Singapore marks International Volunteer Day to boost volunteerism
by Steve Suwannarat

A growing number of people in the city-state is volunteering, especially young people. Government and NGOs work together in providing assistance, making an essential contribution during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Red Cross, 80 per cent of the  staff are volunteers. Volunteers provide better knowledge and contact with the community.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – In  1985, the UN General Assembly chose 5 December to mark International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, more commonly referred to as International Volunteer Day (IVD).

Since then, volunteering and personal commitment to non-profit, socially useful work have been recognised, becoming more indispensable in crisis situations.

In Singapore too, more and more people are involved in voluntary activities, especially young people. Government welfare agencies and NGOs are increasingly working together, aided by traditional social outreach practices.

There is also room for innovation and idealism in Singapore. Through targeted campaigns in schools, it is hoped that younger volunteers can be recruited to reach 70 per cent volunteerism rate by next year, up from one in three in 2018.

Some 80 per cent of the personnel at the Singapore Red Cross are volunteers who not only perform a valuable task, but are examples of humanitarian commitment.

The COVID-19 pandemic showcased such work as a small army of volunteers played a major role in local communities making a difference in providing material and moral support to various groups.

“We really believe that the volunteers who are from the community themselves will often know best what the community needs and wants, when they face emergencies or certain vulnerabilities that they might have. That is why we put full trust in our volunteers to really, in most cases, run the show,” said Michelle Chew, a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Youth Commission representing the Asia Pacific.

Of course, young people are not alone in volunteering, helping people in their daily needs, even more than in emergencies, the middle-aged and senior citizens can volunteer as well, making an essential contribution.

“I’ve learned that there are a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds that are different from myself, and that might be on different pathways of life. But at the end of the day, we are all humans and that is why we're all here for one another,” Chew told CNA.

People in their 40s are the core of Singapore Red Cross, sharing their professional skills and experience, while older but still active and healthy volunteers have more time and can play a much-needed role.

Even in an evolving society with new tasks, sharing one’s skills is becoming increasingly central in Singapore society.