As part of a leadership training programme, Heartland Boy’s company organised a dinner session for the participants at the premises of Singapore Association Of The Visually Handicapped (‘SAVH’). Specifically, it was a one and a half hour long dinner session conducted in pitch dark conditions. Throughout his week-long training programme, Heartland Boy rated Dining In The Dark as the activity that truly left a deep impact on him. It was a very powerful experience, both physically and emotionally. Here is his review of Dining In The Dark and why he thinks that it makes for a good corporate social responsibility (‘CSR’) activity.
Dining In The Dark Programme
Without giving too much away and spoiling the fun, here is a rundown of the entire 1.5 hours.
- Upon arrival, you will be briefed on the layout of your cutlery. Direction is described with reference to a clock so that there will be no confusion. Heartland Boy was extremely thankful that he knew his cutlery well, such as the difference between a soup spoon and a dinner spoon.
- Step 2: Things get real once you are led into the dining hall/restaurant with hands on the shoulders of the waiter for guidance. Once you are in total darkness, your other senses get amplified to compensate for the loss of sight.
- Step 3: You will be having a 3 course meal over the next 1.5 hours. The menu is supposed to be a surprise but let’s just say that each course comes with its own degree of difficulty. You finish your food by estimating the weight of your plate, or through your own good judgement and memory, or by scraping the plate clean much to the laughter of the rest of the participants.
- Step 4: The lights are switched on and you will discover the mess that you have just created!
Some of the more funny conversations overheard in Heartland Boy’s dining room:
On pouring your own drink into your own glass in the dark
“OMG, I realised I just poured the juice on my breast! I only realised when I felt that it was wet!”
On finding the serviette
“Where is the serviette?”
“It’s at your 12’o clock.”
After reaching out to her 12’o clock, she exclaimed, “How come my serviette is wet?”
Anticipating the main course
“I think they will serve chili crabs for our overseas colleagues because it is our national dish.”
After providing an overview of the programme, here is why Heartland Boy thinks that Dining In The Dark is a good CSR activity.
It Provides Sustainable Employment
Although Heartland Boy only experienced blindness for a short 1.5 hours, he could empathise with the challenges that the visually impaired face in their daily activities. The routine activities that the rest of us often take for granted get magnified in difficulty for the visually impaired. It remains extremely challenging for them to integrate into society without getting overwhelmed by social stigma, much less find meaningful employment.
In contrast, Dining In The Dark by SAVH is one such environment whereby the visually impaired can find satisfying work. From Heartland Boy’s conversation with Ms Joji, the Coordinator at SAVH Dining In The Dark, the entire process from food preparation to service delivery was handled and managed by visually impaired persons. For instance, less visually impaired staff would be cooking while more visually impaired staff will be waiting on the patrons. As a result of the well allocation of tasks, the staff at SAVH Dining In The Dark all feel a greater sense of purpose in performing their respective roles. Therefore, by patronising Dining In The Dark, all of us could help in a small way to provide sustainable and meaningful employment for the visually impaired at SAVH.
It Builds Empathy
For Heartland Boy, he felt an extreme loss of control once he was led into the room. He never imagined that the room was going to be so dark. He could not even see his own five fingers! This loss of control immediately triggered 2 types of behaviour amongst his colleagues:
- A more conservative behaviour whereby one sticks to his or her comfort zone and rejects extra helpings of cheese, pepper, sugar etc. Pragmatism rules the day and it becomes more about eating rather than enjoyment.
- An open mind whereby one becomes flexible and not nitpick on certain types of food. Willingness to try new things will add more diverse and rich experiences to your life.
Regardless of which behaviour you revert to, you will feel immense relief when the lights are turned on at the end of the session. On reflection, it was an extremely humbling experience for Heartland Boy. He is better able to empathise with the struggles that the visually handicapped face on a daily basis. This activity certainly builds deep empathy and allows one to see the perspectives of other stakeholders.
It Emphasies The Importance Of Teamwork
When you are alone in the dark, you have to rely on those around you. Therefore, it clearly helped that the waiter provided a detailed brief before the start of the event. In organisations, leaders who are able to provide clear directions and expectations will find their staff more productive and engaged.
Similarly, once inside the dining hall, you trust that your neighbour is going to pass you the flask without spilling on you. Moreover, it can also get very lonely in pitch dark conditions. However, hearing the familiar voices of your peers provides further assurance that all of you are in it together!
Tips to better enjoy Dining In The Dark
Having extolled the virtues of why Dining In The Dark at SAVH makes for a good CSR activity, here are some tips from Heartland Boy on how you can better enjoy your experience there!
- A recommended dress code would be dark and simple casual wear. Given that the incidence of spillage is high, you might not want to come in your Sunday’s best. Wearing dark clothes also help to conceal stains better, especially if you are going to take the public transport home.
- Girls with long hair should tie their hair up. In pitch dark conditions, you do not know if you are slurping the soup or your hair!
- If you want to be extra cautious, you may reject the optional course of coffee or tea that is being offered. That is because it takes considerable skill to add creamer or sugar to your caffeinated drinks in pitch dark conditions. To be honest, being too cautious takes the fun out of the experience!
Do Good For The Community
It only costs $30 for lunch and $38 nett for dinner, which is a reasonable price for a 3 course meal. The food served is also halal. Heartland Boy understands that only a small group size of 8 to 10 pax is required to confirm an appointment with SAVH. Here are the contact and booking details:
Dining In The Dark
Address: 47 Toa Payoh Rise Singapore 298104
Contact: 6251 4331 (Ext: 167)
Therefore, if you have run out of ideas for your company’s CSR activities, why not try an entirely new experience in Dining In The Dark By Singapore Association Of Visually Handicapped? Heartland Boy is certain that you will enjoy the experience as much as he did!
Note: Dining In The Dark By Singapore Association Of Visually Handicapped should not be confused with Nox-Dine In The Dark.