Volunteerism Tips for Youths, By Youths

Dec 16, 2021   |   Kisha San Juan

Share this post:

Graphic by Kisha San Juan

The rise of virtual volunteering has exposed youths to different volunteering programmes in Singapore, but some may have found the calling to serve fellow youth.

Due to similar mindsets, values and attitudes, some youth may find it easier to volunteer with people who come from the same generation as them. Some youth want to empower their fellow youths who might not be well-privileged in life to thrive in their lives.

Armed with this desire, many might struggle to find out how to help other youths fulfil their potential in life due to the potential lack of knowledge on youth volunteering programmes. Some may feel stuck on how to interact with these youth.

Follow these five steps to effectively help other youths for a fruitful volunteering experience:

Step 1: Find a programme that best suits your interests

There are many youth programmes out there that are catered to help underprivileged youths. These programmes have a commitment range of once a week to about three times a week and are currently being held online due to the pandemic. It is important to read up on programmes that would interest you and you can commit to them before making an informed choice.

Heartware Network currently has two programmes that are catered for youth volunteers to help other youths. Both involve volunteers imparting their academic knowledge to low-income children.

The first programme is the Heartware Tuition Programme. According to the Heartware Network website, the programme was started in 2009 by student volunteers coming from Raffles Institution, it was started to approach primary school children who come from low-income families and/or whose parents are imprisoned to serve them their academic needs. The volunteers provide free weekly tuition to the beneficiaries.

Heartware Tuition Programme volunteer Geraldine Koh, 18, wanted to use her time to give back to youths when she realised that the programme was meant to help students “improve their confidence in themselves and  their academic grades.” She wanted to be a “guide” where her beneficiaries can ask her questions when they need her.

“I was looking for ways to contribute back because I was quite fortunate in my education pathway where I had help from my teachers and support for my family,” she says, “So, I think I wanted to use my time to give back to youths.”

The second programme is the Heartware Learning-Together Programme (HWLTP). According to the Heartware Network website, the programme started during the Covid-19 “circuit breaker” period to give academic literacy support to lower primary students by conducting online reading sessions. These one-on-one sessions happen for about thirty minutes and happen three times a week.

Heartware Learning Together Programme volunteer leader Lee Tze Tong, 17, wanted to join the programme as she wanted to do something other than her academics.

“I heard a lot about JC (Junior College) life just mostly about studying. I didn’t want my life to be like that,” she says. “So, I thought it’ll be a good idea if every week there’s something I can look forward to.”

Step 2: Join the programme with the attitudes of adaptability and optimism

Tze Tong highlights the importance of being adaptable when catering to her different beneficiaries’ needs. She recalls an incident when she had to change her teaching style to engage her beneficiaries during her lessons.

“I thought that I could apply that same knowledge, which is essentially just [needing a] very structured plan because that was what my child needed,” she says. “But, I realised that this structure didn’t work for my child when I was in junior college. She just tends to get very distracted and she cannot follow a very structured outline.”

Owing to her child’s need of having control over what she was learning, Tze Tong gave her options for books and she would pick the one that interested her. In this way, Tze Tong feels that she is “contributing to her  learning.”

Step 3: Build relationships with your beneficiaries

Geraldine stresses the importance of building relationships with your beneficiaries “especially in this area where the tutors have to be integrated with them weekly.”

“Ultimately, for these beneficiaries to get the most out of these sessions is for them to be able to open up to us as primary school kids,” she says. “So, [us as tutors need to be] able to trust us, and they can approach us if they have any troubles with their homework.”

Tze Tong reiterates that if a volunteer does not establish some kind of connection, the child is not ready and cannot understand who you are. This causes them to think that they are just “a stranger who doesn’t care about their learning”.

“But you need to let them know that I’m going to be here every weekend. I care about your learning. I care about you. And I want to know your feedback,” she says. “There’s a kind of connection [there].”

Step 4: Volunteer with your friends

According to Tze Tong, volunteering with her friends allows them to open up on any difficulties, share methods and give ideas to each other.

She recalls a time when she had to advise one of her schoolmates whom she is volunteering with after her beneficiary was “not receptive to what she has to say”.

“She always exits the Zoom call when the [call] starts,” she said. “We’ll give each other advice [and] tell her that, maybe at the start of the program I tell her, ‘Okay, if you get through this agenda, then you have something fun to do. You can come to entice the child a bit because that works for some children and it did work for her.”

Step 5: Share your experience with others

Sharing your experience with others can empower others to volunteer. There may be friends who are unwilling to volunteer because they might only see information on the Internet about the programme but might want to hear from first-hand experiences on how the programmes work. This will help them weigh all possible pros and cons before deciding on a programme that they want to join.

Geraldine says that it is crucial to share her experience with her friends as volunteering is an area that many youths do not look into.

“As a student in any institution, we have very busy lives and studying  is very tough, then we may not necessarily be aware of helping our community,” she says, “Oftentimes, some people may want to help but then they don’t know how to, because they are not exposed to Heartware of like other volunteer organisations.”

She shares her work now to encourage more people to join such programmes and to promote volunteering in Singapore.

Ultimately, we need to be more aware of taking small steps by offering a portion of our time helping youths who may not be as fortunate in society. While as students ourselves we do need to focus on our studies, we can always take our time to offer our expertise to youths who need a mentor in life. These small steps will allow these youths to have greater confidence to tackle their studies or anything in life. Our actions will help us to be a more compassionate generation which helps our generation when in need.