Hair for Hope 2014

On a Sunday like today, I am finally done catching up with my homework, ready to battle it out with this week’s academic ordeals and finally done recuperating from Runway preparations (that mind you, is more than meets the eye). And as the smell of rain continues to fill my room, a cool breeze blowing by every once in a while, today I write about a decision I’ve taken the longest time to make. Pardon the long post about to follow, I tend to have a lot to say to difficult decisions that I make. 

I have decided that this year I will shave. It’s hard to think of where to begin but I suppose 2 years ago would be a good place to start. The first time I considered participating in hair for hope, I wanted to be part of this insanely courageous festival of people shaving heads and once in my life, I would’ve liked a reason to be bald. But then, I never felt like all these superficial thoughts were reason enough to subject myself to the amount of judgement and attention I would possibly receive and besides, ‘shaving my head doesn’t directly help cancer patients in any way at all’. That worked out pretty well in my head and the process of filling forms, signing up, travelling to RI would be far too troublesome. 

These excuses for my lack of courage has finally made way for belief and bravery this year. 

Over the years, I have changed my mind about Hair for Hope- seeing peers and seniors actively support this event and the various service learning experiences and advocacy efforts I have been involved in till today has inspired me to take courage in what I believe in. 

I believe in empathy. That empathy is such a different feeling and act from sympathy altogether, which we tend to choose over empathy so commonly. Empathy requires bringing oneself into as similar a situation as possible, to experience every possible negative feelings another party may experience and to understand the kind of reaction best for the person out of genuine care. It has been a personal challenge for a while now to exercise empathy actively to people with different needs because this experience of acting on empathy constantly humbles me and reminds me of my fortune, and then inspires me to act on the injustice of fate. 

I admit to knowing little than I possibly can about children cancer, I know far less than a couple of statistics about the realities of it and I agree that shaving doesn’t mean I’d instantaneously understand the pains of the illness or the experiences of these people. But to me- the most practical way to help them is to be a genius cancer researcher and find painless treatment with marvelous technology or be a multi-millionaire philanthropist donating millions to cancer treatment to alleviate the financial burdens of the illness. Unfortunately, I’m none of the above. Instead I’m part of another possible source of their pain, society. I want to find out for myself if the social stigma and judgements cancer patients are subject to is real and this would be my first step to understanding their predicament, even if it’s in the most superficial of ways, I have decided that I have to start from somewhere. 

I believe in action and advocacy. That with no action and sharing of awareness, thoughts and values towards those forgotten or neglected in our society have less meaning and impact. But if a simple action could inspire thought and awareness towards something that isn’t discussed enough amongst us, then there’s no reason why not. 

So as this act of shaving will call for attention upon myself, I hope people would look beyond me and my action, and question my purpose or explore these ideas about how we treat and understand cancer patients in our society. There is more meaning to Hair for Hope if we all learn to look beyond the people or our superficial lens through which we judge and gossip and speculate, and think about their thoughts and beliefs driving their actions. There has always been a popular misconception about the event- that it’s platform for the attention seeking, to do something different and be remembered; but I challenge you to imagine yourself shaving. Would you really shave just for attention and to be noticed? There are far simpler acts to bring you that. 

While deciding to shave will definitely not be the hardest part of this chapter I have found courage to begin writing, I hope to find inspiration and feed off the bravery of the cancer patients fighting their illnesses in our society. For whatever this may be worth, this is my way of taking a personal stand towards cancer and Hair for Hope 2014; and I hope you’ll do the same by thinking about Hair for Hope on a deeper level. 

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Why you should go for Runway’s Show

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The amount $14, $16 and worse still $18 sounds like a terrible waste of money– why should so much of your money be invested in Raffles Runway and exchanged for a flimsy ticket that gains you entry to the Multi-Purpose Hall we have our weekly assemblies in? 

I will tonight attempt to explain to you that this is different, and it is worth it.

Raffles Runway is a club filled with passionate and dedicated members– those with friends from the club would know. The designers have worked long and hard, through pain, sweat, tears and some blood to put together these pieces we proudly call ours. We are brought together because we love designing and we love creating, however terrifyingly arduous this process can be. But we work on our outfits, day and night and afternoon. Mind you, the time we spend is comparable to the time one takes to practise an instrument, to master a piece lyrically, or to rehearse and memorise lines. The same way performing arts CCAs put together their concerts, we’ve carefully crafted and put together every detail. So the way I see it, the show is a celebration of our hardwork and it’s the sharing of our joy with the school community whom we hope would feel the same excitement we do when we finally see our work on the runway, and would align their heartbeats to the footsteps of the models who help us make this sharing possible. 

Besides the designers, the models have put in hours of commitment and practised emotions and expressions, their walk, the face, where they put their arms and how they look at the camera. Modelling has more skill and emotions evolved than we do justice to it as we paraphrase modelling so casually with ‘looking good’ or ‘just walking’. Over the past few weeks, we’ve had photoshoots after school, over weekends, pulling all-days’ hard work in both rain and shine. To these models, I had the utmost respect and gratitude because without them, our outfits may never find their way to the runway, to be shown. And so this show, is also a celebration of the models. 

