Category: Volunteer Spotlight

Star PALS launches the Empowerment Series

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This February, Star PALS kick-started the Star PALS Empowerment Series to equip caregivers with useful skills that could help them in their journey.

The Star PALS Empowerment Series is targeted at the parents of the children under the Star PALS Programme. Composed of workshops by qualified speakers on a variety of subjects, the series is slated to be a bimonthly affair.

“A vital part of paediatric palliative care is supporting the patients’ loved ones,” said Ang Siang Ping, Medical Social Worker with Star PALS. “The Star PALS Empowerment Series will include all sorts of courses that we hope can help these caregivers reconnect with themselves.”

Medi Minder assignments were arranged in conjunction to the session to allow parents to take the time off caring for their children with peace of mind.

The very first session in this series was entitled, “When the going gets tough…coping strategies”, and was led by trainer Imelda Sutisna, Managing Principal Consultant & Master Trainer of JOURNEY Training & Consultancy, who specialises in imparting proven thinking processes to developing capabilities. Imelda has a wealth of experience in psychology and training and development.

By 9am, the HCA Auditorium was transformed into a cosy and welcoming environment with rugs, cushions and snack trays awaiting the parents. Two ladies from the British Association also joined in, very generously preparing an inviting spread of quiche, cake, and scones for refreshments.

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When the participants were finally settled comfortably on the rugs and chatting with each other, Imelda began the session with a needs assessment. Working in teams, the parents discussed what sort of courses and sessions would be useful for them – from information on therapy aids like aromatherapy and hydrotherapy, to grooming techniques for the children, to more practical information such as generating passive income.

After this, Imelda moved into relationships – in the theme of Valentine’s Day, which coincided with the workshop. She asked the parents to share with each other the ways they support and strengthen their own relationships. Together, they brainstormed ways to improve their relationships,

Finally, they moved the discussion to brainstorming for ways to make the everyday fun and enjoyable for the whole family.

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It became apparent that the parents had many ideas and experiences to share, and many important perspectives for each other to consider. Finally, the session had to come to an end before Imelda could continue on to the topics of adversity. She concluded with a final slide on the ‘Marriage Box’:

“Marriage at the start is an empty box. You must put something in before you can take anything out. A couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising – keeping the box full.”‘

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The participants most enjoyed learning from other like-minded individuals who had a deep understanding of the challenges they all faced. Although a majority of the parents weren’t acquainted before the session began, they were chatting like old friends and exchanging contacts by the end of the session.

“I’m glad that these parents are given the opportunity today to meet each other,” shared Imelda. ”I’m glad they also had a chance to get a break – some of our participants today seemed rather downcast and tired when they first came in. I also hope they’ll form a supportive network between each other.”

Star PALS would like to thank Imelda and her team of volunteers, as well as the British Association, for making the session a success.

Baking a difference, one cake at a time

Since June this year, Madam Sapiah has been contributing her talent and time by baking birthday cakes for children under the Star PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) programme.

From Barney the Dinosaur to a dainty doll the little birthday girl could not bear to eat, these cakes are tailored to each child by Madam Sapiah with the help of Geraldine Tan, Medical Social Worker for Star PALS.

As a result, the children never fail to be delighted when they lay eyes on their personalised cakes. One of the children, a young fencer, had given her an immediate ‘thumbs up’ when he saw the fencers on his cake, recalled Madam Sapiah with a smile.

Beyond their colourful fondant figures, Madam Sapiah also invests much care and thought into the design of each cake. For example, she once chose to bake a truffle cake for a child who experiences difficulty biting, giving him the chance to enjoy the cake by licking it instead.

‘I feel happiness especially when I see parents treasure moments with their children,’ said Madam Sapiah when asked what motivates her to volunteer her talent this way.

Coming from Madam Sapiah, these heartfelt words hold a world of meaning.

Her own son Faridz had been part of the Star PALS programme, but passed on last June at the age of 14. It was because of him that she had initially started baking, as she needed a profession that would allow her to stay home to care for him.

‘After Faridz passed on, I just felt empty,’ Madam Sapiah shared. ‘I needed to go out to do something to help others.’

She offered her help to the schools Faridz had previously attended – Rainbow Centre and Metta School – before approaching Dr Chong Poh Heng, Programme Director of Star PALS, who suggested that she bake cakes for the Star PALS children.

On watching the children receive the cakes, Madam Sapiah said, ‘When I saw the children so happy, the emptiness went away.’

Madam Sapiah is now also training to become a Medi-Minder – a special breed of medically trained volunteers who provide respite at home for caregivers. By taking care of children in the programme, they provide a chance for caregivers get some quality time for themselves.

‘You can feel love in the food you eat,’ said Madam Sapiah, explaining her passion for cooking and baking. Through her baking, the love she has shared with these families has helped to perfect these annual celebrations of life between parent and child – certainly creating moments to treasure.

The Star PALS team believes every individual is capable of making a difference, and would be pleased to accept any form of help you would like to contribute. Find out how you can help here.