Virtual Form One Retreat Camp

Highlight video of St Joseph’s Private School (SJPS)’s first Online Retreat / Camp for the Form 1 batch 2020.

Click the image above for the highlight video.

The tradition of school camps and retreat has always been the highlight of the students of SJPS. Despite the pandemic, the teachers are not giving up on finding ways to form our students even if we have to go online.

The first-ever virtual camp for Form One students was held from 8 to 10 December 2020 using Zoom with the involvement of many teachers. Some technical problems were encountered and overcame by the mere persistence of the hardy teachers. Students too find the virtual camp challenging and yet fulfilling. Thank you, Teachers.

Read the reflections of some of the students below.

Creative and Effective

   My last three days which started from Tuesday (8 December 2020) were filled with excitement, laughter and love. Why? This is because I had my first ever virtual School Camp 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we were not able to participate in our annual school camp the usual way.

   The first day of the camp was certainly interesting. I did not expect the teachers and staff members of St. Joseph’s Private Secondary School to be so carefree and happy. They even played songs enjoyed by the present generation whilst waiting for all the Form 1 students to turn up, including songs from the forever popular K-Pop boy band, BTS. The second day was similar to the first. However, I could only describe it as fun. The school’s creative method of requiring us to draw our family members as how we see them really gets our creative juices flowing. The third day of camp was very emotional, as it represents the last day of school and the start of a new, and hopefully, better year. In my opinion, the duration of the last day was longer than the first two days because of the emotional goodbyes.

   The learning journey is, in a word, effective to me. I had fun and experienced many things. Whether it was sharing our similarities, or having playful arguments in the breakout rooms, the result was the same: we learnt many new things and experienced them too. This is a luxury only the students of St. Joseph’s Private Secondary School got to experience.

   We all have our fear or fears. My personal favourite was “Ms Viviana’s Talk Show”. In that show, students got to ask questions they never had the courage to ask, while the members of the panel answered them in the most enlightening way as possible. Even if we hid behind our digital screens, we still overcame the fear of being judged for our questions.

   To conclude, this Virtual Camp is a special programme that has made a huge impact in my life. I am still young, and I am still on my journey of finding myself. I do believe that there are many other students who found this camp enlightening. My school, St. Joseph’s Private, is a gift that keeps on giving, a surprise that never stops surprising.


My Take on the Camp

   From 8 to 10 December 2020, a Form 1 Online Camp was organised by St. Joseph’s Private Secondary School. This first virtual online camp is themed “The Journey Begins”. On the first day of the programme, I joined the first zoom meeting for the SJPS Form 1 Retreat. Sleepy students and an unfamiliar face showed up. Loud K-pop music was being played by the host, Mr Benedict Lo. Greetings and introduction were carried out by students and teachers. Mr Jerome Lim gave a prayer to guide us throughout the online camp. We were introduced to the priest-in-training, Deacon Stanley Goh, SJ who joined us from Singapore. From him, I learnt about Mentimeter using the search engine, Google Chrome.

   Then, we were separated into breakout rooms to answer some questions provided by Father Alvin Ng, SJ. Many interesting questions and answers were asked by the students. Soon, the great Ms. Viviana’s Late Late Morning Show was aired.  Father Alvin, Deacon Stanley, Father Joseph, and Ms. Sarah Marimuthu were interviewed. Ms. Sarah’s topic was on abortion and whether it was counted as murder. Father Alvin also taught us that “God and me” is “ha na bing wa na” in Korean. We were asked to journal and write a letter to ourselves before the session ended and we were allowed to enjoy our Cloud Nine treat.

   On Wednesday, 9th of December, technical issues occurred. Many students were not able to join the zoom meeting. Thankfully, it was sorted out by the tech- savvy school staff and students could join the meeting again. The main topic of the day was whether praying for ourselves is selfish. The truth is, it is not at all. If there is one thing that teachers want to teach us, it is really about learning to accept who we are. We may not like some aspects of who we are but we have to learn to never give up on ourselves.

   We must always remember that there is someone who will always love us such as our family members and friends. We were told to identify the roles in our families and our roles as a child in our families. In my opinion, I was the serious one in the family. Mr. Benedict and Ms. Sarah taught us that life is short, but family is forever. There was a break-out session where all the Form 1 girls were grouped into one room with Ms. Sarah as the speaker. She talked about serious topics especially body shaming, self-harm, and love. I learnt that inside every child, there is an “emotional tank” waiting to be filled with love and we have to respect others. At the end of the main session, Mr. Benedict shared with us how he felt loved from receiving gifts. Again, we had to write our journals.

