Building confidence through outdoor activities

RP staff, students and families of the Gurkha Contingent Unit Welfare Centre after an exciting day of art therapy and roller gilder at the Xperiential Learning Centre. (PHOTO: Liz Riyana)

Rock climbing and kayaking were two activities that children from the Gurkha Contigent’s Unit Welfare Centre Special Needs Club took part in last year.

RP staff, students and families of the Gurkha Contingent Unit Welfare Centre after an exciting day of art therapy and roller gilder at the Xperiential Learning Centre. (PHOTO: Liz Riyana)

It was her first time organising activities for children with special needs, but for Hnin Rati Khaing, Secretary of RP’s Service-learning Club, she learnt from them as much as they enjoyed the activities. 

Rati said: “Working with children with special needs requires more patience than with adults due to their energy and playfulness. Patience, repeating instructions, and simplifying them are crucial for engagement. During an art therapy session, I challenged myself to captivate their attention with drawing emojis and origami.”

Hnin was part of the team from RP’s Service-learning and collaborated with Adventure Learning clubs that organised four activities in collaboration with Gurkha Contingent Unit Welfare Centre. 

The programmes took part in over four months from June to September, aimed to foster friendship, family bonding and understanding between the students and the participants, making it a wholesome and fruitful experience for those involved.

Conquering the Rocky Wall

The first activity commenced on June 24 at RP’s Xperiential Learning Centre (XLC) saw participants conquering their fear of height as they tackled both the 1.2m and 4.8m challenge courses. The students facilitated games, assisted participants in putting on harnesses, partnered with them to scale walls, and navigated the challenge courses. 

One of the participants shared: “It was my first time rock climbing, and I was really scared at first.” 

However, the participants praised the RP students for their patience and support, stating that their encouragement helped them overcome their fears and enjoy the experience.

“The RP students were patient and helpful, and I ended up having a lot of fun,” another participant said.

A great splash

On Jul 8, the second activity was held at the RP’s Swimming Complex, students and participants engaged in kayaking and water-based games. Students teamed up with participants, paddling around the pool in kayaks or rafts. They also organised water games to help participants build their water confidence, assisting them in the water-based activities. Here, everyone had a great time splashing around in the water.

A walk in the Gardens

The third programme was a walk around Gardens by the Bay and kite flying at Marina Barrage on Aug 5. The students and participants enjoyed the beautiful scenery at Gardens by the Bay and had a lot of fun flying their kites at Marina Barrage.

“Having only seen glimpses of Gardens by the Bay through online images, experiencing its beauty in person today is truly remarkable,” said one of the Gurkha parents.

A therapeutic and thrilling Moment

The fourth and final programme on Sep 16, was art therapy and roller glider at the Xperiential Learning Centre at Republic Polytechnic. In the art therapy session, the students and participants drew artwork together, and in the roll gilder session, they harnessed up and went on the high-speed roll gilder with their loved ones. Everyone enjoyed trying and had a great time and gained new experiences.

“The roller glider activity provided a wonderful outlet for the children to express their creativity without limitations,” said one of the Gurkha parents. “It was a novel experience for many, as several of them mentioned that this was their first time trying it. Despite their initial apprehension, they bravely ventured forth and embraced the challenge. Kudos to these courageous youngsters!”

Making a difference

Despite facing challenges, the students developed customised programs, including training for handling meltdowns, to create a safe environment. Innovative activities like rock climbing and kite flying sparked enthusiasm, promoting exploration of Singapore. We hope these sessions empower children and parents to embrace new experiences with confidence,” shared Venise Lo Wan Qi, President of Service-Learning Club.

“Connecting with the children, witnessing their blossoming, and fostering their adventurous spirit through novel outdoor experiences like rock climbing and kayaking brought immense joy. Our goal was to build trust and provide a safe and positive environment, helping them overcome challenges and embrace new experiences with confidence,” said Quek Yan Hui, President of Adventure Learning Club.

The positive impact of the program was affirmed through the children’s enjoyment and parents’ gratitude, fostering a desire for increased outdoor activities and family bonding, particularly following the fourth session with the Gurkha contingent.

After the fourth session with the Gurkha contingent, See Lai Suan, Deputy Head of Logistics of Adventure Learning Club, commented “Initially daunting, interacting with children with special needs became rewarding. Rapport building and stepping outside my comfort zone allowed me to effectively engage them through activities and excursions.” “Witnessing their enjoyment and parents’ gratitude confirmed the program’s positive impact. I hope these sessions spark more outdoor activities and family bonding for the future.”

A fruitful collaboration

As the collaboration concluded, both the participants and organisers bid farewell with a sense of fulfilment and a promise to continue fostering connections and creating opportunities for growth. The four-part outdoor programme series stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and the transformative impact of shared experiences.

Hnin Rati Khaing, Secretary of Service-Learning Club, said: “Adaptability was key as we adjusted activities to their preferences and pace. I hope these sessions fostered new friendships, helped them overcome their fear of heights, and instilled a love for outdoor activities, which may encourage them to explore nature further upon returning home.”