). I have also learnt many things from the way they manage their life. Even at the age of 80, they are still in good health, and it’s because they are positive and know how to let go of negativity.
So what motivates you to visit the seniors week after week?
I think it’s the satisfaction you receive when the seniors are happy. Some might ask you to go away or say that they don’t need people to visit them, sometimes it’s because they don’t want to trouble other people or be a burden. But we will still just say ‘hi’, if we don’t intrude or be too pushy, I think they do appreciate it. Their ‘bark is usually worse than their bite’. (laughs)
Do you have any advice or tips for young befrienders?
I think it’s good to go visit and befriend seniors in a group so that group members can motivate one another to be consistent in their visits. The group that I belong to comprises 10 befrienders, and depending on how many turn up, we will split into groups of three to four to visit 20 seniors every week. Their presence is an encouragement. I have two colleagues who join us occasionally on our visits, and about 10 friends who have become registered befrienders. By sharing with my friends about what I do, I hope to recruit them as volunteers too.
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