1. Club Rainbow has grown so much over these years and now serves more than 900 beneficiaries. What kept you going through those early difficult years and what were the challenges you faced?
Money is the lifeblood for every charity. We had big dreams but faced huge funding challenges. There were a few years in the two decades that we had served where we struggled with deficits, but we pulled through. There were also no staff until 1997/1998. And so the volunteers, whether in Council or in Committees, did everything from our own time. So, the Council of the day organized the Annual Party and programs, conducted hospital visits to Rainbow children who were ill, visited families, etc. Those were the pioneering days and a different leadership dynamic was called for. What sustained us through it all was a pioneering spirit and a clear vision of how to make a difference. But most of all, we were empowered by the fuel of compassion.
2. What do you hope to see and envision Club Rainbow to be in 10 to 20 years’ time?
I will touch on future tangibles and intangibles I hope to see. First, at a tangible level, I hope to see Club Rainbow have its own premises possibly collocating with synergistic charities so as to reach out in an even more impactful way. It will be good to have more community touch points with the Rainbow families. We also need to harness technology (For example, creating support groups via WhatsApp etc.)
Secondly, there are 2 intangible “R” that I hope to see more of. The first is Resilience as a key character quality to build strongly into our families’ lives so that we see stronger families. That should be one of the guiding principles for our programs and services. One practical area is caregiver support. Secondly, Respite care especially for single parent caregivers and ways that we can have entire families come alongside a Rainbow family – like a family befriender concept.
3. With a blink of an eye, we are celebrating our 25th Anniversary! Through the years, was there a significant milestone or unforgettable achievement that is memorable for you?
The milestones are not for me. It is of every single Rainbow family – past and present. Whether it is celebrating another birthday, a special family moment during the Annual Family Retreat, seeing recovery from hospitalization, receiving a Spirit of Learning award and so on. It is about co-creating memorable milestones with our Rainbow families. We celebrate each and every milestone of the Rainbow families because, by extension, we are part of their unique journey too.
If there is one significant relatively recent achievement for the charity in the last decade or so, it is the recognition of our children's’ achievements not just scholastically but also in their talents and giftings. The Talent Development Fund incepted in 2005 gave body to the hopes and dreams for the children. It was Hodding Carter who said that there are two things we can give our children: roots and wings. The aim of TDF was to identify the budding, nascent talents of our children and youths and to nurture them. Underlying this grant was the principle of training up the child in the way he or she should go. This affirmed the uniqueness and the dignity of each child. And it encapsulated a longstanding philosophy in Club Rainbow (Singapore) that the children are not different from everyone else; they are different like everyone else.
The vision of Dream Seeds that the charity presently does, building on the talent development initiative, is a fantastic one! We need to intentionally build platforms for the creative and mature expression of the Rainbow children or youth’s giftings or talents.
4. What do you think is your greatest personal achievement during your 20 years term as the President of Club Rainbow?
History will record what is a true achievement or a false dawn! While it is hard to single out one particular favourite. I have had three special joys. First, a dedicated team who continue to serve in love. We intentionally planned succession. In Dr. Sashikumar, you have a passionate and dedicated President who goes the extra mile in care and compassion. I somehow always sensed that my successor would be a medical doctor. I was delighted that all the team members who served together with me continue to serve in CRS. This speaks volumes of their commitment to the cause as well as of Sashi’s leadership.
Secondly, resilient families. On resilient families and Rainbow children, it has been insightful to partake of the journey of healing that the parents go through – from the shock and denial during the initial diagnosis to acceptance. One parent made a profound statement during our Annual Family Retreat - “God gave us special children because He knew that we were special parents”. The beautiful thing is to see a wonderful circle of healing where the parents, at the right time, become “wounded healers” reaching out in empathy to other parents of children with similar illnesses. We have historically, in 2011 onwards (in particular), nurtured different parent support groups. But even informally, parents provide a solace and encouragement to other families often on the side of formal, planned activities.
And then there is the Rainbow children. We reached a virtuous cycle when previous campers returned as youth and young adult volunteers In Camp Rainbow 2014, Shahril, the Chairman of the Organizing Committee said: “Ultimately, we want the kids to have the chance to forget about their health challenges and focus on having fun. Through Camp Rainbow, the kids can boost their self-esteem, improve confidence and make new friends for life”. That voice carries enormous weight because it comes from an ex-beneficiary who has himself experienced psychosocial healing first hand.
Last but not least, an entire movement - an ocean of compassion for the families of children afflicted by illness – has been released in Singapore. Generations upon generations of volunteers, staff, supporters and donors have been profoundly impacted by seeing their worlds intersect with the world of the Rainbow families. We may have made a difference to the world or the Rainbow families collectively and individually but they (the Rainbow families) made a world of difference to our lives. We learnt empathy, overcoming the odds and the power of hope. Our lives have been changed forever by the colours of this Rainbow.