By Rachelle Gaa, PACE Singapore Outreach Coordinator, parent of students in Grade 8 and Grade 12 on Dover Campus
HCA Hospice Care held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Night on 26 October and PACE's Local Outreach team once again received a Long Service Award from the organisation. Leng Holz, who began this volunteer service 10 years ago, was on hand to receive our certificate. At the latter part of the event, we were given another special award - Community Partner of the Year. We are honoured to be one of the very few recipients of this award.
Further making this milestone special for us, we were one of a select group of volunteers who were invited to meet the Guest of Honour, Amy Khor, ahead of the dinner event. Amy Khor is a member of the country's governing People's Action Party (PAP) and is currently the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Health. We received great news from that conversation: HCA Day Hospice has waived its subsidised fee for their day care hospice services. We are happy for our dear friends at HCA. These HCA patients and the bonds that we have forged with them are the very reason our outreach programme has lasted this long. As their Senior CR Executive, Andrew Ng, recently told me "here's looking to another ten years ahead!" We are keeping our fingers crossed and are working hard to reach that next milestone.
What makes this outreach programme very special to us? I'll let these personal experiences speak for themselves. I've asked three of our regular long-term volunteers to share their thoughts and feelings regarding our service. These mothers commit their time every other Friday morning (pending other important appointments). To these ladies, their visits go beyond performing a service. They consider our visits as a way of fostering friendships they have formed with these good people. It is no different to us meeting up regularly with our friends over coffee or lunch.
Carol Lam - parent of Grade 10 student, East Campus
Carol joined in September 2011 when her son joined UWCSEA. She signed up for a PACE Coffee Morning as she loves to help in any way and ended up loving it. Carol was previously the Chinese nationality representative for UWCSEA East, and her group has hosted several activities at the hospice including workshops such as dumpling and mooncake making. Carol pioneered our initiative to invite nationality groups to perform a day of service at HCA. She is also our resident Chinese translator.
Reflecting on her experience Carol says, "Unlike many who find hospice a rather depressing place for the terminally ill, I find it a joyous place to celebrate life, to celebrate what these people have contributed to the society. Being a volunteer at HCA Hospice is to show the patients how much society appreciates them and how much we, as volunteers, care about them.
Long time ago during an outing to the S.E.A. Aquarium, I was accompanying Madame Chua, the only one who refused to be on a wheelchair. I was with her for three hours, chatting along the way and listening to her childhood stories, upbringing struggles, and how she finally became a Chinese teacher, as a female who did not have much chance to receive formal education at that time. So inspiring! Her stories have truly showed me that “though it could be very difficult, it’s possible.” I’ve learnt so much from her.
Since then, we’ve become good friends. Whenever we see each other, the first thing we do is to hug each other just like old good friends. As she once said, it’s not what we brought them, what we did for them, but our hugs, smiles, greetings, or even a gentle pat on their shoulders that touched her. Knowing that someone out there still care about them is most important to them."
Shen Gullery, parent of 2017 and 2018 graduates, and current Grade 11 student, Dover Campus
Shen joined HCA in 2011 or 2012 after receiving information about our service at a coffee morning. Shen co-organises our annual CNY celebrations with Carol, and stands in as Chinese translator when when Carol is unable to attend. Shen works part-time but when she is available, she is there to befriend and lend a helping hand.
Shen's reflection on her involvement in the service is, "I thought if I didn’t get to spend much time with my own parents by living so far away from them, perhaps I could spend some time with other people’s parents in a meaningful way. I get so much positive energy from the people we visit. Every year before the school holidays, when I tell patients I was going to travel, I always get asked when I would come back. It becomes a promise, when I say after the summer or after Christmas."
Ravina Kirpalani, parent of 2016 graduate and current Grade 12 student, Dover Campus
Ravina was part of the first group of volunteers to start our HCA volunteer service way back in 2008. She helps organise our annual Deepavali celebration and is always on-hand to support our other events. Ravina is one of our most dedicated parent volunteers and has been the nofficial co-head of our local service committee for years.
Ravina's thoughts on PACE Local Outreach are, "Before visiting HCA Day Hospice, a group of mothers went to an old people’s home for a year or so. I joined PACE when Leng told me she was going to start a local service because I thought it was important we give back to our community.
One of my most memorable moments in PACE HCA was either in our first or second year volunteering. There was a patient by the name of Vanessa. She was younger than the rest of the patients (mid 40’s) and very sad about her prognosis. She told me that whenever the PACE group came to HCA she felt as though she was surrounded by angels who uplifted her and made her feel happy each time and how much she looked forward to our visits. She passed away a few weeks later but her words inspired me to keep coming to HCA.
I believe we get far more out of our visits to HCA than we give the patients through all the love, appreciation and good wishes we get in return for a just a few hours of our time."
These parents, together with a number of others, dedicate their time and effort in sustaining our Singapore service and connections with our host community. Come and join our local outreach programme and discover the rewards of hands-on service work and meet the wonderful people at HCA Day Hospice and our equally amazing volunteers. For more information, please email us.