Text by Ruchi Mittal
Images courtesy of National Heritage Board
MuseSG Volume 9 Issue 2 - Apr to Jun 2016
It is often said that arts and culture are the preserve of the privileged. However, the National Heritage Board, with all its national museums, creates access for all. This is why I feel that the HeritageCares programme, for which I volunteered, is such a great initiative. While recognising that our shared heritage is relevant and important for all Singaporeans, it also acknowledges that its reception and use may vary for different audiences, all of which are equally valid and meaningful.
Hence HeritageCares has, as its primary aim, not to be a high-handed information-heavy teaching vehicle, but a platform for family bonding, social skills and quality educational experiences. The beneficiaries of this programme are currently the underprivileged being supported by Community Chest – low-income families, people with disabilities, youths-at-risk and senior citizens. The programmes under HeritageCares are facilitated by volunteers who function as both buddies and guides.
Before the official launch, a pilot run of the programme was held, with the route based around a section of the Jubilee Walk trail. The attendees were largely children from low-income families, many with accompanying parents and some without. Hailing from three Family Service Centres, they woke up early on a Saturday morning for a rather unusual outing that began at the National Museum. Here the volunteers, including myself, greeted the participants and divided them into smaller groups that each of us would chaperone.
I accompanied a family of four, which included two young kids. The parents had never been to a museum in their lives. Despite this being something I had been told to expect, it was difficult for someone such as myself, who frequently spends spare time walking through the calm spaces of museums and galleries, to imagine. What surprised me even more was the fact that the parents I was with immediately removed the notebooks from the goodie bag they had been given and started taking notes from the first gallery we took them to. This touched me, because it was clearly their first opportunity to experience the museum, and they really wanted to make the most of it by recording their memories to take home.
Another sweet moment occurred at our last stop, the Peranakan Museum, which the elder son remembered from a previous school trip. He was really excited and eager to share his knowledge with his parents, and distinctly remembered certain facts about objects that his teacher had shared with him previously. While the facts were interesting, the more important thing was that they became a medium for bonding between him and his parents. By sharing, he reinforced his knowledge, and gave himself greater confidence in his own competence and understanding of the cultural domain. Seeing how much the participants got out of this walk while also enjoying themselves through the entire event was truly the greatest reward.
If you too would like to do some meaningful volunteering at HeritageCares events, please get in touch with us at Volunteers@nhb.gov.sg