What is it like volunteering with special needs clients? To 17-year-old Adora Phan, it is an opportunity to spread joy and make a difference by equipping clients with useful skills and knowledge.
As a student volunteer at TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL), Adora has been volunteering with 4 other friends since the start of 2022.
Through fun quizzes, games and interactive storytelling, Adora and her friends teach clients how to understand and cope with emotions, the importance of sustainability and saving the earth, as well as celebrate occasions like National Day and Hari Raya.
One year into her volunteering journey, Adora shares three insights on how her experience has shaped her perspective today.
Be Open to Learning
When beginning your volunteering journey, it’s not uncommon to have the mindset of being there to “teach” clients. Instead, Adora found herself learning from the clients’ admirable qualities of kindness, gratefulness and tenacity.
She recalls a session where clients were asked to share what they were grateful for, and how their responses made her rethink aspects of her life. “It was heartwarming hearing how they were thankful for their coaches and loved ones, and even simple daily activities, which inspired me to appreciate the little things in life.”
Keep Trying and Don't Be Discouraged
It can be discouraging when we face challenges engaging with an unfamiliar group of clients. Adora shares that it also took time for her to build rapport and gain the trust of the clients.
“I initially experienced challenges communicating with and engaging the clients. However, as I got to know them better each week, the clients started enthusiastically participating in our activities,” shares Adora, who feels affirmed and motivated knowing that her efforts have made an impact.
Adora’s perseverance also paid off when more reserved clients began speaking up during lessons. “I was surprised and touched when these clients answered our questions during class, or even spoke to us personally. It made me happy knowing that they’ve become more comfortable with us.”
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
It may be tempting to think that volunteers are not in any position to receive help even when it is needed. For Adora, there was an incident when she struggled to explain a craft activity to a client who was speech and hearing impaired.
“I am unfamiliar with sign language, so when other clients saw me struggling, they patiently helped to guide the client along and facilitated interactions between the two of us. I was touched and grateful for their help!” she says.
Each interaction with a client is special. If you'll like to volunteer at TCIL, please drop an email to [email protected]
to find out more.