Katy Beechy explains how anyone can get involved in volunteering in Singapore, and where to look for opportunities to turn your skills into valuable assistance.
Last year you accepted the Friends of Singapore Red Cross Award on behalf of a group of volunteer teachers. Tell us how this came about?
I’m one of a group of volunteers who, every Friday lunchtime, teach English language lessons at the Singapore Red Cross Home for the Disabled. We aim to help the Sri Lankan and Burmese nurses improve their language skills and have some fun at the end of a busy week! The nurses are so eager and grateful – it’s a pleasure to help them. We were surprised and delighted to learn that our volunteering efforts had been recognised.
The ceremony was a moving event – it’s not every day that a Head of State presents you with an award! I was honoured to receive the award on behalf of all the volunteer teachers past and present, and I was delighted to meet President Tony Tan, who took time to greet us all at a reception after the ceremony.
Where else have you and your colleagues volunteered?
We’ve chopped, peeled and served food at the bustling soup kitchen of Willing Hearts, and we’ve sorted and packed food goody bags for needy families at Food From The Heart. I’ve also supported beneficiaries during therapy horse-riding sessions at Riding for the Disabled, and mentored disadvantaged youth in their presentation skills during a Halogen Foundation programme. Sport Cares runs outdoor activities for disadvantaged youth and I joined a group from Ufit to work out with them at the Botanic Gardens.
I’ve taught English and creative writing at the women’s shelter of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) (they’re always looking for new activities to engage residents). And during the run-up to Christmas a group of us helped to distribute donated gifts to disadvantaged children, coordinated by Beyond Social Services. Many of these organisations offer opportunities beyond these I’ve mentioned
What’s the social impact of this work?
I believe it’s twofold. Volunteers get a greater sense of integration in their adopted home – not to mention feeling part of a community with a sense of purpose – while beneficiaries simultaneously feel valued and supported by the fact that strangers are willing to take time out to help them. It’s a win-win situation; volunteering builds a stronger social network that transcends traditional boundaries.
What should keen and caring individuals think about before volunteering?
Take a moment to think about your strengths, interests and talents. Would you be more effective helping in a one-to-one scenario or with a bigger group? Could you transform a hobby (yoga, crafts, running, photography) into a workshop or weekly activity for others? Do you have professional skills that would be valued by an NGO without the funds to pay for them? Are you keen to volunteer as a family, group of friends, colleagues or by yourself?
There are myriad opportunities in Singapore; if you can take decent photos, drive, draft a CV, teach English, boost someone’s confidence, turn out a decent spreadsheet or just aren’t afraid of getting stuck in, then there’s something for you!
By: Katie Roberts
Read up more about living in Singapore.