To Cook or to Paint? That is the Question – SOA Engage 2019

By SMU School of Accountancy Social Media Student Team

Barely just three weeks into school, the SMU School of Accountancy (SOA) community came together to kickstart our annual community event, otherwise known as SOA Engage. Initiated in 2018, this annual event is the joint effort of the organisers from the SoA Alumni Chapter and the student body SOA Outreach.

Building upon the same spirit of the inaugural event in 2018, SOA Engage 2019 has since expanded from just one main activity to two different activities held over a course of five days. This provided the SOA community with more opportunities to give back to society. In addition, it also allowed the volunteers to give back in areas that they felt most strongly for. On top of that, the varied line-up of events allowed the SOA participants to make a wider impact across different spectrums of the community.

The 2019 edition offered participants the option to choose between Arts Connect @ Bendemeer SAC and Wicked Chef @ Willing Hearts. Those who wanted a closer interaction with the elderly opted for the former while the culinary inclined put their cooking skills to the test in the latter.


Arts Connect @ Bendemeer


Volunteers and their elderly charges at Arts Connect@Bendemeer


Arts Connect, held at Bendemeer SAC, began with volunteers leading the elderly in simple yet nostalgic moves of the Cha Cha dance. Upon witnessing the unabashedly comical attempts at mimicking Cha Cha moves by the volunteers, a few of the veteran and experienced elderly decided to show off their moves. Many of them still had “moves like Jagger”; after all, it was a throwback to an era which felt familiar to them.

With the elderly nicely “warmed up”, we started the art activity which was led by Artbeatz. Every elderly participant was provided with a set of watercolour painting materials and the first task was to paint their very own interpretation of a sunset between mountains. Using a combination of water-based colour pencils and paintbrushes, the elderly were guided through the process of making their artwork come to life. We also had the opportunity to engage the elderly on a personal level. The purpose of the art activity was really to get the elderly to embrace active ageing which means staying active, healthy and socially engaged.


Teaching the elderly to keep mentally active through artistic expression


“It is not easy to find a time when we get to interact with the elderly and to find out more about their lives. SOA Engage allows us to take a break from school and to give back to society. Through this experience, I have come to realise that whatever small interaction we had with the elderly meant a great deal to them, even though it was a small gesture from our end. I also managed to interact with the SOA faculty and alumni in a casual setting,” said SOA Outreach Committee Marketing Director and third-year Accountancy student, Bilson Tan.

The second activity was to complete a pre-sketched drawing. These images were based on the theme “Memories of Singapore” and included icons of Singapore such as the ‘King of Fruits’, Durian, as well as the Merlion. These completed art pieces were then collated to form a collective wall mural in SMU.

Third-year Accountancy student and SOA Outreach committee member Clement Ng recounted his experience: “The uncle was quite willing to open up to us. He talked about his fond memories eating durian during his younger days as he was painting a sketch of durian. I think it’s quite a meaningful event being able to get the elderly to share their past experiences with us and to have someone to talk to even if it is just for a day.”


Seniors at Arts Connect show off their masterpieces


Inevitably, all good things have to come to an eventual close. With their own completed artwork in hand and the mastery of a new skill, it was time to bid farewell. On the other hand, we brought back a renewed sense of purpose for our own lives.


Wicked Chef @ Willing Hearts


Alumni, students, faculty and staff experienced back-end volunteer work at the kitchen


Wicked Chef @ Willing Hearts was certainly no less heartwarming. Our volunteers had gathered at Willing Hearts Kitchen to complete a multitude of tasks including preparation of ingredients, packing of lunch boxes, cleaning and washing of kitchen equipment.

Fun Fact: Did you know that The Soup Kitchen at Willing Hearts is opened daily? It is probably one of the only kitchens in Singapore that has no rest days!

Upon donning our “battle gear” of hairnets and gloves, we started going to various stations ranging from mixing of flour to the breading of fish, and eventually to the actual frying.


Students get a taste of working in a communal kitchen


We were like gears in a machine playing small but vital roles in cooking food for the needy. Some of us managed to interact with the faculty and alumni as well. Thereafter, we proceeded to pack the food into containers ready for delivery to those underprivileged. The event ended with us chipping in our very last ounce of energy to wash the kitchen equipment.


Washing up was no less important to ensure a hygienic environment for food preparation


Gladys Cheng, SOA Outreach Committee member and third-year Accountancy student said: “It is not easy because we had to adapt quickly to our roles and some of us were not used to being in a kitchen. But I think we did quite well as a team and through this activity, I have learnt a few food preparation techniques which may prove to be useful in the future!”

While we were not able to witness our beneficiaries enjoying the food that we have prepared, we still felt a sense of fulfilment knowing that the food would ultimately be of significant importance to someone in need of it.



Ultimately, regardless of which activity we participated in, the act of doing something for the community was indelibly etched in our memories.