EDITOR’S NOTE: For this article, we sought the super-enthusiastic freshman who attended all the major FOCC Pro Bono projects. We found Hairul, and he has kindly agreed to pen down his experiences for us. Enjoy!
Hairul Hakkim: My Pro Bono Experience
The concept of pro bono is something perhaps not entirely new to me. I firmly believe that one’s financial standing should not prejudice his ability to protect his rights. Because, coming from a humble background, I have personally seen cases of families left without legal redress due to their inability to pay for a lawyer. Hence, after experiencing a taste of pro bono during my stint at Stamford Law, I eagerly volunteered for various FOCC Pro Bono activities as I found pro bono work to be very rewarding in being able to make a positive difference to others, however small a difference that might be.
The Legal Awareness Workshop @ Northlight (LAWN) was the first Pro Bono activity I participated in. A major project that spanned over a month, LAWN was a collaboration with Northlight School (a special school for students who fail their PSLE more than once) to educate teenagers on youth-centered issues such as gangs, family violence or drug abuse. The team conducted a presentation, played interactive games and held a discussion session with the youths. We even acted out a skit, in which I played a policeman, to show the available legal recourse of victims of domestic violence. These efforts were especially important because many of the youths, who come mostly from low-income households, shared that they did experience family violence at home. While our time together was short, I was pleased to have been part of a team that was able to touch the lives of troubled youths by providing vital guidance.
Next up, I volunteered my time at the Community Legal Clinics (CLC) organised by the Law Society of Singapore. The CLC aims to assist needy Singaporean citizens and permanent residents with their personal matters, in which I participated in 2 different legal clinic sessions. My role was to assist the pro bono duty staff at the Paya Lebar Community Development Centre by ushering the applicants, completing the administrative procedures and scribing notes as the applicants discussed their personal matters with the lawyer. Through this experience, I was glad that I was able to ease the workload of the pro bono staff on duty as it was very taxing on the staff to manage almost twenty applicants in a single evening. Although I was not able to offer advice to the applicants, I was able to gain a feel of the pro bono process and spirit and felt excited for the day that I would step into the shoes of the pro bono lawyer and directly touch the lives of others. I guess I’ll have to hold my excitement for around 5 years before I can materialise my interest!
Last but not least, the Golden Years Project was a unique experience for me. The GYP was a pioneer project that featured a mobile legal clinic program jointly organized by NUS and SMU undergraduates. Under this project, students interacted and cared for the non-ambulant elderly living in one-room flats in the Ghim Moh residential estate. We helped the elderly clean up their apartments, had lunch with them and shared leisurely conversations while introducing the mobile legal clinic service.
Due to language difficulties, I was not able to directly converse with the elderly in the house I was assigned to because she only spoke Hokkien. I hence spent a predominant part of the time cleaning various parts of the flat: the window grills, kitchen sink, various walls, and even the toilet bowl! Nevertheless, I was affectionately termed as “黑人” by the elderly woman who was visibly impressed by my enthusiasm and energy. Despite our lack of conversation, I still 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.
Having participated in all the pro bono activities organised by the NUS pro bono in conjunction with the FOCC, 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. I would like to thank the NUS Pro Bono club for these excellent opportunities and am looking forward to future pro bono activities!
OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholar
Edited by Han Junwei and Adriel Chioh
Photos by Derrick Koh and Han Junwei