Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Back to the Hospice at the end of 2012

So it has been almost two years since we have embarked on this hospice project, and honestly, I think this project has benefited this team even more than it has benefited the patients at the hospice.

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.

 -Samuel Chan

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

RE Reflections 7:

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.


RE Reflections 6

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

RE Reflections 5:

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.

Andrew Yap

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Samuel's 8th Reflection

Reflection for Hospice visit on the 30th of June

Today, the four of us, Andrew, Jue Fei, Leon and I made our way down to the hospice for our weekly visit. Joseph was unable to make it down today as he was attending his compulsory Chinese remedial. It was raining for almost the whole of today. As such, when the four of us reached the hospice, the students for Hwa Chong Institution were not there to conduct their programme yet. On hindsight, it was actually the first time we had arrived and there was no one to conduct any programmes there - the hospice was quiet for once and there was a somewhat different feel to it. We began to talk to our friends there as we always have and Jo, one of the workers there, introduced us to a few other quieter patients and I talked to some of them instead of just talking to my friend like I would have on some weeks. I guess today was productive to some extent, with Jue Fei and Andrew finalising on their patients they were going to base our report on. Leon's friend, Diana, was absent for today and so was Joseph's patient. I took some photos with my patient today and helped Jue Fei, Andrew and Leon take some with other patients too. I believe the photos will show just how much we enjoyed the hospice visit. As these pictures were taken by my mobile phone, I do apologise if the quality is a bit lower than expected.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Samuel's 6th and 7th Reflections

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

Joseph's Fifth Reflection.

It was the first hospice visit after a long break. It was really unfortunate that my friend wasn’t there. Perhaps he had to go for a checkup at the hospital. In fact, both Jue Fei’s and my friend didn’t come. We ended up planning for the e-travel programme, hoping to make use of the time properly. The other thing that made the visit make its mark on me was that it my first experience taking the hospice bus to help send off the patients off. It turned out pretty well, much better than expected. The planning went pretty well, and we managed to come out with the main points for the places in the e-travel program. For me, nothing much happened during the main visit, and the main thing was the bus ride. There were about six patients in the bus and I ended up talking to Leon’s friend, Auntie Diana. I talked to her for about half the ride, and she started to sleep for the rest of the ride. I felt rather inadequate, as I did not know how to interact with her naturally. I certainly have to work on my skills. She was very friendly though, and very willing to interact. I don’t think that I would be able to go on the bus regularly though, because of time constraints. Also, the NUS students came to the hospice to help too. I felt that they tried to interact with the patients on a one to one basis and tried to get to know them personally, rather successfully I feel. I didn’t get to experience the activities that they were conducting though sadly. It might be possible to cooperate with other schools for more manpower in the future, to conduct better activities for the hospice in future.

RE Reflections 5 19/5 - Samuel

The time had finally come for us to continue our hospice visits from whence we had left off. Our exams were over and this was our first visit back to the hospice. When we reached the hospice, we had a little chat with Valiant over the progress of our project and our relationships with the various friends we were working with. Soon after, we went about looking for our friends. Joseph and Jue Fei’s friends were absent and so they remained in the waiting place brainstorming on various ideas for our project. Andrew was absent on this meeting. Both Leon’s patient as well as mine were both coincidentally having physio-therapy together in a room so we both went in to interact with them during the course of their treatment. Although the treatment was meant for them to exercise, I could feel that they were also enjoying themselves too. Soon after, we proceeded to the main room for tea and further small talk between us and our friends there at the hospice. That day, I learnt about my friend’s views on education. I told her that we had not been going to the hospice for the last few weeks because of our exams. She then told me that in the event that I needed to study, I should not come down to the hospice. She said that education is very important and that although it was really good that we could go down to interact with them every week, education still came first. She then went on to further emphasize the importance of education in finding a job at these current times. She even told me that her second son was someone who was not good at studying and thus dropped out when he was secondary 3. I felt that this was an important visit because through this visit, I got to know my friend’s views on education as well as her advice on how I should prioritize the various things in my life. After that, Joseph and Jue Fei helped out on the buses while Leon and I walked to the MRT and went home. It was indeed an enriching hospice visit that day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reflections 4 - Joseph

RE Reflections 4: 14/4

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.

Reflection on Hospice Visit on 7th April

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

RE Reflections 4: 14/4

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.

