iThink 20/21, p. 18-19

In our last post, we discussed how a good personal recount essay looks like. In this post, let us now turn to a model expository essay. From the very beginning, we can see how the writer starts off with an interesting and relevant quote to hook readers into reading on. Further, we can see that her three points of argument are very clearly signposted with the following: “To begin”, “In addition”, and “Finally”. Such explicit and direct signposting helps readers follow the flow of the essay easily and informs them of what to expect. Within her paragraphs as well is a very clear PEEL structure – she begins with a point, supports it with an example, elaborates on the example, and finally links it back to the point. In short, students can take note of three things here: the hook, the signposting, and the PEEL structure.

Some believe that voluntary work should be a part of everyone’s lives.
Discuss how the voluntary work you have done has affected your view of life.
By Lydia Lee

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” – this powerful quote by Winston Churchill, the prime minister of the United Kingdom during World War II, perfectly 1encapsulates the significance of giving, and how it helps to enrich and add meaning to our own lives. One of the most frequent ways of giving to those around us is through voluntary work, where we choose to help people or communities in need without receiving any financial compensation in return. Although this might seem like a completely 2altruistic act, voluntary work in fact, 3confers many personal benefits as well, killing two birds with one stone. Indeed, voluntary work has its place in everyone’s lives, and my personal experiences have only affirmed my belief in this.

To begin, voluntary work has provided me with the opportunity to gain more insight into the lives of the less fortunate. The interaction has allowed me to foster a greater understanding and empathy towards such communities. As part of a school community programme, I once volunteered to clean up one-room flats where the less fortunate resided in. When I first entered the premises of the flat, I was astounded at the state of the living conditions –it was overcrowded with people, cluttered with household items and newspapers, and everything was covered with a layer of grime. Admittedly, I could not contain my judgement, and was instinctively critical about the owners of the flat. However, as the cleaning proceeded, I managed to talk to the residents and learn more about their situation. After hearing about the many misfortunes and difficulties that the family had met with, I was 4penitent of my initial harsh and rash judgement of them. This incident, along with my other volunteering experiences, has certainly been pivotal in allowing me to learn more about people who do not share my lifestyle. More 5poignantly, it has made me realise that many underprivileged communities are unjustifiably judged and discriminated against by the rest of society. I learnt that life is a lot more complex than I had imagined, and that I should always try to display empathy and be compassionate towards people whose situations I may not understand.

In addition, my experience with volunteer work has reminded me to count the blessings in my life, and I am now more appreciative of the little things. When I volunteered at a disabled school to teach basic life skills to students with 6cerebral palsy, I found that the students were very appreciative of the teachers, teacher assistants and even the school attendants. The students often said “thank you” and smiled graciously whenever I helped them with a small task or taught them something new. At the end of my volunteering stint at the school, I felt that as much as I had taught them, the students too had taught me : they taught me a lesson on gratitude. Consequently, this has allowed me to be more mindful of the things that I choose to prioritise in life, and to be more deliberate in not letting insignificant things bother me. Doing voluntary work has taught me to be happier and more grateful.

Finally, doing voluntary work has given my life more meaning, and I am able to see the world beyond myself and my own needs. In society today, it is easy to be preoccupied with 7chasing the paper trail and be obsessed with achievements and material wants. However, these things do not help to enrich or give meaning to one’s life, and pursuing them, can often lead to increased discontentment and a sense of loss. After doing voluntary work and exposing myself to the stories and lives of so many others, I feel more connected to the rest of mankind, and now have a stronger sense of purpose in my life. Instead of just living absorbed in my own wants and needs, I now make use of the abilities I have to extend a helping hand to those in need. With such a resolution, the decisions I make are now more intentional and meaningful, and my life is not as 8nihilistic as it once was.

It is evident that doing voluntary work has changed the way that I view and lead my life. Being able to go out of my comfort zone to help those outside of my social circle has been crucial to my personal development, and I am now able to go through life with more love and compassion. I know from experience that any type of voluntary work, big or small, will positively improve the lives of both the individuals offering the help, as well as the ones on the receiving end. Hence, volunteer work should not be seen as reserved only for the most loving or giving of people, but as something that can and should be integrated into everyone’s lives.


encapsulates: expresses the most important facts about something
altruistic: to want to help others even if it disadvantages yourself
confers: grants or bestows
penitent: to feel sorrow or regret
poignantly: causing or having a sharp feeling of sadness
cerebral palsy: the medical condition of damage to the brain, causing movement disorders
chasing the paper trail: to constantly seek money and fortune
nihilistic: the belief that life is meaningless