Proceeds from the show go to Mother and Child Project (http://www.motherandchildproject.com/about-motherandchild) supporting single moms who sew for a living. And we support them, clearly, because we love sewing and it’s such an essential part of the CCA. We want to support others in doing what we love to do. And this show’s financial proceeds, is a celebration of the art of sewing. 

The location being in the MPH is in no way a downgrade nor a compromise in the quality of our show. We invest more of our expenditure on the decoration of the set up and the hall so that we have more room for imagination and creation– the decoration efforts have all been motivated by the hopes to immerse our audience in a feel like never before to watch a fashion show of the best quality that we can deliver. So I hope that less people would be deterred by this misconception. 

I think the celebration of such beautiful things and efforts and the encouragement of passion and so much love for something, is worth more than $14-$18 but that’s all we’re asking in support of Raffles Runway’s annual charity fashion show. It’s 17/05 This Saturday 2PM/7PM, it’s not too late to get your tickets at the canteen walkway or through any friendly runway member! Thanks for all those who have supported!

Sunlove

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It is my third time in Sunlove Home (a home for the dementia patients around the area) and every service I take away millions of thoughts and stories to share and questions to ask. 

For a long time before I decided to step out of my comfort zone by volunteering with elderly/disabled, I have had a fear of interacting with the elderly and the disabled. I was uncomfortable with the idea of offering help and love and interaction to elderly whose position I barely understood, whose stories I can never relate to and whose dialect I struggle to understand. I cringed thinking about having to force the muscles on my face into a smile when being with the disabled evoked so much sorrow from me. And so I never thought that I’d grow to this day, when I actively chose to work at a service centre that combines both of my fears in volunteerism into a new challenge for me to tackle weekly. 

The first time I served at Sunlove Home, I spent almost a little more than an hour in front of an old lady, wrinkled and discoloured skin, struggling to murmur her words through the lack of teeth and salivating between conjunctions in a dialect my grandmother speaks to me with. She held onto my hand tightly and she looked into my eyes as she sang to me her favourite chinese song, over and over again before proceeding to tell me how she got this bruise on her cheek. A story she repeated to me at least ten times in the duration I was with her, each time with the exact same extent of emotion, using almost the same words and adjectives. I was devestated. 

Because the first thoughts that came to my mind were- Would I ever leave my parents or my grandparents in this position because they have a mental illness in future? Or would I pay a nursing home to take care of them because they were too hard to manage with their ‘condition’? It was devestating, also, because these elderly live in their memories that they held so dearly to their hearts and more often than not, these memories revolve around their families, their children and their grandchildren. 

Today, history repeated itself and I felt a strong sense of deja vu as I sat alongside a red-headed old lady with the most beautiful blue bag that her daughter had bought for her. She introduced herself over and over and asked me about my family. We repeated the same conversation at least 8 times in 20 minutes. 

Service in this place full of elderly with so many stories to share and valuable advice to offer has really given me food for thought and reminded me each time to show my parents and grandparents how much I love them a little more each day. I’m thankful for the lessons these elderly in Sunlove Home are teaching me. 

Happy Mother’s Day

This weekend has been exceptional- Saturday was my dad’s birthday and today, mother’s day. Days like these I tend to think about the significance of the person and our relationship in my life, and I can’t help but feel so overwhelmed and I often think to myself “I should thank them for who they are every single day

I can’t begin to describe how difficult it is to be a parent- I mean, can you imagine? First you create a newborn who cries all day and the inability to communicate with them leaves you with no choice but to clean up after them and console them with whatever way you can. And just as you think this will all begin to change, as they grow older; you realise that maturity doesn’t have a definite correlation with age and their ability to communicate their ideas may not reduce your burden as much as you thought it would. More often than not, this young child who actually learned everything they know today from you, decides that he/she is cleverer, more informed and more ready for the world and society, than you think they are. Imagine how afraid our parents feel looking at us think this way.

My parents take care of my siblings and I with the most tender, most selfless and unconditional care that I can never thank them enough for. I tend to forget that while I have my life and my set of problems or my worries, they have theirs too and all of which revolve around taking care of me and seeing me happy. I don’t consciously remember that while I’m pursuing the opportunities I think I deserve and being the person I am proudly, they are the ones paving the way to make everything happen and they have been the forgiving teachers who patiently instill each and every value that guide me today. I should remind myself more often.

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They say that parents necessarily hurt you with their expectations, because as parents want ‘the best’ of their children, ‘the best’ are often all the things they wish they could’ve done in their childhood but never did, or all the things they regret but never could do differently. So sometimes I imagine, while ‘wanting the best for me’ has left infinite hopes and dreams for me in their hearts, they still hold everything back and ‘do what you love’ is the most frequent advice they give me; I can hardly describe how difficult it is for them to say that instead of ‘do this, trust me, I know what’s best for you’.

And I really appreciate it.

