Joining an NYP activity was truly educational in that it opened my eyes to the needs of the community around us. In 2011, I volunteered for a social cause that involved helping underprivileged Singaporeans, and it was one of the most fulfilling activities I have ever done!
Organised by NYP Students’ Union (NYPSU) in conjunction with the People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM) Singapore, the event, called “Project Paint”, invited volunteers to help the elderly give their homes a fresh, new coat of paint. Yes, this is similar to Mediacorp’s Reality TV series, Renovaid and心晴大动员 (Life Transformers).
On the day of the event, we arrived at our allotted one-room HDB apartments in the Teck Ghee vicinity, excited and not knowing what to expect. Five other NYPSU members and I were warmly greeted by an elderly couple who ushered us into their house.
As we entered the quaint little apartment, we noticed that the house had not been cleaned for quite some time, as we saw that thick layers of dust had settled on exposed surfaces, window grills and even on the walls. The elderly couple smiled at us kindly and gave us the go-ahead to start work. Thus, we then went around assessing the condition of the apartment.
In the kitchen, we saw dead cockroaches below the refrigerator, and many were discovered in hidden corners and below pipes! Old equipment, newspapers and some other items were strewn all over the floor and table. There was also not much space for movement.
While the more senior and experienced volunteers went to war with the pests, I was (luckily) tasked to work on the living room with a few other volunteers.
After what seemed like hours of cleaning and moving the furniture and the owners’ things, we finally could start work on the painting. I taped newspapers on the floors, on windows and small corners that the owners didn’t want painted, and we donned in our thin, plastic raincoats (to shield us from the paint splashes).
The tins of white paint were opened and each of us, armed with formidable paint “weapons” (aka brushes) began painting over the dirt-covered walls.
As the entire house was not very big, it was not difficult to finish the task of the painting in a few hours. The only trouble was painting the ceiling. The one working on the ceiling had to be careful not to douse the rollers with too much paint, as it would result in ugly patches, as well as paint falling on some unfortunate victim.
We managed to finish the job, but not without effort. After all, we were a team of six dedicated workers on a mission to improve someone’s living quarters! Dust and grime, mixed with sweat from our bodies resulted in unbearable stickiness and odor, coupled with itchiness on our bodies.
A whole day had gone by. Evening came, and of course, the owners had also arrived home from their day out. We managed to dry the paint, remove all the newspaper, clear most of the dust and rearrange the furniture back to their proper location.
I stood at the entrance, gazing at this warm and almost-new abode. The whitewashed walls had now made the entire house look brighter and much more cheery. I was really pleased and felt warmth in my heart.
When the owners had first laid eyes on our “masterpiece”, they, too, were genuinely grateful and pleasantly surprised at how we managed to breathe life into that humble home of theirs.
As we bade our goodbyes, I came upon a realization. As teenagers living in Singapore, we see Singapore as a prosperous city, with a high standard of living. We stay transfixed in our world of smartphones, Facebook and shopping, so much that we do not see the “other side” of Singapore.
There are still many Singaporeans and their families who live in underprivileged situations, despite government efforts to reduce such instances. As the future crafters of our world, how can we make a difference?
My volunteering experience made a little difference, but it’s that difference that matters. And I can’t wait for my next adventure with NYP to help improve the world, bit by bit.
By Ho Khin Wai, Year 3, Diploma in Banking & Financial Services
Khin Wai is an NYP Year 3 Banking and Financial Services student from School of Business Management (SBM). He started writing for NYP Portal in 2011 out of interest and was soon "addicted" to it. He has also written book reviews for Straits Times YA Classified. Besides writing, he loves singing and has performed for various events in NYP under NYP Soundcard.