During her first volunteering session with MINDS’ Me Too! Club in 2016, volunteer Connie Ang remembers seeing a member sitting alone, not participating fully in the activities being conducted. Connie learned that this member was Joyce Han, who was independent and cautious when participating in group activities and interacting with volunteers.
Connie recalls her first few interactions being filled with long durations of silence as Joyce did not respond to her questions or instructions. She also recalls feeling rejected and discouraged when Joyce repeatedly declined her invitations to participate in activities together. Despite these rejections, Connie continued engaging Joyce, often by simply sitting with her while taking part in the arts and crafts activities.
With each activity, Connie learned Joyce’s likes and dislikes by observing the things she willingly took part in. She built on these observations, preparing activities she knew Joyce would enjoy. “It’s like knowing each other’s patterns”, Connie mentioned as she fondly recounted how she would pretend to start on an activity alone to encourage Joyce to join in.
Connie progressed to be a befriender, visiting Joyce at home, and going out with Joyce and her mother – Mdm Tan. These visits and outings brought the three of them closer as they found common interests in hobbies like baking. Connie remembers how she could easily lose track of time with them, and lovingly jokes about the times she and Mdm Tan used creative methods to persuade Joyce to join them for walks in the park. COVID-19 and Circuit Breaker, however, proved itself a challenge to these hard-earned friendships as activities were put on hold. Despite these disruptions, Connie, Joyce, and Mdm Tan continued to stay in contact through calls, chatting about baking tips and updating each other about their lives.
The friendship between Connie, Joyce and Mdm Tan blossomed into one that Connie holds on to dearly. She fondly recounts how Joyce would nag at her to go home after a long day of activities, eventually learning from Joyce’s mother that Joyce would stand by the window to say goodbye till Connie was out of sight. “(We’re) really friends”, Connie tenderly states.
With International Friendship Day coming up, we celebrate friendships like those of Connie, Joyce, and Mdm Tan. We celebrate friends who go the extra mile to be inclusive of differences and who take the extra step in pushing us out of our comfort zones.