The school holidays are nearing and you feel that your child should be doing something useful. You may think, “Why not volunteer?”
Indeed, there are many one-off opportunities where your child — and even the whole family — could lend a hand and make a difference.
But if you’re hoping that your child can reap the longer-term benefits of volunteer work, here are some questions that you can discuss together.
“What do you want from the volunteer experience?”
You don’t need a “right” reason to volunteer — perhaps your child desires to learn a new skill, or to work with young children and animals because it seems fun. Some volunteer to make new friends and gain a broader perspective on the world.
To raise a lifelong volunteer, help your child to define his or her volunteering objectives. Be sure to convey these objectives to the organisation that you’re interested in volunteering for, says Karen Fernandez, who has headed NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in Singapore and abroad. This will help volunteer coordinators to assign a relevant role or responsibility to your child.
If your child has not expressed any interest in volunteer work, focus on finding something for yourself, and have your child tag along. Passion can be contagious!
“How would you like to help?”
Find out about your children’s preferences before you hunt down volunteering opportunities. Are they willing to get their hands dirty? Are they comfortable with the idea of conversing with the elderly, or with individuals who have physical or mental disabilities? Be sure to respect your children’s preferences when choosing a volunteer activity.
Giving.sg has a volunteer resource with over 300 listed opportunities, and some activities in June that your family could sign up for include:
If your children don’t meet the specified age requirements, you can still sign up as a volunteer, and ask if you can bring your children along. You can also look out for the following volunteer activities, which are popular with families:
For parents who would like to get behind a social cause together with their older children, try linking up with civil society groups in Singapore, suggests Stephanie Chok, an independent researcher and mother of two.
“Like their Facebook page, join an activity, attend a talk, meet people from the organisation, and sign up for a volunteer orientation session,” she says.
In Singapore, there is a wide range of groups you can choose from, from animal welfare groups to societies concerned with heritage and conservation, gender equality, health and wellness, and more.
“Would you like to start a volunteer project?”
At age 14, then-SOTA student Mariel Chee wanted “something to do during the holidays.” She proceeded to galvanise a group of like-minded friends to run a four-day art camp for children, a project that they christened “Camp Chartwell.” (Read her story here.)
Now 26 and a senior executive at the National Gallery, Mariel recalls that her parents were extremely supportive of her plans. “My mom kindly gave us permission to use my house as the camp venue. She… sat down with us to work out the administrative details and taught us things like how to draw up a budget sheet,” she says.
“But [my parents’] greatest support was not in teaching us the hard skills. What I appreciated most of all was that they took us seriously and were committed to helping us achieve our vision as best as they could,” she adds. “I’m sure they had their doubts at many times, but they never belittled us or took our age and inexperience as reasons to dismiss us. Instead, they saw it as an opportunity to teach us troubleshooting and creative problem-solving skills.”