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I have always looked up to my mother. Since I was young, I have followed her to grassroots events and participated in various volunteer programmes.

Thus, volunteering is not something foreign to me.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many volunteer activities were suspended. During this period of time, many people were hit hard with many losing their jobs and livelihoods so I felt that it was a critical time to give back and help those in need. But how were we able to volunteer without any physical interactions?

I had to think out of the box and find new ways like utilising social media as a platform for fundraising. However, in the beginning, I did not have the courage to do so as I was doubtful that I would be able to reach out to people. Social media was like a personal diary where I post my own activities for memories. Using it as a tool for fundraising was new to me which was scary.

But with the support from my mum Lee Huah, 70, and son Yu Cheng, 8, I decided to give it a try!

Mask Sewn With Love Project

Volunteering as a three-generation family
Sze Wei’s family working together. Image Source: Tan Sze Wei

In May 2020, I joined the Mask Sewn With Love project by PA WIN Council with my mum which helped sew cloth masks at home to be donated to the needy. We also roped in my son to help out in writing encouraging messages to be included in the packaging.

Cook for Fun’d Virtual Charity Event with Family

On 20 Dec 2020, my mum, son and I joined the Cook for Fun-d, a virtual fundraising family cooking event in support of two charities – Playeum and Dads for Life.

20 families participated in the event. Each family was given a mystery ingredient to creatively incorporate into a dish of their choice. We called ourselves the Rainbow Warriors and cooked my mum’s two signature dishes: Japanese curry rice and rockmelon tangyuan.

In a span of a week $3,812 was raised!

Japanese Curry Rice and Rockmelon Tangyuan
Japanese Curry Rice and Rockmelon Tangyuan made by Sze Wei’s family. Image Source: Tan Sze Wei

Subsequently, my son’s art school invited us to participate in an art exhibition where children could pledge their artwork to seek donations for the elderly with dementia and people with special needs. I was pleasantly surprised that my son’s painting was pledged by a stranger within minutes of the post going up on social media!

Though every person has a creative side, there are those who are wired with an enormous appetite towards the arts and crafts and they can spend many happy hours satiated. My mum and my son are two incredibly talented individuals in this area.

While I am not talented in cooking or arts and crafts, I am good at organising and planning – I would tell them what we need to do and I would research to find out which charities need help. I am the connector but they have all the talents.

Acres Wildlife Rescue Centre (ACRES)

Yu Cheng working on his artwork
Yu Cheng working on his artwork. Image Source: Tan Sze Wei

Encouraged by our previous efforts and as an animal lover, I decided to approach ACRES if they would agree that I help fundraise for them with my son’s paintings via social media. When they gave me the go ahead, I was filled with anxiety and self-doubt again. Would anyone be keen to pledge for a child’s paintings?

Fortunately, my doubts were dispelled when I posted 4 of his animal and nature-themed paintings and they were snapped up quickly. I ended up posting another 7 paintings. We are very thankful to have raised $1000 in total.

Many kind donors came forward to support us including a facebook friend Mr Ho Ee Kid who helped to write an interesting story for each of the paintings. It certainly helped me gain confidence to raise the bar and set a higher goal.

Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd

For the next step in our volunteering journey, I asked my mum and my son if they would like to do a fundraising effort together in support of Guide Dogs Singapore for the International Guide Dogs Day charity campaign.

Handmade patchwork blanket and Iron Man stained glass painting
Handmade patchwork blanket done by Mdm Lim Lee Huah and Iron Man stained glass painting by Yu Cheng. Image Source: Tan Sze Wei

My mum donated a patchwork blanket that she had been working on since Covid-19 restrictions began. I was very grateful when I found out that it raised $2,000.

On the other hand, my son donated another 4 of his artworks which raised $450. We were very heartened by many warm and encouraging messages received on social media. I couldn’t help but feel immensely proud of my mum and my son.

Visit to Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd
Sze Wei and Yu Cheng (first and second from left) on their visit to Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd. Image Source: Tan Sze Wei

Interacting with the beneficiaries was an eye-opening experience. The charity organisers are always helpful and appreciative of our eagerness to contribute.

As my son was keen to know how his fundraising efforts have helped others, Guide Dog Singapore arranged for us to meet up with one of the visually handicapped (who is also doing his own fundraising!). He shared with us how a guide dog can help a visually-handicapped person move around better than the cane. It gave us a better understanding of the daily challenges they face.

I feel that it is important for parents to instill positive values such as compassion and respect in their children. I believe it is even more important than academic results, for oneself to learn to understand and empathise with others, to be kind to themselves and also to others.

In life, you cannot always be number one, you can’t always be the top student, there will always be areas where we might be weaker in certain areas. Being kind to ourselves and others is very important for our mental health and overall well-being.

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Support from others

Life has a way of taking us down unexpected roads. My rewarding volunteering and fundraising experiences prove that everything starts with a dream. I am glad that I had taken the step to turn it into reality instead of letting it remain as a dream.

However, I didn’t do it alone and could not have achieved it myself. Most of all, I appreciate the unwavering support from my family who volunteered and fundraised with me. I will never forget the blissful moments shared with them which were precious and magical.

To those with second thoughts on volunteering, just give it a try. Volunteering does not have to be a big gesture – you can just give within your means. For example, you can just spend one hour of your time to befriend someone or write a card and send it to someone to cheer them up.

A simple act of kindness can create an impact on others and who knows, you might even gain much more than what you give.

Tan Sze Wei

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Top Image: Tan Sze Wei