“It’s Singapore’s 50th birthday!”
Under the lead of Tzu Chi volunteers, 69 Institute of Mental Health patients left their wards and gathered at the Multi-purpose Hall. Upon seeing the stage decorated with different designs of the SG50 gift bags, they babbled excitedly and started to clap.
Since 2003, volunteers from Tzu Chi Singapore have been making care visits to IMH patients every month without fail. On 30 August 2015, volunteers organised a 1950s / 1960s themed activity to bring cheer to the patients as they take a walk down the memory lane.
At 2.15pm in the afternoon, Tzu Chi volunteers Lin Ming Ji and Wen Xiu Juan, both dressed in Singapore’s national flag colours of red and white announced that the event had started. The event commenced with a leader guiding the groups of patients around as they viewed related posters which illustrated the history of Singapore’s development. Volunteers garbed as “samsui women” (early immigrant female construction workers from Guangdong) from the days of yore, explain and display items at their booth, such as a traditional iron, sewing machine, clogs, a gramophone record, and colourful marbles.
Volunteers also gave much thought to create stations dedicated to familiar children’s games played in the “kampong (village) days,” such as “capteh” and “five stones”, so that patients could relive their childhood memories. They could accumulate stamps at every station and later exchange them for traditional snacks.
In addition, there was a mockup of a “kacang puteh (Indian street snack)” stall manned by a young Indian volunteer named Aulkomar. Hailing from India, Aulkomar has worked in Singapore for quite a few years and had gotten to know of Tzu Chi and its activities while participating in Tzu Chi’s health screening programme in the Yuhua community. Upon the invitation of Tzu Chi, he had readily agreed to take part in the day’s activities. Clad in his sarong and headscarf, he looked every bit the “kacang puteh” stall owner that he was asked to play. Also available that day at the snacks corner, were biscuits, the “birds nest drink”, as well as ice-cream that the patients loved.
At the encouragement of volunteers, patients took turns to play the games at the various stations. The Multi-purpose Hall at the IMH was temporarily transformed into a fun playground as patients enjoyed themselves, even though their motions were a little slower. Especially popular was the guessing game of “Tikam-Tikam” which attracted many patients as they could win candies and even walk away with chocolate snacks.
After all the action, it was finally time for everyone to sit down and await the start of the “performance” segment. This proved to be the favourite; as volunteers performed to the best of their abilities onstage, their appreciative audience swayed to the beat of the music. Some patients even bravely took to the stage to belt out their favourite songs. Also included among the visual treats lined up for patients that day were dances from the 1960s and 1970s, kindly presented by a few different charity organisations.
In celebration of SG50, the volunteers also prepared small Singapore flags and distributed them to the patients and medical care workers at the IMH. They had wanted to bring celebratory cheer to the IMH before the close of August, and all their efforts made the scene of waving flags accompanied by an enthusiastic rendition of the song, “Stand up for Singapore”, possible that day.
Zew Htwa from Myanmar who has worked at the IMH for eight years expressed his gratefulness to Tzu Chi. He explained that getting patients to leave their sick wards and integrate into society again is a step towards their recovery. When they interact with others, their fear of strangers will go away, and Tzu Chi has the manpower to help them in this aspect. He ended with the heartwarming conclusion that IMH patients will definitely remember the cheer they experienced that day!