“Arc was such a welcome relief and gave us a much needed break from the hospital and stress over Shaheen Varisha’s health. It was wonderful to meet other families who were also going through the same thing and finding a support system has been priceless for us. I’m very impressed by the wide range of activities for Varisha to take part in and, more importantly, the positive values, social skills and compassion she learns from the teachers, staff and peers at Arc.
I feel that people like Auntie Geraldine, Auntie Ronita and Auntie Irene should all get an award for their unwavering dedication to the job. The incredible amount of love and goodness they share with the kids every day is simply amazing. I have no words to describe how thankful I am for kindhearted people at Arc. With them, I know that my daughter is in good hands. Now, my daughter wants to be a leader all the time. She makes the rules around the house and has even told me that ‘Papa must go to Arc!’ Even though I can send her to other kindergartens now, Arc remains as our first choice for our daughter.”
“Previously, my son had never mixed with other kids of his age as he was always alone at the hospital or at home. But ever since he joined Arc, he’s been surrounded by volunteers and kids of various ages and backgrounds. Now, he can’t wait to meet his friends every day. It’s also great to know that I don’t have to worry about him falling sick when he’s here.
It really puts my mind at ease that Aunties Ronita and Irene are both trained nurses who have no problems taking care of any of the children’s medical needs. He has learnt so much from his lessons and experiences at Arc. He is now more cheerful, confident and independent. At Arc, children grow holistically and gain a wider perspective of the world. Arc has definitely changed our life for the better.”
“One precious aspect is how Henry now has friends. All the socialisation skills and playdates that had been denied for so long… that part of his life is now fulfilled. Just the other week, Henry saw an Arc buddy crying in the bloodtaking room in the hospital and rushed in to comfort him saying, “Don’t cry.” It was incredibly humbling to see such empathy from a 3-year-old.
As a teacher myself, I understand the requirements of maintaining a vibrant classroom, but on my many visits it is clear that the job the Arc team takes on is so much more. Individual care is given to each child with love. Henry still needs naps, and his requests for Auntie Ronita to hold him to sleep are always met with open arms.”
“Violette is now 4 years old and thanks to Arc, her transformation has been amazing. From not wanting to speak, she is now called the ‘CEO’ at Arc because after just 6 months there, she talks so much and can even put the boys in their places!
I really attribute this to the strong enrichment programmes run by Arc as well as the attention and patience given by the very experienced staff, volunteers and teachers – not just to the children, but to us parents too.”
Seeing the children go through all these treatments with courage has helped me appreciate life more. I draw from their mettle, inspired by their strength to continue on in my work. When the children grow up healthy and make a good life for themselves, it is encouraging and rewarding as it gives work meaning.
Arc makes the families’ journeys meaningful. It provides them a chance to escape from their confined environments, not only for the children to learn useful skills and to make friends, but for the parents to get to know other families as well.
“My volunteering began after Ronita extended great care to my late mother in a hospice. She made the effort to talk to the family members of the dying and her gentle manner brought me much comfort. She also painstakingly explained the stages my mum was experiencing as she edged towards death. Knowing what was happening to my mother physically really helped. I thought, ‘OK whatever help this woman needs in the future, I will gladly extend to her.’
Ronita Paul is my hero. Geraldine has the biggest, warmest heart and positivity that is unmatched. I would do anything for these two. Watching them and the wonderful Arc staff take such remarkable care of the kids is life affirming and inspiring. The work that Arc does is critical and meaningful. I volunteer because I am 100% behind what they do. It is my pleasure to support their work.
Through the years, we inevitably lose some kids to cancer. For me, it is very difficult and heart-breaking to witness this loss. I don’t know how Roni, Gerrie and the staff do it over and over, and how their hearts withstand the pain. Very possibly, their hearts are bigger than everyone else’s.”
“What resonates with me are Arc’s values – Simplicity, Joy, Compassion, Support and Commitment. These values are very much in the DNA of everyone who works here. With humanity and kindness, they provide a sanctuary for children with serious illnesses. They form a strong support system for the children and give them a chance to grow as individuals.
