By Andrea Loh
Higher Executive, Communications & External Relations
ANG WEE KIAT
Class of 2018
Wee Kiat (extreme left behind) with the OCIP Batam team
Cradling her sick infant tightly against her chest, the mother makes her last hug count before handing the baby to the orphanage. It is a painful separation, but the healthare workers there reassure her that her child will be in good hands.
While volunteering at an orphanage in Vietnam some years ago, Year 2 student Ang Wee Kiat witnessed this heartbreaking scene of a mother forced by circumstances to surrender her child with hydrocephalus to the orphanage. It was seared into his memory and to this day fuels his desire to bring comfort to others through volunteering.
For the past five years, he has been devoting time to help others by volunteering with various organisations; including orphanages, hospices and non-governmental organisations both local and overseas.
"The idea of volunteering has always struck a chord with me. I'm not a very vocal person, but I have always wanted to be able to provide patients the social, emotional, psychological and medical support they need by giving them my time and becoming a doctor in the future," said Wee Kiat.
While some might assume that volunteering only benefits the recipient, Wee Kiat thinks otherwise: in volunteering, he has learned new skills such as physio- and massage therapies which are relevant to his medical training.
His experiences and interactions with beneficiaries have taught him important life lessons and values too. "It's very easy to be put down by a lot of things in life. But whenever I see how patients, especially terminally ill patients in the hospices, continue to fight for their lives, I cannot help but admire them," he said.
"Their resilience is a constant encouragement for me to never give up in life," Wee Kiat added.
Though school now takes up a large part of his time, the enthusiastic volunteer is determined to continue making a difference to the lives of others. Wee Kiat currently co-leads the LKCMedicine Overseas Community Involvement Project (OCIP) Batam team. As a mark of their dedication, they have been preparing for their upcoming mission in July since September last year.
The community in Batam has poor access to healthcare facilities. With this in mind, the OCIP Batam team will conduct programmes to educate the community about vector-borne diseases such as dengue, as well as skills such as hand hygiene, dental care, first aid and self-medication.
Wee Kiat understands that the mission involves much more than just education and an exchange of information. "I can impart to the Batam residents all my knowledge and give them as many things as I can afford, but it is still limited help. To me, being able to build a relationship and bring comfort to them by dedicating time to listen and understand their concerns as a fellow human being is the most precious thing that I can give," said Wee Kiat.
Class of 2019
Berwyn (third from left) with the OCIP Sri Lanka team
"What am I getting myself into?" – was then-Secondary 4 student Berwyn's instinctive response when his friend approached him to start a project together at Gracehaven, a local children's home run by The Salvation Army.
The answer to that question was an enduring commitment to volunteering.
Since 2011, Berwyn has been making the weekly three-hour trip to and from Gracehaven to tutor a resident there. Each tutoring session is one and a half hours in duration.
"The time I spend with my tutee each week may be short. But the strong relationship I am building with him over time is what drives me to continue volunteering with Gracehaven," says the tutor who teaches math, science and chinese.
"Each time my tutee makes some form of progress, or thanks me after a session, or a staff member tells me that he has become more confident, I feel motivated to continue making an impact in his life," added Berwyn who has expanded his volunteer work to organising holiday projects and volunteer recruitment drives for the Home as well.
In addition to his work with Gracehaven, Berwyn also volunteers at the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tze Chi Foundation's free clinics where he helps out with administrative work, provides IT support, and assists the medical practitioners there. It was while he was there helping to process old medical records that an incident occurred which cemented his desire to become a doctor.
An elderly gentleman had walked into the clinic to get a fresh course of medication. Berwyn realised that something was amiss, as it had only been a week or two since his last visit to the clinic. It transpired that the gentleman had been unable to find the medication which he had previously been given.
"Thankfully, he lived close by, so we went to his house to search for them. We finally found them in one of the drawers in the house, and helped him to sort out his medications. He was very grateful to us. (At that point) I knew for sure that I wanted to do something service-oriented which will allow me to help others meaningfully," recalled Berwyn.
As part of his efforts to contribute to the community, Berwyn has taken on additional volunteer projects, including helping out at the community health screenings conducted by the National Healthcare Group and organising OCIP Sri Lanka to help patients with a chronic kidney disease prevalent in the North Central Province there.
"Through my journey as a volunteer, I hope to be able to give whatever I can to help others in useful ways. I believe the lessons I learn from the situations that come by will help me become a better person and a better doctor in the future," said Berwyn.