Raising Compassionate, Empathetic and Independent Children through Red Cross Junior

For this Mother's Day feature, we cast the spotlight on Smitha Nair, a Red Cross Junior volunteer. As a mother of two children, Smitha Nair was motivated to volunteer with RCJ given her passion to equip young children with essential skills such as first aid through enjoyable activities and role plays. She started volunteering in RCJ activities in January 2022. She roped her children to join the RCJ @ Community's cheerleading squad. 

Volunteer writer Abhishek Chauhan finds out that RCJ's activities have inculcated compassion, empathy, confidence, respect and independence in Smitha's children. He is so inspired by it that he is keen to join RCJ and roping his daughter into it. 

Intrigued by the words 'Red Cross Youth' on bus rides along Chai Chee Road, Smitha Nair checked out the activities on the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) website and subsequently registered as an SRC volunteer. 

Following her Volunteer Induction Session with the SRC, Smitha volunteered in SRC's various programmes; Blood Donor Programme, Meals with Love, First Aider on Wheels, and the Disaster Surveillance Team. She also volunteered in ad hoc roles; checking the inventory, and painting containers at the Red Cross Training Campsite. I was keen to know how volunteering enriched Smitha's life.

"SRC has several volunteering opportunities. Volunteering taught me several new things and gave me a broader perspective on life. Besides appreciating what we have, I have learnt to care for people we do not know. True giving brings about happiness. I am happy to volunteer for a cause that serves a purpose for the greater good while contributing back to the community. By volunteering, I have forged meaningful friendships beyond my immediate network," Smitha said. 

Yet, a volunteering experience at a Red Cross Youth humanitarian trail in February 2021 opened the door to her true calling - the Red Cross Junior for preschoolers aged five to six years old. 

Finding Her True Calling

Recounting how she discovered her calling in 2022, Smitha said, “When I first learnt about the RCJ@Community programme, it struck a chord in my heart as I am a mother of two preschool children. I was keen on equipping children with essential skills such as first aid, through fun activities and role plays. I also believe that my experience as a mother may be useful to the organisation."

Smitha pitched in to volunteer at three Open House and training for the RCJ @ Community programme in January, February and April 2022, culminating in the launch of the Youth Hub and RCJ @ Community in September 2022. As an RCJ volunteer, she has volunteered at events such as World Red Cross Day, and festivities such as the Lunar New Year, Hari Raya, and Deepavali celebrations. She lends an invaluable hand with pre-event setup, ushering, facilitating game and activity booths, and guiding the youth on humanitarian trails. Given their short attention spans, I was keen to know the optimal way to engage the young children.

Singapore Red Cross Volunteer Smitha Nair

"Through my volunteering experience with RCJ, I have learnt that children participate more eagerly and learn better when activities are enjoyable and engaging," she said.

She lit up with a radiant smile when asked what she found most fulfilling about volunteering with RCJ.  

“The smiles on the children’s faces when they learn a new skill that I taught them was most rewarding,” she said. 

RCJ Imbues Important Values in Her Children

Inspired, she encouraged her daughter, Ameyaa, eight, and son, Reyaansh, seven, to join RCJ @ Community's cheerleading squad in May 2022. The youth of RCJ @ Community are aged from five to nine. 

“I like to be part of the cheerleading squad. I enjoy dancing with my RCJ friends and always look forward to the stage performances!” Reyaansh, now aged seven, quipped.

Besides supporting their developmental milestones, the RCJ activities have nurtured positive values in them.

Singapore Red Cross Volunteer Smitha Nair 2

“RCJ is a child-friendly place that serves as a stepping stone for their future volunteering. They learn values such as mutual respect, and the importance of caring and sharing. After joining RCJ, my children have become more compassionate, empathetic, respectful, independent and confident. I hope my children will develop a sense of responsibility towards the community and can embrace love, respect, compassion, empathy and gratitude as they grow up,” said Smitha.

Besides that, RCJ has equipped Ameyaa, now aged eight, with basic first aid skills which could be useful if someone is hurt at home. Smitha's children have become more aware of others’ needs, such as the importance of donating blood or how to respond in an emergency. 

"Ameyaa even asked recently if she could donate blood too. I was impressed by my daughter’s compassion and courage. But I advised her to wait a few more years!" Smitha shared.

At her age, when most children may be fearful of needles, Ameyaa is already considering donating blood. I was impressed that the RCJ experience has infused such compassion, courage and bravery in this little girl, from such a young age!

Besides nurturing qualities in her children, Smitha also noticed that her children have become more robust after joining RCJ’s cheerleading squad.  

Sharing the Importance of Her Volunteering Contribution to the Community

Yet, I was keen to know how Smitha’s children felt about their mother spending her weekend volunteering, instead of spending time with them.

"As a working mother, I have actively encouraged my children to be independent. The night before a volunteer session, I would explain to my children how my volunteer work will make a difference in the community. I would also share my preparations for an upcoming event. This open sharing makes my children feel they are part of something important. It also piques their interest in helping out," Smitha said. 

Bonding with Her Children at RCJ Events

The three of them have even participated in events together at RCJ — which gives them precious bonding time!

She encourages parents to volunteer while spending time with their children in RCJ activities.

Singapore Red Cross Volunteer Smitha Nair 1

“We live in a fast-paced society with fewer physical interactions with others. Participating in RCJ events motivates the kids to be more involved with their community. I would encourage parents to volunteer at RCJ, as it is a good platform to show our children that humanity starts at home. By spending time at RCJ, you create memories with your child, while nurturing them to become a more balanced and stronger individual,” said Smitha. 

As a parent, I am inspired by Smitha and her children to join RCJ myself, along with my daughter.

Kudos to Smitha and all the RCJ volunteer mothers who make time not only for their children but for others in our community. They exemplify the true spirit of motherhood — kindness, and compassion while imparting the right values to their children by leading by example.  We salute you all and wish you a very Happy Mothers’ Day! Thank you for showing us the true meaning of selfless love.

By Abhishek Chauhan, Volunteer

Copyedited by Sophie Chew, Volunteer, and Sondra Foo, Marketing & Communications

Inspired? Volunteer with the Singapore Red Cross! Find out more about Red Cross Youth.