Reuelwrites embarks on a 52-week volunteering expedition with charity ‘Willing Hearts’, documenting his experience in the process.
For the last four months of 2017, I have been thinking about volunteering my time with a charity/non-profit organisation. 2017 has been a good year for me as I saw the hand of God bless my real estate business, and the Lord reminded me to ‘feed His sheep’ (John 21:15).
It came to a point where this [need to help someone] was weighing down on me and I knew I have to volunteer somewhere, anywhere. So I spent the last few months of 2017 looking for an organisation to volunteer at. For individuals looking to make a difference, read The Smart Local’s article, ‘36 Places to Volunteer At In Singapore To Make A Difference In Someone’s Life‘.
I challenge myself to volunteering with Willing Hearts for 52 consecutive weeks starting from first week of 2018. I have also signed up with Assisi Hospice to volunteer with them.
According to Willing Hearts website, ‘Willing Hearts is wholly run by volunteers, apart from a handful of staff. It operates a soup kitchen that prepares, cooks and distributes about 5,000 daily meals to over 40 locations island wide, 365 days a year. Beneficiaries include the elderly, the disabled, low income families, children from single parent families or otherwise poverty stricken families, and migrant workers in Singapore.’
For individuals who want to make something out of their lives by helping others, read my account below for what transpired during my first week of volunteering! Feel free to volunteer with Willing Hearts or any other organisation, or share this story with your friends.
4.30am – I feel like dying. Can’t remember when was the last time I woke up at this time. Only sleeping at my usual timing of 2.30am the day before didn’t help. Took me another 3 more snoozes before I dragged myself up.
5am – Took the quickest shower and sped down to Willing Hearts. Found that I was the first volunteer to reach. Approached a senior-looking staff to ask how I can help. He told me to wear a hair net, the irony.
The staff told me to help move the rice, oil and dumplings out. He instructed me to be careful when rolling the dumplings down the ramp as the dumplings might all fall out if I didn’t hold the trolley right. Isn’t that too important a role for a newbie like me?
Was asked by a young chap, “Why did you come so early?”
5.30am – The staff told me to help the young chap with the frying of the nuggets. We poured the oil into two huge-ass woks. I watched him turn on the stove. Even turning on the stove looked menacing. In the meantime, we opened up the bags of nuggets and poured them into trays to ready them for frying. The nugget section consists of just the two of us.
5.33am – The woks are finally heated up. I watched the young chap pour the nuggets into the two woks. Hot oil splattering everywhere. Looks scary. I think I will stick to opening the nugget bags and pouring them into the trays.
5.35am – The young chap demonstrated how to drain the oil from the nuggets using the skimmer. That looked easy.
5.36am – The young chap told me to put the next batch into the wok. Oh-ma-gawd. The only thing I’ve ever cooked from home are soft-boiled eggs, cup noodles and maggie noodles. I’m not ready for this huge responsibility.
5.37am – Here goes nothing.
5.38am – Got slightly scalded on my first attempt. But I soldier on, because it’s for the benefit of needy people – this I tell myself. The young chap munched on the nuggets to try them. He told me to try them too or eat them when I want to. I hesitate.
5.45am – I spy with my little eye a ang moh walking into the kitchen. He jovially greets the staff. It seems that he’s a regular volunteer here. Makes me wonder why a foreigner would be more concerned with my country’s needy people than our own local people.
6.15am – I’m slowly getting the hang of it. Finally popped one nugget in my mouth. Not bad!
6.20am – The ang moh volunteer comes over to our ‘counter’ and informs us, “The nuggets are really good!” My Asian complex kicked in and all I could muster was an “Ah”, but my heart shouts “Oh Yippie!” Confidence rising.
6.30am – More volunteers start streaming in, including volunteers from Polytechnics – I assume.
7am – Open nuggets, fry nuggets, drain nuggets, repeat. I’m getting good at this, or so I thought.
7.03am – Discovered that they have opened three assembly lines. We need to fry faster!
7.15am – Engaged in small talk with the young chap while cooking. K tells me that he just graduated from NUS Engineering. I asked him if he started working. K tells me that he’s working part-time at Willing Hearts while looking for a job. He has been volunteering with Willing Hearts for six months.
7.20am – Took a quick water break. I have been frying nuggets for hours now. I got oil on my skin and clothes. I could even feel it seep into my skin. Starting to feel a little tired but I could feel the joy of having needy people eat stuff cooked by me.
7.25am – I thought my job was one of the toughest, it wasn’t. I looked around at what everyone was doing. Those chaps cooking the rice and vegetables in huge-ass pots seemed to be expending a lot of arm strength. I feel better already.
7.30am – Open nuggets, fry nuggets, drain nuggets, repeat. Did I mention that cooking at Willing Hearts is almost like working one’s biceps at the gym except that it’s better? It’s free gym.
7.40am – I could feel fatigue slowly overwhelming me now.
7.55am – Every sense of altruism that I first felt flew out of the window. Now I just waiting for my ‘shift’ to end.
8am – Half-an-hour more to go. Eugene, you got this.
8.10am – Another senior staff comes over to our section for more nuggets. I stand down as he briefly took over the frying. He tells me I need to follow his method to fry the nuggets. I lost my nugget chef confidence. I went back to my comfort zone of opening nugget bags.
8.20am – He told me to take over the frying again.
8.30am – Nobody is leaving. Omg.
8.40am – The senior staff comes back to help with the frying occasionally. He informs us they need another 3,000 nuggets. I fainted in my head.
9am – Open nuggets, fry nuggets, drain nuggets, repeat.
9.05am – I spotted a really cute volunteer. Oh concentrate, Reuel!
9.15am – I think we are close to finishing. I’m amazed how the staff have so much stamina to do this everyday. I’m dying from just one day of volunteering. They must really love people. I can do better at loving people. C’mon, Reuel.
9.17am – The staff informs us they need another “2,000 nuggets”. I felt like dying.
9.30am – Open nuggets, fry nuggets, drain nuggets, repeat.
9.32am – The last time I felt so tired could be when I was still in the army.
9.40am – The staff comes over to inform us they need another 1,000 nuggets. I’m now a zombie in The Walking Dead.
9.55am – The staff informs us they have enough packs. Oh the sound of music. We pack up the remaining uncooked nuggets for cooking the following day. K tells me to leave first. There will be other volunteers coming to help with the cleaning. I obliged.
10am – I take my leave. There’s no congratulatory message from the in-charge and the staff – everyone’s doing their equal share to help the needy.
Willing Hearts is mostly run by volunteers, which means to say that if nobody comes to volunteer either to cook or deliver the food, literally thousands would not have a warm meal for that day.
So running the soup kitchen and delivery is kind of a ‘faith-based’ thingy. And the amazing thing is, there are different volunteers coming everyday to help cook and deliver the meals.
I’m pretty sure some of Singapore’s most compassionate people are gathered here everyday. I am also equally, if not more impressed by the tenacity of the staff to ensure every needy receives a packet of warm food – every single day.
What a humbling experience. We could praise ourselves for packing over five thousand packets of food for the needy, but the day restarts again tomorrow. RW