These Least Brothers of Mine

On 11 July 2018, I visited Agape Village (AV) to experience the Share-A-Pot programme which happens twice a week at AV. This session was also part of the pre-Social Mission Conference programme.

Catering to the vulnerable elderly, Share-A-Pot aims to engage them through various meaningful activities: Exercise, sessions on healthy lifestyle habits, bonding games and enjoying a nutritious bowl of soup over lunch.

Personally, I was heartened to see so many elderly people participating joyfully in all the activities. Though it was just a simple programme, the lively and dynamic atmosphere created by the volunteers, clearly rubbed off on the elderly participants.

More than just experiencing improvements to their physical health, these elderly participants did feel a strong sense of belonging and solidarity with one another.

For me, seeing the many smiles on the faces of the elderly, reaffirmed my desire to be a Social Worker. In my future work, I hope that I would be as life-giving and encouraging as the volunteers I saw at the Share-A-Pot programme.

Another highlight for the day, was my experience at the Mamre Oaks’ Day Activity Centre. The centre supports adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, by engaging them with a range of activities. Every Wednesday, a baking session is organised for their members.

As it was my first time interacting closely with adults with special needs, I had to take cues from the volunteers at the centre. I realised that because I did not understand the unique behavioural needs of the adults, I could not communicate well with them.

In contrast, the staff and volunteers at the centre, who had journeyed with the adults for a longer period, were able to warmly and wholeheartedly embrace them. Through their actions, the volunteers were showing that these adults, though with intellectual disabilities, were indeed gifts from God.

While I still struggle to understand this, it was moving to know that the “least brothers of mine” were being lavished with love and care. On hindsight, there was a paraphrased quote, widely attributed to St John Chrysostom, which could be used to encapsulate my experience at AV that day.

The quote reads: “If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find him in the chalice.”

This reminds me that Christ is indeed present in everyone, especially the weak and the vulnerable. Also, as much as I thought that I was the one in the position of giving, God was the one meeting me through the people I met at AV that day.

God was doing something for me. He was showing me my unique path to find joy, charity and hope. I hope that my desire to be a Social Worker will glorify Him! — Ryan Ng

“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40 During my semester break as an undergraduate Social Work student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), I decided to intern at Caritas Singapore. My internship gave me the opportunities to experience first-hand the Church’s social services for vulnerable groups.

Helping Hands

Since Advent 2006, Michael has supported the annual Charities Week as part of the counting and collection team. Madeleine who started in the counting team, now serves as coordinator for the team. Michael volunteers “for the love of God and His Church”.

He describes his journey of service as one filled with “joy, camaraderie, and fellowship” with the people he meets from the churches and Catholic schools.

Michael’s wife, Catherine, supports him in his volunteering work. “She encourages me, and she’s my good friend and confidante.” Catherine added, “God has given us so much, and volunteering is a small way of giving back.” Michael reminisced about the early years. “There were five or six volunteers and we would count money manually well into the wee hours. I would often pack dinner for the volunteers as they work past midnight.”

Not many of Michael’s friends are aware that he has been volunteering for the past 10 years. He said, “This work is confidential between the Lord and I. I just do it with full commitment and I enjoy it.”

Each year the counting team pitches in to help Caritas Singapore reach its fundraising target. The way Madeleine sees it, “donations, whether big or small, all help towards achieving the social mission of the Church.”

Madeleine described how everything was done manually in the early years while ensuring transparency and adherence to audit requirements. She expanded her involvement to include assignment of volunteer duties and ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

Madeleine also coordinates volunteers for other events such as Charity Golf and Social Mission Conferences.

Her personal motivation and satisfaction is in training new volunteers while empowering them to be part of the counting team. “At the beginning of every counting session, we pray for all the donors and volunteers. I also pray that God gives me the wisdom to ensure that everything will run smoothly. Even when we start off with insufficient volunteers, He always provides more to make a full counting team.”

Ms Frances Ng, Volunteer Coordinator at Caritas Singapore shares, “Volunteers are important partners and enablers for the work we do at Caritas Singapore and our member organisations. They bring with them gift of time, talents and love.”

It is a pleasure and privilege for Caritas Singapore to have its many volunteers and supporters.