GRATEFUL To Live In Singapore? Me, Too! Here’s How To VOLUNTEER And Give Back – By Expat Andrea McKenna Brankin

The season of giving is here! Let’s give some thanks to our gracious Singapore hosts.
08 November 2019


My sister is currently visiting from the United States, and she is overwhelmed by how amazing Singapore is.

Of course, we expats already know this. But, seeing it through a visitor’s eyes is a good reminder of all of Singapore’s gifts. It’s truly a wonderful life here.

Between the Canadian and American Thanksgivings in October and November, respectively, as well as Christmas and Hanukkah on the way, these collective holidays are often called the “giving” season – whether it’s giving thanks for the harvest or our blessings, or giving actual presents.

And, it’s a great time to review how to give back to this place we call “home”, even if only temporarily. (Bonus: Research shows one of the best ways to lift your own spirits is it show gratitude, which I wrote about in an article about self-care.)

What I Do

One way I try to show my gratitude to this country is by volunteering for causes I care about. I do life-skills work and coach rugby sessions at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for abused teen girls. Through this organization, not only have I had the privilege to meet ever-resilient young women, I get to share my life and family with them, so they can learn what loving families are like, too.

I also get to see some Girl Power in action: Women or girls supporting other women and girls, knowing that they can advocate for themselves. Even teaching something simple like a rugby pass can give these girls confidence to face challenges and overcome adversity in their daily lives.

Another thing I like to do is facilitate writing workshops for Writing Through Singapore, which reaches out to marginalized communities to teach conceptual and creative writing of stories and poems. Nothing is more empowering than helping people convey their life experience, thoughts and feelings in their own words. Whether the theme is “bridges”, “home” or “time”, I get a glimpse into what it’s like to be them. It often teaches me about how to live my own best life.

Just recently, I was the Master of Ceremony at the Singapore Writers Festival on behalf of Writing Through for a program with the Very Special Arts Singapore organization, where we helped disabled participants create poetry that was put to jazz music. The Jazz Association of Singapore provided the music, Writing Through facilitated the poetry writing and VSA, which seeks to use the arts to empower disabled people to share their creativity with the community, provided the participants. It was an absolutely inspiring evening!

What You Can Do, Too

These are just a few many I volunteer, but there are many others (in fact, The Finder has rounded up 20 excellent options here). Or, if working with animals is your thing, here are some more ways to help our furry friends in SG.

For those of us who live far apart during this “giving” season, it can be a challenge to keep our familiar traditions alive or really exhibit the spirit of these holidays. But, there’s never a bad time to reflect on where we’re from, what are values are and what we can do to bring more light into the world – especially during this time of the year.

My suggestion: Look at the quality of your life plus your efforts to give back to our Singapore community. And, no matter how long you’ve lived here, it’s never too early or too late to start!


About Andrea McKenna Brankin

Andrea McKenna Brankin is a journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the HCSA Dayspring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.

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