The internship at Ren Ci Community Hospital has been an insightful one, exposing me both to a healthcare charity organization and to the Intermediate and Long Term Care sector in Singapore that I never knew about.
Firstly, it was interesting to see Ren Ci’s role as a charity healthcare organization in Singapore. With the ageing population and the increase in numbers of people suffering from prosperity and longevity related diseases, charity healthcare organizations like Ren Ci play a crucial though often understated role in aiding those who need help. While people might commonly stereotype those living in nursing homes to be elderly people nearing the ending stages of their lives, I realized through my internship that Ren Ci also cares for middle-aged individuals. These individuals have unfortunately met with accidents or suffered from debilitating strokes, leaving their family members unable or unwilling to care for them. Many of these individuals in the nursing home therefore lack family support, and some elderly residents have even stayed in the nursing home for more than 10 years with few visitors. The need to provide these individuals with care and support is great, and is something that Ren Ci strives to provide.
Organizationally wise, it was also interesting to observe the complexity of Ren Ci’s organization. As both a charity organization and a healthcare organization, many of Ren Ci’s workgroups are multidisciplinary in nature, involving a variety of stakeholders such as doctors, nurses, social workers, as well as staff from the corporate organization providing insights on management issues. For example, a meeting on a workgroup discussing alternatives to nursing home living involved 10 individuals discussing ways in which the project could be executed. This epitomized the complex nature of many of Ren Ci’s projects, for many perspectives have to be consulted and many bureaucratic red tape broken before plans get put forth.
Being able to observe volunteer activities from a third-person perspective also allowed me to realize many things that I myself might not have noticed as a volunteer. The importance of educating volunteers struck me as particularly significant. Volunteers often go into volunteering with good intentions, finding it difficult to deal with setbacks such as being rejected or verbally abused by people whom they hope to help, situations that I have observed happening to some youth volunteers. The role of the organization in educating the volunteers on how to deal with such situations and not to single-mindedly insist on their way is crucial in helping inexperienced volunteers. A similar though distinct issue is that of youth volunteers being more focused on executing their activities than in enjoying the interaction with the elderly. However, when it comes to working with the elderly and the sick, it might be more important for volunteers to provide a listening ear for the person, and this is something not realized by the general public when they volunteer. Experienced volunteers or the organization thus have a need to step in and play a mediating role to achieve optimum outcomes for both the volunteer and the beneficiary.
In summary, the internship at Ren Ci has been insightful in helping me relook at volunteering as not just an activity but also an important sector. Apart from looking at it from a personal perspective, I understood what an organization can do to promote volunteerism and what society as a whole can do to further encourage volunteerism. Much more work needs to be done in encouraging more people to volunteer and more importantly, to do so meaningfully.