Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Joseph, Jue Fei and I went back to the Hospice last Thursday (15 Nov '12). It has been a long time since we went back, although Jue Fei and I visited somewhere in June but the patients were unfortunately out that day. It was heartening to see that my patient was still there at the hospice and although I felt quite embarrassed to visit her after disappearing for so long, the welcome I got from the patients was more than I had imagined. In any case, it was good seeing the staff and the patients again, and knowing that this project lasted for much longer than the expected one year. I admire my group mates for taking the effort to go back and visit, even though some of their patients may not be there any more.
Service Learning isn't just a project, isn't about the CiP hours. It's about feeling the need to help others just because you want to, not because you have to - and I'm glad that as a group, we're still helping others long after this project has ended.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Recall the last reflection? I was quite desperate to get some information on my patient better, especially for the sake of the biography thing. It just wasn’t natural to me; I rarely intrude on people’s private lives, even for people I know and am familiar with. Hence I was finding it difficult to pluck up the nerve to start asking.
When we got there today the HCA staff members were quite disappointed. Apparently, they were hoping that we were from Hwa Chong Institution instead. Not surprisingly, the HCI boys were supposed to go that day, and from what I heard when we arrived, they were also planning to do some sort of project with the patients. Anyway the HCA staff members were trying to decide what CD music to play today when we showed up, so I guess they had been waiting for a long time.
The patients themselves were already bored, so most of them were having their own discussions, with a few of them choosing their own beauty sleep instead. I tried to ask my patient about herself this time, but little came of it. Fortunately, two of the HCI boys (out of the 7 or so who were supposed to show up) came in to do the entertaining and gave me a much needed break from the awkward situation. Both of them were foreign scholars from Indonesia, and they were both impressive in their own way, but mainly because of how hard they worked. For example, they were given some Chinese song, which they had only partially learnt before, and despite having learnt Chinese only a year before, they both persisted and eventually finished the song. Even Jo was impressed by their hardworking attitudes.
Tea break was a little later than usual since they had arrived so late, but the patients took this quite well, and they proceeded to finish their food quite quickly. It was around this time that my patient left, so I was left chatting with her friends. Surprisingly, when I asked about their past both of them told me a considerable amount. To be honest, I did not manage to get one of their names, but nonetheless I will write down what I do recall of them.
The patient whom I did not manage to get the name of was apparently living on her own at that time, since her daughter was living in New Zealand and was staying with her husband. This patient was quite lonely, but could only afford to come to HCA on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Hence she was often bored at home, especially due to her condition. She was unable to do a lot of things that she wanted to do since she was too weak to do so, and hence was quite frustrated at herself. To a certain extent she wished that her daughter could be with her, but she understood that her daughter also had other commitments. I spent quite a bit of time listening to her, and a fair amount of time trying to figure out what ailed her. Although she mentioned the term in Chinese quite often, I couldn’t recognize it until she took the initiative to ask one of the HCA staff to clarify it for me. Apparently, she was suffering from diabetes, and was quite close to death. I was both appreciative of her helpfulness, and yet it was a painful reminder of how close all the patients were to death. I’ll try to get her name next week.
