First Time Volunteering at Willing Hearts

November 10, 2019



Hey guys!

Today we went to volunteer at Willing Hearts, a soup kitchen. If you're interested in volunteering there, this post may help you know what to expect!

Signing Up

We signed up at Eventbrite, but I think you can just turn up and help, especially if you have a car as they almost always need drivers to distribute the food to various locations around the island. We went for the earlier 6.30-8.30am slot on a Sunday, as the 8.30 slot seems to always be full. No training required. Kiddos are welcomed (but please make sure they are disciplined. The kitchen can be hectic, and it's a dangerous place for kids to play in). We saw some families volunteer together, which is absolutely heartwarming!

6.30am sunrise

Self-Guided Volunteering

One thing to note is that you may not be given clear instructions here, so many times you just gotta take initiative or figure things out on your own. You can also try to find someone in charge and clarify things. Sometimes, someone may shout out 'I need people to help me unload boxes,' and people will just get up from their stations and help. There are no fixed roles. All very flexible.

I think it's difficult for them to do a mass briefing because everyone turns up (and leaves) at different times. Hence, existing volunteers at a station usually teach and 'hand over' to newer ones as the day goes on.

Cutting Station 

So we just grabbed a hairnet and gloves (both provided) and joined the cutting station. There, we cut head after head of cabbage into one inch pieces, and also peeled and cut sweet potatoes. A lot of the donated sweet potatoes were mouldy and gross haha but we managed to salvage some of it! We really had to QC each potato strictly. The golden rule for us was: If you wouldn't eat it, throw it away.

Many hands make light work though! It's satisfying to see big baskets fill up with cut vegetables :)

Side thought: I wonder if these rotting vegetables can be composted???? Would be nice if organisations with different aims could link up with each other haha.

Knife Work

Not everyone is familiar with a knife, so if you are thinking of volunteering (and preparing meals) at a soup kitchen, maybe watch some videos like this to prepare yourself and be more efficient.

For example, watch this video to see how you can cut a head of cabbage (easily).



Sharing this video because not many people cook nowadays haha! You can also watch this video about how to cut a bell pepper. We saw a teen having a lot of trouble cutting the sweet potatoes, and was quite worried about him cutting himself. (We tried to help him of course)

There are lots of cutting boards and knives to go around, so you can just grab a stool and start cutting. There's also a sharpening stone for knives at the sink.

(Side thought: haha professional chefs can probably get through baskets of vegetables in a blink of an eye! I hope to be able to cut like that one day.)

Thoughts

Overall I am pleased that we managed to be here and contribute a little to the day's work. It definitely made our Sunday a whole lot more meaningful!

I hope to try a different station next time, and I think I'll continue to go for the early morning slots because the 8.30 or 12pm slots are more popular and it can get a bit crowded. When they are overstaffed you may find nothing to do and feel useless. Haha.

I want to learn more about the organisation to better understand their needs (do they require more money, more oil, rice, vans, or kitchen supplies like peelers?) Would posters on the wall help instruct newbies on what to do? Not every one knows you have to cut the vegetables to a certain size. There are some bad reviews of Willing Hearts on Facebook, but for us, the people we met there were all friendly and good-natured. The people in charge may seem more wrung-out and 'fierce' probably because there are so many sections to supervise (Cutting, Washing, Cooking, Packing, Delivery etc).

There are only six full-time staff and the charity relies on donors for food and rental.  Willing Hearts delivers to more than 6000 beneficiaries every day, ranging from elderly to the jobless. So if you have no time you can also consider donating to them to help pay their rent and support their efforts :)

Pictures and videos are not permitted in the kitchen, so if you want to get a sense of what the kitchen is like, you can check out some of these articles below.

I only snapped a pic of the outside of the building, which is the first building, straight after the security guard house. The compound, just opposite Kampong Ubi CC (nearest MRT : Paya Lebar or Eunos), also houses APSN and MINDS.

More articles on Willing Hearts:

"The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest of intentions"

Happy Volunteering!

Till next time,
Skye

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