Foreigner volunteers weekly despite language barrier

Foreigner volunteers weekly despite language barrier
COMMITTED: Volunteers from Art of Living Foundation visit the Kang Le Day Care Centre every week.

On Saturdays, while everyone else is enjoying the weekend, senior engineer Rohit Raghuveer of Micron Semiconductor Asia is working.

But he doesn't mind, asking for such arrangement so that he gets Mondays free to volunteer at Kang Le Day Care Centre in Marsiling. He leads the senior citizens there in simple yoga exercises and spends time talking to them.

Mr Rohit, 34, is part of Art of Living Foundation, which helps out at the different hospice around Singapore.

"There are challenges," he said.

"There are days where the patients are less motivated to do the exercises, so I have to be understanding and tell them to take it easy. "Sometimes, I might speak too fast. And with my accent, they don't always catch what I'm saying, so I always have to remind myself to slow down."

But the challenges do not deter Mr Rohit, who moved to Singapore from India five years ago.

He said: "The challenges make me want to go back because it's such a fulfilling feeling when I'm able to improve someone's mood, even if it's just for a day."

Mr Rohit started volunteering at the centre about three months ago and has enjoyed "every minute spent with the residents" despite the communication barriers.

He gets the staff to help him communicate with some of the residents who speak only Chinese dialects.

But even with such a hurdle, Mr Rohit said he "never wants to miss a class with them".

He said: "I've developed some kind of a friendship with them.

"Now that we have done a few classes together, they can even predict what I'm going to ask them to do next. For example, if they see that I'm about to ask them to raise their hands, some of them would rush their hands up in the air before I can finish my sentence.

This amuses them."

It's not only the fun times that keeps Mr Rohit going back, but also the way the residents greet him on each visit.


"Just from the way they say hello, that already puts a smile on my face.

All the students have their own way of greeting me when they see me and it's really cute," said Mr Rohit.

"Some of them come up to me and shake my hand, while others flash the most endearing smiles. The more energetic ones even come up to me for high-fives.

"It is little things like this that make me want to keep coming back to spend time with them every week."

When asked why helping the local community is important to him, Mr Rohit said: "It doesn't matter that I'm not helping other migrant workers who are like me.

"This is the community I live in and this is the society that I'm supposed to help and give back to."

This article was first published on September 25, 2015.
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