First came the sun, beating down on the tents and the people within them, then came the torrential rain, causing water to first trickle, then gush in a torrent through the exhibition area.
International Volunteer Day 2011 Walk with Me was not without its moments of high drama. But the one thing that emerged that Saturday in November is that the volunteer spirit - that electric feeling you get when good-hearted people gather to support causes they believe in – won’t ever be doused by something as changeable as Singapore’s tropical weather.
Had you been there at *SCAPE on 26 November, you might have seen the nine non-profit groups doing their utmost to win the Fire Pitch; where the audience comprising mainly corporates voted to award two prizes, one to the group with the most compelling idea, and the other to the one with the most creative presentation. After the live vote, The Singapore Association for Deaf (SADeaf) and WE CARE Community Services Limited respectively walked away with a $4,000 cash prize each.
Perhaps most unique and a big hit among visitors was the Experience with Me exhibition, where pressing social needs in Singapore were showcased at an Experential Centre created right in the heart of Orchard Road. Eight exhibits spanning Community; Health; Special Needs; Elderly; and Animals and the Environment, allowed participants to come face-to-face with some of the daily challenges encountered by those in-need. Highlights included:
- What life is like for an elderly person living within the confines of a one-room flat in Singapore, replete with bed bugs;
- The everyday challenges faced by those in wheelchairs, having to navigate tight corners, grass patches, long ramps, narrow HDB corridors flanked by potted plants;
- A simulation of what life is like for someone with schizophrenia, where voices and shadows were recreated through audio and shadow-casting techniques;
- A moving reversal of roles, where a visually-impaired guide helped visitors through a pitch-black room, laid out very much like what you’d find in an average home; and
- A forest trail (which became even more authentic in the ensuing rain) where rangers showed visitors how to tag trees.
A myriad of causes were on full display at the Connect with Me area – where 48 non-profits had the opportunity to showcase their work (and what motivates them to do it) to the public. Despite the heat and humidity and then the rain, it was heartening to witness many volunteers and non-profits bonding over their shared desire to make a difference in Singapore. Visitors also had their eyes opened to the many needs existing behind the glitter and glamour of Singapore’s urban streets.
Said one visitor, Juliah Bee, "I stayed on till it closed. It's a good concept, the whole walk through and Experience With Me trail. It should be a permanent fixture, somewhere I feel every primary and secondary school student should go through to figure out which cause they like before they start their CIP activities. It's extremely impactful! Hats off! My favourite part was the hearing impaired and forest trail."
At the heart of the event, is the simple wish to thank the many selfless volunteers who go about their daily lives bringing cheer to those in need and making a difference to their communities, and to their country.
And what better way to say a huge shout-out to these truly special people than via an epic five-hour live concert? Rock with Me drew as many rounds of applause as it did shouts of affirmation. Two sets of volunteer emcees, irrepressible duo Zhang Tingjun and Max Loong, and MediaCorp 987’s Divian and Jacqui, wove a bright tapestry out of the many acts and stories that came on stage that day. Who could forget the pure beauty and gravity of 10 year-old Miguel Antonio’s voice? Or the sass and spunk of Grandma Mary’s electric guitar performance? Not to mention the hidden singing talents of Gurmit Singh and Hossan Leong, which literally brought the crowd to their feet. And the many, many more acts that graced the stage and put smiles on faces (and in some cases, tears).
Guest-of-Honour Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Community Development, Youth & Sports laid down the gauntlet to those at the event: that were each volunteer to inspire and to spur two others to step forward and give their time, then we’d be on our way to effecting greater social change.
Mr Chan then proceeded to meet and greet volunteers, handing out ice creams; his simple way of saying thanks for all the hard work.