Grandparent volunteer Mdm Helen Chung, also known as "Aunty Helen" at New Town Primary School, guides pupils on how to play gasing during Racial Harmony Day celebrations.
At New Town Primary School, it's not just parents who've gotten involved with the Parent Support Group (PSG), but grandparents too. Over the last few years, the PSG has welcomed four grandparents into its active membership. They have become familiar faces in the school and help the school's programmes to run smoothly: guiding pupils during recess in the canteen, accompanying them on excursions, manning jumble sale booths and many other activities.
PSG chairperson Mdm Anidah bte Ahmad says, "Our parents and grandparents work as a team. Our grandparent volunteers are very hardworking and co-operative." In fact, the longest-serving grandparent, known as Aunty Agan to pupils and staff in the school, has been with the PSG for almost a decade!
Meeting the needs of pupils
One active grandparent volunteer today is Mdm Helen Chung, fondly known as Aunty Helen in school. She is in her third year as a volunteer. Her grandson was newly enrolled in Pri 1 when his mother brought home the volunteer registration form and asked if she would be interested to sign up. Mdm Chung gamely put in her application and has not looked back since.
Grandparent Mdm Chung enjoys being a PSG volunteer because it allows her to spend time with her grandson Marcus and get to know his schoolmates.
"I enjoy this role very much," she shares. "I live very near the school. My children have grown up. So I decided to volunteer here instead of staying at home."
There are volunteer opportunities aplenty at the school and Mdm Chung found herself getting involved in a myriad of activities. The pupils see her almost every day as she is present in the canteen during recess, guiding those who need help with buying food and making sure that they are safe. "The children tend to leave their things behind," she says. "I've found and returned their wallets to them so many times!"
Mdm Chung also helps by minding the pupils in class while the teachers are conducting oral examinations. During school excursions, she plays an important supporting role to the teachers, keeping an eye out for the pupils' safety and making sure that they don't stray from the group.
Grandparent volunteers Mdm Lum Kwai Siam (left) and Mdm Ho Mei Chee (right) get ready to welcome pupils to the five-stones game station.
Given the constant interaction, it comes as no surprise that the children are on friendly terms with their Aunty Helen. She particularly enjoys watching them play, and they often teach her their games while asking her about the games which she used to play as a child. Her little friends can also count on her for kindly counsel when they run into disagreements with one another. She explains, "Sometimes they get into quarrels and I ask them: "Do you want to have more friends, or do you want to have more enemies?" They understand this, and will make up with each other."
She adds with a chuckle, "When I am in school, I feel like I have many children." With a hint of pride, she adds, "I see the kids as they grow older and smarter. They often introduce to me their younger siblings who join the school. And whenever they bump into me outside school, they will greet me and tell their parents who I am."
Role model volunteers
"I salute my grandparent volunteers!" Mdm Anidah declares. "They are always willing to help, always the most punctual and they are not afraid of hard work. They don't mind waiting, they don't mind walking, and they cheerfully go the distance for the pupils." From climbing flights of stairs and collecting old newspapers from the neighbourhood, to dancing on stage during concerts in front of the whole school, these plucky grandparents have contributed unreservedly to the school.
Grandparent and parent volunteers preparing traditional games for Racial Harmony Day. The group includes Mdm Ho (extreme left), Mdm Chung (second from left) and Mdm Lum (extreme right).
Mdm Anidah also recounts the longest-serving grandparent Aunty Agan's serious commitment to the school. For example, she carries a bag of coins with her in the canteen during recess and provides small change to pupils in need of it. She has also contributed, year after year, items to the PSG's annual jumble sale to raise funds for needy students.
Age is truly not a barrier in this PSG. Besides working well together, the members also often call each other up to chat, and invite each other to important family occasions such as weddings and birthdays. Mdm Chung is also the group's de facto translator. As she is conversant in English and Mandarin, she helps to facilitate communication with some of the group members who are more comfortable speaking in Mandarin.
For Mdm Chung, volunteering with this tightly-knit group is a pleasant way to contribute her efforts and time. She concludes, "The teachers of the school are very friendly. I get to work with the young and the adults. I would like to volunteer until my grandson is in Pri 6 - at least!"