What Keeps You Going? Through the Lenses of Volunteers at Different Life Stages
Heartware Network offers a variety of volunteering opportunities. Its notable programmes often appeal to volunteers who enjoy direct engagement with children from lower-income groups, seniors, or members of the public at national events.
A less popular option that young adults can consider is to join volunteer teams involved in training youths to be equipped for their eventual volunteer engagement stage. Programmes like the Heartware Academy’s volunteer facilitators are not known to be at the frontline or in the thick of volunteer action.
Still, they are crucial in setting a strong foundation for skills and knowledge enhancement for the many youths who have the heart to contribute, but may not be adequately equipped to.
Syafiq is one of the members of a small team of volunteer facilitators under the Heartware Academy. Having been part of the Heartware Tuition Programme for two year prior, he became actively engaged in enhancing the training curriculum for incoming batches volunteers who wish to be part of the tutoring programme.
To design the training materials, he often sought advice from his primary and secondary school teachers on the various pedagogies and methodologies.
Syafiq leading a group of volunteers through a brief stretching exercise in the middle of the deployment training for Heartware Tuition Programme.
Currently, Syafiq is freshly enrolled into university, and is already heavily involved in other activities outside his curriculum, such as sports and his school’s community projects.
Despite this, he is a familiar face at the Heartware Network Programmes and is often caught bantering or collaborating with the staff.
When I first met Syafiq on a weekday morning, he seemed particularly busy discussing intently with a staff member. To no surprise, he shared with me that his greatest challenge in volunteering was time – an infinitely limited resource.
Volunteering for the programme required him to be present at the training venue frequently during peak training period for programmes. Later on, with the heavy workload of school as a double major student, keeping up a similar volunteer lifestyle may prove taxing on him.
Luckily, he had timed his commitments such that he could volunteer less intensively these past few months, and still be able to contribute strategically for the Heartware Academy.
Syafiq making rounds to check on the progress of volunteer groups who were tackling problem sums, in which they would simulate teaching a tutee afterwards.
Youths like himself view volunteering as something worth setting aside time for. As a youth myself, I was instantly impressed by his commitment and dedication for something that was beyond my sights.
Volunteering was important, but to regularly come back to volunteer was intriguing.
Why do they do it? What keeps them going?
Like the rest of us, Syafiq recollects his first volunteering experience from Primary school, in which he would tutor an underprivileged Primary one student who could not read. Although he was enticed by the perk of being able to get excused from classes, he found it to be something he looked forward to as he would be greeted by the smiles joy heart
Now, he sees volunteering as an opportunity “to get out of your bubble and develop a more empathetic point of view of the communities around you, especially the vulnerable ones.”
He professes that without volunteering, he would not be where he is today as it helped him to embark on a self-discovery journey, realising his passion in community work and helping him to find his purpose in life – serving others.
For young people like Syafiq, especially those in school, volunteering is appealing because it allows them to learn a new skill or gain experience.
However, for young working adults, it could be about wanting to use and share the skills that they had gained to benefit others.
A mature flame
I had the opportunity to interview a seasoned Youth Volunteer Council member who has been volunteering with Heartware Network for 10 years.
Heartware’s Youth Volunteer Council members are made of veteran volunteers who were hand-picked to provide council for Heartware Academy – the training and volunteer development arm of the organisation.
In more layman terms, they brainstorm new initiatives for youth development. Not disclosing her age, Weiying is one of the more mature faces you would see around the office.
She says that she volunteers she simply because enjoys it. Her volunteering journey started with volunteering for the Heartware-National Day Parade Hospitality Management programme, after which she felt more confident in taking up more projects.
Today, she can use her expertise to build the framework of a soon-to-launch mentorship programme in Heartware for 2020. This programme will allow for a more intimate level of support and nurturing of the youth involved.
Weiying and fellow Youth Volunteer Council members intently discussing the mentorship framework that will be rolled out in 2020.
Weiying’s growth is a case in point of how one’s learning never ceases. Ultimately, what keeps her going is the heart she has for others.
Concisely, she puts it: “It is about giving the time and effort to help someone or to do something without asking for a return.”
To wrap up her interview, I asked her if she thought that the challenges of volunteering for her would differ from a younger youth. She shared that time-wise, working adults do not have as much flexibility as they are only able to volunteer on weekends since most weekday volunteering opportunities are not in the night.
To counter the problem of heavy work commitments, there are a host of ad-hoc volunteering opportunities to accommodate a tight working schedule.
She also shared that students often have a steeper learning curve, as they have more skills to learn as compared to a working adult. Indeed, the challenges do differ in these aspects. For most of her age too, life may get more work-centric and family-centric.
Nonetheless, affirmed by both volunteers, it’s a matter of how you value volunteering that keeps you going.