WEP Previews ’22: International Service-Learning and Leadership Elective (ISLE)

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By Nysa Teres Mathew (22S03N) and Lucas Wong Chenyu (22S03N)

ISLE is more than just a service programme that takes place every Wednesday. Here, you get to experience a unique blend of service and learning that helps prepare you for deeper engagement with local communities in Singapore, and overseas communities in the ASEAN region. ISLE is a learning journey that involves critical reflection of local and regional issues, with students looking at topics such as community engagement, cultural diversity and active citizenry. 

Previous batches of ISLE students got to embark on an overseas year-end service-learning project. However, COVID-19 prevented us from doing the same this year. Undaunted, we instead embarked on local services with organisations like Ren Ci and It’s Raining Raincoats (IRR) and focused on building our understanding of societal (and global) issues through activities ranging from stimulation games to empathy workshops. Instead of an overseas year-end project, we produced an e-conference “Understanding social landscapes: Our community and beyond” that featured an esteemed line-up of speakers who shared their insights on local and global social issues through their bounteous experiences. 

Weekly Sessions

We have our sessions every Wednesday, 1-3 pm :) Every session is a breath of fresh air, with activities ranging from service sessions (group service session at Ren Ci)  to simulations (making paper bags in slums, learning sign language), journaling and reflections, as well as focused speaker series (Insights into the real issues faced by migrant workers, the deaf community etc). 

We also had introduction sessions where we spent time playing ice-breaker games, learning about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, for us to work together on our projects better. So, don’t worry about not being able to make friends!

Having fun after brainstorming for ideas for our conference! #thinkers

Serving our community

For our regular service, the 19-member batch was split into 4 groups, with 2 groups working with Ren Ci and the other 2 working with It’s Raining Raincoats (IRR).

English writing and speaking skills are essential to ensure migrant workers’ safety at worksites (especially since safety instructions usually come in English) and effective communication with their employers/ contractors. Especially with the pandemic cooping up migrant workers in their dormitories or quarantine facilities, the IRR students worked on coming up with an educational video series to teach migrant workers English in a creative way. These videos were uploaded on IRR’s youtube platform for easy and convenient access for the migrant workers.

Our two Ren Ci teams went online biweekly to interact with the elderly. We planned and ran activities such as exercises, virtual tours and interactive games for them. When COVID-19 measures kicked in, the elderly at Ren Ci could not physically meet their family members. We decided to engage them online, to accompany and support them. Many of us became good friends with the elderly and look forward to befriending sessions with them.

Our Christmas themed session with the elderly at Ren Ci! #befrienders

Community Assets Mapping 

Asset Mapping is a positive-focused way of celebrating community resources and connecting individuals, organizations, and spaces for collaboration, empowerment, and support.

In groups of 5, we mapped out the community assets available in the Bishan-Toa Payoh area for several groups of individuals in our society (e.g. Children with Autism). In doing so, we hope to have contributed as a stepping stone for others to build on and to eventually serve as a useful resource for families and relevant organizations related to the specific group. 

An example of our community asset map, catering to children with autism. #mappers

ISLE conference

Titled Understanding Social Landscapes, the inaugural ISLE conference seeks to celebrate diversity, inclusivity and community engagement (DICE). We hope to provide a space for youths to gain insights into social landscapes so as to better engage the communities around us and beyond.  This year’s themes revolve around three main communities namely persons with disabilities, migrant workers, and international communities. 

The conference was entirely planned and run by ISLE students with assistance from our teachers. We invited distinguished speakers from various organisations including Its Raining Raincoats (IRR), Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) and Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics (HOME).  

Through the conference, we gleaned insights into the various communities and the importance of doing service that truly benefits the beneficiaries. We learnt to be meticulous and responsible to ensure a smooth-running conference.

Final Thoughts

In ISLE, you will find like-minded individuals who are passionate about serving the community. Although we are heavily restricted in our service projects by COVID-19, we think it is safe to say anyone who joins ISLE will learn more about themselves, the community and grow holistically. 

Not only will you understand how to work with others and develop your leadership competencies, but you will also, most importantly, learn to take the initiative to make a difference for others and become more confident in your future service-learning projects. 

Although the journey can be tough and gruelling, we can guarantee that your experience will be beyond meaningful and fulfilling. Overall, if you have the genuine passion to serve and are looking for a community with like-minded, empathetic and enthusiastic individuals, chances are you’ll find a home in ISLE :)

Check us out on @rafflesisle on Instagram and our website https://rafflesisle.wordpress.com/about-isle/ for more information about us! :)

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