The idea for Project Light came from our President Madeleine Lam, who was Overseas Project Director for National University of Singapore’s Nursing Alumni. That first medical trip to Thailand planted the seed of volunteerism in her and showed her that anyone is able to spark change as long as they do it with their hearts.
Today, Project Light has materialised with a full-fledged core team of eight nurses and medical professionals who focus on different aspects of the project, ranging from programmes, marketing to finance. We are also bolstered by a group of like-minded volunteers that regularly join us at our outreach activities. Together, we serve the less fortunate within the society, hoping to inspire interest in global health and challenges that are faced by disadvantaged communities.
We have two arms in Project Light: Overseas and local. For the former, the team focuses mainly on primary healthcare and has completed six trips so far to countries like Thailand and Myanmar. We also partner with organisations such as Radion International – a non-profit organisation providing community development and crisis relief to the poor – and Love Pal Club – a local club which gathers like-minded individuals to serve the community – to educate and treat those in need.
As for the latter, Project Light is currently serving the migrant worker community staying at the Westlite Papan dormitory. Since 2017, the team has organised regular workshops to engage the workers on a variety of topics related to health education. These include diet and nutrition, hypertension and diabetes, the harmful effects of smoking and alcohol, as well as hygiene and lifestyle. Often, these talks are coupled with activities such as yoga and gym sessions.
There is no speaker system in the dormitory, so the team has to go back to basics and go knocking from door to door to convince the workers to drop by the workshop. Coming from less privileged backgrounds, some workers do not see the point of spending their precious off days with us. We have to coax them into coming – often with apples, towels or soap as 'bait'!
It is all worth it once we see our efforts come to fruition. Once, during a workshop, a worker said that he would try to cut down on his cigarettes after learning about the devastating effects of smoking on one's health. His comment truly made our day. Just like how Rome was not built in a day, we cannot expect radical change instantly. Change happens slowly at first, then before we know it, all at once.
Planning a practical and effective health education programme for the migrant workers is challenging. Surveying conditions on the ground and identifying key needs are just some of the methods we use to ensure our healthcare solutions are realistic and useful. We also need to step into the shoes of the workers and think the way they do. For instance, it would be insensitive to suggest that they should have fresh salmon and asparagus as part of a balanced diet – they have a budget of just $1.50 per meal!
Though our local project is still rough around the edges, it warms our heart to see volunteers from all walks of life who are interested in serving the migrant worker community. Our youngest volunteer is 14 years old, and has even facilitated a workshop on her own! Seeing familiar faces at our workshops also spurs us to continue educating and improving the health of the workers.
I am Lee Ang Yun, Senior Staff Nurse at National University Hospital. As Vice-President of Project Light, I will continue to advocate for better quality of life in Singapore and overseas.
To find out how you can lend a hand, visit Project Light at https://www.facebook.com/projectlight2015/.