Discovering the joy of volunteering: How a short stint changed my perspective

No matter the duration of a volunteering session, it can still be a valuable experience.

Dini Qistina Binte Ali

You can find me in record stores even though I don’t own a record player.

Published: 16 June 2023, 1:50 PM

When school holidays are around the corner, most would make plans to spend time with friends and family, keep busy with personal hobbies, or simply stay at home to rest. 

However, spending that time on volunteering might not cross the minds of many, myself included. 

While more youths have started volunteering – over 6,000 took part in volunteering opportunities according to the Youth Corp’s Year in Review 2022 – it is still a relatively small amount when you consider the number of youths in Singapore. According to SingStat, there were over 440,000 resident youths in Singapore last year.

As a youth myself, I would occupy my free time by consuming media and working on my creative hobbies rather than doing things beyond my comfort zone, such as volunteering.

But a short volunteering stint as a kitchen volunteer at Willing Hearts changed my mind. 

Admittedly, I was unsure of what to expect when my friend asked me to tag along with her. With no clue what my responsibilities were, I was worried that I might not be able to contribute much.

These preconceived notions, thankfully, were quickly dispelled. 

My task at Willing Hearts was to crack open tuna cans, mould them into patties, then discard the cans into the trash repeatedly. The patties would then be used to make tuna burgers to distribute to the needy. It wasn’t labour intensive and, quite frankly, a mindless task that I hadn’t imagined counts among volunteering.

Other volunteers were either cutting meat and vegetables, or packing the cooked food. 

But my experience taught me that volunteering transcends beyond the physical acts: It is a chance to connect with different people, make a difference no matter how big or small, and learn how to be more compassionate.

I worked alongside older and experienced volunteers who – despite the language barrier – were very patient in guiding me along. Although my task was done behind the scenes – compared to direct contributions such as distributing food to the community – I understood that my role had a purpose.

Apart from connecting with strangers to accomplish a common goal, volunteering allowed me to meet and learn from people I usually wouldn’t get to know. One such person is Auntie Shirley, a 70-year-old woman who has been passionately volunteering at Willing Hearts for six years.

She shared about how her son introduced her to the organisation six years ago and has been volunteering regularly since. Her eyes twinkled while recounting her experience in the Philippines, where she assisted in cooking and distributing food for an entire village.

Despite her age, she still took the time to help out a community from another country. Auntie Shirley’s story was a testament to how anyone can volunteer if they have the will and sincerity to do so.

Volunteering is a meaningful act, but some might hesitate to be involved due to the misconception that it is a high-commitment task.

However, there are organisations such as Willing Hearts that welcome volunteers no matter how short their commitment is. Whether two hours or two days, volunteering can be done at any time by anyone regardless of experience. There will also be experienced volunteers around the site to guide and assist newcomers.

I was utterly clueless about my role until Auntie Shirley gave a detailed demonstration of what I had to do, which quickly helped me gain confidence in my duties.

Despite spending only two hours volunteering, I learned valuable lessons for life. The experience made me reconsider the ways in which I spend my free time and how my friends and I could start investing our time into something more meaningful and productive.

Those like myself who are looking to start volunteering can consider setting aside some time for it. There are many volunteering opportunities with various organisations such as Willing Hearts where youths can sign up as kitchen volunteers, and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) where volunteers can help with a range of activities from fundraising to graphic design.

More volunteering programmes are available on and the Youth Corps Singapore websites. These include opportunities to befriend seniors and spend time with them, or helping young children to spend their school holidays in meaningful ways. 

So, why not embrace volunteering and unlock a world of fulfilment and personal growth? By dedicating just a small portion of your free time, you can make a tangible impact on the lives of others. Whether it’s cracking open tuna cans, or speaking to a senior, every act of volunteering counts.

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