For HomeTeamNS volunteers Mr Kamlesh Ramchand and Dr Lim Kai Toh, the blend of work, helping others and family commitments is occasionally chaotic, often fun, and always fulfilling.
TEXT: MELODY TAN
PHOTOS: MR KAMLESH RAMCHAND, DR LIM KAI TOH
When Dr Lim Kai Toh’s youngest son, Henry, was in kindergarten, he eagerly raised his hand when a teacher asked his class if anyone wanted to volunteer to build a dancing dragon.
“He’s very generous in terms of volunteering,” Dr Lim laughed, adding that the project quickly became a whole-of-family affair: “We got a box and made it a 3D dragon, which turned out to be quite a nice model – with a winking eye, and things like that. That’s one of the little memories that have really stayed with me.”
DADS WHO VOLUNTEER
Like father, like son: Dr Lim is also a long-running HomeTeamNS volunteer. He is a member of the HomeTeamNS Audit Committee, where he reviews internal and external audit findings with other members twice a year to ensure good governance, and the REAL Run Organising Committee, which meets once a month planning and preparing for the race leading up to the annual REAL Run in October.
“As a committee, we try to engage our member base in terms of coming up with a few engagements, pre-runs and trainings,” he said. “I’m a medical doctor, so I provide a little bit of expertise and consultancy with regards to medical coverage.”
In addition to Henry, now eight, Dr Lim and his wife have Sean, 16, Howard, 14 and Jaden, aged 10. Weekdays and weekends are often spent taking turns chauffeuring the boys to school and enrichment activities – Howard and Jaden are both competitive swimmers – and ensuring that Howard, who has mild autism, gets the support he needs to keep on top of his studies at the School of Science and Technology, Singapore.
Similarly, Mr Kamlesh Ramchand, an Executive Committee member at the HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir clubhouse and an active reservist troop commander at Bedok Police Division, rotates the child chauffeuring duties with his wife. They take turns waking up early to send his two eldest, Tanya, 11, and Pia, 10, to school, while the other parent takes Divina, aged 5, to kindergarten.
His girls are also busy with enrichment activities. Besides academic classes, there are Sunday morning Jiu Jitsu classes for Tanya and Pia, who also bowls for her school team and attends regular training sessions.
“I’m the logistics guy at home,” said Mr Kamlesh, who also wears strategic management and decision-making hats in his Executive Committee role at HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir.
He added: “I believe in being of service to the kids so that they are enabled to pursue their dreams. I demand effort over results, and I do my best to ferry them around and expose them to opportunities and new experiences.”
BEING THE BEST ROLE MODELS THEY CAN BE
Both HomeTeamNS volunteers admit that their careers are no longer the main priorities in their lives. Instead, their families come first.
“Fatherhood has made me stay at home a lot more,” reflected Mr Kamlesh. “By nature, I’m a nomad, I like to go out. I’ve become more homely over the years – because I have more reason to stay at home. In addition, my very colourful language has started rubbing off on my kids, so I have been reprimanded on several occasions by my wife to watch my ‘French’!”
Dr Lim says that being a parent has made him less selfish and more patient. Formerly a corporate-level officer who travelled 40 per cent of the time for business, he changed his career path to be more present for his children.
“I do see a lot of resemblance between my boys and myself, and it makes me cognisant that you cannot do what you like – sometimes you have to be a good role model. But overall, it’s worth it to see your child progressing, growing and maturing – and hopefully, they will be successful in time to come.”
Agreed Mr Kamlesh: “It’s very important to be a positive role model for your children. Kids relate to the world through the examples we set. How we relate to our parents, how we spend our free time, our commitment to family and work – they are always watching.”
To model his daughters how to juggle work and volunteering commitments while still making time for family, he does his best to join them in picking up new skills that they’re interested in: “It’s things like abacus, or the Rubik’s cube, or coding. I may not be as good as them – no time! – but they truly respect the effort and initiative.”
FINDING FUN IN BONDING
Despite their busy schedules, Dr Lim makes it a point to connect with his sons by getting them to accompany him on weekly runs, swimming together, and making paper crafts with Henry.
“I would say hey, it’s boring for me to be running alone, so come and help Daddy,” he said. “From my volunteering with HomeTeamNS, I know they also have a lot of activities over the years – not just for NSmen, but also our family members. For example, I brought the boys along to the opening of Adventure HQ at HomeTeamNS Khatib so they could try rock climbing. Two of them were a bit afraid of heights, but everyone had fun during the rappelling part.”
On Mr Kamlesh’s part, he often lets his children take the lead in deciding what daddy-daughter activity they want to do, such as playing chess or trying out new foods such as frogs’ legs.
He also enjoys bringing his girls out on one-to-one bonding trips to nearby destinations. Recently, he brought Divina to Langkawi.
Besides giving his children a chance to enjoy sightseeing and other touristy activities, he says that the trips often are a lesson in character-building. On her trip, Divina learnt to be far more independent: “I made her do all her stuff herself – like showering, eating on her own instead of being fed – so that in her mind and at her level of confidence, she knows she can do these things by herself.”
On weekends in Singapore, he likes spending time with his family at HomeTeamNS clubhouses.
“HomeTeamNS facilities are the perfect places to bond. Pia celebrated her birthday at Action Motion,” he recounted. “It’s an interactive ninja warrior type of thing – very fun. I would recommend that you don’t send your kids in by themselves – go do it with them!”
At the end of the day, whichever activities you choose to engage with your children in, it’s most important to be present as a parent, advises Dr Lim: “The pace of life in Singapore is so fast – it’s tearing everyone apart, and without knowing it, there are things in life that you miss. Just being there with your kids is a significant aspect of parenting, as well as listening to them so that they will know that they can always reach out to you.”
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