Lee Yen Nee / Writer
Instead of helping the elderly, a group of undergraduates decided to engage in a different sort of community service – helping married couples bond.
Held last Saturday, “Project M” is an event organised by six first-year students as part of a compulsory course in Singapore Management University (SMU). The course requires each team of students to organise a community service programme and learn about leadership and team-building skills in the process.
A total of 19 couples participated in the whole-day event, which lasted from morning to evening.
Recognising that communication is the most important factor in keeping a relationship going, the team hoped that “Formula M” would help couples gain more awareness on how they can better communicate with their partners.
“Sometimes people are so caught up with work that they forget their commitment with their other halves. So we hope that through this event couples can make some adjustments by communicating more,” said 19-year-old Ms Elycia Koh, who was one of the student organisers.
To incorporate some fun elements into an otherwise ordinary workshop for couples, the team started off their event with two physical activities, “Blind Maze” and “Formula Race to test the communication and cooperation level between couples.
“Blind Maze” is a game that required one partner to be blind-folded and be guided by the other partner through obstacles while “Formula Race” required couples to find their way to several designated places based on given clues.
A workshop on communication between couples followed. Led by Fei Yue Community Services’ Family Life Educator Ms Evelyn Khong, the workshop turned out to be an interactive session that saw couples engaging in discussions and small tests to find out their respective love communication styles.
Mrs Crissy Lau, 50, who is married for 20 years, thinks that an event like this is a good way to spend time with her husband. “People should do this more instead of going shopping,” said Mrs Lau, who also revealed that she particularly enjoyed the physical activities held before the workshop.
But the physical activities failed to attract all the couples who signed up. In fact,13 out of 19 couples who attended the workshop opted out of the activities.
Mrs Lau also felt that one of the reasons why couples chose to opt out could be their busy schedule, but she felt such events is definitely worth taking the time off to attend.
“Busyness can often become overly used as an excuse to avoid spending time with one another,” she said.
Besides married couples, the event was also open to dating couples.
University undergraduate Geri Lin, 21, who attended the event with her boyfriend, felt it was not suprising that some couples would find it hard to commit to the event for the whole day, “especially if they have young kids in tow.”
Nevertheless, she finds it encouraging that young undergraudates are concerned enough about such issues to organise such an event.
“Very often, young dating couples don’t know who to go for advice and they usually go to our friends who are equally clueless,” said Ms Lin, who had asked a group of couple friends to come along.
19-year-old Amanda Lau – who is one of the organisers – added that the team was initially worried that older couples would not take the committee members seriously as they are only first-year undergraduate students. But they overcame the anxiety by inviting an experienced speaker like Ms Khong to add credibility to their event.
In fact, majority of the participating couples think that there should be more events like this in the future to remind couples of the importance of communication.
Participant Ho Wei Xiang, 21, said that while the benefits of the event are long-term, many people do not realise the importance of it. But such events are definitely helpful as they teach lessons that couples can apply to their daily lives
The student organisers, too, hope that they would inspire others to organise similar events at a larger scale.
“This is a pilot test for everyone to see if such things will work in Singapore. If it is, then they can adopt the idea and make it bigger,” said Ms Koh.
Pictures by Sijia.