Andrew Yap

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reflection Session 0

Reflection Session 0
The very first time.


This was our second meeting at HCA, but the first time that we were able to meet the patients over there! All the group members were present today, except for Samuel, who had SYF training at Singapore Poly.

Before going in to actually interact with the patients face to face, we met up with Valiant for a quick talk, to update us on what had been happening and the rough guidelines for the programme today, he brought us in!

I was rather uncomfortable at that time when we first met with the elderly people, as I felt that I was emotionally far apart from them at that time, and it all felt very formal at first. I didn’t want to strain to force a good impression or anything like that. So after introductions from all five of us, Andrew agreed to sing a song for the patients! Andrew was the only one amoung us who had prepared an actual speech, but we didn’t get the opportunity to voice our speeches. I suppose it was a completely new situation for most, if not all of us.
After that, we joined in the activity that was happening then, which was passing a ball with questions on top around and answering them when the music stopped. I was sitting beside a woman whom as I later discovered, had dementia. Valiant said that she was reliving the memories from when she was 40, and kept crying for someone. She wanted to hold our hands too.  I felt very helpless at that time, as there was seemingly nothing that I could do to “reach” her, and I didn’t seem to be able to communicate. I also now have a reason to work on my Chinese, as its really hard to speak in broken Chinese to the patients. Valiant also introduced me to an Indian man over there, who was really cheerful and would greet all the other patients there. He even jokingly told me that I might not see him next week. This really struck me, and I still wonder how he perceives death to be like.

- Joseph Hoon


First Impressions
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! 

- Juefei

This was the first time that we visited the charges in HCA, minus Samuel, since he had some SYF compulsory training thingy. Anyway, the entire thing went much more smoothly than I was expecting. For one, the charges were far friendlier than I was initially expecting them to be. They were very welcoming of us. We were introduced to them halfway through some ‘fishing’ game.

Anyway, we discussed a few things with Valiant before we were formally introduced. Mainly, he just briefed us on fitting in with the program that the HCA staff were already running, so that we could get a better glimpse of how we should organize our future activities. Then he brought us in, despite all of us feeling rather apprehensive, and got one of the assistants in charge, Jo, to stop the activity and introduce us. The charges had apparently been informed of our showing up beforehand, as none of them looked surprised to see us there.

I was not very comfortable about going first, since I had prepared my self-introduction speech only that morning. Not that I was to blame; I had spent until 1am that morning preparing 6 large paper tangrams from scratch, for our activity, which we postponed until further notice. Brilliant life I lead. Not to complain (much) but I felt like I had wasted 4 straight hours of much needed sleep.

Where was I? Oh, yes. I was not very comfortable about introducing myself first, but I suppose it was the best way to go about it, as everyone else turned out to be far more eloquent than me, and were able to make impromptu speeches about how excited they were about working with HCA and befriending all the elderly there. As for me, my speech was limited to my name, age and school… I could probably have brought my prepared speech in, but I felt a tad awkward about reading off a sizable piece of paper in front of the charges, while the rest of my group brought nothing of that sort in.
The best/worst part of the intro was when they found out that I was in choir. Just after we finished our self-introductions, Jo suggested that we perform an impromptu song item to break the ice. I immediately regretted telling my group mates that I was from choir, since I was volunteered immediately for a solo performance. Although I did have the option of dragging in the rest of the group to sing with me, I chose not to. I’m too nice. Besides, I had more than just a nagging suspicion that my group mates couldn’t sing. Anyway, I performed the chorus of Bruno Mars’ “Just the way you are” since I couldn’t think of any Chinese songs that I actually knew. I guess only the English-speaking ones appreciated the lyrics. Did I mention that our intro had to be bilingual to accommodate the mandarin-only speaking patients?

The next activity was ‘Pass-the-question-covered-ball-around-until-the-music-stops’. As the name suggests, if you had the ball when the music stopped, you were supposed to pick a random number. There were numerous questions on the ball, each designated a number. You simply needed to answer the question that was related to your choice number. I specifically recall one of the Chinese ladies sitting beside Leon get the question: “If you could go on a holiday to anywhere in the world, where would you go?” She boisterously exclaimed, “Australia! My husband is there. Australia is a beautiful place.” A very simple, but very heart-wrenching answer.

