Panel to explore issues related to 'the privileged' and volunteerism here

Singapore ranked among the top 10 most generous countries in the world for the first time in 2018, up from 30th place the year before.
Singapore ranked among the top 10 most generous countries in the world for the first time in 2018, up from 30th place the year before.PHOTO: ST FILE

Should those who are privileged give back to society, and why? And who are "the privileged" in Singapore, anyway?

A panel comprising two social workers, a sociology professor and the head of a philanthropic foundation will debate these questions among others next Tuesday, with the aim of developing actionable ideas to encourage giving.

Organised by The Straits Times in partnership with the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), the panel will also examine the role of government, businesses and non-governmental organisations, and practical initiatives to drive volunteerism and philanthropy.

Other topics to be discussed include whether the privileged should be giving more and how, and whether the act of giving is purely based on an individual's own conviction.

The panel will be moderated by ST's editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang and includes Singapore Management University Professor of Sociology (Practice) Paulin Straughan, Beyond Social Services' deputy executive director T. Ranganayaki, Lien Foundation chairman Laurence Lien and co-founder of HealthServe Goh Wei Leong, who was also ST's Singaporean of the Year 2017.

Ms Ranganayaki said she hopes the discussion will lead to a greater awareness of what privilege means.

She intends to look at a broader definition of privilege that encompasses not just economic privilege, but also the privilege of having freedom of choice, and the privilege of having time.

 
 
 
 

"Privilege need not mean money... Just being there for your neighbour helps. Pause and ask yourself: Am I better off than others in any way? Then give to them in that way," she said.

She said she has observed poor communities where there are no fixed "givers" and "takers", but rather an ongoing process of mutual care and everyone giving to one another as they are able.

ST will carry a summary of the discussion on its website and in print on July 3. More comprehensive coverage of the discussion will appear in The Sunday Times on July 7, with a video available on the ST digital platform the same day.

SKM's general secretary William Wan said he hoped the discussion will cause those in Singapore to reflect on what it means to be privileged, and how they can help others in different ways.

"With self-awareness, empathy and contentment with what we have, we can be more conscious, deliberate and specific in our giving back... Together, we can be greater," said Dr Wan, noting that SKM and its partners could link donors to channels to help those in need.

Last year, Singapore ranked among the top 10 most generous countries in the world for the first time, up from 30th the year before.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2019, with the headline 'Panel to explore issues related to 'the privileged' and volunteerism here'. Print Edition | Subscribe