Instituted in 1998, the Community Involvement Programme (CIP) – despite the plethora of challenges and shortcomings – has been generally successful in the promotion of school-based community service and volunteerism in Singapore. At the very least, it has empowered a generation of Singaporeans to consistently lend helping hands in their communities, and imbued within them increased cognisance of their roles as stakeholders and potential change-makers. Nonetheless, the flurry of activities in the youth sector seems to have amplified the proliferating lethargy – and the occasional apathy – displayed by working adults and professionals towards various community activities and initiatives; correspondingly, it has inspired me to wonder how this group of individuals can become significant agents of change beyond their careers.
The pressures to maintain a healthy work-life balance is incredibly taxing; as young upstarts seek to leave their marks in the workplace, they have to simultaneously cope with the demands of having a family. Their hectic list of commitments often leaves them physically-drained and mentally-exhausted; naturally, more often than not they are more than happy with contributing donations per se, or the expression of support for a social cause through a social media platform. It then comes as little surprise that volunteerism and community service therefore take a back-seat in the “grand scheme of things”.
But volunteerism has its own host of benefits. Participation in and management of an assortment of activities can provide opportunities for networking, act as a form of productive recreation, generate new experiences, learn new skills and be part of a new community. In the family context, parents who actively volunteer would consequently inspire their own children to be more active citizens and members of their societies.
Bearing in mind the aforementioned, the challenge for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and organisations such as the National Volunteer And Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) would be highlight these advantages, publicise them convincingly, and to get more adults in Singapore involved in the journey. First, recognition can be given to adult volunteers who have been unwavering in their organisational commitments, and constructively inspirational with their long-term endeavours. Their varying work backgrounds and diverse voluntary welfare organisations (VWO) can be highlighted, and websites can be penned to chronicle their reflections through texts and photos. If done in an interactive, regular and engaging manner, these online publications have the ability to encourage more people to be involved.
Second, given the accessibility of and reliance upon the Internet, a sleek web portal can be introduced to list openings in different VWOs and sectors. This would empower interested parties to make selections based on their preferences and availability. Finally in the longer term, sustainable partnerships can be established between VWOs and private corporations or public institutions to not only expand the concept of corporate social responsibility beyond sponsorships and financial assistance, but also to healthily create this culture of volunteerism at the workplace for decades to come.