By Chelsia Low (18S06C), Chairperson and Nelson Ooi (18S06M), Vice-Chairperson
With our hectic day to day life, it is all too easy to overlook a glaringly obvious fact – society has not dealt everyone the same fortunate hand that we have. Here in Community Advocates (CA), we refuse to ignore these injustices. We choose to take a stand, and we do our best to drive a change. This is the essence of CA.
Advocacy doesn’t mean that we have to be loud, haughty or eloquent. On the contrary, with an open mind, a listening ear and a big heart, you would be more than ready to become an advocate. It’s true, reaching out to other people and being heard isn’t easy to start with. But keeping these three tenets in mind, our members have astounded us by quickly growing into more experienced advocates and empathetic people.
Our advocates’ journeys of growth is can be seen through our CCA’s progress. With nine years of history, CA is a relatively new service-based CCA that encourages students to go beyond the call of direct community involvement. Even in this short span of time, we have emerged with a unique identity founded on the close relationships within our ‘second family’! Within this family, we are gathered into four student interest groups (SIGs), each championing a different cause. They are named endearingly and accordingly – Lifeline (Healthcare), Empty Pocket (Poverty), Glassark (Environment) and Doveswarm (Migrant Workers). In each SIG, every member has the opportunity to unite with other like-minded individuals who strongly believe in tackling the same societal issues.
Year to year, while the causes we serve never change, the organizations we work with may. This is because each batch has the power to set its own direction. Each SIG partners with a local Voluntary Welfare Organization related to their respective causes and members volunteer for regular direct service. For instance, Lifeline has partnered up with IMH to conduct ward visits for their long-staying patients.
Aside from weekly service, each CA member attends a General Meeting (Wednesdays, 2.30pm-4.30pm) where we invite speakers pioneering various social causes such as the founder of My NoNNas who employs people with special needs, and engage in discussions as well.
Our GMs also allow us to facilitate our project planning – each SIG runs at least one advocacy project in their time here. Our whole batch also comes together to organize one batch project per year. Examples of what we’ve done in the past include Hair for Hope, to raise awareness about cancer patients, and Homeground, an event to celebrate the contributions of non-teaching staff working in school. This year, we have embarked on Heartware, a batch project which brings to light the social issues of relocating the elderly and the underprivileged in Dakota Crescent. Sidenote: We are not obsessed with words that begin with the letter H.
We enjoy a rare degree of autonomy which allows us to completely decide the paths we want to take in our adventures. We’ve never been tied down by previous years’ commitments or events. This is a valuable opportunity for your batch to truly follow your own passion and advocate for a cause that you believe in, in creative ways! Each year, the new batch crafts their services and projects, ranging widely in types and goals. You will have the chance to think about what sort of difference you want to make.
CA is also a platform for you to work with different community groups and areas through different service opportunities, from kayaking beach cleanups to Willing Hearts to guiding nature trails. Our website, speakactchange.wordpress.com, details many of the experiences we’ve mentioned, and is a good place to start to find out more about what CA does.
While our work is flexible, we know that it is challenging. Going the extra mile for someone else is hardly ever easy. Still, seeing the difference we’ve made for our beneficiaries makes it worth our effort.
It sounds like an insane idea to claim that we want to change the world. But we like to think that the ones crazy enough to change the world are often the ones who do, even if it’s ‘only’ in a ‘small way’. Brightening someone’s day or saving a single tree – these things all add up and become something bigger. Should you choose to join us in a journey with, the changes you make, the lessons you will learn and the amazing people you will share your time with – they will make it wholly worthwhile. Community Advocates welcomes you with open arms!