From the Heart Where can you start?

Where to vol­un­teer in Sin­ga­pore KATY BEECHEY ex­plains how any­one can get in­volved in vol­un­teer­ing in Sin­ga­pore, and where to look for op­por­tu­ni­ties to turn your skills into valu­able as­sis­tance. Giv­ing | giv­ Ex­pat Giv­ing | ex­pat­giv­ The Smart

Expat Living (Singapore) - - Life & Family - BY KATIE ROBERTS

Last year you ac­cepted the Friends of Sin­ga­pore Red Cross Award on be­half of a group of vol­un­teer teach­ers. Tell us how this came about?

I’m one of a group of vol­un­teers who, ev­ery Fri­day lunchtime, teach English lan­guage lessons at the Sin­ga­pore Red Cross Home for the Dis­abled. We aim to help the Sri Lankan and Burmese nurses im­prove their lan­guage skills and have some fun at the end of a busy week! The nurses are so ea­ger and grate­ful – it’s a plea­sure to help them. We were sur­prised and de­lighted to learn that our vol­un­teer­ing ef­forts had been recog­nised.

The cer­e­mony was a mov­ing event – it’s not ev­ery day that a Head of State presents you with an award! I was hon­oured to re­ceive the award on be­half of all the vol­un­teer teach­ers past and present, and I was de­lighted to meet Pres­i­dent Tony Tan, who took time to greet us all at a re­cep­tion af­ter the cer­e­mony.

Where else have you and your col­leagues vol­un­teered?

We’ve chopped, peeled and served food at the bustling soup kitchen of Will­ing Hearts, and we’ve sorted and packed food goody bags for needy fam­i­lies at Food From The Heart. I’ve also sup­ported ben­e­fi­cia­ries dur­ing ther­apy horserid­ing ses­sions at Rid­ing for the Dis­abled, and men­tored disad­van­taged youth in their pre­sen­ta­tion skills dur­ing a Halo­gen Foun­da­tion pro­gramme. Sport Cares runs out­door ac­tiv­i­ties for disad­van­taged youth and I joined a group from Ufit to work out with them at the Botanic Gar­dens. I’ve taught English and cre­ative writ­ing at the women’s shel­ter of the Hu­man­i­tar­ian Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion Eco­nomics (HOME) (they’re al­ways look­ing for new ac­tiv­i­ties to en­gage res­i­dents). And dur­ing the run-up to Christ­mas a group of us helped to dis­trib­ute do­nated gifts to disad­van­taged chil­dren, co­or­di­nated by Be­yond So­cial Ser­vices.

Many of th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties be­yond th­ese I’ve men­tioned.

What’s the so­cial im­pact of this work?

I be­lieve it’s twofold. Vol­un­teers get a greater sense of in­te­gra­tion in their adopted home – not to men­tion feel­ing part of a com­mu­nity with a sense of pur­pose – while ben­e­fi­cia­ries si­mul­ta­ne­ously feel val­ued and sup­ported by the fact that strangers are will­ing to take time out to help them. It’s a win­win sit­u­a­tion; vol­un­teer­ing builds a stronger so­cial net­work that tran­scends tra­di­tional bound­aries.

What should keen and car­ing in­di­vid­u­als think about be­fore vol­un­teer­ing?

Take a mo­ment to think about your strengths, in­ter­ests and tal­ents. Would you be more ef­fec­tive help­ing in a one-to-one sce­nario or with a big­ger group? Could you trans­form a hobby (yoga, crafts, run­ning, pho­tog­ra­phy) into a work­shop or weekly ac­tiv­ity for oth­ers? Do you have pro­fes­sional skills that would be val­ued by an NGO with­out the funds to pay for them? Are you keen to vol­un­teer as a fam­ily, group of friends, col­leagues or by your­self? There are myr­iad op­por­tu­ni­ties in Sin­ga­pore; if you can take de­cent photos, drive, draft a CV, teach English, boost some­one’s con­fi­dence, turn out a de­cent spread­sheet or just aren’t afraid of get­ting stuck in, then there’s some­thing for you!

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