An Enriching Journey

Choo Shi Jin, 27, RCY Club Member, shares with us her experience being part of a team of 18 volunteers who went to Roxas City, the Philippines on an Overseas Humanitarian Programme (OHP) from 13 to 24 June.

Opened to RCY Cadets, RCY Teacher-Officers, RCY Chapter Members, and RCY Club Members, the OHP was aimed at refurbishing two school premises to enhance their outlook through the painting of murals on the discoloured walls and educating the students on the importance of school safety, personal hygiene and basic first aid in their schools and communities. In addition, teams exchanged technical knowledge and learnt about the cultural differences.

1. Why did you choose to join the Overseas Humanitarian Programme (OHP)?

Participating in Overseas Humanitarian Programme (OHP) has always been something that I am passionate about and wanted to experience since my school days. However, due to budget and commitment issues then, I did not have a chance to participate.

Since I started working, I have made many personal trips to developing countries as part of smaller community group projects. When I received the email notification to be a part of this OHP, I knew the golden opportunity I have been waiting for had finally arrived.

2. What were some of the preparations you had to go through prior to this OHP?

There were three full Saturdays of preparations and one final briefing held. The team was tasked to set objectives, goals and house-rules for the trip. We also had ice-breaking sessions where we learnt about each other better.

We went through intense brainstorming sessions; on how we can make the lessons more engaging for the children, and how every programme or activity may benefit the community or help us in our self development. This also included logistics and budget considerations.

Unlike your usual holiday trip, where you can just book a tour or simply Google for interesting places to visit, we researched about the culture of the places that we will be heading to in Roxas City. We had to find out whether the schools had first aid kits, the level of knowledge on first aid and hygiene, and whether there was any language barrier.

We planned our programmes carefully and developed a comprehensive set of teaching materials and logistics. All team members were given equal autonomy to make our own decisions and voice our suggestions or feedback.

3. Where did you go and describe some of the things you did?

We visited two schools in Roxas City, Philippines - the Ivisan Elementary School and Libas Elementary School. The key objectives were to educate the children on basic first aid, hygiene, water conservation and global warming and to revamp a library and sick bay. We also had the chance to bond with the children and teachers during our meals and leisure.

I also took the opportunity do some soul searching throughout the trip. It made me feel very grateful for what I have back here in Singapore.

4. What are the three most valuable lessons you gleaned from this OHP?

1) Patience: The preparation phase had put my operations and logistics skills to the test. I also developed a virtuous quality - patience as we worked alongside other team members without experience.

2) Empathy: I've learnt to empathise with someone else's feelings and what they are going through. One of the students whom we had spent some time with in the first school was involved in a motorbike accident with his father. That was after our team had moved on to the second school. Sadly, his father passed away while he was hospitalised. The boy's best friend came to visit us at the second school and told us that he has no motivation to go for classes as his only companion is in the hospital. It was really heart-rending to know that there was not much that the team could do to help alleviate the situation. All we could do was to provide moral support to the injured boy and his friend.

3) Contentment: After every trip to a developing or third world country, I will be exceptionally grateful for the life that I have, and how fortunate it is to be born and bred in Singapore. This trip was no exception. It also taught me that simplicity can be a source of happiness too. The children do not have fancy clothes, no clean toilets or a safe environment to grow up in, but they are genuinely happy with everything they have. It was truly heartwarming when the children showed their immense gratitude to our team during when we visited them.

4. Could you share with us most memorable experience or life-changing moment from this OHP?

Every second of the trip was memorable. It was incredible to be with a team of dedicated individuals who were selfless, and ready to give, in every way possible.

No one complained of being tired while we were cleaning appliances out in the sun or painting in a room with no ventilation and lighting. Everyone was constantly checking on each other, ensuring that no one was dehydrated or unwell.
The best moment also happened on one of the last days when the children came up to every one of us to get our autographs and wrote us love letters. It made the sweat and body aches all worth it.

5. Describe this OHP in 3 words

Made it happen.

Note: These are the views of one of the participants of the OHP. It does not represent the views of the Singapore Red Cross.