Why youths volunteer: Finding friends with a common cause for serving children
28-year-old Hafiz found his closest friends in fellow Youth Corps volunteers, who helped him step out of his shell to lead and host events for youths and children.
- In this Why Youths Volunteer series, we hear from Youth Corps Singapore volunteers about how they got involved with volunteerism and what motivates them to continue serving the community.
- We spoke to Muhammad Hafiz Abdul Hadi, who started volunteering on an ad-hoc basis with his NS buddies and went on to be involved in over 12 projects focused on children and the environment over the years.
When Muhammad Hafiz Abdul Hadi was a full-time national serviceman (NSF), he noticed his NS seniors often scouring for volunteering opportunities on the Youth Corps Singapore website.
As he approached them to find out more, it did not take much to convince him to join them in serving the community.
“I always wanted to volunteer when I was young, but I wasn’t aware of the available channels to sign up for such ad-hoc events. When I chanced upon the opportunity, I signed up together with my NS mates for the ad-hoc events,” says the now 28-year-old full-time logistics associate.
That initial exposure to volunteerism with his NS buddies soon set Hafiz on a path towards more active volunteerism. Now into his seventh year serving, the Youth Corps leader spends two to three hours every week planning events for the Children, Youth and Family (CYF) cluster, where he serves as a main committee member.
He was also involved in 12 projects largely centred around children and the environment. He also coordinated several workshops that focused on children-befriending techniques, including one to train new volunteers in storytelling techniques.
Leading projects and hosting events did not come naturally to Hafiz, who describes himself as an introvert.
He shares that he initially had doubts about his abilities to serve in the CYF cluster, but working with children not only emboldened him to speak up, it also helped change his perspective towards volunteering.
Hafiz recalls a particular experience when he was volunteering at A Walk To Remember (a children’s programme as part of the KidsFun School Holiday Series), bringing children from diverse family backgrounds to discover the Singapore story across three landmarks – the National Museum of Singapore, the Central Fire Station and the Children’s Museum Singapore.
As he led the children around various exhibits, he was surprised when one of the kids started telling him way more than he knew about the exhibits.
“The 12-year-old was very knowledgeable on the exhibitions and the history of Singapore. I was impressed and continued listening to him as he went on to explain about the exhibits,” says Hafiz, who realised that the people he was serving were also the ones helping him to learn and grow.
Hafiz soon found his stride volunteering in kids-related activities, and his passion grew as he saw how much the children enjoyed the events his team organised.
In a bid to venture further out of his comfort zone, Hafiz then signed up for the Youth Corp Leaders Programme (YCLP) in 2018, where he served the special needs community.
“I had already served children and families so this time, I wanted to be involved in a different community as a Youth Corps leader. This was why I had my heart set on the special needs community,” says Hafiz, who then started organising both indoor and outdoor activities for persons with intellectual disabilities.
By this time, Hafiz was working a full-time job in the day and spending his evenings planning for volunteering sessions. The commitments started to make him feel “mentally drained”.
“In a week, I would be spending four days after work just to plan and organise meetings and it was exhausting,” Hafiz explains, saying it reached a point he wondered if he should quit volunteering.
Thankfully, Hafiz found support through the friends he made while volunteering, who gave him advice on how to manage the different commitments and motivated him to persevere.
He also attributes his growth – from a shy youth who did not dare approach others to one who could host events for the cluster – to the encouragement his friends gave.
“All my close friends are people whom I met through volunteering. They guide me and we go through this together. Volunteering with them makes it more rewarding and fun and that makes me want to stay on,” says Hafiz, who eventually completed the Leaders Programme and was conferred a Youth Corps Leader in 2019.
Having actively volunteered across various causes, Hafiz is now considering a career switch to the social sector.
With his friend in the midst of setting up a non-profit organisation, Hafiz hopes to complete a part-time diploma to earn credentials in social service before joining him to support youth causes.
His advice for youths who are looking to volunteer for the first time? To not feel daunted by the demands of volunteering and to find the fun in serving the community.
“Prior to volunteering, I was confined within my four walls. But now, I understand that there’s a whole new world out there that I have never been aware of.”
“My life goal is to just help others. Volunteering made me stay rooted in my belief that I should spend the rest of my life helping others.”