Meet three Sin­ga­pore­ans who are mak­ing our home a kinder city – and prove there is pro­found joy and pur­pose in giv­ing

Singapore Women's Weekly (Singapore) - - STYLE SETTER - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH LIEW

Fe­male vol­un­teers mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

When she’s not lec­tur­ing part time at LASALLE Col­lege of the Arts, this ca­nine lover spends her time re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing res­cue dogs and run­ning marathons to raise funds and aware­ness for these an­i­mals. In March, she ran across Hong Kong’s Lan­tau Is­land in the Translan­tau 50 km marathon, in rugged ter­rain, to raise money for Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD).

Her pas­sion for dog res­cue and wel­fare be­gan in 2011, when she suc­cess­fully fos­tered and re­ha­bil­i­tated a res­cued Shet­land Sheep­dog. “I was ap­palled at how she had been ne­glected and abused as a breed­ing dog when she came to me in a mal­nour­ished and dis­eased state. I toi­let-trained her, taught her to walk on a leash and so­cialised her with my dog, and fi­nally man­aged to re­home her,” Marie shares. “That same year, I vis­ited a dog shel­ter in Pasir Ris Farmway and was shocked to learn about the huge num­ber of res­cue dogs re­sid­ing there.”

That aroused in Marie the de­sire to start vol­un­teer­ing. “I be­gan by clean­ing ken­nels and walk­ing the res­cue dogs. A year later, I took a course on dog be­hav­iour and train­ing as I wanted to do more to ed­u­cate oth­ers (on dog abuse and aban­don­ment).”

Be­sides ad­vo­cat­ing for more re­spon­si­ble dog own­er­ship, Marie fo­cuses on re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing home­less dogs. She set up The Dog Al­chemist, a ser­vice where she helps own­ers train and have a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with their an­i­mals. “I help [the dogs] over­come their fears and is­sues and make them so­cia­ble and ready for adop­tion. If we can re­home more res­cue dogs, we can free up space in shel­ters to help more dogs.”

Pas­sion­ately, she adds, “I never imag­ined my­self to be a dog trainer and be­haviourist, but see­ing a fear­ful dog trans­form into a happy, nor­mal dog is a price­less feel­ing. It’s what keeps me go­ing.”

“I re­ha­bil­i­tate res­cue dogs and help them find for­ever homes”

“I em­power marginalised youth and help build up their self-es­teem” “I help en­sure the best qual­ity care for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties”

For Roshini, work­ing on so­cial causes came quite nat­u­rally. She’s vol­un­teered with var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing Room To Read and the Cere­bral Palsy Al­liance, but her soft spot is for the res­i­dents at RCHD where she is now a mem­ber of the man­age­ment com­mit­tee.

“When I first started vol­un­teer­ing with peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, I didn’t know how to be help­ful. How do I talk to them, or com­fort them? Thank­fully, there have al­ways been other vol­un­teers and staff on hand to pa­tiently guide me along,” Roshini re­veals.

“And I’m al­ways sur­prised by how en­er­gised I feel at the end of ev­ery meet­ing or out­ing, even when we’ve been deal­ing with tough is­sues. I’ve made a lot of new friends, but I’ve also learned so much from those I vol­un­teer with (both the vol­un­teers and the peo­ple we sup­port),” she re­marks. “An­other un­der­rated fact is how much fun it can be – I of­ten vol­un­teer with my fam­ily and it is a great bond­ing ac­tiv­ity.”

“Of­ten when I am chat­ting with the res­i­dents at RCHD, I am struck by their great sense of hu­mour and in­tel­li­gence,” she says. “Once, a res­i­dent with mul­ti­ple se­vere dis­abil­i­ties asked me for my date of birth. Within sec­onds of telling him, he ac­cu­rately pointed out that I was born on a Thurs­day!”

“We all have blindspots cre­ated by our so­cial and ed­u­ca­tional cir­cles.” Roshini notes. “Vol­un­teer­ing al­lows me to meet peo­ple whose life ex­pe­ri­ences have been dif­fer­ent from mine. We break down bar­ri­ers, over­come stereo­types and build a stronger bond as mem­bers of the same com­mu­nity.”

In 2014, Danielle and two fel­low So­ci­ol­ogy grad­u­ates were in­tro­duced to a group of teenagers who lived in Lengkok Bahru, a hous­ing es­tate of one-room rental flats. It was an area, ac­cord­ing to Danielle, “with a no­to­ri­ous rep­u­ta­tion as a drug­gie haven full of ju­ve­nile delin­quents”. To en­gage the youths pos­i­tively, they formed Ko­pi­tiam Lengkok Bahru, and de­signed a pho­tog­ra­phy and arts project in a bid to help the youths learn new skills to boost their con­fi­dence.

“Be­ing out­siders, it was chal­leng­ing try­ing to en­gage the youths. We had to be pur­pose­ful and straight­for­ward with them,” Danielle adds, “And we didn’t want to make a tran­sient im­pact. We kept our day jobs, but for close to 10 months, we headed down reg­u­larly to meet them, con­duct lessons or just hang out, which helped build their trust in us.”

The project phase was ul­ti­mately a suc­cess and cul­mi­nated in two pub­lic pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tions. While the team is in the midst of plan­ning an­other, Danielle keeps in close con­tact with the youths via text mes­sag­ing and so­cial me­dia, a chan­nel she uses to con­tinue to men­tor them.

There was a huge sac­ri­fice of time and en­ergy, but Danielle strongly be­lieves the re­wards of vol­un­teer­ing far out­weigh the costs. “It helps you grow in em­pa­thy, ex­pands your world view and re-ad­justs your pri­or­i­ties. What you do as a vol­un­teer can pos­i­tively im­pact the way you think about work and life”.

MARIE CHOO, 40 Dog be­hav­ior­ist and trainer at The Dog Al­chemist; founder of D.O.G.S. (Dogs Own­ers Guid­ance Sup­port)

Make A Dif­fer­ence: If you’re look­ing for a dog, adopt. If you don’t have time to own a dog, you can al­ways fos­ter one for a few days or weeks.

Make A Dif­fer­ence: Try some­thing the whole fam­ily can do to­gether, such as tak­ing part in a walk or run that raises aware­ness for a disease. ROSHINI PRAKASH-NAIR, 37 Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee mem­ber at Red Cross Home for the Dis­abled (RCHD); Coun­cil Mem­ber at Na­tional Vol­un­teer and Phi­lan­thropy Cen­tre

Make A Dif­fer­ence: Start small. The best way to vol­un­teer is to find some­thing you’re al­ready do­ing, and find a way to use that to make a dif­fer­ence in some­one else’s life. DANIELLE HONG, 29 Co-founder of Ko­pi­tiam Lengkok Bahru

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.