Volunteerism: Receiving a lifetime experience through the act of giving
Guest contributor and social worker Vicky Ang shares her thoughts on volunteerism and gathers her fellow colleagues from SOLS 24/7 Malaysia (an education-humanitarian organization that serves, educates and empowers communities in Malaysia through education, technology and social services) to share on the act of giving selflessly to the community.
Getting funding and recruiting volunteers for social work is set to become much simpler for NGOs and volunteers with the launch of the online platform, ngohub.asia.
Recently launched by SOLS 24/7 Malaysia, ngohub.asia provides a good networking platform and more visibility for NGOs around Malaysia by helping them to get volunteers, publish their events and apply for small grants. The programme is supported by the 7-Eleven Community Care programme and so far has gathered around 200 verified NGOs and 400 individuals.
In light of this launch and to encourage more Malaysians to volunteer for different causes in different parts of our country, this article bears testimonies from volunteers around Malaysia and the globe who have come together to volunteer in different departments under SOLS 24/7 Malaysia.
Karl Azzopardi from Malta shares his experience from when he was just two weeks in with Tech Cycle. His volunteering efforts included educating the public and campaigning in universities to raise awareness on e-Waste Management, proposing ways of how to improve the situation and collecting broken electronics that could be re-used rather than thrown away.
During the Tech Cycle workshop in Segambut, Karl learned how to fix up a computer himself! This wholesome experience is a valuable one as we just tend to throw broken computers away!
Meanwhile, Christiana Iliya from England volunteered as a Marketing, Communications & Outreach intern with the SOLS Tech department for three months. Her duties included creating promotional materials such as posters, flyers and as well as discovering and researching of companies that could be potential partner-donors for the Tech Cycle programme. “Just being able to work with people from various walks of life and being able to reason with, and understand different views and perspectives was indeed priceless.”
Duha Elmardi from Sudan is a community development officer (CDO) in one of the centres in Kelantan that provides free English, IT and motivation classes as well as building local communities through development efforts. Duha is amazed that despite the cultural differences she is able to build an amazing bond with the communities she works with.
In another centre in Kelantan, CDO Hadeel Bahaa has been experiencing overwhelming cultural exchanges since volunteering at SOLS 24/7. Hailing from Egypt, she came to Malaysia not knowing what to expect but has since been showered with so much love and kindness from everyone she has met. She loves the fact that Malaysians are as crazy about food as she is!
Romanian Daniela Strimbei is a CDO based in Malim Nawar, Kampar. Her experience as a CDO gives her enormous personal satisfaction as they go through the discovery process together. The puzzlement and excitement experienced by her students bring so much reward and meaning for Daniela.
Daniel Hurtado from USA has been the CDO of the centre on Redang Island, Terengganu since August. Besides the education aspect of his work, Daniel is also developing a website that aims to preserve the uniqueness of this community and also through which he can share his own delights and discoveries with the world.
For a former San Francisco dweller, Daniel has adjusted extremely well to the diversified living conditions.
“It takes 1.5 hours by ferry to reach Kuala Terengganu. Redang is also a cash-based island with no ATMs or banks. I don’t have the conveniences of life that are common on the mainland. But I find this challenging and sometimes entertaining as it pushes me way outside my comfort zone, and this is how we grow.”
Personal growth is a common experience from CDOs who are serving in local communities across the country!
Nurul Ashikin is a volunteer from Ipoh. She has met many selfless and strong characters in SOLS who aim to build up the communities that they work with. To Shikin, volunteering means doing great work out of a personal choice to serve, not for monetary benefits.
Bryan Yeoh from Penang is undergoing training to be a volunteer. “Volunteering in SOLS 24/7 Malaysia has been a revelation. Previously, I had never realised the extent of certain social issues in Malaysia and the interconnectivity between the issues. Seeing these links has really changed my understanding of the world around me and my perception of it.”
Reza Pochee from South Africa is one of the Regional Managers for Project 100, an initiative with the Better Malaysia Foundation to set up community education programmes for needy communities.
