Ensure volunteer scheme is really beneficial

I applaud the initiative taken by the Government to champion volunteerism in our working culture ("Civil servants get 1 day off to volunteer at charities"; Oct 16).

The implementation serves two purposes. First, it heightens awareness of people who are less fortunate. Interacting with these people enables civil servants to develop an insight to their daily lives.

This, in turn, translates into better policymaking in the future. This works towards making Singapore a more inclusive society.

Furthermore, as the civil service is the biggest employer in Singapore, setting aside time for voluntary work highlights the importance of progression as a whole.

The SG50 celebrations have showcased how Singapore's success is based on collective effort. Hence, for every success we have achieved, we ought to give back to our society, too.

However, the initiative has its drawbacks. Genuine understanding towards people requires time. It would be ignorant to think that the struggles of our less fortunate counterparts can be appreciated within a single day.

Therefore, the capacity to offer the appropriate help is restricted by one's perspective.

Increasing the number of days for voluntary work in a progressive manner may be a possible solution.

Additionally, collaborating with civil servants might increase the already heavy workload for service providers at charities.

Time is channelled to organising voluntary work rather than towards work benefiting the beneficiaries. The intended beneficiaries may not gain from the initiative at all.

Instead, dialogues between representatives from the civil service and charities should first take place. Discussion will lead to deeper understanding and will identify areas that leverage the strengths of the civil servants.

Colin Tan Heng Yeow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'Ensure volunteer scheme is really beneficial'. Print Edition | Subscribe