Parliament: 7 community-based organisations to be appointed as Volunteer Centres

The Volunteer Centres will actively recruit, manage and develop a pool of volunteers, before deploying them to relevant volunteer programmes. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Volunteers interested in helping out in their neighbourhood can soon turn to seven community-based organisations for volunteering opportunities.

These selected organisations will serve as Volunteer Centres (VCs) to actively recruit, manage and develop a pool of volunteers, before deploying them to relevant volunteer programmes, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in Parliament on Friday (March 8).

Two volunteer centres have been appointed in Bedok and Jurong East.

As Volunteer Centres, Filos Community Services in Bedok will develop a volunteer engagement toolkit and framework while Jurong's Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre has kickstarted its Neighbour Cares programme to mobilise volunteers to befriend lonely seniors in the neighbourhood.

"We recognise the value in mobilising the strengths of communities. In the long term, we hope to grow 'Neighbour Cares' in different neighbourhoods, where residents connect with and look out for one another, with the help of the VCs," said Ms Fu, who was speaking during the debate on her ministry's budget.

The ministry plans to appoint another five VCs in different areas of Singapore by the end of this year, and it will review their progress before expanding efforts, she added.

According to latest available figures from the National Volunteer And Philanthropy Centre, about one in three Singaporeans volunteered their time in 2016, up from just one in 10 in 2000.

Apart from recruiting and managing new volunteers, the centres will serve as the "central coordinator" for volunteers from various sources in the area such as schools, corporates and religious organisations.

Those who require help for their community programmes can thus approach the VCs for volunteer support, said the ministry in an earlier press statement.

To help organisations scale up their volunteer management capabilities, the ministry will connect them to relevant partners and resources, such as by linking them to consultancy services.

Since its appointment as a VC in November 2018, Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre has seen promising results with its volunteer pool doubling in size, said its president, Associate Professor Teng Su Ching.

It has actively recruited volunteers for its new befriending programme, Neighbour Cares, which was set up after consultation with the ministry.

Under the programme, volunteers visit housing blocks in Yuhua to check in on residents and befriend lonely seniors.

"It was something that we never thought of, to get young volunteers to go around, as if on patrol, and look into people's homes... it gives them this sense of community," said Prof Teng.

Neighbour Cares volunteer Marilyn Lim, 16, a Nan Hua High School student, said the project has allowed her to feel a greater sense of kinship with her community.

The Yuhua resident visits seniors living in a housing block near her home every week, to check on their living conditions and well-being.

"It has allowed me to develop my compassion and understanding for my neighbourhood and environment. I strongly feel that youth should be more motivated in participating in such projects as well," she said.

In addition to the VCs, volunteers can also tap the online platform for opportunities with public agencies, said Ms Fu.

They can even track their volunteering hours through the site, which could soon be integrated into the SG Cares app that matches aspiring do-gooders to suitable social causes.

Ms Fu added: "We hope to see even more Singaporeans come forward and contribute to our culture of care."

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