Alvyna is one of CAL’s Programme Managers, facilitating our signature Caregivers-to-Caregivers (C2C) Training Programme in Mandarin, and providing emotional support to caregivers.
Her path to joining CAL as a full-time staff is an unusual one. Upon trying to sign up as a volunteer, she was told that she first had to attend C2C and she did so in May 2017. She served as a volunteer since she graduated from C2C, worked part-time with CAL on Reconnect with Caregivers project before eventually joined as a full-time staff last year. In this interview, she tells us about the serendipitous meeting that led her to CAL, and how working with caregivers has also helped in her own recovery.
How did you get acquainted with CAL?
I finally consulted a Psychiatrist and was diagnosed with Chronic Adjustment Disorder (Depression) in 2015. That few years were a very challenging period for me to manage my relationship issue with my ex-partner and to cope mentally with daily life. Eventually, we split up, and I moved to stay with my late mother.
After changing to a new environment, my condition gradually improved. I recall spending my rest days lying in bed trying to sleep or watching TV programmes. I simply did not wish to speak to anyone.
One day in early 2017 before I knew CAL, I chanced upon a documentary featuring a 14-year-old girl in Guizhou, China, who looked after her mentally-ill mother and two older brothers who were intellectually disabled. The girl’s father passed away when she was only eight years old. Since then, this little girl had learnt to cook and run the household single-handedly, all while attending school.
The incredible strength and willpower that this little girl possessed, coupled with other inspiring stories I had watched and books I had read, was a real wake-up call for me. “What have I been doing all this time?” I asked myself. I decided that I had to pick myself up and do something about my life. I hoped to volunteer for a cause related to mental health then, but did not know where to start.
A few days after my decision, the strangest thing happened – I met up and told one of my best friends who I only see once a year about my decision. She suggested CAL to me as she had attended C2C herself as a caregiver to her late mother. On the ride home, I looked up CAL, and the rest is history. I attended the 12-week C2C Programme and joined as a volunteer soon after.
What do you find most meaningful about working here?
Besides the satisfaction of being able to help caregivers, my biggest reward from volunteering and then working at CAL is how much it has helped me heal.
For a long time, I was stuck in the past, wondering why my ex-partner was not supportive or helpful in my recovery and even acted in ways that trigger my condition when we were together. When I went for sessions at the clinic, everyone there besides me had a caregiver with them. I felt envious.
Volunteering in C2C classes and subsequently working at CAL, I had opportunities to gain knowledge on mental health conditions, learn new skills, listen to other caregivers’ sharing, join their activities and even to share my own recovery story. From the caregivers’ sharing, I heard the other side of the story, a narrative I did not consider when I was unwell. Hearing caregivers recount their helplessness and rollercoaster of emotions when caring for their loved ones with mental health conditions made me realise that anyone living with me when I was ill had gone through difficult periods in coping with my condition - the emotional outbursts and self-harm tendencies. They did not know what they could do to help me and in fact, they themselves needed support too.
Through the years of interacting with caregivers, I have grown and matured as a person, and am finally able to resolve the burdens that held me back from living life fully.
I am, in many ways, blessed to have the resources and support that led me to where I am now.
What is one fun fact about you?
I am quite adventurous. In fact, when I went tandem sky-diving a few years ago during my overseas trip to Cairns, Australia, many of my friends and colleagues were surprised by my fearlessness!
Being adventurous also means that I like trying new things. This was how I converted to full-time work at CAL – I was from a completely different industry, but an opportunity came my way and I grabbed it. Being a Programme Manager is definitely a new challenge for me, but I strive to do my best!