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Home / From Our Readers / Jeraldine's Musings: Volunteering at the K9 Unit  
Published: 30 Jun 2011 09:49AM (Singapore)
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Jeraldine's Musings: Volunteering at the K9 Unit
Nanyang Technological University Year 1 Student Intern Jeraldine Phneah shares about her volunteering experience in the One Heart Project.
By Jeraldine Phneah
As an active volunteer myself, I was very excited and thrilled when I was given the opportunity to participate in the One Heart project, organized by the Home Affairs Ministry Headquarters (MHQ) on the 16 June.

MHQ’s One Heart initiative started in 2010 and is a corporate social responsibility project to provide staff with opportunities to engage in active volunteer work.
Logo of the Police K9 Unit. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
On this session of One Heart, we befriended children from the Life Community Services Student Care Centre in Sengkang and brought them to the K9 Unit.

As of 2008, the Unit has a total strength of 179 dogs and 209 officers with specialisation in narcotics, explosives and guard canines.

The children had a rare opportunity to catch our Police dogs in action while they undergo training to detect narcotics and explosives as well as nab illegal immigrants and other criminals.

That afternoon, we gathered at MHQ and took the bus to the K9 Headquarters which was situated at Chua Chu Kang.

When the children arrived, we played some ice breakers and team building games with them so we could get to know one another.
A MHQ staff and I (Girl in yellow) guiding the children in their games. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
After the children had warmed up to us, we led them around the K9 unit for their guided tour.

The first demonstration we watched was how a narcotics detection dog could detect drugs. The trainer showed us a real bottle of heroin and hid them among the boxes.

It was quite an exciting experience for me and the children as we have never seen a police dog in action before!
Staff from the K9 Unit showing us the heroin that the dog was tasked to search for. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
The narcotics detection dog was able to detect the drugs very quickly given their training and good sense of smell.

The trainer then explained to the children that these dogs were trained to be able to associate the scent of the drugs to a reward.

The dogs were ‘programmed’ to stay very still once they found the drugs as they knew they would be rewarded with a ball to play with after that by their trainers.
A narcotics detection dog staying still in front of the red cartons where the drugs are hidden. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
The next demonstration was slightly similar to the first one, but it involved showing the children how the explosive detection dogs searched for dangerous bombs.

With their keen sense of smell, the dogs were able to detect explosives in the car parks.

The trainer also told us that these dogs were used when helping to ensure a place was safe and secure. This includes during national events or a visit by an important foreign government official.

The children also had the opportunity to see how illegal immigrants hid in vans!

I didn’t know the vans had secret compartments to hide these immigrants, however, these immigrants could never escape the keen sense of smell of our police dogs!
The children exploring a van that was formerly used to hide illegal immigrants. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
he dogs from the K9 Unit are bought from overseas because the climate and terrain here in Singapore makes it unsuitable for dog breeding.

Hence they are imported from overseas when they are one years old. Upon reaching the K9 Headquarters, they would be tested and selected for a 12 week course.

They would either be appointed or trained as search dogs or guard dogs depending on their character, temperament and sense of smell.
A photo of one of the training facilities at the K9 Headquarters at Mowbray Road. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
The dogs have to take tests and also come back once every 6 months for a refresher course to keep them motivated and updated in their profession.

They retire when they are 7 years old and are brought back home by the trainers who choose to adopt them or put in good homes. =)

After the various demonstrations, we brought the children to the kennels to play and interact with the dogs and tour the other dog kennels.
Children stroking a golden retriever. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
hey told me they were very happy to have this opportunity to play with the dogs as many of them did not keep pets at home or had much chance to interact with animals.

Some even told me they were very inspired to join the Singapore Police Force after seeing what these dogs and trainers do for the safety and security of Singapore!

We ended off the day with quizzes and prizes for the children who answered the questions correctly.

It was heart warming to see the children show so much interest in the presentation and enthusiasm in answering the questions. It made us feel glad as it showed that they enjoyed the trip

After sending them home with a bus, we took a photo to remember our volunteering experience.
A photo of the children and the MHQ staff who volunteered their time that day. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
I had a great time volunteering with the children.

They were very pleasant and easy to work with contrary to my previous perception that all children were rowdy and ill-disciplined.

Interacting with them on a personal basis was also a very new and eye opening experience for me.

This is because usually in other volunteering experiences, I do management and planning and seldom get to be involved in groundwork.

I initially thought that being involved in this way, I would benefit people on a larger scale.

However, after this project, I felt that mixing with the beneficiaries closely was both important and meaningful.

Doing so helps me understand them and their needs better, build closer bonds and touch their hearts directly. =)

I think what One Heart Project is doing, by giving these children opportunities for enjoyment and enrichment, is really good and I hope to be involved in more of such events over the next few weeks of my internship here.
A photo of my fellow MHQ staff that participated in this project together with me. PHOTO: Ang Meng Hui
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