Sunday, January 04, 2015


For all that I happily accept about the kids, warts and all, the one thing I want them to be above all else is Helpful.

If any of the trio grow up to become adults who do not lend a hand to those who need it, I would have failed utterly.

I don’t just mean giving money to an orphan in another country, but more importantly, helping an old lady right in front of their nose cross the road. Or lending a listening ear to those who no one else will listen to.


I don’t know. I have never been a great thinker. Like with every other thing in my life, I didn’t sit down and make a list of Important Values I Want My Children To Have, carefully prioritise them and work towards those outcomes.

It just fits. I really like people who don’t just think about themselves and I must raise kids I can live with.

The question is how to raise helpful children (no they're not particularly helpful!).

There is modeling, how we as parents live our own lives, and what they learn from watching us, but I won’t go into that.

I’ve been meaning to get them to flex their own Help muscle for a while now. Just so they know that it doesn’t take a lot to help someone, and more importantly that they don’t have to be shy about helping anyone.

At home, I try to get them to show a little love to me – "Think about me, your beleaguered busy mother!" 

But what I sought was a group helping others which the kids and I can volunteer at, on a fairly regular basis, so they become familiar with the people and its work.

I searched on and off for a year. Not because I was fussy, but because it’s not easy finding a place which accepts volunteers under 12 (apart from flag days which always benefit from child appeal).

I tried SG Cares, the volunteer portal. I attended a briefing one night, and after spending an hour or so on listening to the benefits of volunteering – all of which I heartily agreed with and already knew – I was told that none of the groups present welcomed volunteers below 12. Most wanted over-16s.

I tried a few other organizations. No one wanted kids, least of all three. I fully understood why. Kids can be destructive and distracted, and many would not be able to work with the elderly, disabled, mentally ill.

This holiday, I took my chances with Willing Hearts, which supplies free food to nearly 5,000 needy island-wide.

To my great surprise, the guy who answered the phone told me – Come down tomorrow at 7am and we’ll find something for you to do.

And Tony, who is the founder, face and organizer of the group, did.

It’s not easy, finding meaningful jobs for and engaging motley crews of strangers who drop in and out. Numbers change, faces change, I don’t even know how he does it. It’s like having to entertain large groups of strangers who visit your home every day.

But he does, standing firm in the centre of the chaos that is the enormous kitchen and overseeing the logistics machinery which sends out the food to thousands 365 days a year.

He even has time to preach: See, we want the children to have FUN. Kids, you will have FUN OK! (whispers aside to me: They do this now, next time they will never abandon you. Do you know many people abandon their parents nowadays?)

The holiday just past, we went three times. Enough, as Tony said, for the kids to have fun. And enough, I say, for them to remember.

Not so much in the kitchen where we usually spend some time on various kitchen chores like putting hundreds of pears into plastic bags and tying them with rubber bands, or decorating the food packs with Christmas greetings.

* Above two, Lulu's work

But when we go out.

The moment Tony realized I had a car, I became a delivery driver. We usually arrive at 730am, and by 9-ish am we are sent out with packed food. Twice, to dingy one-room rental flats in Redhill and once to newer one-room rental flats in Clementi.

Day operates Google Maps to direct me, and once there we dispatch the warm boxes of food (it smells delicious, I usually have to stop the kids from opening and snitching from the boxes) to specific units, starting from the highest floor and making our way down. Usually, we knock on the door, and if there’s no response we hang the boxes on the door handle.

* Our assignment sheet

Apart from one episode when we were aggressively approached by other residents to ask – How come we don’t get the food ha?, a killer litter episode (bulging plastic bag of litter from a high floor which almost landed on the head of a man walking near us) and smoke-filled lifts, it’s been a joy. They see characters.

The blind man who gave them all Kit Kats, the old lady in the wheelchair who is always out sunning herself, the young mother with two young knee-high children, the cripple who answers the door by ‘galloping’ over on his chair, even the man who came to the door in red Superman briefs (and nothing else).

Jo in particular, relishes giving out the food packs.

She says, I like it because they have such happy smiles on their faces.

* Mimicking a recipient


Anonymous said...

That is nice! I should really try Willing Hearts with my kids too. I too don't want them to grow up to be self-centered adults whose world only revolves around them. I will go check out more info!

My cousin is also helping out there with the food preparations. :)


carrie chong said...

Willing Hearts is awesome! They are so welcoming with everyone regardless of your age. The Giving Treehouse loves working with them and the kids always have such a great time helping out! :)

Sher said...

yes they are! u guys went in nov and dec too yeah. hard to find a child-friendly charity.