by Bryan Ling (17S06C)
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
– The New Colossus
Students of the land rejoice – for those of you looking for a repose from school life, there’s a new sanctuary in RI to hide away from the troubles of the world.
Located right opposite the Underground, myRestSpace is open every Tuesday and Thursday, coming fully equipped with sleeping mats, kinetic sand, colouring pages, and other tools to help you wind down and relax after a stressful day at school.
To find out more, Raffles Press ventured to the Underground for an exclusive interview with the brains behind myRestSpace, counsellors Mdm Woo Mei Hui (W) and Ms Chua Kah Hwee (KH).
What’s the purpose of myRestSpace?
W: We came up with myRestSpace for a couple of reasons. First off, we visited SMU and the Peer Helpers program there has a place called CosyHaven. It’s a place led by the Peer Helpers and it’s a quiet place for students to rest – they have massage chairs, yoga mats, gym balls, board games… a place for people to relax, as well as have access to peer helping.
We actually thought that was a really good idea, because for peer helping to take place it would be good to have a location that’s quiet and accessible – private yet not too private. And unless we looked to provide a space for that to happen, it’s not really going to happen on its own.
We also experimented having a [sleep] clinic during Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), and I think the students here really do need that space where they can just lie down and rest for a while.
How long have the counsellors been working on this?
KH: Since the end of last year I think?
W: After we visited SMU we really started thinking seriously about where we could have this rest space. We also experimented last year having Peer Helpers man a space, but it was very makeshift, and again, we felt that for it to take off we needed a more permanent location for students to easily identify.
KH: There was intentional planning even before MHAW came about last year, [that’s why we] pushed for the sleep clinic to happen. That was also a platform for us to test the idea to see how well it would be taken up by the school population, and whether there was a need.
Another question was what comes after Peer Helper program ends? Where can we channel the skills that we have imparted to the peer helpers, and how can they then benefit the community? At the end of the day, that was one of the main objectives of why we set up PHP – to bring up a group of peer helpers in the community to do that outreach, to make available peer helping services to the community here.
After MHAW, we [thought] we could try this idea out for a while, so in October we tried it out for 2 or 3 weeks – again to test the take up rate. But the lack of publicity and a few other things – the place itself wasn’t very conducive – made it less than ideal. So at the turn of the year we were actively seeking out places to set up myRestSpace already.
Did you face any challenges while trying to launch myRestSpace?
W: Finding a suitable location was the biggest obstacle! As big as the school is, somehow a lot of places are already occupied or earmarked for certain things. It’s about finding a comfortable enough place which is accessible, visible, yet somehow private.
It also needed to be convenient enough for us so that we can always pop by to check in on the space. That was challenging, but in the end we did manage to find what we think is a suitable place, so hopefully it will bear fruit and be a good space for the students.
How does myRestSpace differ from other student spaces, such as the Hodge Lodge?
W: Well, I think the Hodge Lodge is more for entertainment, because they have the movie theatre, all their board games and entertainment systems. The library is a quiet space, but it’s meant for doing work.
The Underground is always open, but at the same time we know there are many students who refuse to step in here – they don’t want to be associated with the counsellors, they don’t want whatever stigma is linked to counselling. So we felt it was important to have a space that was separate from us.
The reason why it has to be manned by peer helpers is that there are certain rules that have to be enforced so that it will be quiet – it’s not meant to be a party area, it’s just for people to relax and rest.
What vision do you have for PHP and myRestSpace in the future?
KH: Well we certainly hope that peer helping will become part of the culture in RI. We recognize that on a program level we can only pass those skills onto a certain number of students. The long term vision is really to have as many people as possible be equipped with this basic level of skills, so that they can be of assistance to anyone in need, at any point in time.
We all recognize that whenever there’s an issue or difficulty, the first person you’ll turn to is your peers, so it makes sense to put peer helping skills into the hands of as many people as possible. So it should get larger than the program itself – it should be blended into the culture of RI.
myRestSpace would be a complementary space for that to happen – it provides a physical location for these conversations to take place – a safe place for you and your friends if you don’t want to sit in the canteen or classroom to talk. If you feel awkward talking about the issue to your immediate friends, you could talk to one of the peer helpers – someone you don’t really know personally but can just bounce ideas off. Or even just to take a nap – we know the value of taking a 5 minute, 10 minute power nap.
It provides a place where you can self resource – gives you that platform to build up your own resources to help yourself through whatever difficulties and challenges you may face in RI.
myRestSpace is open every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 2:30 to 4:30. Feel free to come on by!