For the third year running, the Elderly Leadership Camp organized by the House Of JOY taught seniors the art of working as a team.
By Sandy Poon
“Camp” and “elderly” are two words you wouldn’t normally find in the same sentence. But at the third Elderly Leadership Camp organized by City Harvest Community Services Association, held on Nov. 4 this year, senior citizens stayed overnight at chalets, painted banners and played games in Changi Airport, just as youth campers do.
The morning of the first day of camp, the elderly center was abuzz with anticipation. The senior citizens were all gathered to start their two-day-one-night adventure. Having been split into groups, the campers were tasked with painting their team flags. Through this simple exercise, the elderly participants learn how to share what they have and how to work together to accomplish their mission on time.
The rest of the games were equally purposeful. In line with the camp’s objective, every segment aimed to develop leadership skills, and to equip the elderly campers with skills to befriend others, to lead and to become an effective care partner.
Another game “Jing Da Xi Suan Wo Zai Hang” (which in Chinese means “I’m good at budgeting”) taught the elderly to work and come up with strategies as a team. Each team was given S$20 to purchase ingredients for a three-course dinner for 10 people. After buying their goods, the campers had to find their own way to Changi Airport.
Once they arrived at the airport, they were handed another list of activities to complete. Herng Kway Ying, 61, had an interesting experience taking part in “Childhood Time”, a challenge in which the seniors had to go down the 12-meter The Slide@T3. The game called for two participants and Herng volunteered to be first with Pang Seng Mui, 58. Herng was hesitant at first, “I was too scared, I didn’t want to go,” she said. But with Pang’s encouragement, Herng took a step of faith and finished the task. With a victorious smile on her face, Herng declared, “After this, I can conquer everything else!”
More activities awaited the campers on Day Two of the camp, which started with a leisurely walk on the beach. To help the campers better understand themselves, they had a session on the DISC Personality Assessment to determine their personality type. Team building games gave campers a chance to learn how to rely on each other and to function as a team. One such game was the “Blindfolded Scavenger Hunt” where campers had to rely on the verbal instruction of their teammates while they search for items and put together a hamper, blindfolded. The activity aimed to teach the campers that when it comes to working as a team, they could not just rely on themselves, but that they needed to allow others to help them where they were weak.
When planning for this camp, the organizers took into consideration factors like age, health condition and the comfort of the elderly campers. Unlike youths who could sleep in sleeping bags, the elderly campers had to sleep on beds.
The extra effort put in by the staff and volunteers were rewarded with great warmth from the campers. Volunteer Charmine Sim, 23, said she was touched by the actions of the elderly. “They were supposed to be in bed, but one of them waited for me to finish my volunteer briefing and offered me a blanket to keep me warm through the night. She was so thoughtful.”