Christmas in Singapore seems to begin earlier and earlier each year as our famous shopping district, Orchard Road, gets dressed up in everything sparkly and pretty! Since its, the season of giving, I thought that I’d write about something that embodies the spirit of giving- Volunteering.
“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
In the rat race of life, we are so focused on keeping ahead that its easy to forget about the well-being of our neighbors. We scramble for our share of the pie, whine over the portion we have got and lament that others have more.
I am well aware of the benefits of “competitiveness” on the improvement of society but lets not forget that we all did not start the race as equals. Some of us were born with higher intelligence, some with better physique, some have better looks and some just have better luck and opportunities…and then there are some who were just born with what society considers the short end of the stick.
Christmas is the season of giving and the best way to give is to share the ‘gifts’ we have with those who don’t. If you earn enough to feed your family, help feed another family. If you are great at singing, teach someone else to sing. If you are wonderful at sports, share that passion with someone else.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the ways one can give back to society. If you have any ideas on how else to share some love, do leave a comment below 🙂
1. Giving Free Tuition
I’ll start with this because its something I am most familiar with. Along with a few other friends, we have been running a free tuition program for primary school students at Queenstown Community Centre since 2010. Its our belief that education is the gateway to having choices in future so we hope to be able to provide extra help for needy students who may not have the access to luxuries such as extra tuition. In our program, not only do we get to educate them, but by filling the role between a friend and a parent, we get to play the role of a mentor as well. By building good rapport with the kids, we are at times rewarded with the privilege of being invited into their world 🙂
Where to volunteer as a tutor?
You can check out the list of volunteering opportunities with The Children’s Society here.
I also know that there are many other organisations that have programs like this so if you like to teach, do go check around your neighborhood for such opportunities.
2. Providing Company to our Pioneer Generation
We have all heard of horror stories about the elderly being abused in nursing homes. I am not saying that those involved are not to be blamed, but it is a fact that such jobs are pretty stressful. The lack of sufficient nurses can impact the quality of care given to their patients, so helping out at an elderly home can really help to improve the care given. You will also get to interact with the elderly and you may find pretty interesting stories from some of them. Once, I even met a ‘school senior’ ( she was like 60 years my senior) who shared with us stories on her youth as a student in Town Convent (now known as CHIJMES). It may not seem like much, but having new people to talk to can bring an added excitement to their life (just think about how you are when you make new friends). It may be hard to communicate with some of them, especially those that speak only dialect, so bring a friend who can translate for you or just brush up on your dialect already!
Where to volunteer?
For a list of nursing homes click here.
3. Supporting the Physically and Mentally Disabled
In case you haven’t notice, many of the organisations that cater to the needs of physically and mentally disabled persons actually do have programs in place to help them become independent.
For example, MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore) has a social enterprise wing which aims to equips its students with employable skills. They also work hard to secure job opportunities for their students when they graduate from the program.
If you have the passion for teaching and possess skills sets that the organisation needs, do consider volunteering as a coach. Many students successfully join the workforce as kitchen help (require skills in handling sharp and hot equipment), service staff (require skills in handling heavy loads) and also factory workers.
You can also support by considering purchasing crafts from these organisations as the items are uniquely handmade and can make really pretty presents. I have a pretty photo frame I bought from MINDS Craft that is decorated with square pieces of brightly colored glass. I like the fact that because its handmade, no two pieces are the same. It’s definitely costlier than store bought ones, but I am happy to support since it translates into income for the person making the craft and also its like I get a memento for making a donation 🙂
for a list of social enterprises, check out the website for the National Council of Social Services here.
4. Taking care of abandoned pets
Love animals but don’t own a pet? Share your love with some cuddlies at a pet shelter. Every year, more than 10,000 abandoned pets are picked up by various shelters and animal agencies. This amount is simply impossible for local animal shelters to handle so the unfortunate truth is that most of them will have to be put to sleep.
Some ways we can prevent pet abandonment is to promote responsible ownership and responsible breeding. Never get pets as a presents as the person should be fully aware of the responsibilities involved in taking care of a pet. Do take care not to purchase pets from irresponsible breeders who often over-breed so that their customers get a “choice” when picking a pet.
(Credits to SPCA)
But we can also help to “cure” this situation by considering adoption before purchasing a puppy. Do note however, that some abandoned pets may have physical or behavioral problems so do work out with the shelter on how to best care for them.
Those pets that stay at the shelter also require daily care and concern. Volunteering your time to help with taking care of the pets (i.e. bathing them, walking them or feeding them) can go a long way for the pets as well as the shelter’s caregivers.
You can look out for pets to adopt via this site here.
To volunteer at a shelter, just do a online search as I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of local shelters.
Personally, I feel that when considering which volunteering opportunities to take, you have to ask yourself what is most meaningful to you. In the course of volunteering, I do meet setbacks, such as rude organisations or rude beneficiaries or sometimes plans just fall apart.
But if I truly believe in a cause, remembering why I do this really goes a long way in motivating me to push on in my efforts 🙂
I wish you all the best this season of giving!
*If you know of unique ways to give back to society, or would like to find out more, do drop a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.