The other patient, if I’m not wrong, is Mdm Tan Ah Mei. She was the patient whom I helped to the toilet (and back) during our first proper visit to HCA. According to her, one of her nieces or daughters (I can’t recall which one) is currently studying in one of the Raffles Schools, which explains why she has a sort of awe for any Rafflesian; her Rafflesian relation is apparently brilliant, and she thinks that every other Rafflesian is similar. I was quite flattered as she poured out numerous praises for the Rafflesian community in general. Anyway, she soon moved on to her life experiences after I talked about going to Beijing in Primary 5. She had apparently been to Beijing as well. And Shanghai. And Hong Kong. And some other province in China. And a few places in Thailand. And Taiwan. And Malaysia. And Indonesia. Basically, she travelled a lot when she was younger and healthier. She went on and on about her experiences, and I was all too glad to listen: The more material I got for my biography, the better. Besides, it was just plain interesting to listen to another person’s life story like that. I could have listened for hours if not for the fact that she had to go. She talked about her experiences in Beijing, from enjoying the food to climbing most (if not all) of the Great Wall of China. She talked about Shanghai being like Singapore’s Orchard Road; shopping and epic buildings galore. She talked about how the enjoyed Hong Kong’s scenery, and how she enjoyed being with her friends. She talked about her brief pleasure trips to Thailand with her friends, and had quite a bit to say about their fantastic organizational skills in terms of holiday planning. She mentioned that she had travelled to Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and even Australia, although since her illness she had been instructed by her doctor not to travel, as apparently her body would not take the strain. She mentioned how much she missed her family as well as her travels, and wished that she could be well again, so that she could enjoy the rest of her life properly. She complained about how weak her body was (for a person who climbed the Great Wall of China… That’s saying something) and about how hard it was for her to go about her daily life. Apparently, travelling is now too expensive for her, hence she is honestly quite bored with her now sedentary lifestyle. I felt her pain; I miss my childhood as well, where I did not need to be burdened with the reality of school and the working world. In a way she was like me; she had a past that she missed, yet was unable to return to it at any cost.
Honestly, I hope next week at HCA will be as productive as this week’s. I intend to learn more about the patients whom I managed to interact with today.
Today was quite an interesting time for me, since I tried probing deeper into my patient’s life. Although she didn’t quite understand my questions, and I was too meek to clarify and probe deeper, I feel that I have at least gained her trust, since she’s comfortable around me now.
Today, instead of having students come, some people from a company came by to spend their time with the patients. They were both cheery as well as enthusiastic, and some had even brought their spouses and children to help out. I felt that this was really impressive: I was still quite uncomfortable about the idea of probing into my patients’ lives, yet these people seemed to have bypassed that reaction and had gone to the equivalents of the HCA staff. They were very good at what they did, and according to the patients they had been very thoughtful as well. Instead of doing the default, boring games that most of the students did, they put on a puppet show (apparently, a ventriloquist act), sang, decided not to dance, played the piano, and sang some more, and of course they went the extra mile to get the audience to sing along with them. I was really impressed with the entire thing, especially the singing: The Indian man who was singing was a really good tenor, and he really put his all into singing.
Admittedly, we couldn’t really do much today, since the company people had pretty much everything covered (I suspect they are from a company that sponsors HCA), including food. There was a lot more food today, and there were quite a few drinks as well. I was particularly surprised about the food, since usually the patients manage to finish everything on their plates. With the abundance of food came the abundance of patients packing up the remaining food for future consumption. I was really appreciative of how these people had tried their utmost to look after the patients.
The Indian man was really good at singing, and the songs that they were playing were all golden oldies kind of songs. I knew a few of them, but I didn’t use the microphone to sing or anything since the Indian man had that covered pretty nicely. So I just sang along quietly from the back, but I was quite excited about the entire thing, especially since their karaoke CD was displaying the lyrics to the songs, which I found to be an eye opener. I must admit I do find it quite hard sometimes to make out the lyrics of a song until I already know them (or have listened to a song at least 30 times). Duets between the Indian man and some other Chinese woman were quite uncommon, but it happened for the song “Always”, which I found really nice. Unfortunately, since the woman was preoccupied with something, they changed song halfway so that she could do her work. A real pity, since I was enjoying it so much, and so were most of the patients. Nonetheless, the Indian man really picked up from where they had left off and convincingly sang the next piece (another love song, as always).
I really need to get to know my patient better, since we only have a few more weeks with them, and without knowing them I won’t be able to do much for the group biography thing. Hopefully I’ll be able to get that settled by next week.
