My journey with Beautiful People for the last 3 years and counting can simply be summarised as
"Welcoming mornings and a chance to see genuine smiles and curious kids."
No matter what the activities were, we would have fun. The activities gave us several opportunities to bond with the mentees. Some days, we had fun playing basketball after a short discussion, other days, we would tour the neighbourhood, and help out the elderly or have a conversation with them. Right after our training at the Braddell House, we go to the Youth Development Centre one weekend to meet these really shy and cute kids. They were all shy at first to talk but as we introduced ourselves, and did some activities along with them, they were ready to open their mouths during our makan sessions.
Eventually, we had many sessions every 2 weeks and I got the chance to chit chat a lot with Nicholas. One of the smartest kids in the lot who always had a book to read and would be the most enthusiastic to answer any question we would ask the group. Through a variety of activities that involved art, cooking and outdoor activities, we engaged the kids and made them understand some key aspects that could help shape them as better human beings. We also had a lot of chances to share meals with them in the outdoors in the first year when we took them to malls, interacting with the elders around YDC and also dragon boat rides! Some of these activities got them in very high spirits and very hungry!
All along the way, we had identified our mentees who would be paired up with us for activities. Nicholas's interests at one point were inclined towards gaining more knowledge in computer programming languages like Python. Which happened to be good for me! As that is what I work on for a living! So apart from our group sessions, Nicholas and I had zoom calls (before zoom calls was everything!) to learn and discuss the basics of python. During these sessions, he was able to share more about what he understands about the future and some grievances about how little screen time he gets, or the tuition he had to go to. This made us a little closer.
In 2020, when the pandemic struck, we had to rethink the way we did sessions with the group. We tried Zoom calls, smaller group meetings and also individual catch ups. Sometimes we had good sessions, but mostly the calls were not that useful. Luckily, by the end of the year, due to relaxation of measures, we were able to meet again in split teams. This gave us some quality time to make plans to meet and do a variety of different activities that were allowed. The mentees in fact got involved in budgeting these activities along with us based on what they liked to do.
One of the goals for the year was for them to identify how they wanted to contribute to society. They felt they wanted to raise funds and donate. Fortunately, there was an art competition where we could sell our hand-made greeting cards. One of our mentees managed to sell their card and contribute as well. This was a major achievement which we all celebrated. At the end of 2021, some of them had gotten their PSLE results and I was personally happy that Nicholas had made it to express. He had gotten a new found motivation to do better in everything. He made goals to lose weight, score well in all subjects and also started meeting me for breakfast and walks more often. These brief meetings were a mix of silences, good food, random questions on science, crypto currency, gaming and some curious questions and thoughts on his ambitions.
We have just restarted the activities for this year. We have already had some catch ups where I was able to introduce some new volunteers to Nicholas. I am yet to meet all of them in a group as I was busy at the start of the year. Looking forward to the next session and catch up!