Service as Action Reflection

This year, I went to Fujian, China for my Experience Week trip and helped to repair the traditional Tulou. I’ve also been more engaged in a variety of commuity service such as volunteering in an elderly centre and participating in the Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Build Trip in China.

1. How did you become more aware of your own strengths and areas for growth?

Elderly centre: I volunteer at the elderly centre every two Saturdays each month and I work as the receptionist, helping to settle down any elderly who enter or exit the centre, selling discounted groceries like milk powder, eggs or noodles, picking up in coming phone calls, and lending resources from the centre. Through volunteering in the centre, I found that I am quite observant and can act according to the needs of others. I tend to observe the minor things that are happening in my surrounding. For instance, when I see an elderly, perhaps on the message chair or another machine, having difficulty setting up the machine, I will go over and provide assistance. Other than this, I found that I am quite skilled in communicating with the seniors. Since most elderly have slow movements and have a slow reaction and weak hearing, I understand that they might require longer time to register what I say to them. Therefore, when communicating with these elders, I always ensure that I am speaking loud enough and very clearly, so that they can easily comprehend my message. With the experience of caring for my grandmother who is always worried that she is doing things too slowly, I also understand that elders tend to feel that they are a hindrance to younger generations’ life, so I always speak with a calm voice to ensure that they do not feel pressurised by me.

Fujian Experience Week: One of the areas for growth that I think I should have is being impatient. This is because I often want to complete things fast and sometimes neglect the quality of the task. For instance, when repairing the Tulou in Fujian, we had to fill the holes with wet dirt-soil mixtures. When I was doing this, I was worried that we might not be able to complete the entire site so I stuffed the mixture into the holes with my hands instead of filling them properly with a trowel, which was not a good idea as the mixture started to fall out a few minutes later. Therefore, I would say that my area of growth would be taking things slowly and ensuring quality.

2. How did you undertake challenges that developed new skills?

Elderly centre: One of the events that took place in the centre was delivering hot food for those who are incapable of leaving their house. As an active volunteer in the centre, I too participated in this event. It may seem that this task isn’t of much challenge, however, in reality, it actually took a great amount of time for me to deliver to 8 different houses. This is because usually these elderly are taken care of by helpers, and most of them did not know that there was going to be a volunteer delivering food, so I was treated as a stranger and was not let into the building when I spoke through the intercom. This was what became my challenge – My confidence started to diminish as I got turned down over and over again after the first home. which I visited. One time, I was not let in even after speaking to the helper for two times, so I had to call back to the centre and let the staff call the home of the senior. In fact, I actually became a little worried to press on the intercom after experiencing what happened in the first home because I didn’t enjoy the feeling of being rejected. Though, I started to realize that it was very natural for me to be rejected because from the helper’s point of view, their responsibility is to ensure the safety of the senior, so they have to be very vigilant. Therefore, I slowly got used to it and tried to explain in English who I was, which helped me to become more successful. At the end of the day, I think it was courage that I have developed by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and talking to the helper through the intercom, trying to convey to them that I have come of good intentions – to deliver food to the senior.

3. How did you discuss, evaluate and plan student-initiated activities?

After seeing my grandparents’ difficulties, I started to understand the importance of helping seniors around me. Therefore, I initiated the idea of helping out at my local elderly centre. Before being able to volunteer there, I had to call the centre and express my interest in helping them. I also had to plan an interview with the director of the centre and discuss with them to see the times that I would be available to go.

4. How did you persevere in action?

HFH: During the HFH build trip, there was a lot of heavy labour involved, such as moving bricks, mixing concrete, shoveling dirt, and laying bricks to form walls. On the first day, our group spent around 3 hours shoveling dirt from the ground to the platform. Although the shovel was heavy and it was very tiring repeating the shoveling action, I motivated myself by thinking of the difference I am making, how I am contributing to a house that will eventually be the home to a family. In fact, I was so focused on shoveling dirt that I didn’t really feel tiredness in my body until when I returned to the hotel, where I felt waves of pain hitting my back muscles.

5. How did you work collaboratively with others?

HFH: The house that my group and I were in charge of (house 6) had a lot of bricks for us to move. For the two days that we were at the build site, we spent more than 5 hours transporting bricks. This was the area where I thought we collaborated very nicely. Rather than having each person walking back and forth with the bricks, we created a human chain and transported the bricks by passing them from person to person. Not only did this consume less energy for everyone, it was also very time efficient. Other than this, I also worked collaboratively with a partner when we were using a cart to transport bricks from a further site. To ensure that we consume the least energy, we had to have great communication. This was possible as we listened to each other’s suggestions and talked about what we were going to do before actually taking action, so that we understood our plan and could minimize the chances of needing to redo a task.

Elderly centre: The elder centre has several permanent staffs, social workers and a few other volunteers like me. Therefore, when I volunteer in the centre, I always have to work with the staff who is on duty and communicate with them to see what task they have to allocate for me.

6. How did you develop international-mindedness through global engagement, multilingualism and intercultural understanding?

Fujian Experience Week: Through repairing the traditional Tulou buildings in Fujian, not only did I learn to appreciate the beauty of these historical artifacts, I also learned a lot about the local culture endorsed by the villagers who still live in these structures. By listening to the villagers talk about their first-hand experiences when they were younger, I developed my international-mindedness by learning about a new culture and tradition.

7. How did you consider the ethical implications of your actions?

While doing service, I always strive to understand the goal of my action, seeing how it relates to the bigger picture, regarding how it would help the society. To illustrate, I understand that by helping to move bricks and shovel dirt in the HFH build trip, I am contributing to the idea that everyone should have the right to a safe home. Other than this, repairing the Tulou has allowed me to recognize the importance of preserving the historical and cultural artifacts, as well as taught me to appreciate and accept the diversity of groups in this world.


Fujian, China Experience Week


Conghua, China HFH Build Trip:

Elderly Centre: