Confessions of an NDP motivator mentor

He is the motivator behind the National Day Parade (NDP) motivators - volunteers that lead the crowd in celebration.

Mr John Bai (left), 35, has been volunteering as a lead mentor to NDP motivators for the past eight years. Yesterday's parade was his ninth.

He has about 10 mentors under his charge, who collectively took care of about 60 motivators this year.

The job description of a motivator: Energise, excite and entertain the audience. They also participate in an "entry dance", which kicks off the parade.

The journey for these NDP motivators, who are typically students in their late teens, begins in April.

Recruitment includes a series of games that mentors play with the prospective motivators, says Mr Bai, who works as a freelance music instructor.

Games may sound fun but they are also a way for the mentors to gauge who has the right qualities, such as "a willingness to learn and make sacrifices", Mr Bai reveals.

Training for the chosen motivators (there are 433 this year) begins in May and runs to mid-June.

For three hours each weekend, they undergo basic training, which includes how to interact with crowds and whip up a celebratory mood.

Motivators are also trained in special skills. Their secret weapon: balloon sculpting.

"Balloons are always a hit with kids," says Mr Bai.

"By entertaining the kids and getting them excited, the enthusiasm can transfer to the adults, who are typically more reserved."

He adds that the students also make props, which add a fun touch for photos taken with the audience.

Once training is done, the motivators start full-day rehearsals and previews until the day of the parade.

It is a gruelling schedule that sees the team rehearse for at least 10 hours each day.

But Mr Bai says the satisfaction he gets is priceless.

"I have the privilege of seeing these youths transform. From people who don't dare to step out, into people who give it their all as an NDP motivator."

Galvanising a crowd of strangers at the parade can instil not only confidence, but also impart life skills such as integrity, the importance of excellence, and even punctuality, he says.

"The opportunity to impart these values is what keeps me coming back."

This article was published on Aug 10 in The New Paper.

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