Fresh Insights - Rachel Leong

Having signed up alone with no prior experience with PWIDs, I remember stepping into RO with uncertainty and trepidation one year ago. “Would it be awkward?” and “What do I do?” were some of the questions that ran through my mind. Fortunately, the friendly volunteers and a few extroverted trainees quickly dissipated my apprehension. A whole new learning journey then began for me.

Of all the MYG projects, RO was chosen because of practicality – close proximity to my home. I had wanted to volunteer at a children’s project because I like kids and had encounters with them. So, I was unsure how well I would cope with the adult PWIDs at RO. Very soon, I realized that while it was a different ball game, interacting with the adult trainees had enriched my life in the most meaningful ways.

There is a spectrum of trainees at RO – some are so effusive with their affection for volunteers that they start holding my hand even though we had only met for a few weeks, while others take a longer time to warm up to you. It takes patience to build trust and once that trust is forged, their affection for you is unwavering.

A few months ago, I took on the role of being the Personal Development programmer for RO. This was alien to me. I was never one to lead anything in school nor have I ever regarded myself as a good teacher. To me, teaching is a skill – either you have it or you don’t. A teacher does not only take care of her students, but she also ensures that they learn new skills and enjoy the process. I felt daunted by this but thankfully I have a friendly and experienced co-programmer to help organize the weekly sessions. At times, it involves a lot of effort in the preparations. However, the encouraging comments received thereafter have made it all worthwhile.

I recently attended ACID for the first time and it really left a deep impression on me. It certainly will not be my last. Through ACID, I realized that RO is not alone but actually part of one big MYG family. It opened my eyes to the varying support levels of the trainees across the different project groups. I love how ACID allows our trainees to socialize beyond RO. It wasn’t easy for them to step out of their comfort zone but I’m glad ACID provided them opportunities to make new friends.

It’s not all work and no play in RO. I was made to feel part of the family at an early stage. After our regular sessions, there would usually be dinner outings to various parts of the island (usually the west haha) in search of good food. It allows me to know the other volunteers better and anyway, who doesn’t love a good meal??

I am glad to have taken that first step to join RO because it has been a thoroughly enriching experience. My Saturdays now seem more fruitful with the trainees and volunteers laughing, eating and learning together.