IMPACT 0225: VOLUNTEERING THROUGH MUAY THAI
Yu Qing is a 22-year-old part-time Muay Thai coach for children. She started volunteering back in 2015 through Teck Ghee Community Club’s Youth Executive Committee. Initially, she volunteered mainly to make use of her spare time. But after volunteering at events like Camp Mumbo and Project Refresh, the sense of satisfaction gained from seeing the difference she made kept her going. We spoke with Yu Qing to find out more.
Could you tell us more about the programme you’ve been volunteering with?
Volunteering is something I began doing in 2015, primarily through two programmes called Camp Mumbo and Project Refresh.
Camp Mumbo is an annual kids camp run by Teck Ghee Community Club’s Youth Executive Committee. Founded in 1978, the camp aims to be a place where children can experience fun at its simplest form. The volunteers take on the role of instructors and are in charge of the whole camp, from the planning to execution.
Meanwhile, Project Refresh is an initiative started by Young NTUC to improve the living environments of the elderly. Participants help with simple home refurbishments, including painting and cleaning. Young NTUC conducts this event once every two to three months, or more frequently when they are able to find more volunteers and beneficiaries.
What inspired you to volunteer?
I first started my volunteering journey with Camp Mumbo back in 2015, shortly after completing my O-Level examinations. I was introduced to this camp by a friend so that we could have something to spend time on.
Before joining, I thought it would be like any other camp where instructions were given from the top and all I had to do was follow. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything much and thought this would be a one-time experience. However, after joining their first group meeting, I knew it would not be like any other camp.
The type of volunteers I met there came from different walks of life – some were like me who had just finished their national exams and were making use of their free time, while others had already been in the working world for a few years. But the one thing they all had in common was that they were warm and genuine, and were very passionate about making this camp a success.
I found that what really made this camp stand out from other volunteering events I had participated in previously was that the volunteers were doing this out of their own free will, combined with a strong sense of community. I was inspired to continue volunteering after my first experience with them.
For Project Refresh, one of the volunteers from Camp Mumbo chanced upon this volunteering opportunity back in 2019 and sent a message in our chat group asking if anyone was interested in joining her. Several of us signed up together to give it a try, and since then, we have been attending Project Refresh whenever it is held.
I have been with Camp Mumbo since 2015 and have taken on roles such as being on the organising committee. As for Project Refresh, I have been attending their events since 2019.
What kept you going back over the years?
For Camp Mumbo, beyond our regular camp registrants, we take in young beneficiaries from less privileged families either for free or at a discounted fee.
With Project Refresh, it is fulfilling to know that I was able to help make someone’s living environment a better and cleaner place to live in, especially when it is difficult to do so on their own. Seeing an elderly homeowner’s joy after seeing her newly renovated home makes you feel that joy too.
Other than cleaning up homes, we had the opportunity to help brighten up Pertapis Children’s Home by painting some decals in May 2019. The children were really excited to see the decals being painted and were eager to help us with the paintings as well.
All in all, the feeling of satisfaction and joy when my efforts are appreciated is what inspires me to keep doing what I do. It’s what makes me encourage others to join me in both volunteering projects.
Could you share some of the challenges faced when volunteering?
The most difficult thing I experienced was organising an online camp for the children last year due to COVID19 restrictions.
It was also difficult to look for new volunteers with the social gathering limitations. In the past, we would hold mass meetings to allow many potential volunteers to meet with experienced volunteers. When COVID-19 became a threat, fewer people wanted to volunteer too.
Having fewer volunteers meant that we were short on manpower and therefore had to reduce the number of registration slots available as well. Conducting an online camp also meant that it would be more difficult to engage with the children and hold their attention.
What motivates you to keep going despite these challenges?
Seeing how much the people around me have grown and how much I have grown alongside them is fulfilling. Volunteering is a fun and safe space for me to try new things and learn from my mistakes, which is truly an experience that cannot be found easily.
When I was in Year 2 at Singapore Polytechnic, I was part of the organising committees for Camp Mumbo and our CCA’s Freshmen Orientation Camp. It was a very stressful time for me and I remember feeling very overwhelmed.
I believed then that being a good leader meant that I had to know everything and could not show any signs of weakness to the members I had to lead. As such, I became very tired mentally and physically.
If there was anything I should have done differently back then, it would have been to share my worries sooner with the people around me. I failed to realise that I was in a team and that means being able to rely on my members and allow them to support me.
From that experience, I learnt to be more open about sharing my burdens as well as being more sensitive to the needs of others. Volunteering has also allowed me to expand my social network as I cross paths with people who are sincere and genuine.
Do you have any volunteer-related plans for the future?
For Camp Mumbo, our latest goal is to reach out to more schools and encourage them to send us their potential school leaders to volunteer with us. This is because our volunteers are given the chance to hone their leadership skills in a safe and fun learning environment, all while giving back to the community. I also hope to see new faces stepping out of their comfort zones.
As for Project Refresh, I hope to orchestrate a collaboration with the volunteers of Camp Mumbo to attract more people to join both community projects.
Last but not least, is there anything you would want others to know?
I believe that you gain more than you give in volunteering. I used to have the mindset that volunteering was an activity that people did only when it was compulsory and that all it did was take up your time in exchange for some temporary effects for the beneficiaries.
But having volunteered over the past few years, I can safely say that whatever I believed is not true. The people you meet will give you a new perspective of your own troubles.
I want to encourage those who have not tried volunteering to take the first step. Find something you believe in and the next few steps will be a lot easier and enjoyable. For those who have already been volunteering, you inspire me to keep going and do more.