An invisible enemy plagues the once buzzing Lion city, a deafening silence draws over its streets as people are driven home… …
To minimise the spread of COVID-19, a stricter set of measures known as the “circuit breaker” was introduced by the government where all non-essential services were to be suspended from 7 April 2020 onwards until further notice and schools were shifted to home-based learning on 8 April 2020.
This unprecedented crisis has affected everyone in one way or another, more so for the lower income families. With school closures in place, it is even more stressful for parents who are already financially burdened to support their children academically. In order to relieve them, Tzu Chi Singapore introduced the mentoring support program termed “Mentoring with Love” on 18 May 2020. This program provides a “2 to 1” online guidance for care recipient’s children with 2 mentors from the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association to help these children with their home-based learning as well as providing extra curriculum.
Tzu Ching contact person Gan Ming De said, “When schools transition to home-based learning, it will be difficult for low income parents to coach and help their children with their schoolwork. With the help of Tzu Chings, we hope that these children will be able to cope with their studies for this period of time.”
Many of the Tzu Chings who participated in this program as mentors were first timers. In order to ensure that they were up to the task, Tzu Chings first consulted volunteers from the Tzu Chi Teachers’ Association to understand the challenges of hosting online teaching. After which they learned more about the preparation required for the different subjects, mainly Mathematics, English and Chinese, before mentoring. Also, with some advice from home visit volunteers, Tzu Ching mentors gained a better understanding of the children’s family situation which is very crucial in knowing their learning capabilities, so as to better prepare the studies materials that will appeal to their learning approach and speed each week. Soon, an online interaction session between mentors and mentee was held days before the first session to introduce each other and get to know each other better, fostering a more friendly and warm learning ambience.
Mentoring with Love amid a pandemic
“Besides having to face with a pandemic, not being able to complete their homework is also stressful for the children,” said Tzu Ching senior Tey Yun Lan, who also shared that it was indeed a rare opportunity to be able to mentor the children and get through this tough time together with them.
Melissa from National University of Singapore (NUS) who has prior tutoring experience, shared about her previous interactions with children. She said, “My mentee was very shy and did not want to show his face initially. But as the sessions went on, he started to open up. I also learnt that he is a very mature boy as he will take the initiative to revise his own work and care for his siblings. Not only that, this mentoring session has allowed me to practice patience as we all need to give the child time to improve and learn something new.”
“There is no need to wait until we are at our best state to give help to others. Through the online mentoring sessions, I understand that helping others is not that hard if you are willing to put in your effort to help others,” said Amelia Gunawan. She also shared about her ‘Mentoring With Love’ journey and the obstacles she faced such as adjusting her mindset and finding ways to improve her mentee’s interest in learning through specially-tailored games.
From the orientation between mentor and mentee to the mentoring session, Loke Rui Xuan who majors in Mathematics at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), initially hoped that by customizing the learning materials based on her mentee’s learning speed, it would break down the topic for easier understanding. Little did Rui Xuan expect to be discouraged by the lack of interest displayed by his mentee during the online that almost drove him to giving up. However, the mentee finally showed some motivation in learning, and that gave Rui Xuan a newfound burst of determination to see things through, patiently engaging her mentee.
Ending with a virtual group photo as a keepsake, the program “Mentoring With Love” came to a fulfilling end. Sister Yeap Szu Ling, one of the program’s coordinators said, “Although there were only 3 sessions of online mentoring for each child, we sincerely hope that these children learn what it means to be kind to others, and that Tzu Chings can become their role models”.
Brother Ong Wee Heng concluded the programme by telling Tzu Chings that one will only feel touched after serving others sincerely.