As Anne Frank once sagely coined, “No one has ever become poor by giving”. Indeed, Community Affair strives to embody this adage by inspiring Victorians to join forces and give back to the society.

Prior to Victorian Affair which marks the last day of the school term, Community Affair 2016, aka “Veraque” is a joint event between Interact Club and ODAC to heighten awareness amongst the J1s towards 3 underprivileged groups: the visually impaired, the elderly and people with special needs. Within the school compound, there is a specific area for activities regarding one of the 3 communities. The class has to try completing the activities as fast as possible to emerge as the frontrunner. The recorded timings of every class were displayed boldly on a whiteboard for each activity, creating a competitive atmosphere to spur everyone to victory.

At the Concourse, the theme was the elderly. There were three stations with various activities.

For The Difficult Walk, each participant were to jump up and down the staircase that leads to the second floor of the campus. Subsequently, they pick up rocks placed on different steps and make their way back to the ground. It might sound incredibly simple, except that each participant would have their knees bound together while making their way up and down the staircase.

Although it was humorous (and maybe quite sadistic) witnessing many Victorians waddling like penguins and sashaying on the staircase, it was heartening that most participants saw the bigger picture when asked how they had benefited from this activity. Rather than class bonding and winning movie tickets, many first mentioned the immense discomfort that could be faced by the elderly to walk or even take a few steps.

For the ‘Type Me Out Carefully’ activity, there were 2 groups of 3 volunteers per class. Each group member had to type a sentence without any typographical errors while wearing a pair of rubber gloves and laboratory glasses. At first, a number of participants appeared confident of being able to type slickly but typing turned out to be a far cry from their anticipations. Hopeful faces became plastered with furrowed eyebrows and apprehension as the gloves made the computer keyboard slippery and one’s palms feel clammy. Moreover, the laboratory glasses obscured one’s vision.

Despite the frustration felt by participants as they struggled to key in the words, they had a whale of a time and now better understand why the elderly tend to communicate more slowly with others. According to Reina from Interact Club, helming this game was a ‘pleasant experience’. She added, “The classes were really participative, especially S38. I got to work with one of the ODAC facilitators, Shenal, who was very cooperative and friendly!”.

The final activity on the elderly was Micro(soft) Words where participants were to read a series of tongue twisters from afar. Since the words were micro-sized, reading them from a distance augmented the difficulty, just like how clarity of words might diminish with age. Furthermore, tongue twisters act as a reminder that the elderly may be unable to articulate clearly. True enough, nearly everyone stumbled over the words for the first try but persevered till the very end.

Meanwhile, another ‘fiesta’ was occurring right around the corner at the T-block! Here, students get to experience the struggles of the special needs community through a series of engaging and hilarious games. The first activity they got to enjoy was one similar to ‘blind mice’ with a little charades incorporated into it. The aim was to get students to experience what it was like to manoeuvre about as a blind person. 3 pairs were chosen among the class and among the pair, one student was to feel an object given by the facilitator and what it was, following that, they were to act out the object without talking to their partners, and their partners would have to guide them around a maze to look for that object hidden by the facilitators using only their voices! Not surprisingly, the sight of their classmates wandering almost aimlessly and bumping into each other had everyone in fits of laughter. That did not mean they overlooked the real importance of the activity though. Through this, we learnt that we take even the simplest things for granted. While most of us can easily get from one place to another, or say what we mean, others are struggling to do so on a daily basis.

Next door, a different activity took place. This time targeting the disadvantaged people with trouble making use of their hands. The activity was ‘broken telephone’ with a twist, because only this time, we were not passing the message verbally, but through drawing. Furthermore, everyone down the communication line had an impairment in their hands. For example, some students had to draw with four out of their five fingers taped together, while others had to draw with their non-dominant hand. Of course, the drawings turnt out more and more unrecognisable with each student’s feeble attempt to convey the right message. What started out as a handicap sign with a man in a wheelchair ultimately turned out to look like a horse with 5 legs… oh man. Undoubtedly, the main takeaway message here was not that magical horses do exist, but that we ought to be patient with those with disabilities as they may not have control over their body and actions. Now that we know how it feels like to struggle with even the use of our hands, instead of treating the handicapped like a burden, we should express our devotion and care for them as a way of support.