Friday, July 8, 2011
I felt that overall as a group, this week’s trip to the hospice went pretty well. The patients seemed to enjoy the songs performed by the group that came down (Taurus Insurance I think) very much, and I’m sure they must have taken up quite a bit of time to prepare for it! Personally, it was a pretty big letdown though, considering the fact that the patient that I was with or my friend wasn’t present again. I ended up helping out with the other activities in the hospice, like the clearing of the plates, helping with the wheelchairs, etc etc. This still would be benefitting the hospice patients though. We didn’t have much time together with the patients there either today. However, it seemed like the other three members of our group who came today managed to talk to their friends over there pretty well. I don’t really feel comfortable talking about my feelings about the patient I was with possibly passing away, but I shall continue praying and hoping for him. I can safely say that the time spent today wasn’t a waste overall though.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I finally got back to HCA after such a long absence. Honestly, it wasn’t really my fault: My braces appointments fell on Thursdays, so I had little choice in the matter. Anyway, I enjoyed myself more than usual this week. Since we dropped the ‘hitch a cab’ idea a few weeks ago, we got there later than usual, but we still had quite a bit of time to spend with the patients. I was quite surprised when I noticed the patients playing Wii Sports. To be honest, it was one of the last things that I was expecting. On hindsight, I suppose it would have been logical to expect something like that, since it was certainly great entertainment (and good exercise at that), but I was still expecting budget issues.
Joseph couldn’t come due to some Chinese remedial, but the rest of us had fewer issues getting into conversations than when I last saw them, despite a two week break. Either way, I finally managed to select the patient whom I intended to write a biography on. Although I know quite little about her as an individual, I know more about her than the rest of the patients, so I shall state in brief what I know about her before my memory fails me. Her name is Mrs Tang Kum Yong, although I’m not really familiar with the details about her family. She currently lives in Toa Payoh, and her current HDB flat is quite near one of the schools there. She did mention once that she had been living there for over thirty years, and she bought it for a much lower sum of money than her home’s current value (about 10%, if I recall correctly). Regarding her as a person, she has a slight growth under her right eye, which helped me distinguish her from the rest of the patients before I was familiar with her. She’s generally cheery, although a little tired, and is the kind of person who lives life as it comes, instead of trying too hard to change everything. She is slightly hard of hearing, and hence she also has a hearing aid. Unfortunately, due to the usual hustle and bustle in HCA, I often found myself repeating my questions, and occasionally she would misinterpret my question. Although frustrating, I found her to be a good chat companion, since she’s not the kind to ramble on for hours about her life story. The only problem would be that I am sorely lacking on her background, but I shall try my best to make up for it in the coming weeks.
The Hwa Chong students who were supposed to come today were quite late, but they certainly did a better job interacting than some other schools, especially since most of them were quite fluent in Chinese. They were planning to play ‘musical ball’ (basically, pass the ball until the music stops, then the poor soul with the ball does a forfeit, or appoints a student to do it for them), but although it was somewhat entertaining to see the HCI students performing their respective forfeits (such as singing their school anthem), the patients in general felt quite bored. As I found out later, apparently they played these sorts of games all the time, especially whenever students came by for CIP. As Mrs Tang told me, she preferred playing mahjong with her fellow patients in the mornings or just after lunch. After I probed a little further, she did mention that she learned mahjong from young, and also talked about how she wasn’t allowed schooling (as per the tradition then), but I didn’t manage to get much further than that.
The good thing was that we finally picked up the courage to ask the patients if we could take pictures of them (since that was required in our report), and they actually agreed. Honestly, I was not expecting such openness, especially since I would not have reacted similarly. However, with the go-ahead given to us, we went ahead snapping shots of whoever wanted it. If I’m not wrong, we’ll be bringing my camera next week to photograph them some more, not so much for the sake of our report as entertaining them.
Since one of the buses was going towards the east this time, I volunteered to go along with Jo and the appropriate patients. I have to admit, I learned a lot about HCA in general, much more than what I could have in HCA itself. For example, discovered that since St Andrew’s Village was so near HCA, the patients used to go for outings there, but since only the hall was air-conditioned and the schools were not particularly wheelchair friendly, HCA decided after about 3 outings that it would be better if the students went to HCA instead. According to some of the patients on the bus, they did not really enjoy going there either. Also, I learned that PIE, at that time (just past 1610) was already jam packed with cars, despite it being nearly an hour to peak period. We took until 1645 to crawl past the accident that had caused the jam, which was quite frustrating for everyone, excepting the patients who had fallen blissfully asleep.
