VWOs welcome volunteer youth corps

Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 23 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE: Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) said they welcome the setting up of a volunteer youth corps.

However, they noted that sustained funding and support for those who provide the volunteer training will be critical.

VWOs will be roped in to build up the volunteer youth corps' strong training component.

Details are pending, but the National Youth Council is looking into funding for these training providers.

Iris Lin, senior social worker at Fei Yue Community Services, said: "A lot of times we are running on shortage of manpower, so with that kind of funding it will really justify a lot of the time and hours put into for instance, training volunteers, even for meetings, discussions with them. All these take time."

The workflow for VWOs is a concern as well, but Fei Yue Community Services said they want to be sure they can give volunteers a meaningful experience.

One way is to encourage youths to come up with their own projects.

Iskandar Idris, member of the management committee at Malay Youth Literary Association, said: "Youth can contribute first of all, in providing fresh ideas that we may have overlooked, and second, youth may also help to identify certain factions of society that are maybe currently not captured in existing programmes that VWOs are offering."

Most organisations welcome the boost in volunteer numbers the youth corps will bring about. The target is 6,000 every year.

But for organisations that offer specialised social services, there is a limit to what young, inexperienced volunteers can do.

For example, the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) focuses on rehabilitating ex-drug offenders and this requires professional counselling skills.

However, SANA has education and awareness programmes that are in need of youth volunteers.

Steven Tham, assistant director at SANA, said: "In a society like Singapore, very affluent, we really need to help them (young people) to realise there are needs in Singapore. Many of our youths do not see these needs."

This is one perception that welfare organisations said they hope the volunteer youth corps will change.

- CNA/xq

Better matching of needs & efforts for more effective volunteerism
Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 24 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE: The Volunteer Youth Corps will provide resources and opportunities for young Singaporeans to serve, but its success will also depend on whether they are passionate about serving and find volunteerism meaningful, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

He made the comment on Saturday at a dialogue with some 90 youth leaders from eight school-based uniformed groups, which included the Scouts, Girl Guides, Boys' Brigade, Girls' Brigade, and National Cadet Corps.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced the setting up of the Volunteer Youth Corps at the National Day Rally on August 18.

Some ideas raised at Saturday's dialogue included keeping youth active in volunteerism while juggling school and work commitments, making environmental education part of the school syllabus, and creating better opportunities for disadvantaged students.

Other topics the students discussed covered social entrepreneurship, community integration, and building public confidence as youth get involved in social services.

The dialogue was part of a Youth Leaders Forum organised by the Singapore Scout Association.

Desmond Chong, assistant chief commissioner of projects at the Singapore Scout Association, said: "After seeing the whole OSC (Our Singapore Conversation) process, this is also an opportunity for young people to talk about what is it now they want to do with some of the ideas that were generated as a result of the forum earlier.

"We deliberately got together all the uniformed groups, because this is really one of those very big sectors in our youth population. It's about 25 per cent of all school-going kids, and we want to make sure we reach out to this group."

Many of the students at the dialogue are leaders within their own school communities, and it is hoped that not only will they be able to bring the ideas of their fellow students to the table, but be able to play an active role in bringing about the changes they want to see within their communities.

Mr Heng and the students also discussed how effective the Volunteer Youth Corps would be in motivating young Singaporeans to continue serving after they have left school.

The minister said there's a need to see how to better link what's being done in schools with what the new youth corps is promoting so as to sustain the movement.

He said: "The youth corps will provide a network as well as resources and opportunity. It will provide for better matching of needs and efforts, and in that way we can make volunteerism even more effective and more meaningful for the participants.

"This is just a start. We have to build on what we already have. In fact there are many young people who have started their own little movements -- all doing very meaningful work.

"And what we hope to do is to catalyse this further and to give them the support. I think if we can make it a norm in Singapore for our young people to volunteer, then I think it will have a very big impact later on.

"If you look at the uniformed group -- 25 per cent of our students are in uniformed groups and -- even if a fraction of that continues to volunteer, it will make a big impact."

He added: "As we've heard from many of the participants, it helps to develop their leadership qualities, it helps to develop their social skills, and it develops a greater awareness of the community -- both in Singapore as well as outside of Singapore."

For the youth, Saturday's dialogue was a chance to exchange experiences.

Lee Hui Ting, a member of The Girls' Brigade Singapore, said: "They're not just young leaders, some of them are actually volunteers at grassroots. So as a volunteer there, they see a lot more things than I do. It gives me (greater) perspective."

Nicholas Oh, a member of the The Raffles Scout Group, said: "I feel very invigorated after attending this. We are actually machines of change, we can actually do something for the society."

Mr Heng said he was impressed with the idealism, energy, and creativity of the youths involved in the dialogue.

- CNA/al

Volunteer Youth Corps teaches life lessons, says Balakrishnan
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 25 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the Volunteer Youth Corps will give young Singaporeans an opportunity to get a lesson in life as to how difficult life can be for some people.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "By giving young Singaporeans an opportunity to volunteer, they'll discover for themselves the vicissitudes of life, the difficulties of life.

“It's all about getting a more active community, and really, empowering Singaporeans to take charge, to pursue the causes that they feel passionately about, and to uplift Singapore society as a whole."

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking on the sidelines of a charity event by SMILE -- "Supporting and Motivating Individual Ladies Through Empowerment".

The funds raised from the event will go towards a programme to teach skills to underprivileged women.

- CNA/gn

Match welfare groups with volunteers: Heng
Pearl Lee Straits Times 25 Aug 13;

A game-changer for the volunteer youth corps will be its ability to match volunteers more closely with welfare organisations, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

Speaking at a Young Leaders' Forum, Mr Heng said this would both ensure that the help given is relevant and provide mentoring and training to members of the youth corps.

"I (know of) one instance where someone told me, 'Oh dear, this year the school sent 200 volunteers when I only needed 20. So we ended up having to create work for the 180 people'," he recounted.

To prevent such instances, the National Youth Council's new volunteer youth corps - which the council hopes will be 6,000-strong - will have to work out the details on providing the relevant training and ensuring an effective matching system, he added.

About 80 youth leaders from uniformed groups, such as the Scouts, National Civil Defence Cadet Corps (NCDCC) and Red Cross Youth, participated in the forum, which was organised by the Singapore Scout Association.

Other issues such as social entrepreneurship and environment education in schools here were also raised by students. One of them was 19-year-old Moy Hong, who started volunteering with the NCDCC after graduating from Bowen Secondary three years ago.

While his commitment takes up most of his free time, the third-year Ngee Ann Polytechnic student says he finds satisfaction in seeing cadets mature into responsible young people.

"You give what you can, and don't expect anything in return," he said. "That is the true spirit of volunteerism."