day 710 | august 14, 2014 | Willing Hearts

Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen

Soup Kitchen operates from 6:00am to 4:00pm
Address: 11 Jalan Ubi Block 6, #01-51
Kembangan - Chai Chee Community Hub
Singapore 409074

"Unless you have a big group, you need not inform WH in advance of your visit. They do not have a regular roster for volunteers so you have the flexibility of helping on the day and at a time of your convenience."

I've been meaning to get the kids involved in volunteer work. Several friends cautioned that both my little ones might be a tad too young, but I think it depended on the kind of work they are tasked to do. When I found Willing Hearts, I knew I'd found something I could regularly engage the kids in -- a meaningful cause that will expose them to different types of work, drive awareness of underprivileged Singapore, and get their hands working on what the heart believes in. Planted a simple idea on how we were going to help prepare food for elderly people who cannot afford to buy their own food. Both were reasonably excited to try to help, and even packed their own knives.

For 12+ years, Willing Hearts has been operating a soup kitchen that prepares, cooks and distributes daily meals to the needy, including the elderly, adults, and children in Singapore. On the day that we served, the target was 4,000 meals. We arrived to a flurry of activity. Everyone looked busy -- peeling and chopping vegetables, cooking, stickering packets, loading meals onto trucks, and running off for deliveries. All this at 8 in the morning!

We asked a lady where we could be of help, and she looked at Roo and Red speculatively. "Do you think they can peel cucumbers?" "They can peel and chop them!" I replied fairly confidently. She looked at me strangely, before handing me a couple of peelers to start with. And off we went with peelers and boxes of cucumbers, setting up a cozy little workstation where we could work shoulder-to-shoulder with other volunteers.

Knowing what the little ones can do is different from knowing if they would be willing to do it. I needn't have worried about pep talking the two of them though. They dove right into the work, and only hesitated when they couldn't quite get the peeler to work smoothly. Spent a couple of minutes guiding them, and they caught on pretty fast.

There's a certain buzz to the place. You may be strangers standing beside each other, but you figure out what role you can play, and you work at it. A natural instinct to weave yourself into this engine that runs, tireless and thankless, for an idea that you're doing something good.

We were in the outdoor kitchen until 2:00pm, and were among the last volunteers left standing for that day. The kids didn't complain that I hadn't fed them lunch, or that they didn't get to do anything else. We went through tons of cucumbers -- peeled them, washed them, chopped them. At least 4 boxes of cucumbers, that until today, I can still smell phantom cucumbers in the air. My young volunteers are little warriors -- enduring, strong, inside-out beautiful. And this is yet another instance when they made me extremely proud to be their mom, their friend.

For next month's visit, we will try our hands at cooking eggs early in the morning, as well as in delivering the food to the distribution void decks. I hope the little ones will appreciate how the simplest tasks fit into the bigger objective; as well as meet and empathize with the recipients of the food we've labored on -- to see firsthand the reason why we were chopping veggies to begin with.

An extra-special treat (they were tickled that Red is their youngest volunteer so far), we were given a tour of the premises -- the giant cooking pots, fried rice machines, ginormous hansel-and-gretel ovens, and an opportunity to go into one of the freezers! We were also privy to facilities yet to be launched. They are opening a TCM pharmacy, general clinics, a dental clinic, a legal consultation service, and physiotheraphy classes for the elderly within the next month. And perhaps even a matchmaking service!

As we were leaving the premises of the community center, Roo tugged at my hand. "Everyone here is super nice, mommy. People are so kind..." And I'm glad that she's seeing this side of humanity, beyond the commercialized, epicurean influences that we are constantly exposed to. I affirmed the work she's done for the day, and reminded her that she too is strong, and kind, and persevering. The smile she gave me in response was starburst. We'll definitely be coming back!

Dental Clinic opens today, 21 August 2014

Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen
Young volunteers!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm crying, Steph, I really am. This is so beautiful. I've been meaning to do something like this with my kids but I'm not sure how Poppy will take to it. Willingness to help is one thing, being able to stick by for hours is another. I'm worried the (for lack of a better work)'novelty' might wear off after half an hour and she'll grow bored because she really isn't a sit-still kind of child.

Your girls are awesome! Peeling and cutting cucumbers! For hours! Oh I want to hug them and tell them how wonderful they are!!

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