I found that the patients, despite their various physical limitations, were all determined to live as normally as possible. One particular patient, for example, despite being wheelchair bound, was determined enough to insist upon boarding the HCA bus his own way, instead of the much safer, but much slower method of sitting down on each step before pushing himself to the next. He was quite set upon standing up, and with the support of Jo he stood up (somewhat) and sat on his seat without the hassle of progressively moving up. Even though he was evidently experiencing discomfort, he nonetheless insisted upon getting off quite the same way as he got on, but found it too tiring. It was impressive though, and I definitely learned a lot about the patient’s attitude and concept of self-dignity.
I felt that today, out of all the trips, was a very meaningful one, especially since I learned a lot from and about the patients. I’m really looking forward to next week’s trip.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Reflection for Hospice Visit on the 2nd of June
Today, Joseph, Leon, Jue Fei and I made our way down to the hospice for our weekly visit. However, my friend at the hospice was not there. Although I was quite disappointed that I would be unable to get to chat with my friend like I have every week, I was also quite willing to interact with the other patients as well as to help out with stuff at the hospice. It was quite interesting to talk to the other patients, especially the old Hokkien women. As there were at least 5 of them, they were exceptionally chatty and it was fun hearing them talk about random things like a volunteer’s singing for example. Soon, it was time for their usual tea-break at around 3pm, and we helped out by setting the tables, and by helping to serve the patients. After the patients had all left, we helped out by cleaning up the place. Jue Fei and I were assigned to clean the fans, while Leon and Joseph were assigned to clean up the chairs. It was more tiring than what we had expected of a normal hospice visit but it was rather worth it. So although I could not get to meet my friend this week, it was good that we could make ourselves useful to the hospice anyway.
Reflection for Hospice Visit on the 9th of June
Since Joseph was on his vacation in Korea, only Leon, Jue Fei and I went down to the hospice today. It has really been a long time since I have seen my friend at the hospice. When I met her today, some students from CJC were there playing some games with the patients. The first game was bingo. It was a rather exciting game but unfortunately my patient did not seem to have the correct numbers to win. After that we proceeded to a fun game of dodgeball. The three of us were not too keen on joining in as joining in the game was a sure ticket to a forfeit. However, seeing that there was not going to be a forfeit this time, I willingly joined in the game. It was a fun game and I was soon the last man standing. I guess it felt good to have everyone cheering for me at one point. After that I soon proceeded to talk to my friend. Today I guess our talk revolved around food. She told me that the food sold outside nowadays were all too greasy and oily and fatty and I agreed with her. We both agreed that the best food was homecooked food. She told me that as she lived with her daughter, if her daughter had to work on that day then she would have to eat bought food. If her daughter did not, then she could eat the food cooked by her daughter. Although it might sound old fashioned, but what she said actually made a lot of sense. The food nowadays are getting really unhealthy and we do need to eat properly to keep healthy. Soon she had to leave and the three of us helped to clean up the chairs. It was a fun and interesting visit to the hospice today.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
This was almost the last time that we went down to the hospice. We had decided to take the mrt this week, mostly because of last week’s bad experience. Jue Fei and I actually did not really support going on the mrt due to time constraints, but it didn’t turn out as bad as I thought, surprisingly. Sure, we were later by a bit, but it didn’t seem to affect much. But then, I still am not in the favour of taking the mrt in the future, because even if it didn’t seem to affect much in fact it took up practically one fifth of the time there. Now on to our activities there. It turned out that a school had decided to go over to the hospice to help. They ended up doing something like charades, and singing some malay songs. I felt that this was quite a good plan, as it managed to cater towards the malay and indian patients instead of just the chinese ones. Some of them conducted the activities, while others mingled amoung the patients, talking to them, while some others were taking pictures. The staff there, Jo, asked us to go on the van with the patients, but I told her that I couldn’t make it because it was rather far away, at Jurong, while my house was in Pasir Ris, and this week was rather near to the exams already. She really wanted us to go on the van that day. Leon’s patient didn’t come today, and so he talked to my patient along with me. We ended up talking about his operation, which would actually affect his ability to walk. The tragedy was that his heart problems made him too weak to be able to go through radio or chemo therapy, and thus he was not able to fully recover from his cancer. He had told me many times about the great pain in his leg and back, and he could not do anything to resolve the pain in his back, and while massage helped a bit, it turned out to be only temporary, and he had to live and endure in his pain. His daughter worked at an entry level job at Citibank, perhaps part time if I remember correctly, and he had almost used up all his savings from his work. He also had told us had worked as a truck driver for many years, which was one of the causes of problems. He even managed to pick up Hokkien through his life in Singapore. All in all, I feel that this week was rather fruitful, especially in contrast to last week’s trip down to the hospice. Yay.
