Youth and dementia: The value in volunteerism and community work

Third year university students in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Drussalam reflect on their community experience with ADI member demensia Brunei (dB).

Our latest blog is from a group of students in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Drussalam, who recently completed their Community Outreach Programme (COP) through ADI Member demensia Brunei (dB).
The COP programme mirrors the Youth Engagement Programmes (YEP), first started in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. YEP was championed by Datin Jacqueline Wong, honorary advisor to Demensia Brunei and former Executive Committee Member of Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation Malaysia (ADFM). Programmes like YEP are a successful showcase of inter-generational solidarity, providing a platform for engagement opportunities beyond country borders.
Youth participation and inclusivity is critical for dementia communities, as young people play a role in volunteerism, advocacy and awareness of dementia. The story below is a great example of how youth can become involved in community initiatives and give back, not to just the communities around them, but also reach their own highest potential and talent.

Before our final year at university, we are expected to spend our third year in ‘experiential learning’, which is otherwise known as the ‘Discovery Year’. Students choose from four options, which are: Study Abroad Programme (SAP), Internship, Community Outreach Programme (COP) and Incubation.

For us, we chose to do a COP with demensia Brunei (dB). The purpose of a COP is to develop students personally, academically and professionally  through exposure to a workplace or business  in local or international settings. After completing our 14-week programme with dB, we went from being clueless to passionate students.

In January and at the beginning of the COP, dB gave us the opportunity to do the basic things first, which included attending workshops and weekly group meetings to gain more knowledge about dementia. During this time, any questions we had or things we were still unsure of were answered.

In February, we had ‘golden moments’ by experiencing the daily ward rounds with the doctors at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital, where we participated in social activities for older people, with and without dementia. Additionally, every Thursday afternoon in February, we spent time with people living with dementia at a support group in Pusat Amal Cerah Sejahtera (PACS).

March finally came and the biggest challenge that was given to us by dB was to deliver a presentation about dementia at Kolej Universiti Perguruan Ugama Seri Begawan (KUPUSB). Half of the students volunteered to offer their public speaking skills for the talk. During the presentation, we spoke about a video project we did in April that was based on the ‘10 warning signs of dementia’ (and showed off our acting and video editing skills).

Like the video project, the aim of the presentation was to highlight that dementia is a serious illness and that we must break down the stigma around dementia, as well as the pre-conceived notion that dementia is just about memory less.

We are grateful and lucky to have done our COP at dB. During this period, it challenged our understanding of  how people living with dementia behave in everyday settings. It also changed our previous thinking that dementia is only about memory loss. The COP experience enabled us to define, explain and understand clearly the meaning of dementia, all thanks to dB.

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