Wading Against Covid-19 Currents: Student Feature

By Clara Chai (22A01D), Jason Sutio (22S06U) and Phang Duncan (22A13B)

Yong Ming Le, Ethan (21S06E)

If Ethan had to describe his journey in Chinese Literacy Drama Cultural Society (CLDCS) and Students’ Council with one word, it would be ‘serendipitous’. 

For one, Council’s in-person initiatives, such as Team Raffles Games and Spirit Week, had to be shifted online due to the Circuit Breaker. He also had little to no opportunities to interact with his fellow councillors. However, when SMMs eased further in Phase 3, he was able to bond more with them.

The impact of Covid-19 hit him harder in CLDCS. 

“I thought CCA was meant to be fun and something you could always rely on, but the pandemic took everything away.” said Ethan. His hopes of gaining new and exciting experiences were cruelly dashed when Home-Based Learning was introduced. With his studio and a stage replaced by Zoom sessions, he felt there was little to show for the days he had spent in this new field. He struggled with the steep learning curve, practicing with no promises of being able to perform. 

Even as school reopened, Safe Management Measures (SMMs) still hindered his activities. Many initiatives that he initially looked forward to were either cancelled or cut short, including this year’s  翠谷回响 (The Echo of Cuigu), an annual production where both the songwriting and acting divisions played crucial parts. 

But every cloud has a silver lining. The bonds he formed with his CCA mates were forged even stronger by wading through pandemic currents – their post-songwriting chit-chats turned them into his second family and pillars of support. His CLDCS’ teacher-in-charge, Ms Qian Kun, and his instructor, Mr Keith Kwok, were great sources of advice and comfort. They would reassure students that there could be another opportunity to perform or have their songs recorded after the A-Levels, which boosted their spirits.

“I would like to say a big thank you to Ms Qian for being together with us, especially the songwriting members, when we were feeling down,” said Ethan. “Even though we might not have a finished product after these 2 years, I’m really glad we still have a tight-knit family!”

Covid-19 might have dealt him a poor hand of cards at the start of the year, but he played them right and made his CCA experience unforgettable. Despite having some lingering regrets along the way, Ethan is nevertheless still looking at the bright side of life, and taking special effort to count his own blessings.

Chua Celeste (21S03M)

As the president of the Red Cross Youth Chapters (RCYC), Celeste had faced the brunt of the Covid-19 ambush, and engineered solutions to tackle its complications. 

Previously, RCYC weekly meetings consisted of members sharing their experiences of volunteering in service centres or Red Cross partner organisations to directly interact with staff and beneficiaries. 

One regular partnership was with the National Kidney Foundation, where RCYC members would converse with patients undergoing dialysis. 

However, strict SMMs halted all such external partnerships. Without them, there was nothing to share, and RCYC meetings gradually began to stagnate. 

Celeste had to greatly shift the gears of RCYC towards discussions, knowledge-based activities regarding first-aid and the like.

“The most challenging thing to adapt to was conducting CCAs online. [My Exco and I] had to think carefully about how we would like to conduct CCA sessions, since they are usually less engaging by nature. It was difficult to ask seniors for advice since they hadn’t gone through a similar experience before and would not know how to deal with it.”

Apart from affecting the weekly CCA sessions, Celeste also noted how SMMs led to RCYC being unable to participate in any external events. The annual blood donation drive, for instance, that would have been conducted in school, had to be converted to an awareness campaign encouraging their peers to donate blood. First-aid training used to entail RCYC members going to Red Cross HQ, but conversely now the HQ trainers would come to RI (it was different, but unique, and no less effective). 

And yet, these novel experiences were what made her journey fulfilling. She recounted the massive support she received from HQ, be it in terms of monetary relief or contributing to VIA projects. Her CCA teachers and Exco were very open to new ideas and discussions frequently proved to be fruitful. Oftentimes, the resulting sessions deepened her bonds with her CCA mates — an experience she considered to be the most satisfying. 

Staying true to everything she had undergone, her motto for surfing the Covid-19 waves was: “Don’t be afraid to try new things”. In navigating these unchartered waters, she became more flexible and more confident. 

Covid-19 was waves of change and as the captain of the RCYC ship, Celeste had successfully managed to steer her ship towards calmer seas.

Wong Zheng Wei (21S03E)

Throughout our life, many moments force us to confront the question “What if…?”, dogging us long after they pass, but Zheng Wei’s outlook on life is more pragmatic: “Focus on what is within your control and make the most of it.”

This attitude shone in how he handled the tumultuous ‘New Normal’ in 2020.

The first step to conquering the challenges of Covid-19? Acceptance. Acknowledging that SMMs were unavoidable, he strove to make the best out of the situation. Running sessions with his Cross Country mates transformed into mostly individual training and the occasional group exercises through online video calls. Maintaining discipline in his training allowed him to keep the Circuit Breaker’s effects on his lifestyle to a minimum.

Nevertheless, it still dampened his spirits. He recalls: “The A-divisions were supposed to be a culmination of all my training. Five to six sessions a week, and in the end there’s nothing to show for it.” Eventually, after multiple suspensions and false hopes, the National School Games season came — and went quietly.

Furthermore, as a JAE student, Zheng Wei was particularly disheartened by a lack of bonding opportunities. He mourns not being able to have a proper taste of “Rafflesian culture”, as he puts it. Covid-19 made the fleeting nature of JC life painfully apparent for him; as he missed out on many irreplaceable opportunities. 

“I don’t know any part of the school outside my own class. Now, my primary concern is A-levels. I no longer have the time to think about all these fun things.”

Through it all, Zheng Wei still found hope. Talking to his friends over video call helped him cope with the stresses of school life. The bonds Zheng Wei forged within his CCA gave him the strength he needed to power through. 

Nevertheless, he dearly misses how “suffering” through every training helped him and his CCA mates bond deeply with each other.  “It’s always the little things — saying hi, making small talk, the attitude and the outlook of the class, that inspire and motivate me,” he said.

As is evident from his outlook, Zheng Wei advises juniors not to dwell on what they have lost, but to instead focus on the future. He shared, “It’s pretty easy to complain and feel like the whole world is against you, but there’s no point complaining about it.”

With the A-Levels approaching, Zheng Wei’s chapter in Raffles is slowly drawing to a close, but this sensible, rational mindset is what he will continue to carry for the remainder of his ever-so-short time left in JC.

Leave a Reply