In an effort to nurture a more caring and supportive environment for our rapidly ageing population, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth hopes to double the volunteerism rate in Singapore to 70 per cent by 2023 (Volunteerism rate needs to be 70 per cent with ageing population: Grace Fu, ST Online, June 5, 2018).
While volunteers serve as a cornerstone for many community and voluntary welfare organisations, we should go beyond recruiting volunteers and focus more on identifying, training and developing community leaders. This approach is more sustainable than relying on volunteers, and will have a more long-term and beneficial impact on the community.
Many government agencies and community organisations are transiting from a needs-based community development practice to an asset-based one, where community members drive development themselves and take ownership to solve local and social issues, through identifying and mobilising their strengths and assets.
Therefore, there is a need to nurture more community leaders - not just one-time or short-term volunteers - to rally their community to tackle social issues facing Singapore. The Government alone cannot solve all problems, without help from the community leaders who are on the ground.
To this end, the various Residents' Networks play a vital role in nurturing community leaders.
More partnerships between agencies or organisations can be explored to ignite the passion of Singaporeans, first to volunteer and, thereafter, to train to be community leaders.
Perhaps, for a start, the People's Association could partner the Ministry of Education to leverage the Values-In-Action programme in schools to give students more exposure in the community where they live - perhaps through an attachment with a Residents' Network.
Ultimately, the strength of a community can be best measured by the ability of its members to come together to resolve issues themselves and help one another in times of need.
Sim Dian Chye