Throughout the Covid-19 situation in Singapore, we have seen numerous heroes emerge from their own comfort zones to help fellow residents. You may have heard of two little girls, Rui En and Rui Rui, who used their pocket money to buy food for frontline healthcare workers. They even scribbled heartwarming messages of encouragement on the food boxes.
This was an amazing example of initiative, kindness and thoughtfulness in a time where most were simply looking out for themselves. The girls showed empathy and compassion — two values we admire and desire to cultivate in our children. After all, these are traits that build up and better our families, community and society.
However, compassion without action is simply observation. Volunteering — that is, taking action — and empathy go hand in hand. When you volunteer, you demonstrate these values.
Hence we’ve compiled a list of some family-friendly volunteer work opportunities that you and your children can participate in, and drive the message of empathy home, while doing something for others. As we are still observing COVID-19 safety measures, do get in touch with the organisation you are keen to help with for onsite volunteering updates before going down.
(See also: 5 Essential 21st-Century Skills every Child Needs to Learn Today)
Food Bank Singapore aims to feed the needy as well as reduce food wastage through food drives serving free meals and dry rations. Children between the ages of 5-12 years can join the Foodbank Juniors club, where they can help in sorting and packing food donation bundles. Parents can oversee this by organising food drives and supervising.
Singapore Red Cross
It’s not just a CCA! The Red Cross is the world’s largest humanitarian network, and in Singapore, this nationwide humanitarian organisation helps people in times of suffering and beyond. Volunteers between the ages of 9 and 35 years can sign up for complimentary Youth Membership and assist with events such as Flag Day, World Blood Donor Day, International Bazaar, and more. Over 35 years of age? You can join as an Ordinary Member and help out as well.
Soup Kitchen Project
This initiative to feed the needy in the Jalan Besar/Lavender Street area started in February 2009, and currently feeds about 330 people every Monday. Volunteers pack and deliver vegetarian dinners to lower-income recipients who range from one-room flat residents, cardboard and can collectors, to the homeless. If you live near that area or have a heart for feeding the needy, this is something your whole family can do. Find out more at their Facebook page here
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army has an extensive range of volunteering opportunities – from befriending beneficiaries and organising fundraisers, to running collection drives for second hand items.
The minimum age limit depends on the activity, however that doesn’t mean little ones can’t help. You will probably have seen families and children help with Christmas kettling and bell-ringing at shopping malls and MRT stations. Due to pandemic measures, bell-ringers will not be recruited this year. However you can still help by making a donation at www.christmaskettling.sg and in the kettle pots at various malls from 27 Nov to 23 Dec 2020 to help share the joy of Christmas with those in need.
Touch Community Services
Families are welcome at the ‘Meals-on-Wheels’ programme, where they will deliver food packets to the elderly. This volunteering opportunity is suitable for all and teaches the importance of helping those who might otherwise go unnoticed or unseen.
(See also: Accountability: Teach your Child the most important Value of all)
A volunteer-run soup kitchen located at Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub, Willing Hearts sends about 5,000 packed meals to 40 locations all over Singapore. The organisation is very family friendly, with everyone from working adults to children volunteering each day.
The kitchen runs from 5am to 4pm. Tasks include prepping of ingredients, cleaning of dishes and cooking utensils, and packing of lunch boxes. You can choose which area you or your family would like to help out in depending on skill level and the amount of help needed. For instance, older children can wash vegetables, while younger ones stick labels on the lunch boxes.
Lion Befrienders (weekly visits to homes of lonely elderly)
Because Singapore has an ageing population, there are an increasing number of senior citizens who live alone. Some may have no living family or friends, or might be unable to leave the house due to physical constraints. That is why the Lion Befrienders hold home visits every week, where volunteers can provide these lonely elderly with emotional and social support. These befrienders also keep the elderly company during their medical checkups. If your child loves interacting with others, this might be just for them! Children below 18 years have to be accompanied by a guardian, so this is something that you can do together with your young one. Apart from teaching your child empathy, this is a wonderful chance to bring a smile to someone’s face!
Riding for the Disabled Association
The RDA provides free horse riding therapy to those with disabilities. The minimum age to volunteer with the RDA is 16 years and interested applicants under 21 years of age will require parental consent. All volunteers will start off as side-walkers, walking the horses and providing physical assistance and emotional encouragement to the rider. Volunteers will need to be comfortable interacting with a person with disabilities and being around horses.
(See also: Want to Build an Inclusive society in Singapore? Start with children)
Therapy Dogs Singapore (TDS)
A non-profit, voluntary welfare group, TDS reaches out to society’s disadvantaged through pet-assisted therapy. Through regular sessions with beneficiaries, members and their dogs contribute to meeting physical, social and emotional needs. If you have a family dog, you can get your pet involved as well! Being a volunteer with TDS requires serious commitment: a minimum of four visits within six months, good control of your dog, and emotional preparedness.
Trash Hero Singapore
Despite our country having a reputation for being ‘clean and green’, Singapore still has an abundance of trash. Beaches at East Coast Park and Coney Island are often littered by rubbish. This is why groups like Trash Hero exist. They organise cleanups at various beaches and parks around Singapore, hoping to reduce the levels of pollution, and benefit visitors, wildlife, and the environment.
With no specified minimum age for volunteers, Trash Hero encourages children to help out, hoping they’ll gain a firsthand lesson on the effects of litter and excess waste. If your child loves nature or being outside, this would be a great one to sign up for!
Be a Volunteer with your Family today
There are so many places that need help – take that step with your kids today to make a difference! According to author and parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, who develops resources to counteract the empathy deficit in the lives of youth, “a healthy sense of empathy is a key predictor of which kids will thrive and succeed in the future… it increases mental health, leadership skills and overall well being.’ So equip your kids for the future now. Prepare them for success, and teach them to give back to those around us — it’s something you won’t regret!
Featured image: Trash Hero Singapore Facebook