The activity was stopped for a birthday celebration. Three of the charges’ birthdays were rather close to that date, hence the celebration and cake. I was volunteered again to sing a bilingual birthday song. Honestly, I was getting used to the idea by then, so I figured that I should prepare a few songs from then on, just in case. Anyway, after the song, the charges went to their tables for a tea-break. Basically, cake. I was asked to help one of the charges to (but thankfully not into) the toilet. Apparently she had just undergone some surgery or treatment, which would explain her beanie and unsteady walk. I was standing outside the toilet, waiting to help her to her seat (as she requested) when one of the nurses asked me to help transport some bags of food to the area in front of the TV. Since I had to wait for the lady in the loo, I got Joseph and Leon to substitute me.

After the charge came out of the toilet, and got to her seat, I went to do my share of the transporting food bags. There was a rather dismal, bed-ridden old lady quite near where we had put the bags. As we were on our way back to where the charges were eating, she reached out her hand towards me. At first I thought she wanted to shake my hand or something, since most of the charges did that when we introduced ourselves. So I held out my hand, which she held on to quite tightly. I then thought that she wanted to sit up, so when she held out her other hand, I offered mine in return. However, once she hand both my hands, she pulled herself upright and started mumbling something that I couldn’t quite make out. I suspect that it was dialect, since it sounded somewhat like Chinese. I guess it was either a toilet request, a thank you or something else entirely. Even Valiant couldn’t figure out what she wanted. So I stood there for the better part of 3 minutes, with my hands crossed in front of me, uncomfortably letting this poor old woman hold on to my hands while trying, in vain, to communicate. I honestly wished that I could have helped get her whatever it was that she wanted or needed. Fortunately, one of the nurses relieved me of the awkward situation, but I nonetheless felt quite unnerved by the entire situation. Subsequently, I discovered that she was one of the Dover Hospice patients. She had less than 3 months left to live.

I was brutally reminded that all the hospice patients were all suffering from some chronic illness when I observed their eating. It was an innocent question, really. I simply asked, “Why do some of the patients have cake, while some have only sandwiches?” The nurse’s answer was all of four words. “Because they have diabetes.” I was immediately taken aback by the truth of her statement.

After the tea-break, the patients had a few minutes to talk with each other and us before they had to leave. One of the Indian patients struck up a conversation with me after I wished him a happy birthday. (He was one of the patients whose birthday we had celebrated.) He was just about the chattiest person I met that day. Despite that fact that I was a complete stranger to him, he just kept talking about how he ended up at HCA, what his life had been like, and eve mentioned that he was 62 that year, although he really looks more like he was in his 50s. He was so chatty that when Joseph stopped by and I went to interact with the lonelier charges, he just kept going as if nothing had happened. Joseph essentially got his life story in five minutes.

We had a debriefing after the charges left. The 3 of us, minus a Juefei following one of the buses to help out, discussed with Valiant how things went and how we were to go about doing things the next time we came. We were also informed that a school is coming next week for CIP. Dunman Secondary, if I’m not mistaken. Valiant was quite pleased with how things had turned out, and I agree entirely with him. Of course, I’m personally quite worried about next week, since I have no idea how it will turn out. All I can do is hope.

-Andrew Yap

Before going to HCA for our first meeting with our charges, we had already prepared a few activities as icebreakers to introduce ourselves to them, as well as preparing a short introductory speech. WE had orignally planned for games such as Samuel’s “Name Game”, Blind Man’s Bluff and even prepared a few sets of tangrams for the charges. However, we were told by our external mentor Valiant, that he would prefer us to simply join in with the activities that our charges were having then.

So, with our plans effectively trashed, we went to meet them with empty hands. To be honest, I felt a little scared and awkward when we walked into the activity room. Thankfully, one of the helpers there, Jo, helped us to introduce ourselves. That really eased the tension in me. Then, it suddenly dawned on me that these people wouldn’t eat me up, and I started to relax. Credit to Andrew, he even had the courage to give a performance of the chorus of Bruno Mars’ “ Just The Way You Are”.
After Andrew’s short performance, we joined in a game which allowed several of the charges to introduce themselves, which I felt was really helpful in understanding several of our charges. During this game, I noticed a lady seating in the corner, whom I went to seat beside. She was rather outspoken, and I easily started a conversation with her. Due to Valiant’s advice, to make friends with the charges and not go straight into accomplishing our project agenda, we did not talk about many important things, but instead just making some small talk.

