Weathering Extremes to Warm Hearts and Enrich Lives
Volunteers braved harsh conditions to share knowledge at CapitaLand Xingfuzhilu Hope School, Inner Mongolia
Issue: Dec 2011
The Mongolian students at CapitaLand Xingfuzhilu Hope School were all smiles at the visit of CapitaLand staff volunteers
By October this year, summer in Inner Mongolia has all but faded and temperatures begin to dip, sometimes to as low as -1°C at night. In the day, it is warmer, though at 3°C, only marginally so. Even when temperatures climb to 16°C, strong winds make the environment largely unwelcoming.
But the extreme weather conditions did not deter 28 CapitaLand staff and 9 Chinese volunteers from top enterprises in China from registering for this volunteer expedition to CapitaLand Xingfuzhilu Hope School in Inner Mongolia. This school consists of two campuses – one catering to the Chinese stream and the other to the Meng (a minority language) stream.
"As we walked between the two campuses, the cold winds would blow sand and dust into our faces. It is not an experience you would forget easily but all these did not matter once we see the children," said Adeline Seow, Property Executive of CapitaLand Commercial Limited.
Despite the uncomfortable conditions, the volunteers remained enthusiastic about this expedition.
Zheng Wenying, Management Trainee attached to CapitaMalls Asia (CMA) China, agreed, "The children there have a hunger for knowledge. I wanted to bring them knowledge and hope."
The happy children showing off their masterpieces after the orchid painting lessons
Teaching the Next Generation
Volunteer expeditions to CapitaLand Hope Schools often have different agendas and activities, depending on the needs of the schools. In some cases, the schools require extra hands to help in the upgrading and refurbishment of premises. At other times, as with this expedition, volunteers are there to enhance the learning experience of the children with their individual expertise and areas of specialty.
In addition to lessons on the usual disciplines such as English, Math and Science, the 226 primary school children in the two schools were also given interesting enrichment classes such as computer, dance, music, movie appreciation and photography. The children also had a go at orchid painting, tile painting, kite painting and kite flying and on one of the days, a camp fire. On the final day of their expedition, the volunteers also organised a Sports Day in which the children wrestled, sprinted, played tug-of-war and ball games.
The children had fun at tile painting and created cute plasticine replicas of Clarke Quay and the symbolic Merlion during the Singapore Story lessons
There was also a special treat in the form of two culturally themed activities: a Vietnamese dance lesson and a walk-through Singapore’s history with plasticine model-making.
As the expedition comprised of volunteers from Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, culturally themed activities such as a Vietnamese dance lesson and a walk-through of Singapore’s history with plasticine model-making were also included in the lesson plans. Such special treats enabled the children to get to know other international cultures.
Pham Ngoc Thanh Ngan, Research Executive from CapitaValue Homes and based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, was responsible for choreographing the Vietnamese dance with her colleagues, Cao Nam Hai and Cao Tuan Dung. Pham recalled their challenge, "We didn’t have access to a professional dance coach so we used whatever resources we had – personal experience, friends, and videos. We decided to design moves that were fairly easy and could be taught in 30 minutes."
In lieu of Vietnamese costumes, the team brought the children props in the form of drums instead since the song they were dancing to was Trong Com which literally meant "rice drum". It turned out to be a stroke of genius.
Young students learning the Vietnamese dance and participating in wrestling during Sports Day
Fellow volunteer, Crystal Xu, Marketing Executive from The Ascott Limited, Shanghai, China, taught photography. "I wanted the students to appreciate the beauty around them through photography. Their physical surroundings may not be the best but, by developing inner strength and beauty, they can still live life to the fullest," said Xu.
Uniting in Hope
What came out beautifully and naturally from this expedition was the bond that was forged amongst the volunteers as they co-operated with one another.
"Even though I was quite tired from the long travels, the camaraderie amongst the volunteers touched and inspired me. I felt energised. (The expedition) is my best achievement," said Crystal Deng, Housekeeping Supervisor from Somerset Orchard Singapore.
In fact, the fellow workers made the trip even more memorable. "I really like the colleagues whom I got to spend quality time with, people who shared my vision and mission to do good. The trip was filled with laughter. I’m proud to be part of an organisation with good intentions and real efforts to make a lasting impact, to share our fortunes in a way that would only multiply them," said Pham.
The Han School Principal, Sun You, commended on the efforts of the volunteers. "The volunteers were very knowledgeable and well-prepared in their lesson plans. Upon their arrival at the school, they demonstrated a sense of strong commitment and modified their teaching plans quickly, which was an excellent example for the children."
Working together for the children drew the volunteers together
Leaving a Lasting Mark
The good that the volunteers did in Inner Mongolia did not simply end there. They had brought over 200 English books to CapitaLand Xingfuzhilu Hope School which will benefit the children at the school. These books were donated by kind-hearted office tenants and staff of CapitaLand during CapitaLand Hope Foundation’s "Gift-A-Book, Share-The-Love" charity book fairs held at Capital Tower and Six Battery Road in Singapore this September. (Read "Gift-A-Book, Share-The-Love" charity book fairs)
The maturity, affection and eagerness of the children warmed the hearts of the volunteers
"I learnt not to waste resources. I also saw the value of co-operation and team work," said Carine Mak, Leasing Executive of Raffles City Singapore as she recalled the lack of water and minimal baths they took during this expedition in arid Inner Mongolia.
"We have the comfort, convenience of services and stability. We must be contented and appreciate what we have. Our problems are nothing compared to theirs," said Margaret Khoo, General Manager of Raffles City Singapore, Bugis Junction and iluma.
The harsh conditions in Inner Mongolia certainly cannot cool the children’s fervour in acquiring new knowledge nor the warmth of volunteers all around.