Bernard Sim, a volunteer with the Catholic AIDS Response Effort, shares his experiences
Mr Sim doing some nutrition training for CARE residents.
One Sunday after attending 11 am Mass, while on the way to lunch, a call came through asking me to transport some heavy items.
I did not want to reject Peter’s request as he has been to me a model of charity. As I was ordering our food, I asked if he could wait. True to his nature he waited.
After picking up the heavy items, we headed for the Catholic AIDS Response Effort (CARE) shelter.
I realised that it is the same group I had previously helped as a driver. Peter explained that the item I ferried was a marquee for Our Lady. It dawned on me that perhaps Our Lady was calling me to volunteer at CARE. But I hesitated for a few weeks.
I have helped in distributing food rations to the needy in Karimun, Indonesia. But helping out at an AIDS shelter was totally different. I had some doubts at first.
However, after praying over the matter, I finally found the courage to propose starting a hydroponics garden for CARE. This project could provide fresh vegetables for the residents’ own consumption. More importantly, it would allow them to do something and feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
The staff at CARE were supportive and I embarked on the new project in 2015. Over the years, I have had opportunities to help out in other areas as well.
At first, the residents were reserved and a bit shy. Slowly, as they got to know me better, they began to open up about themselves. I began to understand their plight and challenges.
I realised that, like me, they have aspirations – they want to be able to support themselves, they want to have friends.
We talked about the daily grind of life, their financial difficulties, family issues etc. I tried my best to respond with encouraging words and positive actions. Gradually, I learnt to listen more and talk less.
I realised that what they sometimes need is just to have someone hear them out. The most difficult part is the feeling of not being able to do more for them.
In my conversations with the staff, I learnt about their mission and the rationale for the various programmes that they have put in place for the residents. The cottage industry, which includes candle and rosary making, gives the residents a sense of responsibility, purpose and fulfilment.
Through CARE, I also learnt about the Church’s mission of charity – not only by faith but by deeds too in obedience to the Word of God to glorify Him.
I saw that AIDS patients are no different from me in that they have aspirations and they face challenges and struggles on a daily basis. Like me, they need that little help to stay motivated and continue to live life with purpose. What CARE does is to be the face of God’s love to them and give them the hope to carry on.
I also learnt to overcome my own fears. I have got rid of any misconception and prejudices that I previously had.
I enjoy volunteering at CARE and hope to do so for a long time more. I will live by this verse of our Lord’s prayer: “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
CARE was founded in 1992 with the Christian dedication of promoting the dignity of the human person. At CARE, this has been realised mainly through the provision of holistic care in the form of spiritual, psychological, emotional, financial and physical support to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs).
CARE’s main focuses are:
– CARE shelter for men where they experience the companionship of staff and volunteers who journey with them, helping them to overcome their emotional and social issues.
– Non-residential programme for people with AIDS who are living on their own who require support.
– Advocacy programme to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and promote greater understanding and acceptance.
CARE will be holding its annual World AIDS Day Mass at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Nov 26 at 11 am. All are welcome. CARE’s website is www.care.org.sg.