I welcome the pledge by Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin to improve the coordination among the public agencies so that assistance is made easier for vulnerable groups “Coordinated support for vulnerable groups to be improved”; 27 July , TODAY Newspaper ).
It is also encouraging that the MSF Minister is keen to get more people to become volunteers as they can play an important role in society.
I have been a volunteer with the Institute for Mental Health and two other mental health providers for several years, and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction as I am able to motivate, inspire and give hope to patients and their family caregivers with the ultimate goal of giving them all a meaningful purpose in life. Volunteering that makes a big difference in the lives of the vulnerable and bring sheer joy to them can be the motivating and guiding principle for people to sign up as volunteers.
It is no easy task securing volunteers, but I fervently believe that the civil service which is Singapore’s biggest employer with a workforce of 82,000 civil servants can lead by example. To achieve this, I propose that a Government ministry be appointed to secure volunteers from every ministry and then organise programmes and activities to reach out to the vulnerable in our society. For better team work, public sector volunteering programmes can be within a ministry or across ministries. The vulnerable in our society should not be just children or those living in one-room HDB flats, but adults, persons with disabilities – visible and non-visible and those living in bigger flats who are isolated with lack of social support.
Whether it is sprucing up a home, painting a flat, befriending the elderly, taking the less fortunate for meals, accompanying the elderly sick to hospitals and clinics for medical appointments or organising a sponsored event for nursing homes and hospitals, such meaningful work can give a deep sense of satisfaction to the volunteers. Added to this, once public sectors officers carry out volunteer work, they will have a better understanding of the marginalised in our midst and then be well positioned to help their senior management and ministers fine tune policies and make Singapore a truly inclusive society where no one is left behind.
The noble job of volunteering can be factored in the yearly staff appraisals, and ministries and staff who excel in proving excellent programmes for the vulnerable can be given awards annually in recognition of their dedication and commitment to the less fortunate.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO