CDAC award for volunteers who helped ease girl, 11, into primary school life

One of the teams receiving the award is Red Ruby, which includes (from left) Lim Chay Bee, 60, Lee Kwai Peng Vivien, 68, Tan Poh Jee and Tan Xue Ling, both 30.
One of the teams receiving the award is Red Ruby, which includes (from left) Lim Chay Bee, 60, Lee Kwai Peng Vivien, 68, Tan Poh Jee and Tan Xue Ling, both 30. ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

SINGAPORE - Five times a week, over a year, a group of volunteers took turns mentoring an 11-year-old girl in English, Chinese, Mathematics and social skills - to help her ease into primary school life, as she had not received any formal education.

Ms Lim Chay Bee, 60, a volunteer with the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), said of the girl: "I realised she couldn't write, so I started with that, first teaching her the months of a year."

On Sunday (Sept 23), Ms Lim and her team of three other volunteers received an award for their work at the CDAC's 12th Volunteers' Day at Safra Toa Payoh.

Their team was one of three to be recognised at the event, where seven volunteers also received commendation awards and 234 volunteers received long-service awards.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Sunday, Ms Lim and her team said the girl they coached is "coping well in primary school" now.

Based on their schedules, the team met her on different days, focusing on specific subjects, said Ms Lim.

Added team member Tan Poh Jee, 30, who works in the education sector: "For a girl who hadn't been to school for formal education, it's also her behavioural and emotional support that we were looking at. We tried to get her to open up to us, so she would be more interested and willing to learn. We would also discuss her progress on a WhatsApp group."

The other two members are retiree Vivien Lee Kwai Peng, 68, and accountant Tan Xue Ling, 30.

On Sunday, CDAC board member Baey Yam Keng, who is Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and for Culture, Community and Youth, thanked the non-profit group's 3,000 volunteers for their contributions.

Building on a framework developed last year to define training programmes for the volunteers, Mr Baey said the CDAC will be going a step further to come up with a roadmap defining competencies needed for its volunteer programmes.

Also at the event was Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng, who noted the importance of volunteers' work, highlighting the case of a 17-year-old beneficiary who went on to become a volunteer herself.

He cited another instance of a volunteer who mentored a young boy who had failed his Primary School Leaving Examination a few times. He eventually passed, with her help, and graduated from the Institute of Technical Education. He now has a child of his own.

"I do not know each individual story, but for me, that is an inspiring story that makes volunteering worthwhile," said Mr Ng, who added that he hopes more people, including the young man with a child, will come forward to lend a hand. "Our collective effort is what makes Singapore."