Passion for volunteerism

Society set up by group of youth engages in community work and promotes volunteering

Daniel Lim nursed his interest in volunteer work by watching his family do it, then by getting into community projects at school.

The 18-year-old founder and president of Team Ardor, who attends NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, then galvanised his friends and their friends, who read his proposal to set up a group for like-minded youth volunteers. They wound up with 120 members aged 15 to 20.

After about nine months, their registered society - independent of their schools - is going full steam ahead, engaged in community work and promoting a culture of volunteerism among their peers, its formalised status as a society lending it credence.

Less than a year since its inception, the organisation has launched five main projects, including weekly tuition sessions for disadvantaged children, overseas trips and a two- day camp here to educate young people about volunteerism.

There was a trip last month to Myanmar, where a team of 14 members interacted with children living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), while the two-day camp allowed 86 student participants to find out more about different voluntary welfare organisations and promoted a culture of volunteering.


Clockwise from top left: Team Ardor's vice-president of youth development and services He Shiying; chief planner Toh Sze Min; vice-president of volunteerism and events Harindrar Jayanthinathan; and founder and president Daniel Lim. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

For about half a year, the society has also been holding weekly 11/2- hour tuition sessions for children of gamblers who are helped by Blessed Grace Social Services.

To cover the costs, Team Ardor applied for grants and did fund-raising. Last month, for instance, it held a youth-for-youth concert and party at *Scape to raise funds.

Most of the operational costs, such as for website maintenance and software for keeping track of members' attendance, are kept low by sponsorship in kind, while sums raised through fund-raising go into volunteer training and running the projects.

The society's objectives listed in its Constitution focus on youth development and volunteering. Because Team Ardor is an independent, non-school-based group, it has been able to reach out to a greater pool of young people from all schools. Its membership is capped at age 35.

Daniel said of the society: "We can apply for grants, we can speak to organisations, we can do things more credibly."

Team Ardor's core team is an 18-strong executive committee whose members share Daniel's passion. The members are aged 16 to 19, and all have specific roles.

Key members said their youth- led efforts meant having to navigate a steep learning curve.

Daniel recalled, for instance, the process of writing the society's Constitution. "I crafted my own by- laws. I had to seek guidance from lawyer friends who had just been called to the Bar," he said.

He even sank $30,000 from his savings and money borrowed from his family into the group, with the greater vision of growing the society into an international youth volunteering network with teams in different countries. "To make it international, we can have exchange programmes. We can send people to different countries. There's a lot more that we can explore."

Along the way, the society decided to form a board of directors comprising five working professionals in different fields, whom it can tap for advice and contacts.

MUCH FLEXIBILITY

We can apply for grants, we can speak to organisations, we can do things more credibly.

DANIEL LIM, 18, founder and president of Team Ardor, which is independent and non-school-based.

When asked about Team Ardor's apparent similarity to the national youth volunteer programme, Youth Corps Singapore, the society's vice- president of volunteerism and events Harindrar Jayanthinathan, 18, said there is a "very big difference" in that the former is a "ground-up initiative".

He felt this made Team Ardor more appealing to young people as it was people in their peer group reaching out to them.

Youth Corps Singapore, which trains young people to lead community projects, was launched by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the National Youth Council in 2014. Applicants go through a screening process and successful candidates attend the programme in batches.

Blessed Grace Social Services executive director Billy Lee, 60, said of Team Ardor's volunteers who conduct weekly tuition for children: "They are very dedicated and very responsible, with a good attitude. They really have a heart (for the cause)."

With long-term and recurring projects in the pipeline, Team Ardor members said time management and being able to step in for one another during each of their busy periods - such as during examinations - are essential.

But what keeps them going can be described as a sense of noblesse oblige - that privilege comes with responsibility.

The group's vice-president of youth development and services He Shiying, 18, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, said: "You have to remember there are people out there who need your help. We have school. We have projects. But there are people out there who need food, water and so much more."

•For more information: www.theteamardor.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Passion for volunteerism'. Print Edition | Subscribe