Ms Joyce Siew will always remember her first volunteer experience at a leprosy home when she was 17. While interacting with the home’s residents, she was struck by an unlikely artist — an elderly man with no fingers.
“Surrounding him were gorgeous canvasses of colours and landscapes, all painted by him,” she says.“I was so inspired by him and his story, he taught me that one could overcome anything if you only chose to do so.”
From then, she has decided to make volunteerism a part of her life. Now in her 40s, Ms Siew is an Associate Director of Communications at Marina Bay Sands (MBS). In her role, she keeps the spirit of volunteerism going strong — her team leads corporate giving and volunteerism in the integrated resort through its Sands for Singapore programme which was established in 2010.
Its annual signature CSR event Sands for Singapore Charity Festival, for instance, has raised nearly $20 million for local charities the past five years.
Making connections at the Company of Good (CoG) Fellowship
In 2016, MBS became a founding member of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s (NVPC) Company of Good (CoG) Fellowship programme. A year later, NVPC invited Ms Siew to join the talent development programme, which seeks to develop a community of business leaders who will strengthen the ecosystem of corporate giving in Singapore.
Ms Siew was impressed by the design of the syllabus and how it caters to the needs of working professionals.
“The 10-session programme is both dynamic enough for CSR professionals and a great starting point for those keen to play a more active role in cultivating some form of corporate giving or volunteering programme in their own companies,” she says.
During the Fellowship, she took a step back from her day-to-day CSR work and gained exposure to best practices in corporate giving from other companies and industry professionals.
She also learnt more about Singapore’s social and charitable landscape. “Because MBS has a remit to make a positive impact to Singaporeans in need and filling in underserved needs, the learning offered a deep dive into the social and charitable landscape from policy and academic perspectives,” explains Ms Siew.
Another highlight was developing a strong network of CSR professionals in various companies, many of whom Ms Siew now counts as friends. She worked with Fellows from Twitter, Ksubaka and Fullerton Health on a group project to build a simulation model to advance public awareness of mental health issues.
Mentors, who are returning fellows from the previous intake, also shared valuable knowledge on their volunteering experience. Ms Siew expresses, “Their sharing is like nothing you will ever get out of a textbook or a seminar.”
“When you meet someone starting a CSR programme, you understand their challenges — staff engagement, stakeholder buy-in, putting in place a programme that hits all the right notes for employees — and can help by sharing your personal experience.”She adds,“Listening to their goals and ideas, you also get inspired to think about how to improve your own programme.”
All charged up to make a difference
Since undergoing the programme, Ms Siew approached her work with a more informed perspective. She has been better in evaluating the effectiveness of the company’s existing initiatives and exploring new ways to build on the success of its corporate giving programme.
In fact, Ms Siew found her Fellowship experience so memorable that she decided to become a mentor herself.
“I know I have the responsibility to share my knowledge and experience to help my mentees in their corporate giving journey. The mentees have inspired me to do more,” she says.
It may be challenging to set aside time for volunteering while juggling work and family, but Ms Siew counts herself fortunate to work for a company where giving is inherent in its corporate DNA and personally advocated by its senior leadership team.
She encourages any professionals, especially those honing CSR-related roles, to participate in the Company of Good Fellowship programme. “Singapore’s CSR community is small but growing. With this changing landscape, opportunities to learn from one another are invaluable. A platform like this [Fellowship] programme provides us with the right guidance to execute more effective corporate giving initiatives within a Singapore context.”
Ms Siew is enthusiastic about mentoring the next batch of fellows in the third intake, which opens applications in September.
“I always think I can do better. It was my first time as a mentor and I felt a little inadequate in some ways. So, since there is another opportunity to do so, why not!”