Befrienders can draw inspiration from new arts toolkit

SINGAPORE - The art of conversation is vital for volunteers who befriend the more isolated members of Singapore's community, such as the elderly and underprivileged.

Now these people can turn to art to help build bonds between them.

A downloadable "Befriender's Art Toolkit" has been launched by the National Arts Council (NAC), giving befrienders step-by-step instructions of how they can take part in two activities - painting and moulding clay - to help them strike up a conversation.

However, befrienders must supply their own materials.

Ms Chua Ai Liang, senior director of Engagement and Participation at the NAC, said: "The toolkit, developed in collaboration with Singaporean artists, will equip volunteers with arts activities that encourage deeper conversations and interactions with their beneficiaries, enriching the befriending experience."

The toolkit was officially launched on Friday (July 20) at the Goodlife! Makan communal kitchen at Marine Terrace.

The event featured demonstrations of the two visual arts-based activities included in the toolkit.

For "Let's Masak Masak" - the Malay term for "cook" - seniors and volunteers used clay to mould models of herbs and spices, such as garlic and cinnamon.

For "Shape and Colour Your Dreams", they had to express themselves creatively by using the shapes and colours in their surroundings as a starting point for their drawings.

Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann, who attended the event as guest of honour, said: "The art-making process gives them a sense of achievement, a more positive outlook on life, and a stronger bond with society. Through art, we can build a more inclusive and caring Singapore."

Instructional videos for the two activities have been made available on the NAC website.

The toolkit is also the latest addition to the list of resources under NAC's ArtReach programme, which aims to increase arts access to underserved communities.

Unlike other toolkits, however, volunteers do not have to undergo any form of training to use the Befriender's Arts Toolkit.

It was tested earlier this year by volunteers from Montfort Care, Life Community Services Society and WeCare@Marine Parade.

Volunteer Lee Chong Yin, 50, from Life Community Services Society, said the toolkit helped to start a conversation with an eight-year-old boy from a low-income family. "He shared with me his ambition of wanting to become an astronaut," said Mr Lee. "The toolkit is good, because I think in our nature of befriending or volunteering, we would run out of ideas on what to talk about. It is simple to use and encourages discussion."

The NAC will work on developing more activities to add to the toolkit over the next few years.