Our Stories: At the heart of the festive season

At the heart of the festive season


Above the food and festivities, the Lunar New Year season is often a time of reconnecting with loved ones, celebrating family ties and friendships. For Ms Catherine Tan and her fellow volunteers and friends in the ‘Door Knock Charity Group’, the Lunar New Year season is also a time of giving.  

We speak to her about the bonds she’s built with the MINDS Wash team since she started organising luncheons and events with them in 2014.

How did you start organising events for MINDS Wash? 

Ms Tan: I chanced upon the MINDS Wash in 2014 a day before Chinese New Year and while queuing for my turn, I observed and realized it is the car wash that I have been hearing about. I spoke with the supervisor, George, to explore what we can do for the crew and that started a very meaningful journey.

Ms Catherine Tan (in black t-shirt and blue jeans) with the MINDS Wash crew for their annual Lunar New Year gathering in 2016

What was your initial impression of persons with intellectual disability (PWIDs)?

Ms Tan:  My impression was and still is that they are very hardworking people. While I was initially puzzled the first time I was there and a little impatient at the long waiting time for the car wash, I no longer mind it after learning about their background and needs, it is a matter of expectations and learning to be more tolerant in our society. 

How has your impression of them changed over the years? 

Ms Tan:  PWIDs look like any one of us, and you may only realize that they have special needs when you are talking to them. Hence, I feel that the general public should be more aware of this and be more tolerant. Interacting with PWIDs has made me a more patient person; I learn new things from them each time I visit. It took a while for them to warm up to me and our volunteers. As I came to understand their comfort with consistency, I ensured that we had the same team of volunteers each year so that they are able to feel comfortable with us. The first 2 years were a little more challenging; they responded to us with 1 or 2 words. Now, as we approach the car wash each, they are waving to us from afar and before we can step out of the car, they’d rush over to start talking and updating me about the current events. People often tell me that the work I am doing brings joy to the PWIDs, on the contrary, they bring me the most joy; we have to understand this, and that we can learn with them.  I am thankful for it.

From left (volunteers from the 'Door Knock Charity Group') : Ms Catherine Tan, Ms Choi Fong, Ms Winnie Ng (back) with the MINDS Wash team and at their Christmas lunch in 2019

What makes you continue organising events for them and visiting them over the years? 

Ms Tan:  I’ve learned that PWIDs work best in a scheduled environment, and I would like to keep doing this for as long as I can.  Looking into the future and for continuity, I have started to rope in the next generation of volunteers and they have been helping with the past 3 events. I hope if I am not able to do this anymore, the next generation will be able to continue doing this for as long as they can. 

Describe your favourite moment(s) with MINDS trainees at the events you’ve organised. 

Ms Tan:  The first time when I started this, the crew was very wary of us, the volunteers. My favorite moment was the first time (perhaps after the 2nd year of organising these events) they smiled and waved at us as we approached the car wash. That warmed my heart a lot because I knew then that they have accepted us as their friends.

 I also enjoy the moments when the different crew members come up to us to tell me about what is going on in their lives. I have learned to respond to them and am learning to understand them more quickly, as there is no “introduction” to their stories. They assume that I know what is going on and they jump straight into the content. For example, one of the crew members said, “Pastor said we cannot lie and ITE graduation was last week you know?” I find it pleasantly funny because it shows how comfortable they feel with me and our volunteers, sharing their experiences with us and believing that we know exactly what is going on in their lives, that was when I know that we have broken the ice and true friendships formed. 

What characteristics have you noticed in our clients that you find particularly endearing? 

Ms Tan:  Firstly, once you have earned their trust, they are with you 100%;  they do not judge. Secondly, they are very good with instructions and they have very good memory. 

To health and "HUAT"ppiness! MINDS Wash trainees look forward to the Lunar New Year and Christmas events with volunteers from the 'Door Knock Charity Group'

What are your hopes for the clients you’ve been volunteering with?

Ms Tan: I hope that we can spread a little more joy to them and their families. Personally, I hope that our society can be more tolerant and patient; that everyone, regardless of their mental or physical abilities, is understood, appreciated, and able to participate and contribute meaningfully. I wish for our society to provide equal employment opportunities to PWIDs. It can be a challenge but it is already proven at MINDS Wash and other establishments that it can work.

"People often tell me that the work I am doing brings joy to the PWIDs, on the contrary, they bring me the most joy; we have to understand this, and that we can learn with them.  I am thankful for it"

Ms Catherine Tan

We celebrate the bonds and friendship volunteers like Ms Catherine Tan and the ‘Door Knock Charity Group’ have built with our clients over the years, and the joy they bring during festive seasons.  

Volunteers play an important role in improving our clients’ quality of life, enabling our clients to strengthen social skills and build meaningful relationships with individuals outside their usual social circles.  

Be a friend of our MINDS community! Explore volunteering opportunities or consider donating to our cause.

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NOTICE OF THE 59TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF MINDS: NOTICE is hereby given that the 59th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) will be held by way of electronic means as follows: Date: Saturday , 18 September 2020 Time: 9:30am (Registration starts at 8:30am) Venue: Online via ZOOM MINDS members will be receiving an email on the notice of AGM and are strongly encouraged to register your attendance to facilitate the verification process on the day of the AGM. For enquiries regardingthe AGM, members may email to agm@minds.org.sg or call 849607358