Happy Hougang: Reconnecting with society through dance and fitness
Our service called “Hougang Dance and Zumba” is all about helping the elderly of Singapore who has physical and mental disabilities to reconnect with the Singaporean society. This service helps the members of the Hougang Centre recognise the available opportunities given to them by the UWCSEA association, hence aiding their inclusiveness in the community. We conduct physical activities – dancing, charades, pictionary, etc – that encourage the members of the Centre to participate in healthy practices. Our goal is to build meaningful connections with the Hougang people, make them feel welcomed, and most certainly ensure they feel involved with the world outside their care centre.
Looking back on our service experience, there were several moments that we are proud of. One particular aspect that stood out was our flexibility, which we found was necessary as the year progressed. As the needs and wants of the members changed, our plans and approach to our sessions also had to change. As a group, we came together for a few brainstorming sessions and decided that we should rethink our approach to the service because ultimately it was for the betterment of the members. Through extensive collaboration and detailed insight into the workings of our service, we actually shifted the focus of our service away from dance and closer toward physical activity in general. This experience was in general a success, as the members responded enthusiastically to the fitness activities we began conducting, and participation in the activities grew significantly. Working towards the goal of providing a better service experience to the members as a group was crucial in making this service a true representation of the hard work put in by everyone in our group.
In addition to being flexible and able to adapt to changes quickly, we usually have a base plan to follow so that if there are any changes, we have a plan to base our adaptations on. In helping us do so, we created a group chat at the beginning of the year to not only exchange ideas for a plan but also to organise sessions ahead in order to fully maximise the time we have with our clients. For example, our service group chairs will remind us each week which group is running the session on the group chat before the actual day to prepare ahead. The group running that week will then create a plan to follow, consisting of dance and interactive activities such as charades or pictionary.
However, our service still had some areas that could have been developed. We have individual plans for every session, yet on-spot adjustments are necessary sometimes, the workout/dance section was sometimes too intense for the members to follow. Indeed we could find the alternative every time, the process of doing so slowed down the whole process of facilitating the sessions. We planned the activities based on our own perception of the members for the very first sessions, and a few problems occurred due to the lack of knowledge of understanding the “appropriateness” of our service: the dress code, music, dances, activities, etc. We quickly identified the issues and adjusted our plan accordingly. Recognising their special needs of a slow-paced exercise, we developed a new plan that starts with a mild workout routine and finishes with fun activities and dances which engaged the member. We incorporated music based on the demographics of the members, which created a homely environment for them to relax.
Some threats we faced were related to communication between the members and us. There were times when they were not willing to interact with us because they were tired or weren’t in the mood to engage. As a result, we had to ensure that our activities were appealing and not too challenging for the members to attempt. As an attempt, we found simple dance and workout videos for them to follow which did not discourage them from actively participating. Furthermore, there were moments whereby some members had physical incapabilities and thus, couldn’t fully participate in the organised plans. This, therefore, hindered our goals for the session as we weren’t able to carry out what we hoped and expected to. Additionally, in comparison to the members, we had varying cultural views which lead to a few conflicts. For instance, varying opinions in consideration to dress code, song choice, etc. This was challenging to overcome as compromises from both parties had to be made in order to reach a consensus.
A few opportunities that we see ourselves pursuing with this service partner in the future related to our connection with them and the way we are interacting with them. For example, we feel that spending more time with them at the beginning of our service journey to ensure that we form a deeper connection with them would be more beneficial next time, as we would be able to ensure that we know their names and a few facts about each individual and that they know the same about us, as it will help to strengthen our relationship. This will also give us an opportunity to recognise the cultural views and backgrounds of the members of the service. This presents the opportunity to cater to the things that they may enjoy more or they may feel more connected to, which would create more effective sessions. Additionally, we felt that it would be advantageous to ensure consistent attendance, at least from a majority of the members of our service partner as this could help us in not only strengthening our bond but also making sure that we can have some projects with them within our service sessions. For example, choreographing a dance with them could be a viable option, as this could help them in fulfilling their physical exercise requirements as well making sure that they can see a clear connection between our sessions and some aims and goals of our service. Lastly, these previous opportunities could help us in fulfilling other opportunities we may have, such as setting simple goals within our service to work towards for ourselves so that we can gauge a better understanding of the process of planning and preparing service sessions. These opportunities, as mentioned previously, could come from ensuring full attendance, engaging them to form better connections and simple things such as learning their names.
Overall, we feel that this service has not only been a great opportunity to engage with our community, but also an opportunity to learn and grow. Looking back, we feel proud of the obstacles we’ve overcome, the connections we have made, and the impact we have had. We hope that in the future other students can find a connection with the members from Hougang as meaningful as ours.