Turns out Gandhi knew what he was talking about! This week was my first week volunteering at the riding for the disabled Singapore. Being that I am totally socially awkward, this was always going to be a massive challenge for me. I had a false start when I turned up super early as I wasn’t too sure how long the bus would take (turns out – 15 mins and not the 50 I had allowed), and the lesson had been cancelled due to the haze from the Indonesian forest fires. But I showed up again on Thursday ready to ‘sidewalk’ two local children on a horse names Kodie. Although I was very quiet and observant to begin with (I was doing on the job training so had no idea what to expect or do!), I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and found it so rewarding to see a change in the children after one session. Side walking involves looking after the child though the whole session, interacting, encouraging them to join in the games to benefit mentally and physically and to look after their safety and wellbeing. Coming from a country that requires police checks just to be in the same room as a child, I found this very daunting. My second day wasn’t so easy as I had a child in distress and a pony with attitude (should have realised this as soon as I was told the horses name started ‘princess’). The way of controlling the situation was to sing nursery rhymes for the full 45 mins – had the school known how tone deaf I am, they may have thought twice about me taking on this role. Fortunately we were all in the capable hands of a pro side walker who was fantastic. I learnt two things in this lesson 1) I don’t actually know that many songs and 2) three blind mice is actually a gruesome inappropriate tale to sing to a child.
High on my smug righteousness I decided to continue my good deeds by signing up to do a morning shift in a soup kitchen. The fact that when I first got here I was told Singapore was a rich country with no homelessness, I rather naively thought it would be a quick morning. Instead it was a hot few hours in the kitchen followed by an opportunity to go out and deliver the food and see where it all goes. Unfortunately, all 5000 meals made that day are needed by Singapore’s elderly and mentally ill and they rely on this service to be able to eat.