Ms Joyce Tan

Volunteering with RSVP since 2014

I was exposed to volunteering at a young age by my father, helping out at the Singapore Red Cross. Since then, I have the personal goal to “empower as many as possible” from all walks of life. I have been actively engaging and empowering children, youths and seniors through various volunteering stints, such as leading external enrichment activities for secondary school students at Ren Ci Nursing Home.

I also believe that to better connect with the beneficiaries that I serve, I should learn and understand more about them. That prompted me to sign up to be an “old intern” at Rosebrook Child Development Centre for three months, so that I can deepen my knowledge on children with special needs and better engage parents to manage their children’s needs.

RSVP is the next pit-stop in my volunteering journey. I was first introduced to RSVP by my friends in late 2014 and started volunteering in 2015 in the MyBuddy programme. I conducted home visits to seniors who were recently discharged from hospitals and offered them companionship.

Establishing trust is key to befriending seniors. I have this fond memory of an elderly makcik (Malay aunty) who refused to interact with me for many house visits and even made me sit at the far end of the sofa. I was determined to break the ice with her on my fifth visit and honed my skills to gain her trust. I coaxed her to bring her photo album to share her holiday experience in Australia with me. The makcik was so excited to share that before we knew it, we were sitting next to each other chit-chatting, closing our gap on the sofa.

I have an amiable personality, and I find myself suited for people-oriented roles. At the encouragement of my friends, I took on the role as a Volunteer Trainer and Facilitator in RSVP’s very own Volunteer Learning Centre. I was excited to use this opportunity given by RSVP to put my accumulated years of diverse volunteering experience as well as training expertise to good use by inspiring and enhancing the skills of other volunteers. I believe that the spirit of volunteerism is not just about helping beneficiaries, but also helping fellow volunteers find meaning in their own volunteering journeys. I have since conducted classes on “Be an Effective Volunteer” and other Volunteer Learning courses which promote teamwork and enhance volunteer engagement skills for in-house and external partners such as All Saints Home and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

To keep my classes engaging, I enjoy telling stories of my personal volunteering experiences to reinforce key attributes which are essential to be an effective volunteer.

Another memorable story I have is with a Taiji master helping in an old folks’ home. He was skilled in his craft and excited to create exercise moves for the residents. However, he felt helpless as the residents’ responses were lukewarm. I realised that the reason was that the moves he curated were not suitable for the residents, who were mostly wheelchair-bound. I advised the master to put himself in their shoes – squatting down to see things from where they are.

I would always use this story to stress the importance of understanding the profile of the beneficiaries we serve, and to show true empathy and respect for beneficiaries by “stepping out of my own shoes to step into someone’s shoes.” At the same time, I also look forward to hearing the stories shared by participants and volunteers and I am constantly humbled by their sharing and experience.

Besides volunteering with RSVP, I currently run my own training and recruitment agency and have accumulated over 30 years of experiences in career counselling, job skills training and career coaching. I enjoy what I do very much, and I am always keen to learn new knowledge to upgrade my skills and spend time to give back to society.

I am thankful to my family for supporting my passion in volunteerism. I am glad that values such as kindness and empathy have a positive influence on my family, as they are also active in volunteering. With their love and support, I am determined to accomplish my life-long goal in giving back as much as I can to society, so that I know I have not “wasted my life”.