Volunteer Sylvia Sit has helped CHCSA care for multiple sclerosis patients for a dozen years. She shares the art of volunteering.
In 2003, MS Care was set up under City Harvest Community Services Association (CHCSA), to meet the socio-emotional needs of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients. MS is a potentially disabling illness that affects the spinal cord and brain, and there is no known cure yet. Over the years, MS Care has emerged as one of Singapore’s main support groups for MS patients and their families, working in partnership with organizations like the National University Health System and National Neuroscience Institute. Currently, MS Care has 15 active volunteers serving approximately 40 clients, says CHCSA counselor Herman Lim.
On Oct 10 this year, MS Care celebrated its 12th anniversary with volunteers, beneficiaries and medical professionals at the National Museum. Among them was long-time volunteer Sylvia Sit, 41, a purchasing executive who has volunteered with MS Care since its inception. Voluntary work in MS Care is challenging and time-consuming for working adults like Sit, who attributes her commitment to self-discipline and persistence and most importantly, God’s strength.
Prior to being activated to serve, each volunteer learns to teach clients and their family members to administer treatment at home, and also to be more observant towards clients’ on-going well-being, their needs at home and other issues that arise, such as financial difficulties arising from high medical costs.
Sit shares that though it is a challenging job, the rewards are rich. Over time, the relationship built with a client evolves from that of volunteer-beneficiary to friends; every catch-up session is filled with updates about each other’s lives. The volunteers connect with clients’ family members and pray together with them for improvement in their clients’ medical condition. The greatest reward, she says, is seeing clients and their family members getting back up on their feet and pushing forward after every setback.
While working with other volunteers who share the same calling makes the journey much easier, challenges abound. Sit recalls an episode when she and another volunteer were at the receiving end of an outburst from a very emotional client. Sit admits she was very discouraged after that incident, but after consulting with her team leader, she gathered up her courage to visit the client again. It is this sort of dedication and perseverance that increases her capacity to deal with clients who are experiencing MS at different stages, and helps her raise the standard of service offered to MS patients, to be a true blessing to them.
At the same time, Sit draws inspiration from another client, a fellow working adult who chooses not to be a victim of her illness but instead visits and gives emotional support to other clients grappling with their condition. This patient’s continuous acts of love and strength beyond self has moved the hearts of many at MS Care.
“Going forward, we plan to expand our pool of active volunteers—currently our ratio of volunteers to clients is about 1:2 or 1:3, so we are quite understaffed. In addition, we will be rolling out in-house training for our volunteers to enhance their befriending and counseling skills, so they can meet the needs of our clients more effectively,” says Lim.
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