   On the last day of the camp, everything went on smoothly. Mr. Jerome led the opening prayer. I have to accept and love myself, and people around me such as family and neighbours more. I realised that I cannot do everything myself and I cannot live alone. I am created by God to be free and good in my life. A surprise and inspirational video highlighted an alumnus of my school, Ms. Larissa Ping Liew, who turned out to be a 21-year-old Malaysian model and Miss World Malaysia 2018. I leant that we must love ourselves and speak up for ourselves. I was reminded that we can only enter hell if we reject God and His almighty love as what Satan did. God is our Saviour and our Guardian but the choice is ours. Grief is real. We must have a grateful heart and be respectful, treating others in the way we want to be treated.

   Throughout this entire experience, I have learnt to not be ashamed of who I am or what family I was born into. I learnt that the best way to live my life is to just be myself, be respectful, be thankful and be rational. I also know that my family will stand by me forever. Most importantly, I have learnt to appreciate and love myself more. I am very pleased and happy to have experienced this virtual online camp. I now feel more confident in my own skin and I will be my best in everything I do.


What I learnt

   For the past three days, I attended my first ever camp in St Joseph’s Private School. However, unlike all the other students from upper secondary, the camp I attended was conducted online due to MCO. Hence, the name “Form 1 Virtual Camp 2020”. It was not only a new experience for us Form Ones, but also a new challenge for the teachers.

   From this camp, I learned a lot of stuff about myself, God, and the people around me. At the beginning or in the middle of each day, we would take out a snack from our camp kit and take a group photo with it. I’m sure everyone would want to keep our memories stored. At the end of each day, we would have an examen where we basically close our eyes and recap the moments we spent together and feel our emotions.

   On the first day, the theme was “God and me”. As the theme suggested, we focused on God, the creator of life, and also our relationship with God. The most memorable part, for me, was Miss Viviana’s talk show. In the talk show, students asked questions and teachers answered them. It was exciting, and my favourite question of all was “How do we know when we meet God, it’s God?” The answer is simple. “When you meet Him, you will know.”

   On the second day, the theme was “family and love”. I believe this day was everyone’s favourite day, at least it was for me. I learned a lot about love. For example, Mr. Ben talked about his life when he was a child and that he didn’t get enough love from his parents. After listening to his story, I felt very grateful for my own family, for taking care of me, for showering me with love, and giving me the best education they can afford. Besides that, we also talked about teenagers, that is, ourselves. My favourite quote was “there is no point of comparing yourself with others because everyone is different and unique.” This motivated me to just do my best in everything I do, and be happy about life.

   On the third and final day, we talked about friendship and forgiveness. Our main speaker was Deacon Stanley from Singapore. He emphasised about forgiving others, just as how God or others forgive our mistakes. There is no peace without forgiveness. The same goes for friendship. I learned that a good friend is not someone who is smart, who buys you a lot of stuff, who likes your posts on social media. Instead, a good and real friend is someone who listens to you, who genuinely cares about you, and of course, understands you. At the end of the day, I promised myself that I will love all my friends who have accompanied me through 2020 and be there for them when they are sad. No matter what happens.

   In conclusion, this camp was very enjoyable and educational. As a student, it affected my way of thinking about life. I learned to be grateful even for the smallest things I have, and the fact that God will always love me made me want to love others too. I think that next year, myself and the other students of Form 1 will be more spiritually involved with activities like this and start to appreciate our young, teenage lives even more.


The Journey in SJPS begins

   On the 8th of December, at 8.30 a.m, the first online F1 Camp ever held began. As a student, I didn’t really know what to expect and I think I speak for everyone when I say we all wondered how it would all turn out, especially since it was held using the Zoom platform. The camp lasted till the 10th of December, a total of three days and was held from morning till noon. There were roughly 200 participants composed of students and teachers alike, making this meeting the largest our school has ever held online.

   Though it wasn’t as clear at first, it became very obvious that this camp was held to help further our growth as part of a holistic education. This camp was held as a kickstart to a much longer journey than we’d expect; a beginning to a journey that’ll last 5 years. In this camp we were given the opportunity to uncover and explore ideas and questions we would usually look away from, things that would be considered perhaps taboo to talk about in daily conversation. Obviously, we had a little setback this year due to the global pandemic. But with a little technology and a lot of effort, we were not only able to make the camp a success but also open up a window of new opportunities.

