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PACE: HCA Day Hospice Outing
PACE: HCA Day Hospice Outing
Rachelle Gaa, UWCSEA Dover parent, PACE Local Outreach Coordinator
On May 12, 2017, PACE Local Outreach held its annual outing for HCA Hospice Care's (HCA) Day Hospice Centre. We took 32 patients on a self-guided tour of The Flower Dome and The Cloud Forest - the two cooled conservatory complexes in Gardens by the Bay.
Past participants and volunteers led to a surplus number of field trip participants. As this outing's main organiser, this was a welcome relief. But as was expected, the day itself did not proceed without some minor hiccups. It was raining heavily. Some experienced major traffic delays while a couple had to wait it out as they had no sheltered path to reach the meeting point. There was also one mother who had to turn back to bring a sick child to see a doctor. Still, things worked out as everything proceeded smoothly and as planned. I would like to highlight here that this amazing East campus parent rushed to the Gardens by the Bay to catch up, immediately after her child's doctor's appointment. I can't commend and thank her enough on her tenacity to see through her commitment.
The HCA staff ably took charge of the tour specifics. The patients arrived in four transport vans and were grouped accordingly. The volunteers were likewise grouped as such as we were assigned a patient each. These smaller groups allowed for a smoother and easier tour of the attractions that was packed with visitors and several tour groups. We even encountered mothers and kids from the UWCSEA Infant School who were likewise there on a field trip.
Tulipmania 2017 officially ended a few days before but we were lucky enough to see some tulips still on display and in full bloom in the 'Flower Field'.
Our final stop was the much-awaited lunch (everybody was starving by 11:30am!) at the Majestic Bay Seafood restaurant. The restaurant manager offered us a 'benevolent' rate for a special sit-down menu. It turned out to be a feast consisting of various dumplings; baked honey pork buns; vegetables spring roll; scallop cheong fan; stewed homemade tofu with garden greens in duo mushrooms sauce; homemade yam ring with gluten cubes; filet of fish porridge; pancake with red bean paste; and chilled glutinous rice dumpling with cream and berries. I can't think of a better way to top off what had been such a lovely morning: good food; good company and even magnificent views of the Marina Bay waterfront from inside the restaurant albeit the heavy downpour.
PACE Local Outreach is part of PACE (Parents’ Action for Community and Education), a volunteer parent-led organisation that falls under the Service umbrella of the College, with over 250 active members, and over 1100 supporters and friends who subscribe to our mailing list.
Through our local volunteer programme, we provide an opportunity for the College's parents to discover the rewards of providing direct, hands-on service to those in need in Singapore. We organise semi-monthly visits to the HCA Day Hospice. Our visits are usually from 10am - 12pm on every second and fourth Friday of the month, following the school calendar.
HCA Hospice Care is a registered charity providing comfort and support to patients with life- limiting illnesses and their families. The HCA Day Care Centres cater to patients who are relatively mobile and do not require round-the-clock nursing care.
For the patient, the HCA Day Hospice serves as a link to the outside world - allowing for interaction with other individuals who share the same experience of having a life-limiting illness. The patient I was assigned to for our outing lives with her son. On her off-hospice days, she spends most of her time at their HDB void deck seeking social engagement with her neighbours. Thus, her days at the hospice are a welcome treat. As volunteers we strive to enhance their social interaction at the day centre by fostering a sense of joy and bringing entertainment to them.
What do the PACE visits entail? The first hour involves befriending as we welcome the patients from their transport vans and help serve them breakfast. The second half involves various activities. We have a roster that includes groups that have served as our long-standing partners who are more than grateful for the opportunity to support PACE HCA's service work. These include: the American Women Associations International Choir, Yue Yun Xuan (a Cantonese Opera group); Casa Flamenco studio; Geh Pok Ville CC choir; Jitterbugs (an international award winning dance group composed mostly of amazingly talented 7 year old kids) to name a few. Given limited resources and mobility for some, most of the hospice folks do not have opportunities to go out let alone watch shows. We endeavor to bring these 'shows' to them and are always on the lookout to those who are willing to spare an hour to perform at the centre. We likewise hold arts and craft activities at the hospice and invite yoga instructors. We take annual field trips such as the aforementioned Gardens by the Bay outing. In respecting all cultures and beliefs, we likewise celebrate various festivals at HCA Day Hospice such as Diwali, Chinese New Year and Christmas. For these events, we stay for lunch and ask participants to contribute a dish.
We offer a flexible volunteer programme that caters to each individual's availability - from regular participants, to those that can lead a special session and to the time-strapped ones who participate in our share-a-dish/meal programme. The latter is as easy as dropping off food to share on one of our visits. Our latest undertaking involved inviting the College's various nationality groups to host a cultural showcase day at the hospice. Responding to our invitation, we will end this school year with an event hosted by the Benelux group at UWCSEA Dover. For next school year, we have a few cultural events lined up: the UWCSEA East Chinese community will lead a mooncake workshop in September while the Korean mums from Dover are planning an event in November.
From my personal experience, the lack of a shared spoken language, as most patients speak Chinese, creates an initially awkward and intimidating experience. But I always encourage others to persevere and forge this effort into a commitment. Speaking of commitment, several parents of alumni continue to visit when they are in town and/or are available. Some of us may not speak the same language but the personal relationships/connections forged are strong and very much evident. Without fail, the patients happily greet the volunteers when they arrive. Some give us big smiles. We get high fives. And there is that one patient who is quick to show you a note to inform you that she cannot speak nor hear before she proceeds to eagerly squeeze your hands and touch your face. This is the only way for her to express her enthusiasm and this is her way of thanking us. It is always such a heartwarming experience.
During the HCA Hospice Care's Volunteer Appreciation Night in October 2016, we were presented with a Long Term Service Award for our nine years of continued service to their community. While we are grateful for this recognition, we are more thankful for the wonderful opportunity to serve the lovely folks at HCA Day Hospice. We are thankful to the HCA community for always welcoming us and accommodating our schedule which entails extended absences during school holidays.
Our hospice volunteer work is immensely gratifying, emotionally meaningful, and socially stimulating. We meet people from all walks of life - the patients themselves, parents from both campuses and from all school levels, parents of alumni, other volunteer groups, local youths who are partaking in their schools’ Community Involvement Project (CIP), various "entertainers" etc.. And we are all united in one purpose: living out HCA Hospice Care care philosophy of "adding life to days, not days to life".
With PACE Local Outreach, it takes only 4 hours a month to gain an immeasurable sense of fulfillment and contribution to the community and to embrace UWC values.