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Service winner: Being active, making friends and gaining satisfaction are benefits he reaps from volunteering

A heart for supporting others lets this energetic 66-year-old tap on his leadership skills and enjoy adrenaline rush when helping at events

To Mr Keh, volunteering gave him the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills and forge new experiences. PHOTO: Wee TY

When meeting rooms within the Sport Singapore (SportSG) Headquarters were converted into a Covid-19 call centre, Mr Keh Eng Song signed up to support the operation out of curiosity. Over five days in November 2021, he spent hours calling up individuals in the sports and fitness sector to ensure they were keeping up with their weekly tests under the national Fast and Easy Testing (FET) regime. 

“A lot of people were not familiar with what they needed to do, so we helped guide and explain the process to them,” says the sprightly 66-year-old retiree, who volunteers regularly at Team Nila, a national volunteerism initiative under SportSG which aims to foster a culture of giving, citizen partnership and social harmony through sports and related activities. Specifically, Mr Keh is under the Team Nila Silver Champions Scheme, which empowers seniors aged 60 years and above to keep active through sports volunteerism. 

Mr Keh’s love for volunteering stems from a compassionate heart and a desire to help the most vulnerable members of society, no doubt influenced by his 10 years as chief executive officer of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds). 

Besides his involvement with Team Nila, the veteran volunteer also provides emotional support to young suspects as an Appropriate Adult, visits the elderly every week as a Lions Befriender, and serves as a pro bono deputy for people with intellectual disabilities. Most recently, he completed a part-time work stint as general manager at the Special Olympics Singapore, where he helped organise weekly sport programmes.

However, getting involved with sport volunteering is what keeps Mr Keh energetic in his silver years. He joined Team Nila upon retiring from Minds in 2017, wanting to do something more active. 

Finding camaraderie through volunteering

He has done everything from wrist-tagging spectators at Bishan Stadium for the Suzuki Cup tournament last December (2021), to taking on a more leadership role at the Pesta Sukan floorball event in 2021. His duties there included overseeing and organising fellow volunteers to ensure they took their Antigen Rapid Tests (ART), and briefing and assigning them to various roles. He recognises that, no matter how small a role he may play, it all adds up to help the entire event run smoothly.

While he does not consider himself a “sporty person”, Mr Keh enjoys the thrill of getting to watch the games in person and learning about the rules of the various sports. He is further driven by the passion he sees in others, and the sense of community that he builds with fellow volunteers who come from all ages and walks of life. 

“When you’re volunteering as a group, that kind of camaraderie is amazing,” he says, fondly recalling when he was part of the team that cheered on local athletes in unison at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Manila.

“Not only does [volunteering] get you out of the house, it also gives you the opportunity to make new friends and learn new things,” he continues. “When I’m actively volunteering, I actually forget my age. It gives me that surge of adrenaline and, at the end of the day, a feeling of satisfaction when the event is successfully executed. That’s what keeps me going.”

 

The Action Plan for Successful Ageing

  • Launched in 2015 by the Ministerial Committee on Ageing (MCA) to chart the way forward for Singaporeans to age more confidently and gracefully.
  • In 2017, the MCA also launched the “I Feel Young SG” campaign to promote the Action Plan and encourage active ageing. Visit http://www.ifeelyoung.sg for more details.
  • To respond to a greater diversity of the needs of seniors of today and tomorrow, and considering the new operating environment and lessons from Covid-19, MCA is refreshing the Action Plan with the following emphases:
    • Care: We will empower seniors to take charge of their physical and mental well-being through preventive health, active ageing programmes and care services to stay healthy and pursue their aspirations.
    • Contribution: We will enable seniors to continue to contribute their knowledge and expertise and remain resilient, through an enhanced learning, volunteerism and employment landscape
    • Connectedness: We will support seniors to age-in-place within an inclusive built environment, while staying connected to their loved ones and society through digital platforms and support networks that embody the "kampung spirit".

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