Thinking back, I found my greatest achievement amusing. It was not even something I wanted to undertake at first. It was mandatory, as it would jeopardise my educational pathway if I did not contribute to the society as such. I found community service absurd and a waste of my ‘precious’ time. Helping old folks? Aren’t they going to pass on soon? What is the use of helping them? Regrettably, these were my thoughts. However, after the fruition of the project, I came to calling it my greatest achievement and one of the most significant lessons I had learnt.
In Singapore secondary schools, it is compulsory to obtain a certain number of Community Involvement Programme (CIP) hours each year. It is imperative if one wants to get into a good junior college as the bonus points will not be awarded to those who fail to do so. I was an ambitious student, aspiring to get into one of the top junior colleges in Singapore. Therefore, I have no choice but to accumulate CIP hours. My teacher, got ...view middle of the document...
Some sat in normal chairs, some wheelchair-bound. However, that was not the most surprising; it was the dullness in their eyes that shocked me.
Just then, a caretaker announced that we would be interacting with them and accompanying them to the botanic gardens. From my peripheral vision, I saw some of their eyes lit up in joy and wondered what caused their joy. After introducing ourselves (in Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese), we split up accordingly to our dialects and converse with them. In the beginning, I was wary and terse but soon lost that as the chat went on. An old lady told me her life story. It was astounding to learn that she survived World War 2 by covering her face with dirt to avoid rape and eating tapioca.
The conversation continues all the way to botanic gardens and back. This grandfather of twenty grandchildren told me about his abandonment by all his six children. They were the ones who placed him in the old folks’ home, then disappeared as if never born. He never saw his grandchildren ever again since that fateful day four years ago. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he told her how much he missed them. Then, he commented that I resembled his granddaughter and that was the reason he told me the tale. After many more stories, we were back in the old folks’ home and uttering adieus. I assured them that I would visit them again.
Then, I realized the reason behind the director’s readiness, the old folks’ smiles when we visited and chatted with them. In that instance, I realized that their smiles were my greatest achievement. Many were abandoned by their families in the home, with only other old folks as companions. They hardly smiled (the caretakers told us), they were dejected and lethargic. However, when we came into the picture, they smiled as they received the gifts, beamed when told that we would be visiting again. There was this overwhelming satisfaction I felt; only we could make them smile, make them laugh. It means so much to me because we were the ones who did that, out of so many people in Singapore. At the same time, their minds were rich repositories of the past. Learning from them helped me understand the fortitude the older generation went through and gain new insights through stories. Since this achievement helped me achieve these, they mean a lot too.