Tuesday 19 June 2012

More seniors stepping up to help

Over 100 take training course to become more effective volunteers
By Leslie Kay Lim, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2012

MORE than 100 people have taken part in a programme rolled out in February to train older people to become more effective volunteers.

The scheme, called RSVP Senior Volunteer Training Centre, is offered by the Organisation of Senior Volunteers (RSVP) in response to a growing interest among those who want to help out in their golden years.

The programme is designed to motivate volunteers, teach them about the realities of what they are getting into, and help them do a better job.

It consists of communication and time-management workshops, as well as a discussion of volunteerism.

'Over the years, people have said they wish they were more prepared,' said RSVP first vice-president Ngiam Tong Yuen of volunteering. 'The programme is a natural progression.'

RSVP, a non-profit group with more than 1,000 members, was set up in 1998 to encourage senior citizens to stay active. Mr Ngiam added that many organisations may not be utilising this group to their full potential, and described them as an 'under-tapped' segment of volunteers.

This may be because recruitment efforts have focused on the younger generations, though their commitment has been called into question.

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing expressed concern that young people who take up causes may not continue volunteering once they leave school, during a visit to the National Youth Council Academy in April.

But statistics show that older volunteers are a growing group. The last biennial survey from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) confirms the trend, with a significant increase in the 55-64 age group, from 8 per cent in 2004 to 22 per cent in 2010.

For the 65 and above group, growth went up from 4 per cent to 10 per cent from 2004 to 2006, and hovered at around 10 per cent in the following years.

In addition to having more time on their hands, the elderly - especially the ageing babyboomers - are now healthier and more educated than the generations before.

In terms of their value as 'a rich pool of volunteers', NVPC chief executive Laurence Lien noted that 'older workers have been described as reliable, competent and dedicated'.

'They need little supervision and make good colleagues,' he said.

Retired civil servant James Seah, 63, picked up new interests and friends after the National Library asked him to blog for its 'iremember' project.

In addition to posts about events in the past like the Bukit Ho Swee fire for the library, he has maintained his own blog at blogtoexpress.blogspot.sg since 2007.

There are many more like Mr Seah who want to make a difference. Said Mr Ngiam: 'They want to be useful and they want to help others. They have the skills and life experience that they want to pass on to younger people.

'And they would like to be viewed as a national asset rather than a burden,' he added.

Delivering food on his 'weekly date'

GREGORY Lee Ying Meng, 72, has a date with his wife every Saturday night.

They go round collecting and delivering bread for food-distribution charity Food From The Heart.

Mr Lee began working with the group in 2003 after reading about its call for volunteers in the newspapers.

Once a week, the couple drive to participating bread shops in the Marina Bay and Raffles City area before delivering two to three bundles of unsold bread to the Happy Villa Community Home for the Elderly in Tanjong Pagar Plaza.

The former hardware shop employee said he would continue with the volunteer work as long as 'I'm strong and healthy. Why not?'

Retiring only last year, the father of three grown-up children said it was important to keep the body and mind busy at his age.

He spends his weekdays helping to look after his 16-month-old grandson at his daughter's home in Tanjong Pagar and volunteers with Food From The Heart on Saturday nights: a time slot which is not popular with many volunteers.

But Mr Lee said he had nothing to do anyway and was more than happy to take on the 10pm Saturday slot.

It was also a chance for him and his wife, Madam Rose Quak Geok Lian, 60, to spend meaningful time together, he added.

Sharing her love for books with kids

THE story of Ms Yoong Ying Ying's volunteering with the National Library Board started when she spotted a flier at a community club.

The library at Sengkang was then looking for volunteers ahead of its opening and that was how the former secondary-school teacher became a 'friend of the library'.

The 69-year-old has since logged 10 years as a storyteller and now reads to groups of children aged seven to 10 three times a month at Bishan library.

Ms Yoong retired in 1999 to take care of her ailing mother and was giving tuition part-time when she saw the flier.

Listing her fondness for books and memories of listening to stories on the Rediffusion radio service as motivating factors, she realised volunteering was a good way to share her passion. 'I wanted to make use of my time in a meaningful way. Tuition was good money but I could be more creative with storytelling.'

Engaging children in English and Chinese stories was rewarding because they became interested and checked the books out to 'discover more for themselves'.

As her mother's Alzheimer's disease progressed, the children's laughter also helped Ms Yoong forget her stress. Her mother died two months ago.

Ms Yoong, who is single, encourages others to volunteer. She herself has no plans to quit any time soon. 'As long as the library wants me, I will continue.'

Long-time blood donors ease the way

WHILE others might feel nervous at a blood bank, Mr James Law Gie Hoy and Ms Jayamani Overithi, both 64, feel at home.

Both are long-time regular blood donors and also volunteers at Bloodbank@Woodlands, conducting pre-screenings and making donors feel comfortable.

'I'm the first person people see when they step in,' said Mr Law. The bachelor comes in twice a week for half-day shifts.

A former network systems administrator, he began donating blood in his 20s before getting involved in mobile blood drives and later the blood bank at Outram.

He said the free time he had after retirement eight years ago pushed him to volunteer more.

He now splits his time between volunteering and part-time work at Castle Beach, which offers training through sandcastle building. 'It makes me happy to be able to help,' he said of volunteering.

Ms Jayamani, who used to supervise workers cleaning planes at Changi Airport, feels similarly about her work at the blood bank.

A donor since the 1980s, she retired in 2002 and came on board as a volunteer in 2005, helping out at events and the blood bank.

She also helps out at the Singapore Indian Development Association's education programme and welfare organisation Lions Befrienders. All this gets her out and about six to seven days a week.

'I'd like to be a volunteer my whole life if God permits. We're gifted with the chance to be a donor and volunteer,' she said.

No comments:

Post a Comment