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You don't have to be rich to give

​Caral Goh has been a passionate volunteer at Bright Vision Hospital (BVH) for over four years. She helps out with BVH patients' weekly morning exercises, plays board games with them every fortnight, escorts them on quarterly outings, and participates in charity events whenever she can.

Caral's passion for volunteering did not come as a given. It all started from a bold idea.

One day in 2014, Caral had an epiphany that set her on this new path. She made the decision to quit her job and commit herself to one year's volunteering work.

As a single mother of two school-going children, it was a big step for her.

"I didn't know what lie ahead or how I would cope if money started to become a problem. But I refused to let fear or negative thoughts stop me. I just moved forward."

In March 2015, she started volunteering at BVH and has stayed ever since. "Bright Vision is a good place to do volunteer work," Caral said. "It is a welcoming environment. The friendly staff and patients make me feel that my presence is needed. I am really happy to be able to contribute and make a difference in patients' lives."

Outside of her volunteering at BVH, Caral is always on the lookout for people who may need help. On countless occasions, she has carried groceries for strangers, given free rides, helped people cross busy roads, bought food for and given money to people in need, and visited lonely and sickly neighbours.

 One good deed a day

Caral made a promise to herself – to make this "volunteering year" more meaningful, she must do at least one good deed every day.

Here are six of her most memorable deeds.

1.     Giving a ride to an elderly couple to their doctor's appointment. They had been waiting for a cab at the roadside for a long while.

2.     Helping a man who was sitting on the pavement. He was suffering from a muscle disease and was unable to stand up. He had been sitting there for six hours.

3.     Bringing groceries to an ill, elderly man regularly and accompanying him to the doctor.

4.     A boy suffered from severe myopia, but his family had financial difficulties and couldn't help him. Caral brought him to an eye specialist and then to get glasses. The boy improved in his studies.

5.     A woman was sitting on a train platform with severe leg pain. Caral massaged her feet until she felt able to walk again.

6.     An elderly woman was trying to jaywalk across a busy four-lane road. Caral helped the woman get off the road.

And what an illuminating journey it has been! Through volunteering, Caral has made a lot of friends and received numerous blessings.

"The right people just came along in my life. These wonderful friends have provided me with great advice just when I needed guidance," Caral commented.

"Everything just seemed to go right, including financially. The biggest lesson I learned is that you don't have to be rich to give. We can help people in all kinds of small ways."

The year passed by fast. As she was contemplating whether to continue another year of volunteering or find a new job, she received an offer to be the editor of a health and meditation magazine. It was the ideal arrangement for Caral. The flexible hours of the new job allowed her to continue volunteering at BVH.

She has even taken her volunteerism one step further. In 2017, Caral designed a multipurpose towel with the help of a friend living in San Francisco. Initially intended for online sale, they decided to distribute the towels to the homeless instead. Just before Christmas, she flew to San Francisco and they gave out about 200 towels to the homeless people in a public park.

 Caral giving out the towels to the homeless people in San Francisco

"It was Christmas and the weather was cold. People were genuinely happy to receive the gift of warmth, and we were even happier to know the towels were useful to them," Caral said.

In February 2018, Caral also sparked an initiative of playing Rummikub, a numbers-and-colours game, as a new way to engage BVH patients. The initiative was well received and has become a regular activity at BVH.

For those who aspire to become volunteers, Caral also shared her advice: “Most of us have fear approaching people we don’t know. Treat the people who need help as family, and you will naturally know what to do and help them without a second thought.