The rewarding experience of being a volunteer
Three volunteers with Youth Corps Singapore share what spurs them on to serve the community.
The start of the year is the time many make resolutions to better themselves, but it is also an opportunity to make plans that give back to the community.
Youth Corps Singapore revealed in its Year in Review that around 6,000 volunteers took part in its local and overseas volunteering opportunities last year.
Among these volunteers are Republic Polytechnic (RP) student Nur Quraisyah, 19, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) student Chan Chee Siang, 19, and full-time project management officer Agnes Leow, 25.
The youth volunteers were three of 94 nominees for the Faces of Youth Corps Singapore (FoYCS) 2022 awards in December, a peer nominated award by Youth Corps to recognise its volunteers who have exhibited values of dedication, innovativeness, rallying force, compassion, and resilience.
Youthopia spoke to the three youths to find out why they volunteer and what the experience has been like.
Finding different motivations to serve
Chee Siang’s journey with volunteerism began simply at the start of 2022 when he realised he had some free time on his hands during weekends.
Signing up with Youth Corps as a volunteer, he was soon helping out as a teacher befriender to a student and hosting virtual tours for an elderly resident at the Saint Andrews Nursing Home (SANH) in Henderson when she was unable to leave the home due to COVID-19 restrictions.
He says: “I realised that volunteering gave me a sense of joy when the children and elderly appreciate the time I spent with them. It allows me to grow better as a person and motivates me to spend my free time volunteering on top of frequently hanging out with my friends.”
For Quraisyah, serving the special needs community is something close to her heart as she feels that they are overlooked, even in volunteering efforts.
“There is a lot more that could be done for people with special needs and I hope that through serving, I get to motivate others to join me or just simply increase awareness of the community,” says the pharmaceutical science student who plans a host of activities for the Youth Corps Special Needs Cluster (SNC) that involves awareness, advocacy and community service projects.
Meanwhile, Agnes’ interest in sustainability saw her co-lead a group of youth volunteers in running a series of repair workshops for residents in Hougang to combat the throwaway culture in Singapore.
Overcoming initial roadblocks
Not everyone understands the sacrifices made by volunteers however, and Agnes’s desire to serve the community was initially met with scepticism from loved ones.
“Some of my friends and family members felt that volunteering was a waste of time, but they soon overcame those thoughts when I shared how fun and fulfilling it was with them,” says Agnes, whose repair workshops cover the common faulty issues of household appliances and how residents can go about performing simple fixes.
Quraisyah faced a different kind of challenge when she started volunteering as she felt fearful of saying anything that was deemed offensive to the special needs community.
Thankfully, her concerns waned when she became a volunteer befriender to an introverted 12-year-old client and his chirpy 5-year-old brother.
Recalling the event, she shares that the younger brother had confided in her during their break-time, insisting that his brother with special needs did not reciprocate his love.
“I explained to him that as a person with special needs, it can be difficult for his brother to verbally portray his feelings, but that does not mean he loves him any less. His sibling promptly understood and when asked again, reiterated that his brother loves him too,” she says.
Quraisyah’s knowledge on volunteering also grew as she continued serving the community. Initially thinking it was mostly about fundraising, she has since learnt much more about the sector, and also how to interact better with those she is serving.
Finding strength to continue serving the community
In the face of doubts and challenges, Quraisyah found strength to continue serving the community through her fellow volunteers.
“When I plan these volunteering events, I tend to come across various challenges like a lack of manpower or an inability to communicate with volunteers, but we always remind ourselves that we are a team and brainstorm solutions together,” she says
Quraisyah revealed that as an active volunteer, she often reminds herself that every cloud has a silver lining and that the issues she encounters are rather miniscule that can be overcome easily.
“The rewarding part of my stint is when my clients wear a huge smile and are satisfied with the event and the experience,” says Quraisyah.
For Agnes, volunteering has made her understand that there is much more one could do to support people who are in need.
“There is a saying in Chinese that goes “施比受更有福” which translates to “giving is more blessed than receiving” and I hold strong to this saying that we should always try to give when we can.”
As volunteering has proven to be a fulfilling experience for all three youths, they have been actively encouraging others to get involved by sharing their own experiences.
Quraisyah hopes fellow youths would try volunteering and it may help them find their passion in a cause.
She says: “I hope that through serving the special needs community, I get to motivate others to join me or learn more about the community.”
Youths who are keen to volunteer can kick start their journey by participating in short-term community service events or more regular programmes with Youth Corps.