However, the only good time to converse would be when they were having their snack, which made up a rather large part of the time of our visit there. I felt awkward conversing then as it felt wrong to interrupt them while they were eating. It was sometimes quite hard to pick out the words she said during our conversation, despite being very close to her. Despite these difficulties, I felt that it was a very meaningful first trip to the hospice. I could sense that though many of them were reaching the end of their lives, the environment in the hospice was not dark and gloomy, but rather bright and vibrant, which could be seen through the attitudes of those patients. Many of them were responsive and enthusiastic towards the activities, and none of them appeared sad or sulked in a corner. After comparing this to our daily lives when we get sad and become “emo”, our problems were really nothing compared to the imminent death that our charges was about to face.
After that visit, I was really enlightened and encouraged by the enthusiasm that our charges displayed. I also looked forward to our future visits as I recognised that there was a lot to learn from our charges, and I would be better off seizing this golden oppurtunity.

-Leon Chin

Reflection Session 2

Reflection Session 2

This is the second in a series of reflection sessions. The following takes place on the 31th of March.


Today was my second visit to HCA hospice care. When we went down to the hospice today, we went into a room to discuss our project further with Valiant. A group of students from Saint Gabriel’s secondary school were there too, singing songs to please the patients. It was a very good effort on their part I must say. The project proposal was discussed in greater detail during this meeting with Valiant than any of the other meetings our group has had with him. This discussion took up about an hour and at around 3:20 we were all done – Jue Fei with his questions and I with the minutes. So after that we proceeded inside to interact with the patients. I felt that this interaction between the patients and us have taken a closer level, meaning that I have found it easier to talk to them than I had before, perhaps due to the friendship bond we have forged with them over the weeks. As I was interacting with the patients, I remembered what Valiant had emphasized during our discussion: “Be real and genuine to the patients and have fun!” With that statement in mind, talking to the patients became a much more enjoyable and easier process. I would say that this interaction has been fruitful, I now know where a patient stays, her family, and her likes and dislikes, well… more or less. Due to the long discussion, soon it was time for our patients to leave the hospice and return back to their home. I helped my patient onto her bus and waved goodbye to her as well as the other patients. Just before the bus left an old lady sitting in the front seat of the mini bus opened the glass window and thanked us for what we have done that day. It was a brief thanks and some well-wishes, such as asking us to study hard and to work harder in school, but the sincerity was there, and all of us felt it. As the bus left the hospice, I turned and looked at my group mates, Andrew and Joseph, with Jue Fei having gone with the bus, helping out a step further with the patients. We all smiled and proceeded to walk to the Novena MRT station together. On the way, we discussed our feelings about the day, and I believe this has benefited our friendship as well. It was indeed a fruitful day.

- Samuel Chan


Axis of Self Revolution

Today, we decided that after 3 sessions of interacting with the elderly at HCA, we were going to discuss with Valiant how we want our project to move on. We outlined a few ideas to him, and he responded in kind with a few suggestions of his own. The result was not important; suffice to say that we already have our project road map planned out. What was more significant was the considerations raised up during the meeting. I realised that till this point I am not 100% genuine towards the patients, there is always a small part of me worrying and fretting over how the project should proceed next, thinking about the future and about how we would meet deadlines and produce a satisfactory end result. This is a big step back for me. In doing this project, we have to abandon all selfish motivations and aspirations; in thinking about the end product while being with the patients, this has become a form of hypocritical behaviour- while seeming caring for others, actually a part of you is still selfishly motivated. I am disappointed at myself. I hope I can do better in my future encounters with them, and work towards a cessation of selfish intents while being with them.

Anyway, on a side note, things have been working out fine with my group mates, they are willing to work towards a common goal, and Andrew is picking things up and reminding people to do this and that as well. However, I feel that there is no need to change my first reflection, as it is an accurate representation of how I felt at that time. There is no need to be embarrassed and edit it to make it politically correct.

