Updated: Mar 31
Like most people, I often refer to my life as B.C. (before COVID-19 happened) and A.C. (after COVID-19 happened). One of the ways my life changed A.C. came about after seeing the inequalities the pandemic widened in existing social systems, and realising that I should do more to join the people bridging these gaps. During a late-night Google search, I stumbled upon opportunities to volunteer with non-profit organisations like New Life Stories and CountAble. A month of volunteering turned to six, and six months soon became years. 2023 would mark the third year I’ve been a committed volunteer with these organisations. At New Life Stories, I conduct befriending sessions with the children of incarcerated parents, with the aim of boosting their confidence and pro-social skills so that they can be school-ready. At CountAble, I teach Mathematics to the children who reside in the Jalan Kukoh neighbourhood, to equip them with the tools to learn Mathematics effectively in school.
I wish I could say the children took away much from my time with them, but the truth is I have always felt I learnt more from them than they did from me. Beyond the latest TikTok dances and the differences between Mbappé and Ronaldo’s playing styles, every interaction taught me something priceless. From the children whose parents have been incarcerated, I learnt resilience as they handled years of parental separation with maturity and grace. From the children who were born into families that could barely meet their needs, I learnt to look at Mathematical concepts with fresh eyes and reflect on how I had taken certain things for granted. Most importantly, I learnt the value of my existence. As a tiny blip in the universe’s timeline, volunteering gave me a way to make sense of my time on earth. I might not become the next Mars-colonising Elon Musk, but knowing that I can give the one thing I have – time – to causes greater than myself makes a world of difference.
Volunteering on a regular basis may limit my schedule, but that is truly nothing compared to the founders and full-timers who work at non-profit organisations – they work tirelessly and without recognition to serve people in need, and often at a rate that is not up to par with the market. When asked what keeps them going, their answers typically relate to a sense of duty and compassion they feel for their service users. Needs, unlike stock markets, have no closing time; non-profit employees often have to put in extra hours to meet needs on the ground.
In a society where many slip through the cracks silently, everyone has something they can offer to help. If you have been thinking about volunteering with non-profit organisations, I’d highly encourage you to take the leap. Beyond the tight bonds you can create with the people you volunteer for, volunteering gives you a different perspective on your existence and how it need not be disengaged from the wider Singapore community. What a small price to pay for these invaluable experiences, don’t you think?
Author: Rachyl Poh