NAC launches Befriender’s Arts Toolkit

§  Toolkit opens opportunities for befrienders to bring the arts to underserved communities

§  Empowers befrienders with creative ideas to spark conversations and connect over arts activities


SINGAPORE 20 July 2018 – The National Arts Council (NAC) launches the Befriender’s Arts Toolkit today - a resource to empower volunteer befrienders in their outreach to underserved communities. The Toolkit is developed by Singaporean artists Ms Joanne Lio, Ms Sarah Zainal Abidin and Ms Karen Koh to increase arts access to underserved communities, as part of NAC’s ArtReach programme.


2          The first of its kind, this Toolkit provides befrienders with simple arts-based activities that do not require any prior training or background in the arts. It will equip them to use arts experiences in their befriending activity to encourage deeper conversations and social interaction with their beneficiaries, thus enriching the befriending process.


3          Currently, social service organisations rely on volunteers who have been trained as befrienders to engage isolated persons through home visits. These include the elderly, persons with disability, and children from challenging family backgrounds, where befrienders provide social support through regular visits, conversations or doing simple activities together. Through the Toolkit, NAC will make the arts more accessible to this segment of the community.


4          “Art has the power to stimulate conversations and build connections. Hence, the Befriender’s Arts Toolkit is a helpful resource that will enable volunteers to connect more easily with vulnerable members of our community, including seniors, children and people with special needs. The art-making process gives them a sense of achievement, a more positive outlook on life, and a stronger bond with society. Through art, we can build a more inclusive and caring Singapore.” said Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Communications and Information.


5          The Toolkit provides comprehensive step-by-step instructions, conversation tips and materials required to get started. Instructional videos are also available on the NAC website for befrienders to refer to. The launch features two visual arts-based activities (More details in Annex A):

o   Let’s Masak Masak by Ms Joanne Lio and Ms Sarah Zainal Abidin - an activity that builds upon the exploration of local dishes and common herbs and spices used in cooking them. Participants and befrienders converse and embark on clay-making of favourite herbs and spices that touch their senses.

o   Shape and Colour Your Dreams by Ms Karen Koh - an activity that uses shapes and colours found in one’s surroundings as a starting point to inspire creative expression through drawing, and at the same time reflecting on the topic of dreams.


6          A self-taught artist and qualified art therapist, Ms Karen Koh said, “The arts play an essential role in empowering individuals to make sense of their different experiences and sparking growth in holistic personal development. Starting with simple arts activities, I hope that one day, the arts will be an everyday practice for people from all walks of life.”


7          Unlike other toolkits from the ArtReach programme, no formal training or prior training in the arts is required for the use of the Befriender’s Arts Toolkit. Depending on the level of interest from the beneficiary and speed in completing the activity, each activity takes about 30 to 60 minutes to be completed within a sitting. Nevertheless, it serves as a base for volunteers to exercise their creativity and vary the activity as part of their befriending process.


8          The Toolkit had undergone a pilot testing phase from January to March 2018 with volunteers from Montfort Care, Life Community Services and WeCare@Marine Parade. Following which, refinements on the Toolkit were made based on feedback received from befrienders and beneficiaries.


9          Mr Lee Chong Yin, a volunteer with Life Community Services, makes time weekly to befriend children from low income families. Sharing his thoughts from the pilot phase, Mr Lee said, “The volunteering experience is a very rewarding one – not just in building a relationship with the child that I have been mentoring over the years but also the journey in learning and discovering the child’s hidden talents. At times in the past, conversation can become a little awkward as we run out of topics to cover. But the Shape and Colour Your Dreams activity has helped spark new conversations and allowed us to freely exchange on a common theme.” (More details on volunteers in Annex B)


10        NAC will be developing more activities as part of the Befriender’s Arts Toolkit progressively over the next few years, working with artists, befrienders and social service organisations. The Befriender’s Arts Toolkit is available for download via the NAC website ( Community organisations or befriending networks can reach out to NAC for the provision of material kits, subject to availability.