The pace is picking up, more stuff needs to be done, and more things need to be settled. I will complete the task set to me.
- Juefei

Mr. Chandru finally was able to come with us to HCA. He had been overseas for the first two weeks, and Mrs. Cheryl Yap had stood in for him. Today, he was finally able to come with us, so that he could understand what our project was about better. We turned up at HCA after two straight weeks of perfectly justified absence. During the holidays, all of us had many CCA and academic commitments, which made it very difficult for us to go down to HCA, so we dropped the idea. The week after, HCA had an excursion organized for that day; hence going on that Thursday would have been quite pointless. Anyway, we finally showed up this week, with the exception of Leon (Leon couldn’t come this week, as he had some compulsory English remedial, or something) but we didn’t begin with the interaction with the patients immediately. We had to discuss quite a few issues with Valiant first. For one, the main thing we discussed was the biography thing. Valiant felt that the patients (through experience) would be quite uncomfortable with being formally interviewed for their life story. Also, it would be difficult to take the individuals aside, and if we continued with the interview anyway, the other patients may feel jealous, or that we were favoring some patients over the others. Not to mention, we had a limited time each week, and we felt that it would be unlikely that the patients would be comfortable with sharing their life stories outright, and we probably would not have enough time to talk to them as long as we wished. Basically, we decided to forgo the detailed biography, albeit unhappily, and decided to simply try to create activities related to what we were trying to find out about the patients, and subsequently strike up conversations with them during their tea or in between activities. Ultimately, our main objective was to learn from the patients, spend time with them and add joy to their lives, which would take precedence to our planned biographies. Essentially, we scrapped the idea of an in depth biography and decided to write about them from memory while leaving their identities as anonymous as possible.

We also discussed our basic project proposal, this time more formally written. Nothing new there, really, since we covered most of what we intended to do within the first two sessions. This was more of a final confirmation of how we intended to go about doing things, such as when we would visit and when we would not be able to make it. Also, we talked about e materials that we might need and Valiant mentioned that he could get funding to print our final product if it was something that HCA felt was a good piece of work and if they thought that it would somehow help dispel stereotypes of Hospice patients and give comfort to the families of those whom we wrote about. Juefei brought up our idea of making a sort of e-book, which would basically be a compilation of the biographies online, such as a blog, and suggested that it be linked to the HCA website. Valiant was quite agreeable, but we all agreed that we would need to finish our work first before we decided whether to print our work or link it to the HCA website.
Juefei also talked about some of the things that we were planning to do, and one of the major ideas that he had come up with (but had never mentioned to us) was the E-travel concept. Apparently, the idea was inspired by the patient who talked about wanting to go to Australia the first time we visited HCA. We were all quite approving of the idea, but were cautioned again about being too overly ambitious. Not surprising, since we have seriously changed our plans from writing in depth for all the HCA patients to a simple peek in to their lives via conversation. However, I personally feel that it will be quite easy to make a very good presentation for the HCA patients, but I personally think that we will need more time to do a really good job compared to a rapidly cobbled together presentation. Some of the ideas mentioned for this were to do up a PowerPoint presentation for the HCA patients, purchase some food samples of the special food from each place, and have tour guides presenting the different places to a decently in depth level. The food idea was the only thing that seriously worried me. Personally, I thought that the food idea was the best way to get the patients interested in the presentation, but I was also worried for a few reasons. For one, I felt that it may be a little difficult to get our hands on food samples, and another issue would be keeping the food fresh until our presentation. Also, a fair amount of the patients had diabetes, high blood pressure or some other medical condition that may prevent them from eating the food, which would make them feel left out. Finally, some of the food was bound to be meat; hence I was quite worried about the patients who were also vegetarians. I guess I will bring up this issue during the next presentation, and we’ll also have to discuss how to go about the e-travel thing in detail.

