Walking Together on the Two-Way Street of Friendship

The befriending programme has brought together an unlikely pairing between the outgoing Filmer and his somewhat more introverted befrienders Theng Soon and Valerie, who joke they are pushed to become more sociable themselves. Filmer, who was born with pilocytic astrocytoma (a rare type of brain tumour), is a friendly, chatty boy with a chiffon cake business on the side.

Over the last two years, the trio have attended the Purple Parade, soaked up the Mid-Autumn festivities in Chinatown, gone museum hopping in City Hall and hunted for footballs at Decathlon to add to Filmer’s growing collection. Good food is a must – they’ve gone for a dim sum date at Swee Choon Tim Sum restaurant, savoured meatballs at Ikea and tried the chicken rice by S’pore’s Michelin-starred Hawker Chan.

Professing to be someone who would shy away from meeting new people, engineer Theng Soon jokes he is forced to come out of his shell. Likewise, Valerie Chan, a Singapore University of Social Sciences final-year social work student, said that Filmer is probably the most outgoing person that she has met.

“When we go to the shopping mall, Filmer always says ‘hi’ to every security guard and shopkeeper. All the neighbours would also stop to say hello. I think almost the whole of Queenstown knows him! We also make new friends through him.”

(from left to right) Theng Soon, Valerie and Filmer enjoying a hearty dim sum meal.

At the start, Theng Soon recalls how they were all unfamiliar with each other and had many considerations for each outing.

“Over time, it has evolved into a kind of friendship. We don’t even need a lot of planning to make it work, just a casual dinner. It has become so natural over these two years.”

Valerie said it’s meaningful to help these graduates in this transition as they adapt into society. “It’s not like right after school, when every service just stops,” she said.

She says that people are interested to hear about her befriending experience as it is unlike traditional volunteering.

“I really think of Filmer as a friend. It’s not so much a power difference,” she said. “With this befriending, it’s less structured and it’s really up to us to decide.

“It’s not like we do something for them, but we also get to enjoy each other’s company at the same time.”