Walking into this service I hadn’t been sure what to expect. I had experienced service with the elderly and the sick before, and while that is different from working with mentally disabled people, it has many similarities. I knew that part of the reason I chose this service was that I knew it would allow us to enrich our relationships with service partners through a wide variety of interesting activities. I knew we would eventually leave the school and try to do things all around Bedok. I had wanted to really help people develop social skills or at least provide a positive experience.
I helped plan the first session where we interacted with our service partners. It was hard for the three of us who volunteered to run this session, because we weren’t sure what to expect. However, we came up with the idea of eating lunch with the service partners, and then doing some games with them. We knew that we had to have lunch first because given the time they came, the first half of the session would be when the cafeteria is most empty. Since we had never met our partners, and they had never met us, we had the idea to get name cards for each person, so that we could all see what each others names were. We did all of these things because we had a bit of a three point strategy for planning this session. First, identify the needs of the session. That was actually rather difficult. We had to reflect on how we wanted to help our service partners. We came to the conclusion that the main purpose of the first session would be ice breakers and getting to know each other. That was the reason for the name tag activity. Second, we needed to identify the plausibility of all our plans. One of the earlier ideas we had was to play tag with our service partners in a gym. We then realized that this would probably not be safe given that not all of them are very young or able to do things like play tag. Thirdly, we needed to make sure we could make it happen. We went to the service office, and they let us into the store cupboard so that we could look at the supplies and see what things we could use. That gave way to the idea of using a giant parachute and balls. The activities that we did with them went rather well. Overall, I’d say that session was a success as an icebreaker.
Having been part of the service for several sessions, I now know that my original expectations were a bit excessive. Yes, we do interact with our service partners, but right now we’re still getting to know them. Maybe at some point in the year we’ll change our meeting place, but not yet. In addition, part of me feels very discouraged because we haven’t made a lot of progress with them. With several of the activities some of our service partners have become annoyed, bored, or frustrated. However, some of our activities with them have been going well. Unfortunately we haven’t been very successful with our communication, as that is something which many of our service partners find very difficult. We haven’t learned that much about their interests and personalities, and while we know who they are, I’m not sure they’ve started recognizing us yet. I’m not completely sure how our service and interaction with them actually constitutes a service, and whether it’s successful in helping them integrate with society and work on their motor and social skills. Still, there’s a year to go and I have hope.