Young PMETs helping the less fortunate

Among young PMETs who volunteer their services are (from left) regional recruiter Matthew Foo, nurse Grace Cheng, Ernst and Young associate director Brian Liu and Ms Elaine Wong, who works in hospitality.
Among young PMETs who volunteer their services are (from left) regional recruiter Matthew Foo, nurse Grace Cheng, Ernst and Young associate director Brian Liu and Ms Elaine Wong, who works in hospitality. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

Survey shows young corporate workers are making time for skills-based volunteering

Young corporate workers are volunteering to help the less fortunate.

Latest data from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre shows 18 per cent of 801 professionals polled had taken part in skills-based volunteering activities such as tutoring while 17 per cent said they provided ad hoc services including legal counsel, marketing design and IT assistance.

These promising numbers are supported by welfare group AWWA's records for volunteerism among professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

Ms Anthea Kiu, its senior manager for community partnership, said: "Our statistics show there is a 30 per cent increase in corporate volunteering, with our PMET volunteers taking on two to three volunteering opportunities with us in a year."

Volunteers have their own reasons for getting involved.

For Mr Brian Liu, an associate director at Ernst and Young, it was the decadence he saw in many of his peers' lifestyles. "I've seen a lot of white-collar privilege and to me (their) opulence and culture... is very self-centred. With so much, they can do so much more for those around them," Mr Liu said.

He devotes his time outside the office to social causes.

Mr Liu sits on the Families for Life council, where he helps to promote family bonding and raises concerns about family issues. He is also on the National Youth Council's Young Changemakers panel, where he evaluates proposals for new community projects, and mentors successful recipients of seed funding.

For paediatric psychiatrist Durriah Pitchay, volunteering has taken her on self-funded journeys beyond the shores of Singapore.

"I am a volunteer at Yayasan Geutanyoe, a local foundation in Aceh, where I travel to almost monthly. I work with refugee children and aid workers and I help with developmental assessments," said Ms Durriah, 27. "Helping another individual is part of our obligation as humans, and giving people in need a part of our time or skills gives more meaning to both giver and receiver."

Companies, too, are taking steps to ensure volunteering opportunities are available to staff.

A spokesman for the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices recommends that companies allow their staff to take time off for community service, saying: "When employees better manage work and personal commitments, companies can expect to enjoy tangible business benefits and increased productivity."

One of these companies is KPMG, which has a Give Time programme allowing each employee up to 40 hours of paid working time a year to contribute towards a community of their choice.

Ms Chia Ee Han, 30, a manager for cyber security at KPMG, said: "I now have the opportunity to lead working adults and school teams to Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. We conduct English lessons and help to build roads and houses for the community. I'm extremely privileged to be born in Singapore, and I should extend a helping hand."

Keeping volunteers engaged and maintaining an active volunteer base is still a priority for charitable organisations. Touch Young Arrows (TYA) is a service of the non-profit charity Touch Community Services. TYA manager Lawrence Tan said his organisation saw a drop-off rate of about 10 per cent each year due to work or school commitments.

"For volunteers to stay engaged... we believe in helping (them) see that their efforts can make a difference," he said.

For young volunteers eager to be involved in a cause they believe in, Mr Liu has this advice: "Just start now. Don't waste time researching the 'right' cause or seeing what the perks are. When you start, you will find what really connects with you and what you are able to give."

Correction Note: An earlier version of this story said that the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre surveyed 801 young professionals. This is incorrect. The figure refers to the total number of professionals surveyed. We are sorry for the error. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Young PMETs helping the less fortunate'. Print Edition | Subscribe