What can 70 freshman do for 20 elderly households? Sherrie Chong ’15 tells us more about the Golden Years Project.
This year, the NUS Law School Freshmen Orientation Pro Bono (NUS Law FOCC Pro Bono) committee pioneered an exciting initiative, “The Golden Years”, which paired the elderly with law students as befrienders, and also set up a mobile legal clinic service. This project aimed to equip law students with an understanding of how the opportunity to study law empowers them to effectively serve society.
Phase 1: House Cleaning and Befriending
The project started on 4 August 2012, as 70 freshman law students from NUS and SMU cleaned the apartments of 20 households of non-ambulant elderly in Ghim Moh Estate. They formed teams of four to five students with volunteers from Lions Befrienders.
After cleaning the homes, the teams had lunch with the elderly residents and got to know them better. They also found out more about their needs, both legal and otherwise.
Phase 2: Legal Clinic
The teams then set up an on-site legal clinic session on the following Saturday, 11 August 2012, to address the legal needs of the elderly, especially those needs that were voiced during the home cleaning session.
The legal clinic in Ghim Moh was a great help to the elderly residents, as many of them were unable to travel to the North West and South East CDCs legal clinics organised by the Law Society. Four volunteer lawyers were on hand to provide legal advice, supported by volunteer law students from the NUS Pro Bono Group and the SMU Pro Bono Club.
The students who got involved were moved by the experience. “I found it fulfilling to set aside some time to help out these senior citizens in their golden years. Sometimes, we forget that it is the small things we do that can really make an impact on the lives of others,” said Hairul Hakim ’16.
Social issues such as the abandoned elderly and the increased need for palliative care resources have resulted in legal developments.
Law and the Elderly – The Social Need
In a rapidly aging population such as ours, important social and legal developments have arisen in response to demographic changes. Social issues like the abandoned elderly and the increased need for palliative care resources have resulted in legal developments such as the Maintenance of Parents Act and the Mental Capacity Act. Unfortunately, the existence of such remedial legislation is related to the lack of a positive social response.
With greater social initiative and kindness, as found in projects like The Golden Years, the NUS Law Pro Bono club hopes that someday this legislation will no longer be needed and the legal woes of the elderly will no longer be an issue.
The success of The Golden Years has also sparked off an extension of the project in December 2012. If you are interested in sponsoring a project or donating to ‘The Golden Years’ or to the NUS Pro Bono Group, please send an email to email@example.com
“I am really grateful to be involved in the pro bono movement as I was able to witness the possible difference I can make in the life of someone who does not have ready access to legal help.” – Hairul Hakim ’16