I became a volunteer 10 years ago. The CEO of my company is a strong believer in giving back to society and he has known the Founders of Arc for a very long time. That’s how I learnt about Arc. And after seeing how the centre is run, what it stands for and most of all, the people behind Arc, I haven’t looked back.
Arc has lived up to its values. It has shown me what courage really looks like and made me realise how petty some of the things I constantly worry about are. Just being here and seeing how happy the children are, and how they react to everyone at Arc fills my heart with joy.”
Being at Arc for the last three years, I have learnt how to better understand and interact with children. Their hugs and kisses are so special and mean the world to me. I want to see every child happy. Spending time dancing with them is something I am glad to contribute.
“Spending time with these brave and resilient children and seeing their ability to endure leaves me awestruck”
“Love and passion drives the people at Arc. They are full of zeal and tender loving care. They see the children’s needs and act to fulfill them, bringing much joy and laughter to these children.”
“I have learnt, to my immense amazement, that there’s so much courage in these brave little souls (and bodies). They have inspired me to cherish my children even more, and taught me to seize the day and not worry excessively about what comes along tomorrow. Every new day is a blessing indeed!”
Volunteering with Arc seemed like the most natural thing to do. It gives me immense satisfaction to see the children enjoying themselves and their immeasurable joy and laughter.
“Our relationship with Ronita and Geraldine dates back many years. The devotion they put into their work is something that resonated and stood out. Working with Arc also really does make us adults think long and hard about how we deal with our own personal issues. I’m very certain we have all become more appreciative of life in this time together.”
For close to three years, Saaman and his family stayed in Singapore so that he could undergo cancer treatments that were not available in their native Bangladesh. Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) at age nine, Saaman is now a 16-year-old secondary school student in Dhaka. He and his father Dr Aminul I. Talukder tell us why Singapore feels like home.
“My best day at Arc Children’s Centre was my first day there because that’s when I realised I was not alone. There were many kids like me. It wasn’t just me who was going through this pain. That day. I also made my first few friends in Singapore. I had been eager to go to Arc the moment my doctor told me about it. But I had to wait for clearance. After weeks of chemotherapy, I was finally allowed to go. I was nine-and-a-half.
I loved going to Arc. I had lots of friends there. My sister Nora came along too and she also made friends. Arc was a place where I had fun, unlike staying at home or in hospital and being bored to death. Arc was where I could take a break from everything. When I was there, I couldn’t care less about all the medicines, chemo and restrictions
At the time, my whole family shared a rented room. But at Arc, I could roam around and breathe freely. Every night, I would wait for morning so that I could go to Arc. I went every weekday, except when I had doctor’s appointments, or was hospitalised, or was sick from chemo.
I remember all the Arc activities. The outings and camps played a big part in keeping me motivated because if not for Arc, I was either stuck at home or in hospital, which made me feel like I was different from everyone else and couldn’t do things other people could.
I know that losing hope is the worst thing to do when you are sick. So, I have never given up. Besides, the aunties who took care of us at Arc also taught us to keep going and to continue with our schoolwork. No excuses. They taught us about values and morals, diligence and leadership, things that will stay with us for life.
I know it’s not possible to repay their kindness and support but I aim to become a doctor and this would be an opportunity for me to be in touch with great people like my doctor Professor Allen Yeoh and the aunties at Arc. I also have a dream to open a Centre like Arc in my country for poor and sick kids. Maybe it will be possible with the collaboration of Arc.”
“It’s still hard to think about those horrible months right after my son’s diagnosis. Despite severe financial constraints, we had to rush to Singapore’s National University Hospital, where Saaman was hospitalised for weeks. It was so exhausting physically and mentally that we sometimes forgot to feed our two-year-old daughter.
At first, we didn’t even have a place to stay. We slept in hospital waiting rooms. Eventually, we rented a single room in a shared apartment and we all squashed into the small room. When the hospital and other parents learnt about our situation, they recommended Arc.
