04 February 2022 - The Computing For Voluntary Welfare Organisations (CVWO) was honoured with the Exemplary Community Partner Award 2021 by the Lions Befrienders Service Association last year. The awards ceremony was cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
CVWO is an initiative started by NUS Computing Associate Professor Ben Leong in 2007. Under this programme, undergraduate students build IT systems to support the workflow for various Social Service Agencies (SSAs) in Singapore. In the process, the students involved are exposed to new and real-world learning opportunities outside the classroom.
Some major SSAs that NUS Computing students have worked with include Lions Befrienders, Care Corner, MINDS, Fei Yue Community Services, and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).
The Exemplary Community Partner Award from Lions Befrienders is a token of appreciation for community partners that have contributed regularly through service-based or skill-based volunteering, to help the Lions Befrienders to deliver high service standards to its seniors.
“We are grateful to Lions Befrienders for the recognition of our work. We have been supporting Lions Befrienders for more than a decade now, and our system is used daily by more than 100 staff and volunteers,” said Assoc Prof Leong.
NUS Computing students recently completed two projects for Lions Befrienders - one in 2020, and the other in 2021.
A handy, one-stop volunteer app
In 2020, the students worked closely with Lions Befrienders on two tasks. First, they were brought onboard to help the staff centralise the entire volunteer management workflow into one mobile app.
The one-stop LBSA Volunteer App gives Lions Befrienders a more efficient beneficiary and volunteer management system. It is designed to let staff and different volunteers report on the statuses of elderly beneficiaries they visit during befriending sessions. Volunteers may also easily register and join befriending activities via the app, while the staff leverage on the app to quickly organise these sessions, and to keep track of the volunteers and beneficiaries involved.
Next, the NUS Computing team was also tasked with helping Lions Befrienders integrate all of their core services - such as providing senior activity centres with cluster support for vulnerable seniors - into one existing IT system.
Lions Befrienders already had two services incorporated in the existing system, but three other services still relied on manual modes to track and record data. The team thus had to migrate the manually recorded data to the centralised system.
It was not an easy task, recalled Zhu Hanming, a third-year Computer Science undergraduate who led the student team, as they had to ensure data was not duplicated, or lost in the process.
Nevertheless, it was a rewarding experience for them.
“We fondly remember meeting up often over Zoom with the staff at Lions Befrienders to hear from them and understand their needs, worries and concerns. We also really enjoyed seeing how the staff members were pleasantly surprised when we showed them what we had built for them, as what we had built really helped to improve their day-to-day staff workflows. The entire journey was definitely one that our team enjoyed,” said Zhu on behalf of the team.
Giving the Home Personal Care programme a tech boost
In 2021, another team of students developed yet another a mobile application - the Home Personal Care Mobile App - for Lions Befrienders’ Home Personal Care (HPC) programme.
The HPC programme is a subsidised service by Lions Befrienders for vulnerable seniors who require assistance at home (e.g. caregiving duties or exercise sessions). The app was developed for trained healthcare assistants to log these home visit sessions, and to collect and record payments.
The mobile app is also the first time the students integrated hardware and software for a CVWO project - the app is conveniently linked to a Bluetooth printer which healthcare assistants use to print service records and receipts on the go.
“It was very heart-warming when the team saw how keen and eager the healthcare assistants were in learning and adopting the technology to improve their workflows. Many of them were excited about the possibilities that the mobile application could bring when it came to streamlining their work processes,” said Sebastian Toh Shi Jian, a third-year Computer Science undergraduate student who led the team of students behind the app.
CVWO maintains the central database supporting the main befriending programme for Lions Befrienders, and both mobile apps built in 2020 and 2021 are fully integrated with this database.
The longstanding partnership between CVWO and Lions Befrienders over the past decade means students have an unprecedented level of understanding of the Lions’ operations, and can provide direct support to the daily operations of the organisation.
“The IT application system the students developed has become an indispensable, mission-critical system at Lions Befrienders. We are now able to offer a ‘competitive advantage’ over other social service agencies,” said Simon Koh, Lions Befrienders’ IT Senior Manager. “It enables Lions Befrienders to register and organise seniors’ data, record attendances and participation across different types of activities efficiently. Without this state-of-the-art information system, the staff at Lions Befrienders would have to manually summarise reports. The use of this IT system has helped to reduce the administrative burden so that our staff can focus on serving our seniors and managing volunteers better.”
Koh added: “It is really a joy to work with these big-hearted students who sacrificed their holidays, and worked so passionately to serve the community.”
Since CVWO’s partnership with Lions Befrienders began in 2009, this is the second time the initiative has been honoured with an award. Previously, CVWO was awarded the “Friend of the Lions Befrienders” Award in 2011.
Learn more about CVWO’s projects here: https://www.comp.nus.edu.sg/~vwo/projects.html