Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Communications and Information at the SINDA Volunteers Tea 2014, Saturday 2 August 2014 at Nanyang Polytechnic
Chairman of the SINDA Board of Trustees DPM Tharman
SMS Indranee Rajah, President, SINDA
Board members and Executive Committee Members
CEO of SINDA, Mr Barathan
Community Leaders and Distinguished Guests
- I am very happy to join you this morning on this very special occasion to honour and pay tribute to SINDA’s volunteers.
- SINDA and our other Self-Help Groups play a vital role in building an inclusive society here in Singapore. Every day, volunteers like you help to spread love, hope and joy to others. You help to reach out to those in need, and provide them a helping hand. You help to uplift the lives of many around you through your selfless spirit of service.
- So this morning, we recognise more than 100 SINDA volunteers for their outstanding contributions. There are many others who are also active volunteers with SINDA, some of them are here and some may not be here today. But I want thank you all for investing your valuable time, resources and energy towards building a strong and vibrant Indian community, and making Singapore a better place for all of us. Please join me in a big round of applause for all our SINDA volunteers. Thank you very much.
- Volunteering is powerful because it has a profound impact on our lives. It teaches us to care for the well-being of others, especially those in need.
- When we serve, we meet people in circumstances different from our own circumstances; we develop greater empathy and learn what it means to walk in the shoes of another person. We develop a stronger sense of duty and responsibility for our fellow citizens. So all this binds us together. This makes us a stronger community.
- That is why we have worked hard over the years to encourage volunteerism, to try and build a fair and inclusive society here in Singapore. The work of promoting volunteerism comes under my ministry’s purview, but it cannot be done by my ministry alone. Certainly, it cannot even be done by the Government alone.
- So we are very grateful to have community organisations and volunteer groups like SINDA. SINDA has been at the forefront of promoting volunteerism in Singapore, to uphold some of the very best practices in volunteer management, reaching out actively to engage schools and companies such as Citibank, Credit Suisse and DHL. SINDA also engage a broader community to initiate volunteer efforts among their students and staff of these companies.
- It is through these collective efforts, I’m glad to see volunteerism trends on the uptake. So year by year, we have been seeing improvements and our volunteerism rates have been going up, including among young people. From time to time, you hear people lamenting that younger Singaporeans are not volunteering. But I assure you that in fact, our volunteerism rates are going up even among the younger Singaporeans. SINDA alone has more than 800 active volunteers, of which 30% are young volunteers. So this is indeed a very commendable effort and I think we are moving in the right direction both in SINDA and for Singapore as a whole.
Recognising SINDA’s Volunteers
- And I will mention some of the SINDA volunteers that we have. For example, 20-year-old Vicknesweran. He likes how volunteering helps him to learn new skills and grow as a person. So he’s been actively involved in the SINDA Youth Club since 2010, and he has helped to organise the annual SINDA Youth Leadership Seminar and activities like the Blood Donation Drive.
- Vicknesweran has learned how to manage events, how think on his feet and solve problems creatively. He has also become more confident, and a better leader. So while Vicknesweran enjoys giving back to the community that he volunteers in, he feels he has received even more he has given. This motivates him to keep on serving, and do his best for others. This is an example of a young volunteer, a 20-year old.
- I’m also glad to see volunteers among our young working professionals. Many who are in this phase of life face competing demands, competing time pressures for work, families, friends and others. But it’s also possible to set aside time to volunteer.
- I would like to mention Mr and Mrs Haribaru, who moved here from India four years ago. They had been involved in social work and they wanted to continue serving in Singapore. Because of their love for children, they started volunteering with SINDA’s Reading Circle, and then they continued on to serve the literacy and numeracy programme at Hougang CC.
- In fact, I understand that Mr and Mrs Haribaru find volunteering a good way to de-stress and relax, which is a good thing, because you often hear people saying that if they have to volunteer particularly on the weekends, then I have no more time for recreation, for leisure. So it’s a trade off. And I think this couple have found a very good way to manage their time, because their volunteering time is also their time for relaxation. They enjoy reading to the children on Saturdays after a long week at work! So after working hard, they go and volunteer, and that’s a time for them to have fun and also for them to spend quality time together.
- We have volunteers across all ages, including senior citizens who are active volunteers. Here again sometimes when we talk about senior citizens as an elderly, we think of them as people who need help but in fact, many senior citizens have a lot of experience and knowledge to share and contribute, and give back to the community.
- One example is 62-year-old Ms Prema. She is passionate about community service, and she uses her own competencies and skills to help the less fortunate. Ms Prema has a certificate in early literacy skills, and a Diploma to teach English. So it’s not surprising that she has been a Project Read volunteer for almost a decade.
- Ms Prema goes beyond just reading to her students weekly. She brings them to the library and she takes them out for meals, and I believe she’s an inspiration and an excellent role model to every life she has touched.
- So from these stories, we see that we can all do our part for the community. We may be young and eager to learn, and that’s ok, you can still volunteer. We may be working professionals who are busy, but we can always find time to manage and set aside time to volunteer; Or we may have a wealth of life experiences to share with others and become a new generation of silver volunteers.
- At the end of the day, whatever our experience or backgrounds, all of us can volunteer.
- All we need is a big heart to serve. And that’s why all of you are here today – because you have a heart for serving. You have taken an interest in causes beyond yourselves – to get involved in the community, and to build a better society for all of us.
- It is this spirit of fellowship and mutual support that is crucial in taking our nation forward. It is fitting that we talk about this now because we also entering a significant milestone in our nation’s development. Next year is our golden jubilee and we celebrate 50 years of independence. As we reflect on our journey as nation, I think there is a lot we can do to celebrate but we should also reflect and think about how we can be a more gracious and inclusive society.
- For a great society is defined not just by how well we do materially, but also how well we care for the less fortunate among us.
- So on that note, I would like to thank all of you once again for making a difference and contributing to a better society. I encourage all of you to continue to press on with your service. In time, I’m sure your acts of volunteering will inspire even more Singaporeans to step forward, to join hands and hearts in this collective endeavour of building a more gracious and inclusive Home here in Singapore.