Letter to the Forest School Team

This is a letter to the team from yours sincerely. It has been a tumultuous year for us all. I will like to show my appreciation for all of you through this letter, as I think everyone deserves to know that no matter the size or volume of footsteps you have left with us, you have contributed to us, as we ride the storms and enjoy the plains together.

This year, we went through a triple lockdown, and came out not only surviving, but also excelling beyond the last 5 years. This is not a simple feat, considering many are struggling out there (which is why I have taken much time to support our sisters). But without everyone enduring and assisting amidst all our mistakes and complacency, I would not have had the capacity to go out to support others as well. 

I seek your understanding on how and where we are in recent times. Many of you came in during the COVID years, which serves to be a tough learning journey, where we do not have as much team bondings and internal trainings. So much focus is put on managing ridiculous measures, that I would say not as much time is spent on relating to each other, at least not as much as I wish for. Being trained in Dairy Farm rather than Rifle Range, also has a stark difference in the flow and energy of our understanding. Those who have experienced and learnt from both, could probably understand this difference in flow. 

In 2016-17, many of us who joined Forest School and helped out in the session, came in through friends. The friendship takes precedent over the session in many ways. Many of our decisions and engagement would not require as much understanding to be formed due to the relationship and awareness of each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities through the relationships. However, from 2018 onwards, many of you came in via interest in the vision and ways. It lands from a different perspective, which is why it takes more time to understand each other and the flow of things. We may not know each other personally or hang out like a family, and that is ok for it is as Nature, we move as the rhythm flows. But hopefully slowly and gradually, we will form the friendships that would take us through other realms of our life. At our own time and pace, we will connect.

There are Two areas of appreciation I would like to show. 

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for the initiative and authenticity in doing the work here in Forest School Singapore. All of you took initiatives in your own ways to solve many issues and also handle the pressure that is felt on the ground. That is not easy at all, considering the heavy program (to follow instruction) society we are in. For that I would like to say thank you for showing me that we are capable to un-program. 

Many of you also show the courage to be yourself and show that so-called weaker side of ourselves (to me that is the source of strength). You all also try and make mistakes along the way. Not sure if I ever share with you all, but I love Mistakes, because one only makes mistakes when they try something out of their comfort zone. For that, I would like to thank you for showing me that it is all right to try what we may not know.

Secondly, I would like to thank all of you for the commitment shown often in your determination and perseverance to what you feel is right (which includes many of the forest school approaches and practices). I once met an Nparks officer, who was an ex-ranger at Bukit Timah, in a conference. She told me that FSS coaches are a stubborn bunch, always fighting for the rights of children and the community. To that, I said, “We couldn’t do what we do for so long without the stubbornness and never say die attitude.” She smiled awkwardly. Hahaha. 

Your commitment and determination also often show up in the robust and sometimes intense discussion we have in person or at townhall. Honestly, some days I feel uncomfortable from it, and have plenty of self doubt. But in hindsight, I realise you all do it because you care, and I take heart in that. I realise my doubts ground me towards humility when I get lost amongst all the external elements of the work for Forest School Singapore. However, for most days where I’m not burned out, I absolutely revel in the intensity of our discussion, and enjoy all the difference in opinions mashed into a pot of potion that alleviates us through the challenges in our journey. It builds so much of my open-ness and resilience to work towards balance. Thank you so much for the liberating experience, coaches.

Lastly, I would like to thank all of you for the amazing work you do in Forest School Singapore. Many folks outside, sometimes ask me how we function for so long so well, with a team that is only part-time (that also moves in and out so organically). The credit goes to all of you. 

Thank you Managers. 

Thank you Chelsea for managing the 1500 over deployment per year so seamlessly.

Thank you Rebecca for managing the PayRoll so diligently, even though it is so tedious. 

Thank you Donovan for handling all the operative issues with the calmness and assurance I am working to learn so much from. 

Thank you Emily for managing the social media and making all the magic with our illustrative material. 

Thank you Shirleen for quietly ensuring the integrity of all our invoices and payments even though it can get superbly messy at times. 

Thank you Yiting for coordinating and engaging all the projects so accurately even though there are so many moving parts. 

Thank you Germaine for your leadership and logic that absolutely compliments my eccentricness. 

Thank you Ben for always providing that positive attitude to the Team, and inspiring that openness by accepting us for us. 

Thank you Shimin (Alumni Coach) for quietly editing every article that I write, without much fuss all the time. 

Thank you Coaches

Thank you Friday Weekly Session Coaches (Lenora, Huiying, See Yee, Adeline, Kaira, Liz, Dean, Yiting) for being that pillar of consistency and strength for the community to grow from, even amidst the struggle of deployment challenges on that day. 

Thank you Saturday Weekly Session Coaches (Chelsea, Emily, Nicholas, Gerald, Huan Ting, Ziyun, Huda, Jumilia, Tesh, Lenora, Gretchen, Genevieve) for holding the fort on a day where the crowds swarm the parks, and you come up with so many creative solution to absolve the issues on the ground. 

Thank you Sunday Weekly Session Coaches (Yiting, Genevieve, Angela) for being the Nurturing space for all of your young ones, and delivering every admin assignment on point. Not to mention your high involvement that upgraded the whole make-up of the session. 

Thank you Camps and Walks Coaches (Isabell, Carolina, Kavitha) for being a constant for all these ad-hoc programs. Your presence assures the high out of everyone. 

Thank you ex-Weekly Coaches (Ronghao, Judy, who are exiting) for being around to cover so many sessions and leading the sessions in the past. Your footprints have left a lasting impact on the Team. 

Thank you Interns turned Coaches (Yin Chuan, Jian Xi) for showing us how we can create a space for learning for the coaches because of your high involvement in your intern time with us. 

Thank you New Incoming Coaches (Alison, Natasha, Lionel, Nisa) for showing that interest to join us and learn. Your little initiatives are itself an encouragement for all of us to continue doing what we do. 

Thank you all Alumni and Volunteer Coaches (The list is too long at 60) for having your footprints and presence with us throughout the year in your own ways. 

It takes a village to raise a child. We are all different, and that is what makes this village a safe and open space to have fun and feel free. It is with the presence of everyone active or inactive that this can happen and work. 

One day, Forest School Singapore will not exist. And on that day, we can all take heart because we have all planted our seeds to so many folks that we are not needed anymore. 

We do Forest School to help bring people to a space between the earth and the stars. You have brought me to that space. Thank you.

Yours Sincerely
Coach Darren
Letter editted by Shimin

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