Today I went to the hospice filled with anticipation, hopeful for the day’s events. I thought to myself that today would be the day that I would talk to my patient more about her family and other stuff. When we reached the hospice, we found that a group of adult volunteers were conducting activities in the big room. This came as no surprise to us as every week that we’ve been to the hospice there have been a certain group of people conducting an activity in the room. However, this time all the patients were crowded to the front, for certain reasons we do not know of. Valiant told us that it would probably be too cramped for us to interact and told us to do something different. I was not someone to be easily deterred and I felt the need to at least say a brief word to the patient. However, as I approached, some adult volunteers beat me to the patient and started interacting. The look on the patient’s face told me that she was having fun talking to the young girl of about 20 years and I did not want to interrupt their lovely conversation. Sadly, I walked out of the room. Valiant then told us reluctantly that we could help out with the hospice’s paperwork if we wanted to even though it was not what we were intended to do. We did the paperwork willingly and I personally offered to type out some letters for the receptionist. However, although I committed no mistake in typing out the letters in terms of content, the receptionist discovered a problem in the Microsoft Word’s formatting and assumed it was my mistake, and closed the whole window, asking Jue Fei to type out the letters again. Truth be told, I felt very bitter at that time and felt that our time and money had been wasted, with that day being my turn to pay the cab fare there. Subsequently, I went into the smaller room to brainstorm on other ideas with Leon and Joseph, after coming up with a few ideas, I went out, determined to say goodbye to my patient since I had not said hi. However, after searching the hospice, I had found out that she had already left with an earlier van. This just added another blow to the day for me. As I left the hospice with Joseph and Leon, I felt angry and shared my thoughts with my close friends. They calmed me down and told me although they admitted it was a wasted day, a day to the hospice was never wasted. I thought about what they had said and cooled down after a short while. We went for dinner at the nearby Novena Square and then home. And thus this marked the end of our hospice visit on the 7th of April.
The trip down to the hospice that day was disappointing and not extremely fruitful. Due to the abundance of volunteers that day , we were unable to interact with the patients. My group members and I were looking forward to conversing with the patients, especially since I was absent the last week. Despite that, we did manage to finalise and improve on some of our plans. After our discussion with Valiant, we were tasked with doing some paperwork for the hospice. Samuel and Jue Fei readily volunteered for the task. Thus, Joseph and I were left to brainstorm about the aesthetic part of our final product, such as coming up with catchy titles. To be honest, it was actually quite fun coming up with ideas for the title for the book, which we deemed must appeal to both the older and younger generation, as well as bearing the full meaning of this project in it. On the other hand, Samuel and Jue Fei were struggling with the paperwork that they were tasked with. Samuel thought he was doing a good job, until the receptionist closed the file that Samuel was working on and asked Jue Fei to redo it. Samuel persistently claims that he was not at fault, and that the error had already occurred before he started work. He ended up quite angry and declared that visit a waste of time.
To be honest, though we felt that the trip to the hospice was not constructive, I feel that we should sympathise with the hospice as their priorities are not towards us, but towards their patients. If they felt that the group of volunteers would have fun with the patients more than we would, then surely they would ask those volunteers to interact with them in favour of us. Also, volunteering at the hospice does not only mean interacting with the patients, but also helping the hospice, be it doing paperwork etc. Even though we did not do much that day to make progress with our project, it served as a good lesson learned.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
With only two more sessions to go before we broke for the MYCTs, our group was really eager to do something more in depth this week. However, things didn’t turn out quite as well. Honestly, I think all of us are getting a little annoyed by how difficult it is to build a relationship of any kind with the patients. Or perhaps it’s just me. Either way, I’m getting quite frustrated that we don’t seem to be getting anywhere for our biography thing. I honestly feel that it just adds more stress into our schedules and that most of us really don’t find it necessary. After all, we all agreed that a short life story would be nice, but not necessary. Especially since we’re attending the guided autobiography class, I somehow feel pressured to actually make a biography for the patients, which I can’t seem to bring myself to do. I find it increasingly difficult to satisfy my own objectives every time we go to HCA, and it doesn’t help that the rest of the group feels quite demoralized (aka ‘xian’) about the project.
