Singapore Red Cross volunteer V Ranjeeta shares her Lunar New Year Celebrations with Red Cross Home for the Disabled. Photos by Boey Kae-Rene and Robert Luk, Volunteers

Living in a city like Singapore, a melting pot of cultures across Asia, provides all with a unique opportunity unlike any other – the chance to take part in different cultural festivities regardless of race, language or religion. Over the years, my experiences of Chinese New Year festivities mainly involved admiring the vibrant decorations lighting up Chinatown and clapping along to festive songs with classmates in school. Strolling down the festive street bazaar in Chinatown this year for the first time, I realised that all I had seen thus far were only glimpses of what the Lunar New Year celebrations could be like. Despite being a Singaporean, I felt as though I was a tourist sitting on the top deck of a Hippo tour bus, gazing out at the revelry like a foreigner. Here, I was witnessing captivating celebrations but not being privy to their significance.

Opportunities to immerse oneself in the festivities of a different culture are usually few and far between. Fortunately, the annual Lunar New Year Celebrations at the Red Cross Home for the Disabled (RCHD) has given me such a momentous chance to celebrate with friends and family, residents and staff alike. Organised by the Red Cross Youth - Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Chapter, the student volunteers worked together to spread the joy of the season with the RCHD residents and warmly ushered in the Year of the Dog on 10 February 2018.

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The celebrations got off to a roaring start with the much-anticipated lion dance performance by the NTU Chinese and Lion Dance troupe. As the Guest-of-Honour, Singapore Red Cross Chairman Mr Tee Tua Ba and his wife arrived, the troupe regaled guests with the splendour of a spirited lion dance performance. Year after year, the troupe has taken the mantle of the opening act at the RCHD celebrations and their performance never failed to delight everyone gathered for the occasion.

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With everybody getting into the spirit of the celebrations after that invigorating performance, Mr Tee took to the stage to give a welcome speech and start the programme proper. He shared how heartening it was to see youth volunteers serving the underprivileged and disadvantaged in society to celebrate a joyous ocasion. Indeed, his appreciation for the students was evident as he acknowledged them for taking time off their academic schedules to do so. As the chair of the Portcullis Group of Companies, Mr Tee pointed out that more than $270,000 was raised at the recent Charity Dinner marking the 10th Anniversary of Corporate Social Responsibility efforts for RCHD. These funds will go towards modernising caregiving systems at the Home, which he shared we can look forward to by end May. These would not only enhance the quality of life of the residents, but also ease the physical demands placed on caregivers.

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As Mr Tee concluded, all guests came together to toss the Yu Sheng, also known as the Prosperity Toss, for good fortune while shouting their wishes and aspirations for the new year. Certainly, it was an eye-opening experience for me, as this was the first time I participated in tossing the Yu Sheng. It was exciting and I appreciated the chance to learn more about the significance of this practice during the celebrations too. Interestingly, I learnt that although the tradition of tossing Yu Sheng is believed to originate from China, the contemporary version of the practice was created and popularised in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries.

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To continue, volunteers from the NTU Chapter put up an entertaining skit, explaining the meaning of auspicious practices and taboos, such as avoiding black clothing during the festive season. The skit concluded with a surprise lucky draw for residents, leaving a smile on the faces of the winners. Of course, the festivities would not feel complete without everyone joining in the Chinese song singing session. While singing along Mr Tee and the God of Fortune, resplendently clad in a red embroidered robe, shook hands with residents and family members, offering their well-wishes to them for the new year. They also gave out oranges, hongbao (red packets) and goodie bags to bring good fortune and prosperity to them.

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Speaking to residents, their relatives, staff and volunteers, it was unmistakable that everyone had immensely enjoyed the programmes this year.

“This year’s celebrations felt very warm and engaging, with lots of exciting performances. The residents enjoyed themselves and were thrilled by the lion dance performance,” said Staff Nurse Lee.

