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Volunteerism should be instinctive act

18 December 2012

(From left) Chairman of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre Mr Tan, Mr Vijayendran, President of the NUS Students' Community Service Club Ms Wynne Ng Say Lay and Dr Goh

Rather than an option, volunteering should be an instinctive act. Just do it, as part of one's DNA. Mr Stanley Tan, Chairman of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, shared his personal philosophy with some 200 students from tertiary institutions at the inaugural NUS Volunteer Symposium recently.

"Volunteering is to be done now and for everyone," said Mr Tan. At the age of 10, he walked to school to save his transport allowance. Later, he used the savings to visit an orphanage where he felt "empowered" and was "welcomed with warmth".

His initial experience has since spurred him to continue volunteering throughout his life, including serving with the Singapore Red Cross Society. One memorable experience was his travel to Indonesian villages for volunteer work after the fall of the Suharto regime. He has also been involved in helping children in Asian countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Themed "iVolunteer - Be the Gears of Change", the two-day symposium was spearheaded by the NUS Office of Student Affairs (OSA) and jointly organised by the NUS Students' Community Service Club and the Red Cross Youth (NUS Chapter).

Delivering the opening address, Associate Professor Tan Teck Koon, Dean of Students at the OSA, emphasised that the meeting was not a typical sit-down event. Instead, the students would enjoy a hands-on component which is expected to lead them on a learning journey that will transform them and other people.

Panellists Mr Tan, President of Club Rainbow Mr Gregory Vijayendran, NUS Department of Social Work Assistant Professor Esther Goh, and NUS alumnus Mr Tan Ching shared more with students about giving back to society. Questions raised included how to continue volunteering once a person starts his career, the mandatory Community Involvement Programme, and how to deal with unexpected situations while volunteering.

Students learnt more about volunteerism that helps children, youth-at-risk, the elderly, as well as the intellectually and physically disabled during break-out sessions. They also gained first-hand experience by participating in the activities of various volunteer service organisations.