   Every day, the camp would begin with a short introduction and would end with some journaling. Each day was focused on exploring a different topic. Day 1 for example was about our relationship with God, Day 2 was about family and love, and Day 3 was on friendship and forgiveness. There were break-out sessions in which all the students were split into groups based on either class groups or gender.

   Day 1 began with a quick icebreaker before we dived into a short introduction about our relationship with God. After a quick break-out session, we had a Q&A session in the form of a talk show held by Ms Vivien. Day 2 had us focusing on our families and love. We took a love language quiz to understand our love languages better and then split into two groups by gender to dive deeper into the topics of family and love. Day 3 began with a game that segued into a self-reflection on forgiveness and friendship. After a quick break-out session, we came back to a continuation of the Q&A because one session was definitely not enough. Nearing the end of our camp, we also had a surprise in the form of a video from Larissa Ping (Miss World – Malaysia), an alumnus.

   This camp was a huge success. We were able to see things from a different perspective. It was also refreshing to talk about things that would usually be brushed off in a normal setting. Overall, this camp, despite the many obstacles it had, was the perfect kickstart to this journey and has everyone excited to see what will happen next year.


What I learnt about God, Family and Friends

   From Tuesday (8/12/20) until Thursday (10/12/20), St Joseph’s Private School conducted an online Form 1 Camp which I participated. This camp was historic as it was the first online camp with one of the most number of people (about 220 people in the ZOOM meeting) that our school had ever had. It was successfully conducted despite the fact that there were technical hiccups along the way.

   On the first day, when I entered the meet, we were welcomed by music from Mr. Benedict. The music boosted our energy and motivated us for what was to come next. On the first day, I learnt about thanksgiving and gratitude. I realised that I had taken a lot of things for granted. I wasn’t grateful that my parents had to work hard to support my family. Thus, I learnt from Day One that we need to be grateful. Father Alvin asked us to think about the things we are grateful for and thank God for them.

   Besides that, from the video we watched about the boy and the old grandmother, I have also learnt God is present in everyone. Both had a different perspective of God. Father Alvin and Deacon Stanley explained that God is everywhere and in everyone. It is up to us whether we want to find Him. I agree, as most of the time I would be wondering why God doesn’t accompany me. But I realised that God is actually within us already. It is just that we do not look for Him.

   On the second day, we learnt about our roles in our family. We all have roles in the family – the nagger, the grocery seller, the holiday planner, the annoying brother, etc. We all have roles no matter what. According to Ms Sara, one of the speakers, there is no perfect family in this world, there can never be. We just have to love and cherish each other in the family.

   Other than that, we also learnt about ourselves, our bodies and our emotions. We were split into two groups – boys and girls.  In the boys’ zoom meeting, I learnt about our body and our minds during the process called puberty. Puberty is part of growth. It is just that some of us will experience it early and some will experience it later.

   On the last day of our camp, we learnt about friendship. We took a test. We found out that out of the five qualities that Deacon Stanley mentioned, in the students’ opinions, honesty and kindness matter the most in a friendship. To spice things up, Deacon Stanley asked us to name famous friends such as the ones in movies.

   He continued explaining how important friends are in our daily life. God had created us to work together. We are not supposed to be alone. No man is an island. Here is a bible verse about teamwork: “The body is not supported by one person, but by all of us. We are one, we are strongest working together in unity” – 1 Corinthians 12:14

   He also explained the difference between being alone and loneliness.

   Next, we watched a short film about friends. The movie showed a llama and a penguin. The llama helped the penguin in so many ways and expected nothing in return.

   He explained that our friends are meant to cheer us up, help us when we are down, just like Christopher Robin helping Winnie the Pooh in the picture.

   We learnt about ways to be a good friend. A few of the ways are be curious, ask questions, listen and find a common interest. Deacon Stanley also stated,” Pay attention to the people so they would pay attention to you.” Friendship is a solidarity-agreement. It is formed through unity and support. We are supposed to have this strong bonding together with our friends. Friendship, unlike other ships, is a ship that can actually last forever, built through super close bonding. Despite this, friendship is fragile. There is friction between us humans. We can always have different opinions or different choices. This is because of the way we think. We don’t have the same mindset. It is normal to have frictions and arguments in life as long as we don’t hate the person. We have to learn to forgive.

   There were many things in this camp to learn. I can’t express what I have seen or listened to or even learnt in words. You have to see it to believe it. This camp was memorable with the many activities such as the icebreaking, journaling, discussion and Q&A. There is more to learn in future camps. To be honest, I think it is better to conduct the activities physically but given the current pandemic, we have to conduct them online. What to do? We still make history. May God bless you, readers. The journey begins.


