by Cara D'Avanzo

This article was published in Journeys Winter 2020. Click here to read more articles featured in this issue. 

While Singapore American School offers students myriad service opportunities through class projects, grade-level efforts, and service clubs, some students find ways to contribute outside of school. These students have joined community-based service groups or have independently spotted opportunities to fill a need. Especially during the COVID-19 period, when some school-based service options were modified or put on hold, these out-of-school service opportunities have provided a way to learn more about the wider community, maintain perspective, develop skills, follow a passion, and connect with new people in new surroundings, online or in person. 

We celebrate these students for following our core values while displaying initiative, independence, curiosity, and creativity as they contribute to wider communities and follow their passions!

Owen Green and Sriharsha Sikhakollu, eleventh grade 
Serving meals to housebound Singaporeans 
COVID-19 has affected us all with unprecedented inconveniences, and all the time we spent indoors over the summer break offered us an opportunity to think about how we can do our part in assisting those with less ability and freedom. After some research, Sriharsha and I found Touch Home Care, an offshoot of the Touch Community Services organization. The organization works with volunteers to deliver warm, healthy, free meals daily to elderly Singaporeans who are not able to leave their homes—especially during times like these. Every Sunday, Sriharsha and I sort, pack, and deliver meals across HDB apartments in Jurong West. Many Sundays we deliver upwards of 20 meals, sometimes splitting up to cover more ground when convenient. Sriharsha and I appreciate the direct nature of sorting and delivering meals, and so we have kept with it. Since school started, we have shifted from volunteering three times per week to once, every Sunday morning. We have delivered over 250 meals so far, and we hope to deliver 1,000 meals before we graduate!

 Ella Boasberg, twelfth grade 
Working at a soup kitchen 
Over the summer, my friend Emma Anderson and I worked at a soup kitchen for four hours every morning. Willing Hearts continued to prepare meals for delivery during the circuit breaker. The friendly aunties and uncles always greeted us with big smiles behind their masks, asked how we were doing, and dropped by to check on us while we were working. We especially enjoyed cutting vegetables outside and chatting with local Singaporeans as we filled baskets with green bean coins and sliced okra. Fellow volunteers included flight attendants, retirees, and office workers. Through our conversations with them, we learned about their lives and Singapore, and we gained a new appreciation for their dedication to the cause; some would come at 5:00 a.m. to work the morning shift before heading off to work. It was because of the friends we made that our last day of summer break at Willing Hearts was bittersweet. As we said our temporary goodbyes, one auntie clasped our gloved hands and remarked how much our cutting skills had improved and how she would miss seeing us. Emma and I had only been in Singapore one year, so Willing Hearts gave us the opportunity to interact with Singaporeans outside the SAS community and learn more about this country. We are so happy to have had the experience and can't wait to continue volunteering in our free time! 

Declan Sheehan, twelfth grade 
Keeping Singapore's waterways clean and healthy 
I learned about the Waterways Watch Society (WWS) halfway through my junior year, while researching a Marine Biology project. The organization seemed interesting because it deals directly with the issue of plastic pollution. I ended up attending a meeting and then became a member! When I have time, I help to carry out bike and boat patrols in the Kallang and Marina Bay areas. Moving along the waterway, we remove plastic bags, bottles, and other trash, and we talk to anyone involved in environmentally unfriendly activities. These include littering, dumping waste, using live fishing bait or prohibited charcoal grills, entering off-limits areas, and setting up for parties where they are not allowed. We try to educate and encourage such folks to do the right thing, and more experienced members contact government services to step in if necessary. I really enjoy working with WWS because it is out of my normal SAS “bubble”and I get to meet Singaporeans, often older people with interesting careers as hydrologists, civil engineers, or wildlife photographers, for instance. They have vast amounts of knowledge and experience, and they are very generous about sharing it with me. No matter our age or background, we all want to get outdoors and do our part to keep Singapore’s waterways clean and healthy for everyone. 

Ayan M., seventh grade 
Creating artwork to protect African wildlife 
A year ago I started working with a conservationist, Francoise Malby-Anthony from Thula Thula South Africa, to help raise awareness and funding for rhino conservation. Rhinos are among the world’s most critically endangered species, because poachers hunt them for their horns, which are used in traditional Asian medicine. When I found out about this, I thought it was crazy, because horns have no magical powers, but are just made of keratin like our own fingernails. So I started the “Save the Rhino” project, which combines my other passion—art—with conservation. I sketch and sell wildlife portraits, mostly of rhinos, but also of other animals. The funds generated from this effort are used to adopt the rhinos at Thula Thula, which basically means paying for their security, as rhinos need 24-hour surveillance by rangers so that poachers do not kill them. You can read more about Thula Thula’s rhinos and how we can all help them at my website: https:// 

Chloe Hanford, tenth grade 
Sewing pillowcases for cancer patients 
A few years ago, I visited my infant cousin in his hospital room while he waited for a heart transplant. Seeing him in the hospital and noticing how lonely and sterile it can feel made me realize that even a small item such as a pillowcase can bring a lot of happiness to the patients. In 2019, I embarked on a service project to earn my Girl Scout Silver Award. I sewed and collected around 75 colorful homemade cotton pillowcases for children with cancer at National University Hospital Singapore (NUH) as a small gift—something bright and fun so that they will feel cared for during a difficult time. Some had Harry Potter on them, some were covered in dinosaurs or kittens. I later teamed up with Lesli Berggren, founder of the organization Love, Nils, to hand the pillowcases out in person at the NUH outpatient ward. Visiting the children and seeing the smiles on their faces gave me the most incredible feeling in the world. 

Journeys, our print publication, shares current, in-depth stories written by and for members of our school community. It is mailed to current families, faculty, staff, and alumni in December and June. If you are interested in contributing an article to Journeys, email Read more articles here

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