We finally finished our discussion, and we went to see the patients. The patients had been entertained by students from St Gabriel’s Secondary, and seemed to have enjoyed themselves very much, as I was expecting. The patients were so easy to please that I immediately felt determined to do a good job in the e-travel thing to give them something that all of them would truly enjoy. The St Gabriel’s students had been performing numerous song items for them, and from the sounds that we could hear during our discussion, I felt that they had really put in a lot of effort into preparing, although being the critic that I am, I wished that they had changed key to something that they could all sing without half killing themselves. Some of their singing was quite flat simply because the note that they were supposed tossing was too high for them to reach. Nonetheless, it was a better effort than I felt capable of marshaling, and I take my hat off to their spirit (and their guitarist).
The patients were quite glad to see us, I think, although the St Gabriel’s students were quite startled at our entrance. None of them asked us who we were, and none of us bothered explaining. We went straight into interacting with the charges again, and for those of us who had a favorite, they made a beeline for the appropriate patients. I spent most of the time while the St Gabriel’s students were there clearing cups and plates for the patients, since we showed up smack in the middle of their tea break. After the students left, I struck up a conversation with one of the patients, and as far as I could I tried to make myself heard. She had a slight hearing problem, and I often needed to repeat myself or speak really loudly to ensure that she had understood my questions. Apparently, she lived somewhere in Toa Payoh, quite near a hospital and a school. She was quite cheerful, and talked quite happily about how the HCA patients spent their time there. She apparently went to HCA every weekday, in stark contrast to the usual Tuesday-Thursday/Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. She talked about playing mahjong in the mornings with the other patients, and mentioned that she had picked up mahjong at the age of 5 (I think). She also told me about how she had been living in her current home for over 30 years, and said that she had bought the flat for only $7000. Nowadays, her house would sell for over $100 000.

Subsequently, the patients began to leave for home according to where they stayed. The patient whom I had been talking to left for home, and I decided to talk to another woman sitting in front. The conversation didn’t last very long, and I didn’t really manage to say much to her before her turn came to return home. The last person I talked to was this old man who seemed quite ostracized. He seemed to have chosen to be on his own in his own corner of the room. I tried to talk to him but had no clue as to what he was talking about, since he only spoke dialect. I was guessing either Hokkien or Cantonese, but I was unable to maintain a conversation with him due to the language barrier. I eventually gave up and sat there with him until his turn to leave came. After which, it was about that time that all of us left HCA. I was somewhat demoralized about my last failed conversation, but I intend to do better next week.

-Andrew Yap

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reflection Session 1

Reflection Session 1
Reflection sessions are a platform for us to consolidate and review what we learnt in our interactions with the HCA elderly. This is first in a series of reflection sessions.


We paired up with another school(Dunman?) for this meeting. We basically joined in the activity that they planned(dodgeball) which they had planned already previously. The patients sat in a circle in wheelchairs and throwed balls at us students who tried to dodge it. My take on it was that it was a rather good activity, which invoked the patients thinking and motor skills, while allowing everyone to have fun! The guys from (Dunman?) played the game rather well, and I think that they had a better attitude in general as to us. We really have to improve in that area. I feel that we have to cater our activities more for the elderlies enjoyment, not just using our own skills well. We will take this into consideration while planning for further activites. Valiant could not make it for most of the time, as he was conducting a workshop upstairs. I felt rather uncomfortable without his presence, and I feel that I need to be more open to talking to all the patients there, not just the very friendly Indian man whom I met in our first trip. When we forfeited, we even had to spend a fair amount of time "planning", or more like arguing on what to do. We really have to change that, as it became more of a punishment for us than for something for the elderly to enjoy.


On Mortality and the Decisions We Make

On the 10th March we had our second interaction with the elderly at HCA. On that day itself, it turned out that there were already students from Dunearn High School entertaining them with a game of dodgeball at HCA. They actively participated in the game, and it was evident they were enjoying the game; this is definitely something we should aim for- activities where the elderly participate in and are able to enjoy. Other than that, it was business as usual at HCA; everything as per normal, and the elderly took their teabreak after the Dunearn students left. I sat down and talked to one of the elderly at HCA and found him to be a calm, patient person, who would like nothing better than to sit down and drink a cup of tea. I in some aspects, the elderly at HCA are wiser than the general populace, who are caught up in their hectic lifestyle, always looking ahead at an unfulfilled, neverending chain of promises to themselves- “When I graduate, then I will be happy!” “When I marry and settle down, then I will be happy!” “When I retire from my job, then I will be happy!”

 We live our lives as if there was an unending supply of time to fulfil our desires and wishes; every second of our lives, we are exchanging our time for something we want. Sooner or later, there will come a time where we can no longer afford to buy “just another moment” for ourselves to live in. What will we do when that time comes?
A hospice is where patients with 12 months or less of estimated lifespan left live in. Every one of us will reach that point in time where we have only 12 months left to live. What will we do then?

