Unlocking the Passion to Serve

Unlocking the Passion to Serve

Tuesday, 20 February 2018


Like many student teachers, Jo-Anne Seet discovered her passion for community work through her service-learning projects at NIE. While the third-year Bachelor of Arts undergraduate was no newcomer to service learning, Jo-Anne’s earlier exposures were limited to the community involvement programmes (CIP) at school.

“CIP projects tend to revolve around visits to homes for the elderly or children. Thus, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do more in terms of engaging the marginalised in society,” revealed the English Literature major.

The big break came when Jo-Anne was asked to lead a Group Endeavours in Service Learning (GESL) project during her first year. “I had to organise an outreach involving migrant workers in Singapore, and that’s when I found out how much I truly could and wanted to help. The passion sustained me in motivating my teammates towards our goals,” she recalled. 

Jo-Anne was also appointed Chairperson of NIE’s Service-Learning Club. This forced her to look beyond her own service-learning involvements to helping others in the NIE community engage in service learning. As the club’s key champion, Jo-Anne got to co-organise and participate in many community activities, including local and overseas projects.

“It’s quite a natural thing for me to extend a helping hand, and I’ve become less afraid to actively seek out marginalised migrant workers who need help,” said Jo-Anne, admitting that the benefits of helping have been mutual.

“As much as I’m helping my migrant brothers when I interact with them, I’m gaining insights into a life perspective that is very different. Through their stories and responses, I’m able to grow in my understanding of the fissures in our society, and in my knowledge and appreciation of other cultures. In return, I do what I can with my limited capacity of companionship and a listening ear,” she elaborated.

“These days, my favourite form of service learning is to drop by HealthServe’s Desker Road Centre every Thursday night to makan (meaning ‘to eat’ in Malay) with my migrant brothers,” she confessed. HealthServe is a non-profit organisation empowering disadvantaged migrant workers in Singapore through healthcare, counselling and social assistance.

Reflecting on her service-learning journey, the spirited volunteer, who has just returned from a four-month semester exchange programme in Finland, credits NIE’s curriculum for fulfilling her personal aspiration. “My deepest gratitude goes to Prof Vilma, advisor to our Service-Learning Club, who has enlightened me on what it means to serve and learn at the same time. She’s the perfect role-model in many ways because she totally practices what she preaches!” Jo-Anne said.

Sharing from personal experience, she continued, “As future teachers, we can definitely equip ourselves better to facilitate service learning. To help students draw meaningful lessons from their CIP involvements, teachers need to help frame students’ mindsets before and during service learning, as well as help students to reflect on their experiences.

“We can also make service learning more relevant by helping our students relate the experience to their academics or personal interests!” Jo-Anne concluded.