Last month, as President Tony Tan launched the Volunteer Drive as part of the President’s Challenge, he said, “The purpose of this new initiative is to show that all of us can make a difference”.
Indeed, we can, and it doesn’t matter whether you are big, small, tall or short. While most organisations prefer older volunteers – from age 13 at the National Library, for instance – younger ones are welcome to help out as well.
As the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) suggests: “Children below six years old have to accompanied by parents, therefore family volunteering is ideal”.
One condition: parents have to explain what to do to the child before embarking on a project so that he will be mentally prepared beforehand. Working side-by-side with your child also lets you assist him and ensure that his presence remains helpful instead of being a hindrance to the operation, the staff, the other volunteers, and the beneficiaries.
Doing volunteer work together with your child is an effective way to help him learn about giving back, about the concerns in our community, and to serve as a reminder that we have so much to be grateful for.
There is no shortage of organisations to volunteer with in Singapore and to better ease your child into it, you can choose one that he or she already has an interest in. Most of these welcome volunteers to help out with their daily operations and other chores.
Here are a selection which allow family voluntering:
1. Helping Animals
Young children usually love interacting with animals, so the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is an ideal place to start, especially if your children are fans of furry creatures. The SPCA encourages parents to bring their children down to its kennels to visit the dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs there. It also organises ad-hoc activities that children aged seven years old and above can participate in. In fact, kids themselves can initiate activities to help the SPCA. See how some school children have done so here.
2. Bringing Meals on wheels
TOUCH Home Care has a meals-on-wheels programme which delivers cooked lunches and dinners to the homebound elderly. They need volunteer drivers and runners to deliver the meals, which are prepared in their kitchen in Toa Payoh. Between 30 and 35 packets of meals will be delivered on each route. Help is especially needed for dinner delivery during weekdays, from 4 to 6.30 p.m. Your child can accompany you on these deliveries and help bring a smile to the faces of the elderly. A minimum three-month commitment is required.
3. Adopting a Grandparent
Take a leaf from our local Youtube child stars, Dr. Jia Jia and BigBro, who are also active in charity work. Apart from having committed to sponsor a Mongolian boy’s education through World Vision, the boys also pay regular visits to a geriatric woman at a nursing home. But there’s no need to go to a nursing home to help. Start close to home. Look out for elderly neighbours who live alone, befriend them, and visit them. The children will bring sunshine and laughter, while the older folk will have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.
4. Donating and Recycling
Your child’s school will probably have a donation or recycling drive several times a year. But you can go the extra mile as a family. Participate actively in events such as Recycling Week, which is organised by the National Environment Agency. You can also inculcate the notion of recycling by having your child put aside old clothes, books, and toys for donation. There are many places where these can go to: the Salvation Army as well as various aid and religious organisations. There are also organisations like Pass It On and the Singapore Red Cross Society which will filter through your pre-loved items and send them to the ones who need them most. Chances are, your daughter will be thrilled to know that her too-small fairy wings can make a little girl somewhere out there very happy. Just check your items before donating them to ensure that they are clean and in working condition. If in doubt, check with the person in charge to see if the items are acceptable.
5. Beach cleaning
One of the NVPC recommended family activities include freeing our precious shores from rubbish. You can join the Toddycats! who are the volunteers with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore. They coordinate their activities with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore. If you join their mailing list, you will be informed of their planned monthly cleaning events ahead of time.
Share your love of reading by becoming Friends of the Library (FOL) and Junior Reading Ambassadors (JRAs). Paired together as buddies, you and your child (under 12 years) will both undergo a two-part training programme before taking up assignments to help the National Library Board (NLB) on a regular or project basis. The NLB currently has over 450 young FOL who are active during the school holidays.
Primary school teachers also recommend students between eight and 12 who meet certain criteria – such as being avid readers who are confident with public speaking – to join a three-day camp organised by the NLB. Upon completion of camp, the children would serve as JRAs for two years to help and perform at public events by “storytelling, dramatisation, buddy reading, or recommendation of favorite stories on different platforms”.
Inspired yet? Start now to make a difference, and share the values of compassion and generousity with your children. Your kids could even be motivated to start something on their own, as these below have done!
- A 10-year-old comforting Operation Smile patients with toys and hugs.
- A seven-year-old enabling other children comfort their terminally-ill parent or grandparent.
- A six-year-old’s efforts to rebuild a playground.