What I learnt in Three Days

   This year’s Form 1 Camp was quite historic as it was the first online camp conducted by the school. It was successfully conducted albeit there were technical issues especially on Day Two when some students had to wait for more than 20 minutes in order to join the ZOOM meeting. But enough delay with my rambling, now keep in mind that the paragraphs below will be written in chronological order such as that Day One will have its own paragraph first and so on. 

   On Day One, I learnt two things, which are trying something new and being thankful for everything. As a child of a somewhat adventurous family, my family and I have tried a lot of new activities to quench our boredom in these trying times. As for being thankful, I believe that every person should practice it because everybody has something to be thankful for, such as an old man being thankful for his grandson’s soothing massage, while a low-income man can be thankful for not being required to pay taxes. Another thing that I have learnt is that God is in us and can be different in the eyes of other individuals. In the video shown by Fr Alvin, it is seen that in the view and mind of the child, “God” was in the form of a homeless woman whom he had given some of his food, while to that very same homeless lady later seen in the video, she claimed that “God” was in the form of the child who had willingly shared his food with her.

   On the second day, I learnt  two things. The first being that everybody has a role in the family. The role can be anything from that “annoying little brother” to that “kinda lazy but still somehow helpful” role or even the “second mom”. So essentially, everybody has their own special role in the family. But if someone’s role is to be neglected in any way, the house of cards in which you call a family may very well topple down. I also learnt that puberty is part of growth. And usually the time it happens may differ from person to person, so you might see one of your peers being much taller than you even though you are of the same age. Finally, I learnt about gratitude and forgiveness. Forgiveness is unbeknownst to some people as a gift. Some people are not able to harness this gift which is tragic indeed. They do not know that forgiveness actually releases all the anger and sadness you have withheld in your heart. It will be hard at first, but over time your heart will grow accustomed to your gift of forgiveness.

   As for the third and last day of the camp, I learnt being lonely can be prevented by trying to communicate and connect with people or by really striking a conversation with somebody you know. I have also gained wisdom about having friends and being a friend. I learnt that a friend doesn’t have to be intelligent or that hard-working; a friend just has to be honest and kind and also helpful. You also have to understand that not all friendships last. That’s why you must try to be careful with your friendships. Also, not all friendships just happen magically and instantaneously as, like wine. A good and lasting friendship usually takes a long time to build, and the longer you invest in it, the better and stronger it becomes. As a friend you should be interested in your friends, listen attentively to everything they say and also give those words a thought and reconstruct a suitable reply in your mind. You should also be sincere and honest when talking to them and be open minded to what they say. Don’t get angry at them as soon as they have different opinions, and also be forgiving as nobody is perfect.

   I hope we will have camps like this in the future as it is quite enjoyable and fun for the students.


I learnt a lot during this camp

   Recently, the students of Form 1 had a virtual camp with the theme of “The Journey Begins” from 8th December to 10th December 2020 through Zoom. There were over 200 participants, comprising of around 15 teachers and a few special guests.

   On the first day, we started with an ice-breaking session which was led by Deacon Stanley Goh from Singapore. We answered a few basic questions using a website then proceeded to the main topic of the day, which was “God & Me.” We were separated by class and group into smaller breakout rooms where we answered three questions using the Zoom whiteboard. After that, Ms Ng hosted a Q&A session with a few guests. The topics that we discussed ranged from Christianity and faith to abortion and homosexuality. The day ended with a journaling session led by Mr Ben and a photo-taking session with our Cloud 9 chocolates from our camp kits.

   On Day 2, the topic was “Family & Love” where we learnt about our roles in our families. Every student took a love language quiz on a website to discover our love language. Among the five types of love language which are words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch, majority of the F1 students got quality time as their top love language. Subsequently, the teachers separated guys and girls into two groups to dive deeper into other topics. Mr Jerome ended the day with a closing prayer after we did some journaling.

   Finally, on the last day, we talked about friendship and forgiveness. We discussed the qualities that a friend should have and did a poll to see what quality mattered most. Besides that, we learnt about solidarity and ways to be a good friend, followed by an activity where every class had to fill in a Google Form with a few questions about friends. Ms Ng hosted her talk show for the second time to answer more questions that we students asked. Before the camp ended, we watched a recap video on the highlights of all three days and took a final group photo.

   On the whole, I am grateful for the effort of all the teachers and school staff who made this online camp possible as it was indeed a new experience for every single one of us.


Click here for photos of the camp.