Monday, November 29, 2010

Serving Milo at the Memory Walk

Under the the MOE's Community Involvement Programme (CIP), all secondary school kids have to do at least six hours of community service or service learning a year. Personally I think this number is too token and should be raised. You can hardly develop a spirit for volunteerism with just 6 hours a year.

Lesley-Anne' school imposes a more rigorous requirement, namely 100 hours of CIP over four years. Since the school regularly organises CIP events for the students, the requirement is not as daunting to complete as it appears.

That is, until Lesley-Anne brought home a form just before school closed for the holidays. It stated that kids from the SBGE classes had the additional requirement of completing 30 hours of self-initiated CIP (ie not organised by the school) before June 2011.

Lesley-Anne was a little miffed that this requirement was only applicable to SBGE students ("you mean only gifted kids have to do community service?") but she accepted it with grace since she is all for giving back to society anyway. At first, we thought nothing of it, maybe she could hook on to some organisation and volunteer her time during the holidays to complete the hours.

However, when she began to check online, she realised that the task was much more challenging than it appeared. First of all, you apparently can't just volunteer your time, you may only sign up for available opportunities that organisations post online, and these have to be organisations recognised for CIP. Since she was given the form so late, many opportunities during the holidays have been fully booked (I'm guessing by more clued in students desperate to clear their CIP hours!) To add to the complication, we discovered that most organisations don't accept volunteers under the age of 15.

Faced with this dilemma, there was a mad scrambling at home - Kenneth and I scouring the web for opportunities while Lesley-Anne was on the phone with her friends in the same predicament, asking if they had any lobang. Come on, I'm all for community service but when you impose a requirement that has so many administrative hurdles, it's slightly ridiculous.

Anyway, one of the opportunities we managed to find was the Memory Walk in aid of Alzheimer's patients. It was especially meaningful for Lesley-Anne since her late grandfather suffered from Alzheimer's.

So Lesley-Anne and two of her other friends signed up for the event, sacrificing their sleep-in time to make it down to the Marina Barrage by 6.30am on a Sunday morning. Kenneth too, had to wake up early to drive the girls down. When the child does CIP, so does the parent!

Initially, the girls were assigned to hand out surveys and coupons but later, they were tasked with manning the Milo van. Oooh... much more fun, methinks!

Here are the three friends, raring to serve Milo!

The walk attracted a huge turnout. There were some 5,000 registered participants, in fact when Kenneth tried to sign up for the walk, he was turned away as it was full. There were many booths and activities at the Marina Barrage for the post-walk session, including mahjong tables, puzzles etc. I think the biggest draw was the goodie bag though - typically Singaporean!

Meanwhile back at the Milo van, the volunteers were busily dishing out cups of Milo to snaking queues (not in picture, this was taken before the event started). And here's where you see ugly Singaporeans emerge from the woodwork. These are some of the stories Lesley-Anne shared after the event.

10 mins after walk started, an elderly lady zipped by to ask for Milo. Lesley-Anne's friend told her, "Auntie, you go for walk first", to which she replied, "walk already". Wah, 3.4km in 10mins - she must be a super sprinter. Or maybe she meant walking from the starting line to Milo van.

As expected, there was a high demand for Milo and it didn't help that there were the expected kiasu ones who aggravated the crowd situation by repeatedly queuing and asking for multiple cups for imaginary friends.

This particular friend of Lesley-Anne I thought was very garang - she would remember their faces and had no qualms about questioning them, "Three cups? One for you, one for your friend, who's the other one for?" or "Next time bring your friend!" One lady didn't like being interrogated over her repeated requests for multiple cups and muttered something about "the education system nowadays, students so yaya."

One person even brought his own water bottle and asked to fill it with Milo. Aiyoh, I know the Milo from Milo van is very nice lah, but still... Worse, I heard some of the volunteers were called "idiots" and "so slow" by impatient queuers. It didn't happen to Lesley-Anne but it upsets me to hear volunteers being verbally abused. I know it happens a lot with people like social workers and nurses. It's just wrong, when those who are trying to help others have to put up with this sort of mean spiritedness.

Anyway, I think this was a good experience and hopefully, through CIP, Lesley-Anne will be exposed to different forms of community service which can enrich her character.


Karmeleon said...

And yeah, my son was also asked to submit CIP plans. I think they just volunteered to help at public library. Quite boring, well, who cares.

Yes, yes, milo van milo is really much much nicer, leh! Why ah? They add extra secret "ingredients"? haha.

monlim said...

Karmeleon: Dunno leh, maybe they add melamine? Haha!

Zahra said...

If LA is open to volunteering with animals, she can volunteer at She can help them raise funds or do paperwork. I helped them out myself last year as I wanted to have the 100 hours to get 5 service points so I could get an A1 for my CCA (Red Cross). I completed 30 hours with them.

Hope this helps!

monlim said...

Zahra: Thanks so much for the tip!! Just to confirm, this agency is accepted for CIP?

elan said...

Hi Monica,
Is this 30 hour requirement for all SBGE students? Hmmm, why hasn't Chris mentioned it yet? I hope it's because they have been doing them the whole year and not because he forgot to show me a letter....


monlim said...

Elan: Don't worry, this requirement is imposed by L-A's school, not MOE so it probably isn't the same for Chris.

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,

I've been following your blog for sometimes. Been looking forward to your write-up each time. Thanks for sharing.

May I know how to go about goggle the CIP on internet? Any search/key words that can generate such CIP activites? Appreciate your kind advise.

monlim said...

Anon: You can go to the NVPC website, there you can search for CIP opportunities via organisation, beneficiary, interest, etc.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your advise Monica. Appreciate it very much :)


Lilian said...

I love the milo from milo vans. So cold and milky and chocolatey!!

Aiyah, anyway, I just feel the way CIP is done is just not right lah. Eg, what Zahra said up there, "I helped them out myself last year as I wanted to have the 100 hours to get 5 service points so I could get an A1 for my CCA (Red Cross)." Nothing personal against Zahra, I know it's just the system, but I wish it didn't need to be about fulfilling numbers or getting more points, just seems so self-serving.

I know it's better to have kids do something than nothing, but the mindset some kids are going in to fulfill the number of hours goes against the entire spirit of community giving-back.

Also, why limit kids to certain organisations. Trust issue? Frankly, I'd rather kids spend 10 hours a year helping out an elderly neighbour or whatever it is they really want to help out with than 100 hours doing tasks 'dictated' to them.

monlim said...

Lilian: Totally agree with you that with in this system, sometimes the spirit of service is totally not there, it's all about completing the quota of hours.

Like Karmeleon mentioned above about helping at NLB, "boring but who cares?" Err... no offence but actually I do. I'd rather my child learn the importance of community service then just do something meaningless for the sake of completing hours.

But I understand the need for MOE to impose this quota, I heard that some parents even complained about the 6 hours a year! The self-serving mentality is very strong lah, in our society. And I hate to put the kids in a bad light but I'm pretty sure if there was no mandated list of charities, there would be lots of "fake" time logged. Singapore still has a long way to go in this respect compared to Western countries, I feel. Just compare with what Brian is doing on a voluntary basis at an international school!

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