It’s a blessing to be able to give back to society, avers Ong Choon Seng, secretary of SAFRA Community Services Club (SAFRACS). “To serve and give back and benefit the underprivileged community – this will help create a society where help and support is from the ground up and more self-sustaining,” he says.
Patricia Lee, committee member, concurs. “We exist as a community. Sometimes we need a little help to move forward, which we get from the people around us. When someone else is in need, we should return the favour to the community that has helped us before,” she says.
It is with this credo that volunteers, comprising working adults and a handful of retirees and students, uphold at SAFRACS. To reach out to the underprivileged and engage them through new shared experiences, the club organises myriad activities to different groups, ranging from the elderly to special needs (intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities and hearing impaired), children’s day-care centres and voluntary welfare organisations.
Once a month, the committee meets a SAFRA staff to plan for upcoming events and outings. Volunteers will be informed of activities, and those who are keen to participate can register their involvement.
Ong elaborates: “On a typical month, we target 40 beneficiaries for visits to the home, centre or outing, as well as in-house activities at a SAFRA clubhouse. Once a year, we will also have a major activity [either Chinese New Year for the elderly or Christmas for children] that reaches up to 200 beneficiaries.”
Volunteers don’t just engage with the underprivileged at these outings – SAFRACS also facilitates opportunities for beneficiaries to bond with their families and support groups, shares Ong. “We extend invitations to families of beneficiaries to participate in activities together. For example, in our last visit to Jurong Lake Gardens [on 20 Jul], caregivers were invited to join their children for the event,” he reveals.
Ultimately, being a volunteer really boils down to altruism, shares Lee Kok Seng, treasurer of the club. “It’s about wanting to help as much as you can for the needy and working for the common good.”
While the traditional focus of volunteering is on the underprivileged, being a volunteer is also immensely rewarding at a personal level, says Patricia Lee. “Volunteers learn how to cooperate and work as a team, which has helped me tremendously, even at work.”
On top of this, being a volunteer also gives you the opportunity to spend time with the people whom you share a common passion, especially family and loved ones, says Ong.
“We have couples who came to know each other while volunteering in SAFRACS and tied the knot. We also have families who have brought their children to join us for the events – to inculcate the values of giving at an early age.”
“One of our volunteers’ children was only four when he first came to SAFRACS. He is now in his early 20s and he, too, volunteers.”