Aside from our training programs, BBBS also ran the final phase of our Sailing and Sustainability program in the month of October. The 2 Day 1 Night camp was held at both Changi Sailing Club (CSC) and Outward Bound Singapore (OBS), Pulau Ubin. We hosted approximately 120 participants during this camp, consisting of 70 secondary school students. The camp focused on the core values of BBBS, Patience, and resilience is Key, Together Everyone Achieves More,  Life is a journey and, Dare to dream.

During our camp, students gathered at CSC in the morning, following which they went aboard boats volunteered by their very kind owners. Some even skippered the boat for us to help with transport over to Pulau Ubin from CSC! We had a mixture of Keelboats, Powerboats, and Sailboats on which our students and volunteers headed over to Pulau Ubin. The sail to Pulau Ubin and the many activities such as night-long fishing that was run throughout the camp was used as a platform to link student’s experiences to our core values.

Tasha one of our new volunteers shares her experience during Phase 3 2019, “In SSP Phase 3, I was involved in the planning committee as the activities in charge, together with Xin Yan. It was certainly an eye-opening experience for me as it was one of my first major role as a volunteer in BBBS and I’m extremely thankful for the support from the planning committee in ensuring our activities were planned well and that everything was prepared in advance.

Our SSP 2019 participants being briefed on the rules to play ‘minesweeper’, a game conducted during the camp to enhance team dynamics.

In the actual phase 3 camp of BBBS, I was mostly a floater hence I was able to move around and help out when needed. When I arrived on the evening of the first day, I could tell that everyone was tired because of the day’s activities. However, what struck me is that despite everyone being sunburnt and exhausted, all SSP participants and BBBS continued on well and even continued to have fun during the night cooking and BBQ together. It was certainly heartening to see everyone moving forward together and enjoying the night despite how tired everyone was. The next day, everyone was certainly pumped and positive about the rest of the day. Even though the rain may have dampened our spirits, I’m glad that everyone managed to find fun in the little things that we do such as sitting together in the shed and waiting for the rain to stop – because it’s not about how much activities we completed that matters, it’s how we grow together and develop strong bonds in our relationships together that mattered most during the camp. 

Our SSP participants conducting outdoor cooking as a team with ingredients they had bid for during the food auction.

Phase 3 was certainly one of the most tiring camps I have done as a volunteer, but nonetheless the most fun because not only did I get to step out of my daily comfort in my routine life, I also learned a lot more about the people around me and developed meaningful relationships with them, through the late night heart to heart talks and even going through challenging environments with them.” 

Aside from volunteers, BBBS also had many mentors join us during the camp. Throughout the course of the camp, our mentors had many opportunities to interact with our participants. They were also allocated time to share their life experiences that correlate with the core values of our SSP program. Through this, we aimed to reinforce our core values into our participants. One of our mentors, Uncle Greg shares with us his experience during Phase 3 2019,  “About 18 months ago I was talking with a friend about how we thought we might have a positive impact on the world. I explained that sailing and yacht racing had been a big part of my growth; I believe that sailing is a fun way to give young kids exposure to some of the joys and challenges they will likely experience in life, but by doing something fun, physical, and connected with nature. 

Just as in life, on the water we have good days where the wind is gentle, the sea is calm, and we see dolphins.  We have other days where the wind is howling, the sea is rough, and our equipment breaks. Sailing teaches us to be resilient during those tough days in the belief that there are calmer conditions just around the corner.

After our chat, my friend connected me with Jevan and June Tan who had already created a sailing program, where young kids are taught key values to enable a fulfilling life journey for them.

The story that follows is my memories of my first camp to Pulau Ubin with the Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) program over the 25th & 26th of October 2019. It was especially memorable for me as I decided to bring my young son Adam with me.


Uncle Greg and his son Adam

On the first day of the camp, Adam and I took our first sail together. Adam was nearly 5 years old. We sailed from Changi Sailing Club to Outward Bound Camp on Pulau Ubin, with some new friends in the BBBS program. Adam looked after the mainsheet for some of the journey and enjoyed leaning over the side of the boat, dragging his hands through the water and picking up some plastic occasionally.

Later that same day with some other kids, we completed our first capsize together in sheltered waters, just off the beach. As the boat went over Adam and I jumped into the water together. We all managed to get Adam standing on the centreboard so he understood how we recover from the capsize. It was such a great afternoon, one that I will always remember. 

Sailing as a father-son duo, while helping to skipper students abroad the bahia! 

On our sail to Ubin, it was necessary for us to sail across a shipping lane in a slow-moving sailing dinghy. We looked way off in the distance, in both directions. We wanted to see if any ships were approaching us and that it was safe to proceed across the shipping lane. We spoke about this specifically because it’s a good metaphor for being present and seeing what’s going on our lives. If we had been surprised by a ship it could be highly stressful, but with a little planning there was no problem.

In life we call this being present. It is about seeing what’s really going on around us.

On Friday morning we had a talk from Tim Hill about the extent that plastic rubbish in our waterways is causing real problems for the marine life. On our sail to Ubin we were all enthusiastic about picking up the floating rubbish that we saw. This enthusiasm died down when we appreciated the full extent of the problem – our boat was filling up with trash fast and there was way too much rubbish for us to have a meaningful impact. 

Adam and I decided on that weekend that we could reduce the amount of waste we cause by taking our glass containers to our local chicken rice store. If we did that it wouldn’t be necessary for our food to be packaged in polystyrene containers and plastic bags.

One of the kids on our boat said that she had joined BBBS to confront her fear of water, having been dropped in the water and scared at a young age. We chatted about those big events that happen in the early days of our lives, that affect our patterns of thinking in later years.

From what I understand the Amygdala is the part of our brains that contains all of painful memories. Apparently when we think about doing something like (in this case) swimming, our brain looks to the Amygdala and then determines “oh no, let’s not do that,… remember when we were very young and we nearly drowned.”

But apparently there is another part of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) that is also involved in this decision making. It is a place that stores positive memories of related experiences. If we can create new positive memories about us being in the water these will be stored in the mPFC and change the way we think about the water. Our brains may then think “let’s be cautious about going in the water, we had a bad experience a long time ago, but there have also been some good experiences since”.

My suggestion was for her not to aspire to getting her head underwater this weekend, but rather to try and float on her back and find peace in that moment. In doing so, she will have created a new positive memory about being in the water – potentially a step toward conquering her fear around the water.

I am so pleased to have been involved in this camp, and to share the experience with my son.  

In future years I hope that my young daughters Grace and Giselle will have the opportunity to share with them all that Adam and I experienced this past weekend.

In my life I have seen many kids start sailing at a young age. Many are pushed by their parents into competition and only a few emerge as young adults with a genuine life-long passion for sailing and a love of the water. Our approach has been to nurture our kids swimming capability and to make sailing all about fun. This is why the BBBS camp was the perfect opportunity for me to introduce Adam to sailing. It is so clear that the kids on this camp were having so much fun being in and around the water.

Those kids who have come through the program and gone on to become Big Brothers and Big Sisters are remarkable young people – a credit to their parents and their School Principals who have supported their participation, and a credit to the organisers and mentors who have made it happen.”

Overall SSP 2019 Phase 3 camp was a successful event as can be seen by the many student participants wanting to join us to become one of our very BBBS. We extend our sincere gratitude to all clubs, volunteers, mentors, and schools that supported us through this year’s Sailing and Sustainability Program. Cheers to many more successful programs!