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A Day in the Life of a yCG Facilitator
02 July 2018

Beneath Leonard Kannan’s steely and no-nonsense demeanour lies a gentle heart of compassion.

“The objective of your Values in Action (VIA) session is to help the elderly feel their worth through interactions or activities,” instructs Leonard, a businessman who is in his 40s, to a group of secondary school students.

Upon first impression, Leonard, a facilitator with HCA’s Young Caregivers Programme (yCG), strikes one as a person who is straightforward and almost regimental. But as the day progressed, a gentle and endearing side of him emerges.

Leonard runs the “A Touch of Love” workshop for a group of secondary school students

As part of the students’ preparation for the VIA session at HCA’s Day Hospice Centre, Leonard frequently conducts a yCG workshop titled “A Touch of Love”, to share with students the Dos and Don’ts during their visit.

He also teaches them to be understanding and to empathise with the patients. “Do not expect perfection from the aunties and uncles,” Leonard says. “Practise active listening and be sensitive about your choice of words.”

A briefing held outside HCA’s Kang Le Day Hospice with students from Catholic Junior College

After his morning session at the school, he makes his way over for VIA at Kang Le Day Hospice. There, he meets with and briefs a group of students from Catholic Junior College just under the void deck, to avoid waking the patients from their afternoon nap.

The students are here to facilitate the art and craft session for the patients. “My role as a facilitator is to empower students to lead themselves and their own group in service learning,” Leonard says, while sharing brief background information of each patient with the students. “I provide advice and feedback on how they can tweak the activity so that they can better engage the elderly.”

Leonard helps students place themselves in the shoes of the patients

“Practise active listening and be sensitive about your choice of words”

“Aunty responds slower to people, so speak slowly and it’s ok if she does not respond to what you say,” Leonard assures them. “She will process it and carry out the actions in a few minutes.” Undeterred by the elderly lady’s initial hesitation to participate in the activity, the students gently encourage her. Before long, she was smiling gleefully and painting with the help of the students.  

“My first friend at HCA was an aunty. She went off to a nursing home for a short while, and eventually returned to the Day Hospice, but it wasn’t long before she passed on.” Leonard recalls his initial days with HCA as a facilitator. He also shares about an uncle he once met who used to enjoy a dance game on Xbox, which the students would bring during their VIA sessions. “A few months later, he was in a wheelchair and after a while, he was gone. That’s how it is. Today I might meet them, tomorrow I may not see them again.”

A new friendship formed over arts and craft

Perhaps this gives a glimpse behind the expectations he has for the students. “Before the programme, I would look through their activity list and provide feedback on how they can better schedule their programme to ensure smoother movement during the activity.”

Leonard focuses on positive reinforcement to encourage and empower students  

Towards the end of the session, he sits with the students for a short de-brief. “I usually do a ‘Hamburger feedback’ at the end of each session to highlight what was done well – that’s the bun. Then there’s the mess of lettuce, patty, sauce in there, that’s when I tell them what didn’t go well and top it off with what can be done better.” Leonard opines that it is an effective process which encourages students to reflect on what had happened during the VIA, recollect their observations on the reaction and behaviours of the participants and it gets them thinking about how can they further improve on the activity to better engage the patients.

What began as a cold refusal to participate ended in a warm embrace

“I find it beneficial that HCA has workshops and VIA sessions to engage the young in Singapore from an early age. If a child is not equipped with the knowledge and application, they are unable to practice the importance of service to others.”

"if I could just share a bit of happiness with them somehow, that is more than enough for me"

The series of events throughout the day also revealed the warmer side of the seasoned facilitator through his warm embrace of the patients and always keeping a lookout for the patient’s safety and well-being during the activities.  

A deep love and concern for the patients is what keeps Leonard coming back

The secret to his loving service? “When I come to HCA to conduct VIA, it’s not just to facilitate but also to be with the aunties and uncles. I feel that if I could just share a bit of happiness with them somehow, that is more than enough for me.”