Why Youths Volunteer
According to the 2018 State of Youth in Singapore Research by YOUTH.sg, youths in Singapore are actively engaged in civic activities. These activities include, among others, contributing muscle in social causes, making small donations to a local ground-up initiative and raising awareness about labour law issues through social media platforms.
This heartening rise in youth volunteerism coincides with the rollout of the SG cares movement and has brought to the table an interesting variety of volunteering forms and causes.
Recently, discussions have transversed into sensitive and previously no go zones while volunteering moves towards more ad-hoc and ground-up structures.
Though Singapore is largely conservative in essence, being plugged into the internet has broadened the perspective of youths and has encouraged active citizenry. Being the conscious Singaporean youths that we are – hard-pressed for time in a paper-chase world- consistent volunteering is by no means an easy feat for many. Nevertheless, many youths still dedicate time for such acts of service.
“ It motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing when I know people relate to my stories. I feel warm inside when they trust me with their personal stories. I have gained many insights from these new perspectives and opinions. Albeit less common, I feel that, though no astronomically, I do touch some lives. ”
Part-time storyteller and arthropod enthusiast, she loves sharing about gender-related issues and female empowerment on her ‘Instagram stories’.
While not commonly associated with volunteerism, many youths are using their platforms for advocacy and awareness in their own time. It all started out as a desire to connect with her friends through the popular social media site, Instagram. Little did she know she would receive so much appreciation from her followers -many have remarked about how her stories have validated their experiences and struggles.
Feeling amped up from these heartwarming encounters, Venice continues to utilise her platform as a medium for the sharing of personal and touchy topics like lingerie and menstrual pains or the discussion of current female empowerment movements.
Keeping it up, however, hasn’t been easy for her. While greater visibility from being online can help widen the reach of her message, it has also made her a target for trolls and online bullies. While she admits that it might be tough to handle at times, the connection she feels with the members of the online community has been her biggest source of motivation.
“It was a huge blessing to be able to attend and learn from the company co-founders. I gained some valuable growth back then, made some connections and learned about the workings of the company. It was an experience I would have never gotten elsewhere.”
While he enjoys community work and has an interest in the local music scene, he believes passion can only sustain one’s volunteerism so far.
Worried and realistic, many Singaporeans would be more concerned about bread and butter. Well, his observation is not far from the truth. A Singaporean youth just has too many commitments and considerations to juggle in such little time!
Interested in large-scale event planning and resource management, Benji was encouraged to be a volunteer at the SHINE festival (also because he was really interested to find out more about local budding artists, of course! ). Getting the opportunity to get close with the planning committee and immerse himself in talks, Benji experienced immeasurable personal growth through the course of volunteering.
Though he is sure about contributing to the cause again, he remarks that it is challenging to commit to a cause that brings no tangible benefit to one’s resume. While passion might be the pure drive for some individuals, Benji believes a healthy dose of pragmatism would be a more sustainable option for youth volunteerism.
In fact, youths should not shy away from volunteering because of the over-glorified ideals of volunteerism and instead, seek opportunities that they genuinely find beneficial and meaningful.
“Through the sessions, I heard stories of people going through great hardships in a not quite smooth-sailing life. However, they were so positive. That really opened my eyes and inspired me. The warmth from the interactions is something that I will remember for a long time.”
She’s a multilingual-multidialectal miracle who is interested in getting in touch with the community.
Having decided that she was tired of ‘meaningless’ one-off volunteering sessions, she joined Heartware Network’s year-long Support Our Pioneers project. Though Darrimaa’s intention was to commit to something meaningful, she did not quite expect herself to enjoy connecting with her elderly hosts so immensely. During her weekly visits, the positivity and hospitality of the fellow auntie and uncle host never cease to warm her heart.
Through volunteering for a long term project, Dariimaa believes that the experience has given her insights into existing efforts that are part of the local discourse of the ageing population issue. Furthermore, she is thankful for the opportunity to meet dedicated and inspiring individuals who religiously show up for the event in spite of their busy schedules.
Like Benji, Dariimaa admits that volunteering in Singapore is a tall order to commit to considering the heavy workload and responsibilities many of our youths have to shoulder.
Volunteering, she feels, is overly-romanticised and many youths might underestimate how challenging committing to a cause can be. To circumvent this, she believes one has to be willing to face many challenges.
From the stories of local youths including those of Venice, Benji and Dariimaa, it is evident youths volunteer for a multitude of reasons. This can range from the altruistic to the pragmatic.
Nevertheless, our acts of service are equally meaningful as long as one has wholeheartedly done his part for the cause. While our reasons and experiences may differ, many would agree that every form of volunteerism is enriching and purposeful in their own right. Admittedly more contentious, bad experiences can be valuable too since these spurs one to inspect local issues and mitigation efforts with critical eyes.