Debate on ministries' budgets: Culture, Community and Youth

Parliament: More centres to mobilise volunteers in neighbourhoods

Neighbour Cares volunteer Marilyn Lim, a 16-year-old Nan Hua High School student, speaking to a fellow Yuhua resident during one of her weekly visits to check in on elderly residents in the neighbourhood.
Neighbour Cares volunteer Marilyn Lim, a 16-year-old Nan Hua High School student, speaking to a fellow Yuhua resident during one of her weekly visits to check in on elderly residents in the neighbourhood.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Volunteers interested in helping out in their neighbourhood can soon turn to seven selected community-based organisations for volunteer 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 yesterday.

Two VCs have been appointed in Bedok and Jurong East.

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

Ms Fu, who was speaking during the debate on her ministry's budget, said: "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."

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 the latest available figures by 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.

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

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

"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 senior residents in a housing block near her home every week.

"It has allowed me to develop my compassion and understanding for my neighbourhood and environment," she said.

In addition to the VCs, Ms Fu noted, volunteers can also tap the volunteer.sg online platform to look for opportunities with public agencies. They can even track their volunteering hours through the site, which could soon be integrated into the SG Cares app that matches aspiring volunteers to suitable social causes.

"We hope to see even more Singaporeans come forward and contribute to our culture of care," she said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2019, with the headline 'More centres to mobilise volunteers in neighbourhoods'. Print Edition | Subscribe