Today was quite boring. Some students from (Woodlands Secondary?) came by today to interact with the patients today, and they honestly did a good job at it. Better than two weeks before. The students were very enthusiastic and although it was quite obvious that not a few felt uncomfortable performing, especially with us there, but they nonetheless gave their utmost in carrying out their planned program. Again, we had little to do, mostly just talk with the patients. For me, I really couldn’t latch onto any conversation of any kind, and I keep feeling more and more upset each time. Really, it’s difficult for me to keep my motivation when there doesn’t seem to be a tangible objective in this project. I ended up spending more time talking to my project mates and helping out with moving the patients to their tea area, and bringing food to them, before clearing the used plates and cups. It was the exact same thing 2 weeks before.
I wanted to discuss a few things with Valiant before we left, but we decided to talk to him after the patients had left. He was occupied somewhere by then, and we left without getting to talk to him regarding that. I simply needed to check a few things regarding the e-travel program and our June holiday schedule. Especially the e-travel thing; I managed to find some good documentaries at home about Europe and the like; travel videos, to be precise. I just needed to check if Valiant approved of us showing them to the patients. Also, we needed to plan our June holiday visits; e.g. were we going to go on Tuesdays too? I was quite disappointed that we did not get the chance to discuss these things. The later we discuss it, the less time we have to prepare. Hopefully, we’ll get it settled next week.
I did finally decide upon a patient to do the biography thing on, which is a good thing, since I have been having problems with that for quite a while. He’s one of the more talkative patients there, and he’s bilingual as well, which makes my life a lot easier. I discovered that he could speak English quite by chance; while chatting to him, someone called him, and he responded in English. I guess both of us didn’t notice our language switch until a while later. Anyway, I was chatting to him quite nicely about what the students had played with them. Apparently, they used the question ball again, and he did express a lot of boredom. I suppose it’s good that I got this info; it’s a good reminder that the HCA patients are just as lively as anyone else, the difference lying only in their average life expectancy. I can now work on the e-travel thing with this in mind.
Honestly, I find that I have less and less to write about each time I do reflections. I suppose it’s because there’s nothing really new in what we are doing. For all the weeks we went, we have interacted with the patients in the exact same way every time. We arrive, we feel awkward with the other students around, we talk to the patients, we leave. I’m really looking forward to the e-travel program to brighten things up for once. Till then, I’ll just keep trying to strike up a good conversation.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Today we had our first interaction with the elderly at HCA. The outcome was, definitely unexpected. Firstly, our planned icebreaker activities were not conducted due to time constraints. I was not very confident that our icebreaker activities were able to engage them as we were quite unprepared to conduct them, having rushed them out on Wednesday. Instead, we had to introduce ourselves and participate in the activities organised by HCA, while at the same time getting to know the elderly better. Nevertheless, it was an eye-opening experience. This was the second time I walked into a hospice; previously my impression was that a hospice is a very dark, gloomy place, where despondent people reside and languish, watching TV and waiting for the end to come. This was influenced to a great extent by my visit to a hospice in Ipoh, Malaysia, where the place was dilapidated and dark, where the elderly were literally in the clutches of death. They weren’t doing anything at all, just sitting there and staring blankly at the ceiling. That was definitely not a good way or place to live your last days at. To my amazement, HCA was the complete opposite of the hospice in Ipoh. It was a modern facility, the elderly were well cared for and every one of them seemed to be contented at that very moment when I saw them. For once, I was very pleased to be proved wrong. I guess that we should work towards dispelling this sort of negative misconceptions others might have about HCA and hospices as part of our project focus. Together, we can make the world a better place to live in!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011