Red Cross Memories: Doreen Tan

One would never expect to join an organisation while one was ill. But that was exactly what I did. I was a final year undergraduate of the National University of Singapore. I went to the University Health Service as I fell sick one day. I still remember the doctor who consulted me was Dr Patrick Tan. He was helping to recruit volunteers for the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) of the Singapore Red Cross. He asked me if I was keen to join the Singapore Red Cross.

I first joined Singapore Red Cross as a member of Detachment 3 in the VAD in 1995. I was subsequently recruited as a staff to join then-Volunteer Development Division (VDD), now Voluntary Youth Development) in 1997. Former Director of VAD, Mr Ho Shee Ki, required someone to help look after the volunteers.

In 2000, I was transferred from VAD to Red Cross Youth (RCY). I attended the Youth Officers Course and was commissioned as an officer. Initially, I was involved in school activities at the district level (as District Development Officer. I also helped with First Aid, Evacuation and Foot-drill training (more ground work).

Later, I become the District Assistant Director, tying different schools in the district together for growth and development. Subsequently, I took on the roles of Assistant Director, Membership and Assistant Director, Publicity. Following the restructuring exercise, I have been holding the portfolio of the Senior Assistant Director, Resources, overseeing Publications & Communications, Volunteer Development, Policy & Compliance and, at one stage, Curriculum Development.

I have also been active in Disaster Management and International Services. I had also undergone the Regional Disaster Response Training (2008, I believe, the 8th Batch). The first Overseas Humanitarian Project that I went for was in 1997, when I was a staff of VDD. This was a trip to one of the islands off Batam. It was a three-day medical and dental mission. I tagged along as photographer. I took nine rolls of 36-exposure film in the three days! What was unforgettable was tha I saw the dentists pulled out 399 teeth.

Through the Singapore Red Cross, I had the opportunity of going to Meulaboh (Asian tsunami) , Yogya (Mount Merapi), Cagayan, Philippines (post flood in 2001) and Ormoc as part of the Haiyan Advance team in November 2013 (Typhoon Haiyan). I had also been on a couple of developmental missions. I had been to East Timor once to teach English, dental hygiene and several times to Indonesia, once to Cagayan (Philippines) post flood in 2011 and I was part of the Haiyan Advance team in November 2013.

Red Cross has given me opportunities that I could never have in other organisations. Some of my best friends are from Red Cross!

That said, what is most rewarding in my volunteering experience with the Singapore Red Cross is the thought that I have left an impact on people’s lives.

Many years ago, I got to know this cadet from one of the elite schools. I was her officer, but we became good friends. One day out of the blue, when she was in university, she called to ask if she could interview me for an assignment. Her tutor wanted her to interview someone who has made the most impact in their lives, and she wanted to interview me for it. I was really touched to learn that she held me in such regard.

At the prize presentation at the National First Aid Competition 2014, SRC volunteer, Alvin Ee gave a talk on his journey with Red Cross and Nursing. He surprised me by telling the audience that I was his mentor in RCY. I encouraged him to join nursing when he was in Secondary 3, and he never forgot that I told him not to give up hope despite him being in Normal Tech. I am extremely proud to have played a small part in his success.

These are the little things that keep me going. By volunteering with the SRC, I derive satisfaction in the knowledge that I have touched people's lives, that I have made that little bit of difference in my own small way in serving humanity.

In my journey with the RCY, I, too, have had many mentors who have shown me the way, and brought me back on track when I strayed. I hope to be for my juniors, what my mentors have been for me. I hope to leave my footprints in the lives of many as I do my best to mentor others, as my predecessors had done for me.