We are too caught up in our own point of views we forget what our parents are going through everyday. We think we’re the only ones who’re tired when we decide not to help out with housework and we think we’re the only ones going through this thing called ‘stress’ when we contribute to theirs and while we allow time to speed past us, we forget they’re growing old. And every day we spend with them around but not consciously connecting with and appreciating them, is one day less.

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Hi I’m Shermaine, I love to sing, paint and dance (though not too well) and I can stare at art pieces and think for long periods of time. I believe in doing what you love and caring for the people around you. And I’m all this today because my parents taught me well and I work hard because I want to show them what great parents they are. 

Happy Mother’s Day is a greeting that holds more value and reminder than a cake and a card or a handmade breakfast. 1 out of 365 days they love us is not enough to thank them. 

We Were Special

We tend to think we are so different from everyone else. And sometimes I feel like we were- years ago, the people in my batch, across the cohort, across the world, despite being born in the same year, we had very different personalities, we spoke so differently and thought so differently, we wore different clothes and liked different colours.

But fast forward to today, we’re not so special anymore. I study in a school same as a thousand over other batchmates, we go through the same curriculum and we learn about the same things. If I get a certain grade in a test, I could bet at least a hundred others did too. Nothing’s left to help us decide if we’re special (it seems).

In the future, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to find something that makes us special either. You see, we will just graduate to be one of the many million students who graduate with certificates, we will be one of the many million who pass with straight As or a single B or a couple of Cs and cry or regret. Today, if you know 3 languages, you’re alright; if you know 4, you’re kind of special but remember, you’re not the only one. We’re all aiming for that one ‘best’, but we don’t realise that the chances of ‘best’ is way too small it’s almost impossible and there’s no real way of deciding you’re the ‘best’ without a tad of delusion.

It is certainly a case of nature vs. nurture, society happened and it makes us find ‘our place’ in society in that certain way that allows our economy to prosper, and nation to grow. Unfortunately we leave behind a couple of talents left undeveloped because ‘if it can’t definitely make you money, it definitely can’t be your career’ and any form of adventure or risk guided by passion in your career would appear ‘foolish’.

All thanks to nurture- today while you can think you’re special; there are so many others just like you. The only attempt at a consolation I can give is that you know, we were all special once; when we were young and creative and emotional.

Why I love Interact

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The recent weekends have been packed with day-long Interact events and while sharing with you what these experiences have taught me, I could say a little about what I love about Raffles Interact.

A big part of why I wanted to be a part of this club was the many club events that Interact organises together with Singapore Rotary Club. And in a short span of 3-4 months in this CCA, my batch has had the luxury of being heavily involved in 3 big events- Stop Hunger Now, Youth Got Heart 2014 and Dine in the Dark 2014. Every experience putting together each event as a club has been exhilarating and I’ve seen the energy and passion driving each and every member in whatever we do. To me, that’s inspiring.

Stop Hunger Now was a day-long packing of food for the organisation that’d distribute the food to different locations where poverty prevails. The short 2 hour shift I was present for saw the strength of 100+ Interactors from many different schools come together to pack over 8,000 meals in the short span of time.

Youth Got Heart was a day-long fair where VWOs congregated in our Indoor Sports Hall to share numerous volunteer opportunities and inspire those in search of service centres to gain meaningful experiences from. And every Interactor, being attached to a VWO to help out, had to do visits and research to best assist and understand the organisation’s values and opportunities.

Dine in the Dark 2014 was an experience put together by the club for others to put themselves in the shoes of the blind- to think, feel, smell and hear just like the blind for that 2.5 hours of experience doing a simple daily routine- having a meal. Training long and hard over evenings to be able to waitress and serve in the dark and doing whatever it took to darken the location together as a club was yet a display of belief in what we do.

Every experience humbles me because I have to whole-heartedly think for people and issues larger than myself, and it requires sacrifice- spending time doing something that benefits someone else. This post is dedicated to this experience and the club because I just wanted to talk about how lucky I feel for the platform that this club has given me to be with such like-minded and passionate people, and to serve with them.

On a side note, service learning opportunities are everywhere if you look hard enough and here’s some if you’re looking for meaningful learning experiences-

1 Pass It On

En Community- Student Leaders Development Programme, where volunteers will mentor Sec 1 students in their studies especially Math and English. Volunteers will design their own workshop which would be executed during a camp in June.

Commitment: 9AM 5th June – 12PM 6th June

Location: Bedok South Secondary School

Sign up at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1iKUC7ty5iIpa1iOzXb7mdSSurY6tNzIas432gD0K1Js/viewform

2 Grace Haven Tuition Project

By an RI Student Group that have been going down regularly to give tuition to the students at Grace Haven. Highest level of students there are working on O level content, so it is preferrable for people familiar with secondary 4 syllabus to come help out!

Commitment- 7-8PM on a preferred weekday

Find out more at: http://gracehaven.me/

Sign up at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1m_9os-QNwZ6MZzArHhQYt6s-n69OnN3AJOip6aTWiFQ/viewform

Find more at: https://www.facebook.com/youthgotheart14 OR Subscribe to VolunteerNow newsletter (tinyurl.com/volunteernow123)

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