22 January 2019: FunOpenCulture’s inaugural Service Day helps Yale-NUS staff and faculty give back to the wider community

By Daryl Yang

Yale-NUS staff and faculty at Willing Hearts (Soup Kitchen). Image by Wayne Xu for Yale-NUS College. 

26 September 2018 was a seemingly regular Monday morning—but instead of heading to their desks, around 40 members of Yale-NUS College’s staff and faculty found themselves washing vegetables and packing lunches in an industrial building.

They were volunteering as part of Yale-NUS’ inaugural Service Day at Willing Hearts, a soup kitchen that prepares, cooks and distributes about 5,000 daily meals to the less privileged over 40 locations island wide.

Organised by the FunOpenCulture, a staff and faculty welfare committee which aims to foster a vibrant and close-knit workplace community, this was the first time that such an event was organised.

According to Ms Jacqueline Lee, the current chairperson of the committee and Personal Assistant to the Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs), the Yale-NUS Service Day was inspired by a similar programme organised at the National University of Singapore.

Staff and faculty hard at work in the kitchen. Image by Wayne Xu for Yale-NUS College. 

While some volunteered to prepare the ingredients, others focused on clearing the trash or doing anything they were tasked to. For about four hours, the volunteers saw one another breaking out in sweat as they toiled in the sweltering kitchen. An unusual sight as colleagues were usually in their formal office attire, it provided a good bonding opportunity across departments and rank.

“Overall, our volunteers said that they enjoyed themselves and everyone worked really hard during the time we were there. It was also a great chance for our staff and faculty to network and connect while doing good,” Ms Lee said.

Given the positive feedback they received, the committee hopes that their successors will organise this event again and continue to find meaningful way to contribute to the wider community.

Apart from the Yale-NUS Service Day, the FunOpenCulture committee also organises various activities and events throughout the year to cultivate a welcoming environment. This includes the annual Dinner and Dance as well as monthly birthday gifts and watercolour painting workshops.

“Essentially, we are trying to build a community where we take care of staff welfare. We want our staff to enjoy not just the work that they do here but also in terms of having a work-life balance where they can participate in activities of interest, and also bond with their colleagues,” Ms Lee said.

She added that the initiatives organised by her committee are supported by the senior leadership of the College, who strongly believe in making all staff and faculty members feel included and appreciated.

The committee serves for a year beginning from March. Ms Lee and her team of ten will be stepping down in a few months and they are currently looking for individuals to take over.

Something that she found surprising during her time on the committee was finding out that the concept of an annual Dinner and Dance was something new to colleagues from other countries.

“When I was publicising the event to some faculty members, they told me that they have never encountered something like that before! I had to explain to them what it means and it was an interesting experience,” she said.

Ms Lee added that being on the committee was a “great experience”.

“I had the chance to meet more people from the college. Sometimes we get so busy with our own work, we may not have the opportunity to make friends with colleagues from other departments.”