Volunteering at excITE for the past 3.5 years has been a very enriching experience for me. There were times when I felt really glad and encouraged that I was making a difference in the students’ lives, but there were also seasons when I struggled to carry on.
It won’t be a breeze. Persevere.
It was especially difficult to see the significance in what I was doing at the beginning. There were months where I spent my weekly volunteer time at excITE playing games with the students without being able to engage in any meaningful conversations with them no matter how hard I tried. However, as time went by, I got to know a few of the students better and they began to share more about their lives with me.
As I listened to them, my eyes were opened to a group of people who are very different from me in upbringing and life experiences.
I could not pretend to understand what they were going through. Some of these students face a huge amount of pressure from society, family members and friends, and have to handle a lot more than I could imagine.
Don’t expect yourself to have the solutions. Be a friend.
Many times, I found myself feeling helpless even though I really wanted to help, and have come to realize that all I could do is to journey alongside them and be a friend. As I do that, I am constantly surprised when the encouragements that I gave touched their hearts, or an advice given was well received and made a difference to the way they responded to issues in their lives.
Recently, I was very encouraged when a student who had graduated from ITE a couple of years back, sent me a message to thank me for being one of the important passengers on her train of life. During her time at ITE, she shared some of her personal struggles with me. Even now, we still catch up with each other from time to time and I am thankful that I can continue to impact her life beyond her ITE years.
I am also deeply inspired by the many staff and volunteers, who serve wholeheartedly and selflessly to be a positive influence in the students’ lives. I have learned so much from them and feel really privileged to serve alongside these men and women who constantly demonstrate their love for others through their actions.
Be a Positive Influence – Little steps at a time.
At excITE, we do what we can to be a positive influence in the students’ lives. We seek to inspire hope in them when they seem to have given up on themselves or their circumstances. We guide and encourage them to overcome negative habits, and to instil positive ones in their lives. We journey through life experiences with them, offering a different perspective or an advice when appropriate. We desire for them to be healed of the pains and negative self-images that have resulted from past experiences. As a parent myself, I also at times seek to help them see things from their parents’ perspective, in the hope that this will help mend the communication bridges and relationships that have broken down.
Each time we engage the students, we try to help them in little ways to build up a foundation that will enable them to handle future life challenges more confidently and victoriously.
Courage to get started. Conviction to keep going.
Many people have a certain perception about ITE students, so I can imagine that it does take some amount of courage and resolve to start volunteering here. I started volunteering at excITE because I felt a personal calling to mentor youths. Since then, I have witnessed how different students have matured over the years, how they overcame issues that they used to struggle with, or became more motivated in life. The journey has taught me to trust that seeds sown in love will bear fruit in due time, and to remain faithful in sowing into the lives of those who come my way.
Based in ITE College East in Simei, excITE @ College East is a youth centre co-sponsored by BCCSC and ITE College East.
About the Author: Jessica Chen is a mother of two and a homemaker. After leaving her job as a part time lecturer in Temasek Polytechnic, she joined excITE as a volunteer in October 2012. If there’s one thing that she is passionate about, it is to help people understand their worth – that everyone has strengths and talents to discover in themselves that they may use to live their lives to the fullest.
If you are keen to join BCCSC as a volunteer, do contact us through our sign up page. Bethesda Care & Counselling Services Centre is located at 300 Bedok North Avenue 3. For more information, please visit our website or our Facebook page.