Life is about making do with the time you have and deciding what we want to do with it. 
After the tea break was over, I accompanied one of the vans to send the elderly home from HCA. On the way back, I got to know this Malay auntie who is a sexagenarian. From a prior incident, I got to know her as the auntie who could speak 6 languages, amongst them Hokkien, English, Cantonese and Bahasa Melayu . I was intrigued by that fact. At 67, her command and mastery of the English Language was perfect, even more so than some of our English-educated students. In addition to that, she is also fluent in Chinese dialects. I was amazed. How could she master 6 languages by the age of 68? This was in addition to her being uneducated and living in a undeveloped Singapore when she was young. This bus trip was truly an eye opener for me. It seems that learning never ends.

Lastly, I asked her how she felt after living for 68 years and seeing Singapore grow up.

She only said: "I would like to thank god for giving me such a long life."

No complaints,no worries,no animosity. Only gratitude. 
I bow down in respect.

- Juefei

Unlike the others, today was the first time I was going down to HCA for our project. I was nervous, yet at the same time excited, not knowing what to expect next. I turned to Jue Fei for advice and he simply reassured me with a smile- it was going to be fun. As we went down, we found another group of students there for the day and they were organizing a game of dodge ball. We joined in and soon enough were having as much fun as the patients themselves. I managed to avoid the forfeit but unfortunately my group mates did not. Soon after the games we began talking to the various patients. I started talking to an elderly woman of about 60. She could only speak Cantonese and I was the only one in our group that knew the language. Although my command of the language was not exactly great, but I pulled through and managed to start off the conversation. Through the conversation, I learnt about her, her daughter as well as her daily schedule in the hospice. Through this experience, I felt that it wasn’t really that hard to communicate with the patients there at the hospice, in fact, it was only a matter of whether we wanted to. Our group is going down again  after the March holidays and I look forward to the time of interaction we will have between us and the patients. I learnt that language is really not a barrier between the two parties; rather, it is an excuse for us not to talk to the patients. If we are willing to take the extra step, I do believe that anything can be overcome and this project can become a success. 

- Samuel

I am not into the idea of doing our project with other schools. Today, some students from Dunman High (I think) were there to spend time with the elderly. Probably just for CIP points. Anyway, I really have very little to write about since the students did the vast majority of the interaction. Kind of. Before I start commenting though, I realize that most of my comments will sound rather arrogant. It’s not to be cocky, but I do feel rather strongly about certain things that occurred today.

We came in while they were doing some sort of ‘dodgeball’ activity. The students basically made the charges sit in a circle on/in (wheel) chairs. Then, the students took turns to stand in the circle of chairs and attempted to dodge the 2 partially deflated rubber soccer balls that the elderly were supposed to throw at them. If the student was hit, they had to do a forfeit, before swopping with another student. Not that all the students complied. Most of the girls decided to sit on the nearby cupboard and film the boys doing the forfeits which they took upon themselves to suggest. In my opinion, not doing anything important.

Unlike the girls, the Dunman boys were actually quite sporting. Most of them (poor, outnumbered souls) volunteered to be the dodgeball victims more than twice. The elderly were quite good at hitting the victims. The problem wasn’t the reaction times of the students; it was the sheer lack of space, and the fact that there were 2 balls in play at once that got most of the victims. When all the students were crammed into one side/the centre of the circle, the elderly simply needed to throw the balls at the approximate direction of the students, and those not looking at that particular ball would be hit in the leg or something.
Poor Joseph. He was the first of us to get forfeited, and probably the only one to get forfeited twice in a row. It wasn’t his fault really. His first forfeit came about when he was hit by a ball that I dodged, which came from behind him. He was supposed to do some sort of song performance, which the Dunman girls quickly came up with. Ever heard of the song “Watermelon”? The melody sounded familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on what song it sounded like. To me, it was some random song that I heard during some random camp. I guess it was the way students taught themselves biology/diversity of nature or something. Anyway, Joseph’s second forfeit came immediately after. He was nice enough to stoop down and pick up a ball for one of the wheelchair-bound patients, who immediately threw the ball at him. Forfeit number 2. Cause: Niceness. This time, he was supposed to do some sort of dance, but being Joseph, he took it in his stride. Somewhat.

