A meeting of generations and needs
Every fortnight, the halls of Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Nursing Home echoes with chatter between residents and students from Xinmin Secondary School.
As part of the school’s Values in Action Programme, the students befriend the elderly by folding origami, playing carom and engaging in various activities. This initiative originated from one of the SG Cares Community Network Sessions held in September last year at Braddell Heights Community Club, attended by community partners from Serangoon and Hougang towns.
Dr Desmond Ong, grassroots leader of the Ang Mo Kio-Hougang Division shared that “people just come together—no agenda—and we just share. We share our problems, what we have in terms of resources and see what we can make of it.”
Xinmin Secondary School contacted the Social Service Office, SSO @ Hougang, initiating a longer-term community engagement programme, instead of one-off sessions. “We want our students to generate a deeper sense of empathy through the Values In Action project,” says Vice-Principal Benjamin Yong.
SSO @ Hougang promptly put the school in touch with THK Nursing Home, along with another partner in the area, NTUC Health’s Day Centre for Seniors (Silver Circle) at Ci Yuan. Soon after, partners from the two organisations conducted briefings for the students on how they could interact and engage the elderly meaningfully.
Since the XinminCares programme kicked off in February this year, the residents look forward to the visits by the students, says THK Nursing Home’s CEO Ardi Hardjoe.
“For us, the collaboration is important because we have a duty to the young generation,” he says, pointing out the importance of getting students to understand the experiences and needs of the elderly. Some students, he notes, might not have had much interactions with their grandparents and might be unsure how best to relate to the elderly.
Besides visiting the residents at THK Nursing Home, the students also befriend seniors at the NTUC Health’s Day Centre for Seniors (Silver Circle). The befriending experience has inculcated patience in the students, as some seniors at the centre may have dementia and often repeat the same questions to the students.
As part of XinminCares, the students also make visits outside the walls of THK Nursing Home. This part of the programme is known as Project Home Alone. The students knock on doors to check on and befriend seniors who stay alone in the Ang Mo Kio-Hougang Division.
For Desmond, the highlight of the programme has been witnessing the students’ resilience in reaching out to the seniors, persevering even when they faced initial resistance. This has not disheartened the students.
From Desmond’s observations, the stereotype about the young being part of a strawberry generation who bruise easily is not true and these students deserve credit for their work. They believe in the project as much as the partners, he says.
Benjamin adds that one indicator of success in the coming years will be whether the youths will still take the initiative to volunteer even after they graduate. He says some former students, who are now in their twenties, continue to actively volunteer.
THK Nursing Home, NTUC Health’s Day Centre for Seniors (Silver Circle) and Xinmin Secondary School are united in seeing this project through, challenges and all, for the long haul.
Ardi hopes this collaboration, bringing a school and a nursing home together, could set a positive example for other schools.
“We can share our story with others and…they can learn from this.”