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VOLUNTEERS ACTING UP

Becoming part of a play and shaping the storyline, helps participants get a different view of volunteering.


Getting prepared for an overseas volunteer stint involves several steps.

There are interviews, project and culture briefings, health screenings and training sessions.

And watching a play.

Not the most obvious tool, but an evening at the theatre is exactly what the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) organised on 27 April 2012 for a group of volunteers and potential volunteers.

Theatre group Drama Box performed The Well, a play tackling the challenges that can arise when individuals volunteer in developing communities overseas.

A well is set to be built in a rural village by a team of volunteers. The play’s four characters – a volunteer, a project engineer, a deputy village chief and a village elder – each have different notions of how things should be done. They end up in a heated argument and the project looks headed for failure.

The Well, however, was no ordinary performance. Drama Box used forum theatre, a medium where members of the audience are able to stop the play at any time, and take on one of the roles to shape the storyline.

This pause in the performance is traditionally done when a character is being oppressed and needs help to bring the situation to a positive conclusion.

Though hesitant to tread the boards at first, several members of the audience were eventually game enough to join the cast on stage. Goh Hui Li was one who shared and performed her ideas to prevent the conflicts that ensued in the play.

“Being part of the play allowed me to put my thoughts and assumptions into action. I was also challenged to correct any misconceptions on the spot,” said Hui Li, who hopes to volunteer with the SIF soon.

“The play gave insight into the potential issues I might face as a volunteer, and was a form of training in learning to see things from different perspectives,” she added.

Experienced overseas volunteers gained from the forum theatre piece too.

Juliana Loh, who conducted training for teachers over five days in Thailand in March 2012, found the interactive performance enlightening and a useful tool for potential volunteer stints in the future.

The Well illustrated how, if we’re not careful, we can end up being patronising, because we may think we’re being so magnanimous by volunteering,” she said.

She’s keen to volunteer again, but watching The Well has taught her a few lessons on how to be more effective as a volunteer.

“I would definitely ask my team leader more questions to have a clearer picture of what’s expected of me,” Juliana shared. “I would keep a clear mind and think of solutions that would end in win-win situations.”

We host regular events where volunteers and potential volunteers can find out more about volunteering with us, pick up ideas and techniques, or simply get to know each other better and learn from each other’s experiences. Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to tell you more and send an invitation.



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