On 19th and 26th June 2021, Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association (also known as “Tzu Ching”) organised 2 “Fun Day with Love” sessions as part of the third “Mentoring with Love” online mentoring support programme (MWL). As the online mentoring programme drew to a close, the supervisors, alongside the Tzu Ching and children of Tzu Chi’s care recipients, gathered online to affirm the bonds that they have forged over the past three months. Although the session had to be held online in accordance with the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) restrictions, everyone attended the session at the comfort of their homes, and the atmosphere was no less heart-warming.
The online mentoring support programme was initiated by the Charity Development Department last year amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. This is the third time the programme has been running since it started in May 2020. The Charity Development Department collaborated with the members from Tzu Chi Teachers’ Association and Tzu Ching to provide academic assistance to the children of Tzu Chi's care recipients. The online mentoring programme is currently helmed by Tzu Ching and Senior Tzu Ching.
From March to June 2021, 40 Tzu Ching and Senior Tzu Ching members stepped up to become academic mentors for the care recipients’ children. Lessons were held in a 2 to 1 ratio, which allowed 20 mentees to receive not just academic assistance but also learn about Tzu Chi’s humanistic spirit.
Towards the end of the mentoring sessions, the team was hopeful and eager to organise the get-together sessions. During the planning period, the team intended to have the mentees meet their mentors face-to-face since the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures allowed for two household visitors per day. However, the tightened restrictions meant that the team had no choice but to shift their planned activities online. Ms Tang Min Hui, one of the coordinators for the “Mentoring with Love” programme, shared that the team wanted to have some gifts for the mentees in a bid to share their love and warmth.
Four programme coordinators went around Singapore 2 weeks prior to the online get-together sessions to distribute the 20 fun packs to the children in batches. They also kept a lookout for children who had previously indicated that they would be unavailable for the online get-together session and ensured that they would not be left out. The fun pack contained two packets of Jing Si cocoa powder, reusable cutlery, and materials needed for the get-together activities. Additionally, the children were also assigned a special task - to make cards for Tzu Ching members as a surprise gift.
The children were especially excited and happy as they did not expect to receive the fun pack. The coordinators also went the extra mile to contact the mentees when nobody was home to inform them that the fun packs had been safely delivered to them.
Seeing creativity through the eyes of children
On the day of the online “Fun Day with Love” session, Tzu Ching and care recipients logged on promptly. In order to increase interaction amongst participants, the ice-breaker challenged the mentees’ creativity as they were tasked to draw different pictures using shapes such as circles, triangles and rectangles. Upon completing the activity, the children were eager to share their work, which depicted things such as pandas, puppets, and cameras.
Eight-year-old Terry was really proud and excited to show everyone what he drew in front of the camera. He enthusiastically shared how he used the rectangle to depict a bear, the triangle to depict a hen, and the circle to depict a lollipop. The atmosphere livened up as the care recipients took turns to share about what they have drawn.
In the second segment, the emcee led the children step by step and taught them how to make a mask holder using a plastic file. Although it was difficult to demonstrate the steps online, the children still managed to finish making the mask holder under the clear guidance of the emcee.
The coordinator of the mentoring programme Ms Phua Yi Yin, who was also the emcee for the session, shared that the team wanted an activity whereby participants across all ages could enjoy. Hence, they settled on a handicraft activity. They decided to have participants make a mask holder not only because it is practical, but more importantly, to educate the children that used products can be upcycled to give it a new lease of life.
Nurturing gratitude through farewell gifts
After that, Tzu Ching and the children watched a video to reminisce the memories that they have forged together over the last three months of the mentoring programme. The video also included words of encouragement that Tzu Ching wanted to convey to the children. They said in unison, “Thank you for being my mentee!” As the English version of the song “Gratitude, Respect, Love” played, the atmosphere turned more heart-warming, moving many people to tears.
After viewing the video, everyone split into breakout rooms to carry out their own thanksgiving session. The children took out their thank you cards to the Tzu Ching, which caught them by surprise and touched their hearts. The children also shared with them their 7-day gratitude journal, which was also a task assigned to them in the fun pack.
The affirmations segment allowed the children and the Tzu Ching to forge stronger bonds. In the thank you letter written by 7-year-old Arissa Chen, she expressed her gratitude to Senior Tzu Ching Ms Yap Hui Na and Tzu Ching Ms Winy through her words:
“Dear elder sisters,
Thank you for teaching me how to show my concern and love for others. Both of you are very smart, and I learnt a lot from you two. Thank you so much for what you have done for me, and I love you.”
Although Hui Na and Winy were not expecting anything in return, the thoughtful act by Arissa brought a smile to their faces. Hui Na was elated that Arissa’s English had improved significantly and how she became more willing to step out of her comfort zone and try new things. She also reminded Arissa that she should clarify her doubts with her teacher, whereas Arissa kept asking the Tzu Ching when they could meet again, showing how much she misses them.
The 7-day gratitude journal prompted the children to record what they were grateful for every day. Brothers Wang Hua and Wang Jun shared their journals with the Tzu Ching. The prompt for the first journal entry was to show gratitude for those around them, and older brother Wang Hua wanted to thank the Tzu Ching mentors who have given him guidance, while younger brother Wang Jun wanted to thank his older brother for being willing to teach him Chinese and play with him. After that, Wang Hua took the initiative to hug his brother, which was a touching moment for all. Senior Tzu Ching Ms Tan Qin Ye reminded them that they should be grateful for each other often, as they are brothers after all.
The brothers then shared about their second journal entry, which was to be grateful for one of the strengths that they have. Wang Hua was grateful that he came in first in running during his PE lesson, while Wang Jun was grateful for his strength in playing soccer. As the children shared about their gratitude journals, their days became more wholesome and fulfilling.
Bringing infinite hope with unwavering support
“Little dreams in my heart
Through the confusion of youth
I will become stronger...”
In the special segment, Arissa’s performance was shown. In order to express her gratitude to her mentors, she volunteered to perform the song “The Most Beautiful Light” and two piano pieces by recording it as a video. Upon seeing Arissa’s innocence and cuteness in the video, everyone was impressed, and it even moved her Tzu Ching mentors to tears. After the performance, Arissa shared how she took conscious efforts to practice the pieces every day as they were not easy for her.
Primary 6 student Aleysha, who went through two seasons of mentoring, shared that she was extremely grateful for the academic help she received through the programme, as well as for the new mentors she met. She elaborated on how in such times, some students are unable to receive face-to-face tutoring, and she was really thankful for having the opportunity to attend the mentoring programme.
The online get-together session brought about joy and tears, where the care recipients’ children could feel the love and concern from the Tzu Ching, while the Tzu Ching could also feel the joys and sadness that accompanied the children during their growing up years. The “Mentoring with Love” programme was certainly an unforgettable experience for both mentors and mentees as participants came together to experience the joys of teaching and learning.