As everyone went about setting up tables and chairs for the arts and crafts session, Mr Mohd Razali Abdul Latiff circled the small room, stopping occasionally to smile and wave.
Friendly but restless, the 26-year-old continued pacing until Sister Marie de Roza stepped in front of him, gestured, and led him gently to a table to start their paper sampan-making session.
It looked like a simple exchange between Mr Mohd Razali and Sister Marie. But it is rapport that had taken the 71-year-old nun time to build, as Mr Mohd Razali is intellectually disabled and does not speak.
Five times a week, he attends the day activity centre at the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled which Sister Marie visited as part of her course work.
Sister Marie, who works at St Joseph's Home, is one of 11 people who have just finished the Certificate in Spiritual Care in the Helping Profession.
She was drawn to the course because she felt it could help her learn to better reach out to patients at the nursing home. She wanted to go beyond caring for their physical needs.
Organised by the Social Service Institute (SSI), the human capital development arm of the National Council of Social Service, the four-month course is the first of its kind offered in Singapore.
It is aimed at those working in the healthcare or social services sector, with at least three years' experience in their respective fields. The programme teaches participants to develop a care system based on a deeper understanding and connection with their patients.
Mr Raja Chowdhury, deputy director of business development and marketing at SSI, said: "Spiritual well-being is about your inner self. We need to understand the individual as a living document, and do a stock check of what is going on within the person."
Besides classroom learning, each participant had practical training at one or two of seven healthcare organisations that were involved in the programme.
They included Arc Children's Centre, Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled and Villa Francis Home for the Aged.
Dubbed spiritual or compassionate carers, students went to these placement sites to apply their knowledge, working with patients who were identified by staff as needing extra attention.
Sister Marie said: "I realised that it helped me to become a better person, more sensitive, understanding."
Another course participant, Mr Suhardi Tejan, said: "I learnt about death and self-care. I also learnt that spirituality and caring for the aged or disabled are not just about providing them with their daily needs, but more importantly, the journey that I take with them which will make a great difference in their lives."
This article was first published on December 31, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.