I believe that there is this sense of altruism, of putting others or causes before oneself and that this trait is innate within each and every one of us. I applaud those who dare to give their time, energy, and resources to see others gain betterment for themselves, without expecting anything in return. These people may be around us, or, amongst us, perhaps our friends, colleagues, or family members. Many of us feel this desire to make a change – to be the change we want to be for the people around us. However, many a times we feel a certain particular inertia and doubt if we could ever make any significant assistance.
There are various avenues supporting a myriad of causes in which one may partake. Using Singapore as an example, a report by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth reported that as of 2014, there are as many as 2,180 charities concerned in diverse causes from social welfare to sports. This number increases year-on-year concurrently with total receipts of the charity sector amounting to $13.9 billion in 2013 (Commisioner of Charities, 2014). As such, a keen individual may choose to champion any cause he or she wishes; volunteer any skills, time or resources available. On top of that, technology is harnessed to provide a voice for advocating action or calling out for people to come onboard and volunteer. Online web portals and community pages on social media sites such as Facebook help to create awareness and link interested volunteers to take action. This also create a less conventional way of contributing help with certain humanitarian groups offering online volunteering assignments such as online journalism to advocate and provide stewardship to a cause.
In addition, youths are found to be active volunteers. According to Singapore’s National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), that in 2013, 8 out of 10 registered volunteers on its online portal were youths between the ages 15 and 35. Youths have the potential vigour and energy to effect a large change within our societies. There are many organisations established to encourage more youths to take part in volunteering and amongst them is Youth Corps Singapore, a national institution that specifically targets youths and support them with opportunities to volunteer their time and resources. In the regional sphere, the Committee for ASEAN Youth Cooperation (CAYC) was set up as a platform to bring about a network of all national youth organisations to connect them to volunteering and leadership opportunities within the ASEAN region. Therefore, youths can be and should be harnessed to make a greater change in society.
However, help and assistance does not have to necessarily come from a monetary standpoint. As a student, I did personally find myself wanting to do something without being constrained by spending too much money. The gift of youth presents itself with the opportunity and adventure to step outside the comfort zone to get down and dirty with the cause I was helping with – Farming. I scoured on the Net and found less conventional ways of volunteering through a working holiday opportunity as a way to exchange ideas and perspectives and, gaining new and valuable insights to farming practices overseas. Furthermore, I took the chance to come down to a community meet-up at a local urban farm, allowing me to return and share my experiences I have gained through my short overseas volunteer farming stint. And best of all, these experiences are for free!
I would like to appeal to all, especially the youths to not be afraid of putting our hearts and souls into volunteering for a cause that we personally believe in, regardless of its material significance. We are all able to volunteer, making a small change in our local communities with the hope that its ripples are felt far, even potentially benefitting people and future of the ASEAN region and beyond. I will end this entry with a short but poignant quote by Aesop: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Ministry of Culture, C.a.Y., 2014. Publications and Statistics. Singapore: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Ministry of Culture, C.a.Y., 2014. Commissioner of Charities Annual Report. Singapore: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Cheng, K., 2013. More young people take to volunteerism. TODAYonline, 14 December.
Cooperation, C.f.A.Y., 2016. One ASEAN Youth: Home. [Online] Available at: http://aseanforyouth.org/ [Accessed 16 February 2016].
By Solyh Ahmad, ASEAN Correspondent from Singapore