Then, all us RI boys were volunteered to do a forfeit together for some reason that still remains unknown to me. Perhaps we were too good at dodging the balls, or perhaps they just wanted to sabotage us. Either way, we had to do some group item. Juefei soloed a self-model show. It was received fairly well, although he ended a little too abruptly. The Dunman boy who triggered off the forfeit performed a quick beatboxing demonstration, which was, admittedly, quite impressive. And as expected, I sang. Joseph and Leon kind of piggybacked the forfeit. I did most of the singing, Leon just stood there and Joseph looked really blur while singing really softly. I don’t blame them though; I’d rather have them piggybacking my singing of the chorus of “You raise me up” than see them both do push-ups in front of the elderly and the Dunman students. Very awkward. Blame Leon for that suggestion.

Eventually, the Dunman students brought out their surprise: Some students hiding out at the reception area with a guitar came in to perform a song item. To be absolutely honest, the performance could have gone better. The main thing that shocked me was the disunity. It honestly sounded like random singing. I believe that the students could have done a better job if they had spent more time practicing, but I’m quite sure that they only spent a few minutes getting the performance together, since the students were all referring to their handphones for the lyrics, except for the guitar guy, who played really well. The song was not very well selected too. They chose to perform “Hey, soul sister”, which I am fairly certain that most of the elderly didn’t quite understand anyway. The problem was that the song was sung too fast for anyone who didn’t know the lyrics to understand it. Myself included. I could tell that most of the charges were quite confused about the performance, as usually, they clapped to the beat of most any song. The clashing rhythms of the singers and the guitar must have sounded more peculiar to them than to me. Especially since a fair amount of them were not English-educated.

I have to admit though, the Dunman students did much better than us in several aspects. For one, some of them were very comfortable with performing in front of the elderly, and many of them were very considerate. Also, the dodgeball idea was a good one, and I hope that our RE group can come up with something similar for activities. The guitar playing was much better than any of us, and a few of the students were able to connect with the charges better than we did. Not to mention, they were much more cheerful than us, and behaved less awkwardly than us. I do take my (non-existent) hat off to those few students.

- Andrew

Unfortunately, the day of our 2nd visit coincided with our CCA’s B division finals. Despite not being in the team, I was really interested in it and had looked forward to watching them play in the finals. Initially, I thought that I would be excused from the visit that day. Despite my disappointment of being absent from the finals, I decided to make the most of it instead of sulking for the whole day. Time was precious and our visits were rare enough.

Even before going to the hospice, I already had a bad feeling. We had not planned anything for this visit. In addition, our external mentor, Valiant, was absent that day. We had also heard that another school, Dunman High, would be conducting CIP on that day. Upon our arrival, as we walked through the door, we could already hear a commotion coming from the activity room in the hospice. The moment we heard it, we shot worried glances at each other. I had felt quite awkward when we saw the other students. We had instructions to join in the activities in order to strengthen the bond between us and our charges.

We were all surprised when we heard that our charges were playing dodgeball. Unsurprisingly, we, of course, were the targets. Me, Andrew and Joseph were the first three to be volunteered. The game itself was simple: our charges would hurl soft rubber balls, while we attempted to dodge them. The ones who got caught would have to do a forfeit. The Dunman High guys sportingly went for the first round, and performed their forfeits with a flourish. They were able to beatbox as well as dance. When our turn came, I was rather successful at dodging the balls. I was ambushed from behind and in the end I had to perform a forfeit. Joseph’s clumsiness and large size cost him. Samuel cowardliness was apparent as he could not wait to leave the game.  To be honest I did not feel very comfortable, especially since we had to decide our own forfeit and I had practically no talents to speak of. I was really relieved when we finished the game and just watched the Dunman High students perform.

After that, as always, it would be the patients’ snack time, where there would be time to have a conversation. As I approached the patient that I had befriended, my first question was “Hey auntie! Remember me?” Apparently, she did not, as she explained that she had mild dementia and could not really remember us. This set me thinking. If she did not remember me, this would cause us quite a bit of trouble, as since we want to record her legacy, yet she would not be familiar with us, it would probably be hard to give us details about her life. Also, the objective of our first few visits to the hospice would be to befriend and familiarize ourselves with our charges, and vice-versa. However, through this conversation, I realized that it has only been one-way. Despite this, there are still a few people who remember us, and I can tell that there is still hope as she can remember the names of her friends and the hospice staff. Still, this would require a familiarity that we cannot accomplish with once-a-week visits, and even that will be interrupted by the upcoming exam period…

-Leon Chin