I was amazed to see how much the team understands the children and cares for them. I also saw that my son was so excited. I could tell that he had momentarily forgotten about his sickness and pain. What a great relief for me! My son was happy, smiling and playing with his friends.
I had to return to Bangladesh for work but my wife, who doesn’t speak English very well, stayed in Singapore with our kids. Arc’s support gave them resilience. My wife herself was ill a couple of times during their stay. Without Arc’s help, she would have had a much harder time. Because of their care and kindness, Singapore is like a second home to us. My kids are so eager to visit Singapore and the aunties at Arc.
Paediatric cancer treatment is complicated, scary, unkind and sometimes an unbearable financial burden. But whenever a problem was stressing me out, Ronita and Geraldine extended their help. They still do this even though we’re back in Dhaka. Their dedication knows no bounds. I thank them and the whole Arc team for taking care of us. You are true heroes! And you’re always in our prayers.”
How has Arc influenced the path you’ve chosen?
The course I have chosen is Diagnostic Radiography. Ever since I was young, I have had an affinity for science, especially Biology. My interest in Biology deepened after I was diagnosed with cancer. But without Arc, I might not have pursued science, which requires a lot of discipline and dedication. If I hadn’t gone to Arc, I would have been quite lazy! Many Arc volunteers helped me to stay focused. They helped motivate me to study. They also taught me how to separate my study time and play time, which was really beneficial. Arc also provided a calm and quiet space for me to study.
Why did you go to Arc?
When I completed my cancer treatment, my doctor told me about Arc. At the time, I didn’t have anything to do while waiting for Secondary school to begin. My doctor suggested that I spend time at Arc, get to know other kids who went through the same things I did and also to do some studying so that I would not fall behind when I re-entered school. So I went, maybe twice or thrice a week when my mother was at work. I stopped only when I entered polytechnic.
What are your fondest Arc memories?
The overnight camps. I remember we used to play dodgeball at night and we had soccer matches as well. Everyone had fun. Even the aunties who volunteered joined in the fun. I miss those days and cherish the memories deeply.
What have you learnt at Arc?
Arc taught me many things. I have learnt to care and to have patience. Before Arc, I was clueless about a lot of things, including how to handle little children who have special needs. I’ve realised that we’re all the same. We just need a little care and love. And with patience, everyone can be happy.
Why do you help out at Arc?
When I heard that Aunty Gerrie and Aunty Ronita were setting up Arc, I knew it was an opportunity for me to give back all the love and support that they have given to me and my family. I also hope to inspire the children to achieve whatever they wish for and guide them along the way, especially as I was once in their shoes.
What are your fondest Arc memorles?
Playing dodgeball with the kids! It’s really tiring but also rewarding to see them running around. Playing UNO with the older kids and Aunties when the younger ones were asleep during Camp. And tutoring the children, especially the older ones. This also includes me nagging at them, or “providing valuable life advice”.
How has Arc Influenced the path you’ve chosen?
I’m a final year Pharmacy student at the National University of Singapore. I’ve always been interested in working in the healthcare sector. Seeing children remain so positive and engaged despite their circumstances has strengthened my resolve to contribute directly to the care of people who need it and ensure that they are able to lead as normal a life as possible.
What have you learnt at Arc?
Seeing how ‘simple’ achievements are celebrated at Arc reminds me to appreciate the simple things in life that we overlook as we approach adulthood. I’ve also learnt the importance of treasuring what you have and doing your best to pursue what you wish for, no matter the circumstance. At Arc, the Aunties and Uncles often remind the children to pursue what they love most and that they will always be there to support and guide them.
How has Arc shaped you?
I’ve developed confidence and honed my public speaking skills because of the multiple opportunities to manage groups of children. I’m also more empathetic because I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what it means to have a life-threatening illness through my interactions with the children and their parents. It heartens me to know that I give hope to these parents, who see that their child can overcome the hurdle, as I have