In Conversation with Long-time Volunteer Frances Chua

For nearly two decades, Ms Frances Chua has brought joy to the clients of our Day Activity Centre (DAC) through music. In the process, the former public relations consultant also [...]

For nearly two decades, Ms Frances Chua has brought joy to the clients of our Day Activity Centre (DAC) through music. In the process, the former public relations consultant also helped to build their self-confidence and self-esteem. Frances has been greatly missed since her journey with SPD came to an end in September so she can devote her energy to the full-time care of her newborn grandchild. In this article, senior communications & outreach executive Melissa Tan finds out how Frances came to help at SPD for this extended period.

Melissa Tan (MT): Hello Frances! You started volunteering at SPD in 2001. What made you decide to do so?
Frances Chua (FC): Yes, it’s a long time! I started volunteering through pet therapy at the DAC, where I would bring my dogs along and bring joy to the clients. I enjoyed interacting with the clients so much that when I started VocalHeart in 2005, I decided to bring the joy of music to them too.

MT: Tell us more about VocalHeart!
FC: VocalHeart is a music interest group of like-minded volunteers comprising both professional and amateur artistes. For more than 10 years, we have been conducting different types of music programmes for SPD’s DAC clients and other voluntary welfare organisations in Singapore.

MT: Can you describe the activities you conducted at SPD?
FC: I usually conduct two different music programmes – a general music and movement programme and a vocal training programme. The former combines both music and movement, which helps to improve fine and gross motor skills, and engage the entire body in therapeutic music interventions for physical well-being.

I also trained and prepared the DAC choir for performances for SPD and other events outside of SPD. For this, I would specially arrange thematic medleys of songs according to the abilities of the clients.

Frances interacting with DAC clients in a Mid-Autumn Festival activity on 5 Sep 2019

MT: How often were your volunteer sessions at SPD?
FC: My friends and I volunteered on a fortnightly basis, and for two sessions each day, before and after clients’ meals.

MT: How did you find your volunteering experience?
FC: I enjoyed interacting with the clients at DAC, and empowering them with skills that enable them to perform to their very best. In the process, they also became more confident and gained a proud sense of achievement.

Frances hugs Ms Shahidah Lam, DAC training officer, on her last day of volunteering at SPD

MT: What skills do you think an effective volunteer should possess?
FC: I don’t think it is always necessary for a volunteer to possess hard skills. What is more important is for one to have the heart to serve, and to do so with a lot of love and patience.

MT: Any stories or memorable incidents to share?
FC: There are too many treasured moments! For me, seeing how these clients have come a long way to overcome their personal challenges and going on to achieve what was set out for them to do, was gratifying for me.

MT: Has your volunteering experience at SPD helped you in any way, or changed your perspectives?
FC: I’ve learned to be more patient and understanding towards the clients because I know that they take more time to do certain tasks and I can see that they are doing their best to achieve that.

MT: What will you miss most about SPD?
FC: I will miss singing, dancing and exercising with the DAC clients.

Thank you Frances for your dedication over the years!