Meanwhile, there was another activity taking place, one that allowed students to better emphasize with those suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or in short, ADHD. In the first activity, students were asked to play a game of ‘Where’s Wally?’, which required them to spot a character hidden in an extremely cluttered picture. Initially, some were oozing confidence — after all, ‘Where’s Wally’ was known to be a children’s game and many felt it was going to be a piece of cake. Yet, smirks soon turned into semi-distressed frowns, as students struggled to find Wally. Calls of triumph and ‘Finally!’ could be heard, as students eventually spotted the red and white dressed character. While rubbing strained eyes, it then sank in — the anguish caused by this simple activity was an emotion that ADHD patients struggled with on a daily basis, and instead of mocking them for their inability to focus, we ought to display patience. After all, it wouldn’t do to shun people for something they didn’t choose to be born with.

At the back of the class, a row of desks held laptops playing an audio track, which, at first listen, sounded like a severely damaged dubstep song. Students were then told to pick out the message that was held amidst the noise. Not more than 10 seconds in, curses were muttered as students strained their ears to pick out the words in the recording. On average, each student replayed the recordings no less than 5 times, and even then, it took an entire group to decipher the message. Now, imagine having to decipher the entire message on your own after only one listen. It would be almost impossible, except that that is what people with ADHD experience on a daily basis. It’s all too easy to roll your eyes and ignore them when they ask you to repeat yourself, Such disabilities are not choices, but the willingness to lessen the burden that was forced upon their shoulders is. All it takes is a little patience and empathy to help someone.

Meanwhile, the classes going to the E block were taking part in activities related to the Visually impaired. Upon hearing our class would be visiting the Dining in the Dark booth, I was so excited as i had always wanted to try Dining in the Dark at NOX. So when this activity drew near, i had high expectations and sure enough, i was not disappointed.  On the third floor of the E block, we were directed into a Dark room. Upon entering the room, we watched two inSIGHTful videos on what being privileged meant in our society, and how the visually impaired cope with their disability. These videos were a great way to get us reflecting and empathising with the visually impaired. After the two videos, we were led into an even darker room, where the smell of food wafted into my nose. I read somewhere that when we lose one of our senses, the other 4 senses become heightened, and this was indeed true. My sense of smell piqued and my sense of hearing sharpened.

We were guided to our seats, and light coming from the doors or sensors were blocked out by trash bags. The room turned almost pitch black, and we were stranded in darkness. Before long, the 10-minute countdown started, and we tucked into our Bento sets. Gradually, our eyes adjusted to the darkness, and our vision improved.Sadly, the vision of the visually-impaired do not slowly adjust and become better as minutes pass. As we sat in the dark, i used the quiet time to reflect on how it would be like if we had to live in this world forever.

When the lights finally flickered back on, i made a silent vow to be more understanding and accommodating to the visually impaired. To me, the Dining in the Dark was an extremely meaningful experience, and it really shocked me how visually impaired people cannot even use their phones to pass the time.

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All in all, Veraque was a success. To quote Jamilah, 16A14: “I think that Community Affair was a very educational and enlightening event. Instead of just sympathising with the visually handicapped and those with special needs, I also started to empathise even more with them.”

As Mr Foo Peow Meng says, “I always believe that such activities are crucial to get more people to help the society, not just for the sake of VIA or CIP hours.” Indeed, Community Affair 2016 certainly helped us as a college to understand the plight of the disadvantaged in our society. Well done to the CA ad-hoc team!

Article by:

Victoria Cheung, 16A14

Claire Chan, 16A12

Joy Lim, 16A12

Megan Chor, 16S31

Liyana Mokhtar Hussein, 16S31

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