Mr Sashi Kumar, deputy head of RCHD, shared this was his first Lunar New Year celebration at RCHD. He appreciates the volunteer participation in both organising and celebrating the festive season. Furthermore, he was happy to see the residents and their families vastly enjoy themselves throughout the programme.

Having concluded the celebrations successfully, the NTU youth volunteers felt that bringing festive cheer to RCHD was worth all the effort and planning over the last three months.

Xu Xinyi, a CIP officer of the NTU chapter, shared that all members worked closely together to create a captivating programme, tailoring it to best attract the residents’ full attention. United in serving the Home, she felt that the members were able to bond further with one another as well.

“Thinking beyond oneself and working together to create this celebration for RCHD felt rewarding. Even though it felt stressful at the beginning to plan this event from scratch, seeing the happiness on the residents’ faces made it all worthwhile in the end. It was definitely a good way for all of us students to spend the weekend doing something good and caring beyond ourselves,” said Josefanny Amadea, another CIP officer who organised the festivities this year.

Undoubtedly, it was gratifying for the students to see their hard work touch the hearts of residents, brightening their lives during this Lunar New Year.

Here’s wishing all our readers a Happy Lunar New Year and a pawsperous Year of the Dog!

Ong Sin Wee, a regular in SAF and Chan Wen Xin, a final year undergraduate in Nursing at NUS, share how they first met and their volunteering efforts with the Singapore Red Cross. Both Sin Wee and Wen Xin are involved in Disaster Management curriculum in RCY.

How did you meet each other?

Sin Wee: We first met at a Red Cross Youth (RCY) Challenge where we were in the same committee. She was one of the mentors who was caring for her mentees and it is one of the character traits she possesses till today.

Wen Xin: I first met Sin Wee at the Red Cross Youth Challenge, where he was a Volunteer Instructor while I was a cadet in Secondary 3. I felt that he was a senior who did not like to talk and was unfriendly. I had also seen him at our inter-unit hiking activity. My perspective of him changed when we worked closely together in the same committee. From someone who was unfriendly, he slowly became someone caring. We got together after a district chalet ended where he confessed his feelings to me under my block.

How long have you been together?

Sin Wee: 2.5 years

Describe your partner in three words.

Sin Wee: Caring, Giving, and mine

Wen Xin: Selfless, caring, loving

What was the most memorable when you were dating?

Sin Wee: I was all shy while dating. I remember the first time when we held hands as she suddenly held my hands. That was how we started as a couple.

Wen Xin: Every moment we spend together is memorable. There was once when I went on a class trip to Thailand. When we came back, he was waiting at the gates holding a signboard with my name. While it was quite embarrassing for me, it was also funny because my whole class saw it.

How are you both involved in the Singapore Red Cross?

Sin Wee: I am involved mainly in shaping the Disaster Management curriculum in RCY but I also volunteer with a lot of other departments.

Wen Xin: I am involved in the Disaster Management and First Aid curriculum in RCY, transport aid committee, first aid duties, emergency preparedness exercises and RCY events.

Were there instances where you volunteer together at a SRC / RCY event? Can you share more how you volunteered for the same event? How did you feel about volunteering together?

Sin Wee: I think the most memorable were the many first aid duties we went for together. We kept things professional and focused on our duties. Once, we were both on first aid duty at an annual NPCC parade. She was handling a casualty while I was assisting her. Though she did not tell me what was needed, I automatically gave her the stuff she required for the casualty. In that sense, we could read each other’s minds without speaking.

Wen Xin: We both play Evacuation ICs in a simulated mass casualty situation at a Disaster Management exercise two years ago. We worked closely with each other in that tense situation to get things right. Though it was not a real disaster, it was heartening to see the teamwork involved in helping others in times of crisis, in a specialisation we are both passionate about.

What would you like to do this Valentine’s Day?

Sin Wee: Perhaps ice skating

Wen Xin: Maybe have a picnic out with him?