What is the most socially meaningful activity youths are doing in Singapore, be it as a leader or a participant? Of late, more youths are engaged in social work. In fact, social work means a lot more to them than its charitable purposes. According to Gwendolyn Thong, director of mental wellness initiative, Chatty Caterpillar, volunteerism can be a way to balance mental wellness. While youths commit themselves to their daily responsibilities as students or employees, social work provides a means of deriving satisfaction from being able to provide help to others who are disadvantaged.
Youth Corps SG is another youth volunteer group in Singapore which believes that volunteers play an important role in community building, uplifting the well-being of Singaporeans and all who live here. Not only does their volunteering benefit their beneficiaries, it also benefits the volunteers themselves.
Gwendolyn adds,“Volunteering – through using our strengths to serve others – helps us hone our strengths so that when we see evidence of it. We develop a better sense of self-worth. Further, volunteering boosts discipline and with better mental discipline, many self-limiting thoughts can be combated.” At Chatty Caterpillar, she works with a team of volunteers to conduct online sessions for people from all walks of life to promote mental wellness.
Over the last few years, the number of social awareness initiatives have been increasing in Singapore, many of which are created by youths across a broad spectrum of projects. Lavinia Tang, a volunteer of YEP, the Youth Expedition Project has been serving the Vietnam community for several years, and she led her YEP team twice to Vietnam to help the less fortunate there. She explains, “As the world evolves, the challenges and needs of the community evolves too. This shift in normalcy due to COVID-19 forces us to be highly adaptable. Despite border closures, technological advancements ensure the world remains connected. With YEP-GO, we’ll be able to continue attaining immense growth personally and for the overseas commune, by pushing the boundaries of e-learning and e-befriending. Through digital tools, I hope to pave the way for future successful YEP-GO projects as we finetune this process and preserve the human-to-human connection.”
The YEP programme has made Lavinia more empathetic and open in her day to day life. She is also more acutely aware of the marginalised and societal issues that exist back home, and this has influenced her career and recreational choices.
Chu Yu, a member and volunteer of the Youth Corps Leaders Programme, tries to volunteer whenever she can, especially for the causes that she is passionate about. One of her favourite moments from the Youth Corps Leaders Programme is a heart-to-heart session that she had with her teammates during their induction camp. The session helped them understand one another’s perspectives, strengths and struggles, and developed deeper bonds beyond what was possible in ad-hoc volunteering activities. Through volunteering with the Youth Corps Leaders Programme, she now has a deeper understanding of the social service sector, and the impact that volunteers bring to the community as well as to one another, as they are all works-in-progress who are growing through each volunteering experience. Volunteering has also taught her to be more empathetic and flexible, as she meets people who come from various backgrounds and hold different perspectives. The Leaders Programme has opened her eyes to the importance of connecting with the purpose for volunteering and advocating for the causes that they believed in.
Raasheeda Fathima was involved in delivering meals to seniors living in social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic in Singapore. Through volunteering with the Youth Corps Leaders Programme, she had a sense of satisfaction that cannot be duplicated in any other activities. It allowed her to break out of her comfort zone and pick up new skills, while she meets people from all walks of life and forms meaningful friendships with them. One skill that she had picked up from the Youth Corps Leaders Programme is stakeholder management. She personally feels that stakeholder management is an important skill that can be applied in any sector.
There is certainly no end to the benefits of volunteering. Through volunteering, not only will you get to help others, you will also get to discover new things about yourself that may surprise you.