He oversees six centres in the Northern region of West Malaysia to ensure that they are running well, supporting them in all professional aspects. Reza recalls his initial days in Pos Iskandar where he was teaching during his time as a CDO.
He had never been to a jungle before! Living and working among the Orang Asli taught him amazing things about their culture. The impact they had on him and vice versa was truly a wonderful experience for him.
Project manager, Ana Jovanovic from Serbia has been volunteering in Malaysia for exactly a year. When she first arrived from Europe, everything was so new and unfamiliar to her. Ana is amazed by how deep the Asian culture is, how different the people are and how amazingly different Malaysia is from anything that she has seen before. She is touched by how warm and welcoming Asians are as well as on the culture of giving and contributing to the community which makes people here (in Malaysia) really awesome!
Education & Scholarship
Ben Hales from England was serving in SOLS 24/7 for more than two months in the Education department. He was assisting with the implementation of education and scholar development programmes.
“The most interesting aspect of my voluntary experience is definitely the people I have met, both who I have worked with and the people the programmes have impacted. I have been able to mix with people from all around the world and learn so much about different cultures. Also, being able to pass on my experiences and knowledge through teaching programmes give me a strong sense of giving back to the world.”
Priti Samtani from Indonesia found her entire volunteering experience of two and a half months interesting; from the job, to meeting people and meeting volunteers who hail from across the globe! Priti was an intern with the accounts department during her volunteering experience. Her fruitful experience included her learning about the organisation and their dedication towards the society.
Youth Development Centre
For almost three months, Thashwini Rajandran from Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor spent her time volunteering at the Youth Development Centre in Segambut, KL while awaiting for her university acceptance. She enjoyed every bit of her experience there and was really close to the youths who stayed at the centre during the programme. She felt happiest whenever they learned something new from the classes that she conducted. “The optimism that they showed in each and every class proved to me that education is indeed a very powerful tool to change a person’s life.”
Many of the volunteers from SOLS 24/7 Malaysia found out about these volunteer opportunities through the internet, via volunteering portals or social media. Others had connections through volunteering hubs like AIESEC or mutual acquaintances.
Their personal and professional experiences through volunteerism have led them feeling a glowing sense of worth and renewal, providing them with intrinsic benefits they wouldn’t have considered possible.
Volunteerism is an experience that could change your views on life and even life itself. Experiencing is believing, so it is up to you to embrace this challenge!
“Volunteering is a very revelatory experience – be it volunteering locally or overseas! It is like peeling an onion, you will discover layers upon layers of new experiences and information that will completely change any stereotypes that you had about which ever place you are in.” – Bryan
“A person can learn so much from such an experience and makes you a more independent and strong person.” – Karl
“Giving back to society by volunteering your time and efforts is rewarding because there is no greater feeling than the satisfaction you get, knowing that your actions have profoundly changed another person’s life. Through volunteering, you are able to cross paths with phenomenal individuals who share your passion for change.” – Christiana
“I think that Malaysians should embrace the idea of volunteering and all the benefits that come from it. Volunteering not only broadens your horizons into seeing and living with people’s issues and difficulties, and being able to be a lending hand for these people, but it also helps you as a person in discovering so much about yourself and connecting to values of humanity. Volunteering is not only a give and give experience, the moral and social rewards you get from just the feeling of being a supporter to someone in need is priceless.” – Duha
“To all the people out there, to volunteer is one of the best experience you will ever get. You will experience and learn many new things and meet new people. I learned many things professionally as well as personally during my volunteer time.” – Priti
“Volunteering can take many forms, as in taking a year off our everyday life to work for an international NGO on the other side of the world. But volunteering can also happen at home, wherever that may be, for a few hours a week, one day a month or a one-time event.
“No matter our religion or who we are or where we come from, we are all human. This is an important lesson I have learned from my travels: people are people no matter where we go. If we have the ability to give back to our community, to help our neighbors, it is incumbent on us as humans to do so. No matter or skill, or how big or small we are, or how young or old we may be, we can all contribute to the betterment of humanity and making our community a healthier and happier place to be.” – Daniel
“Volunteering gives you the chance to develop your skills and broaden your horizons very easily. Volunteer with something you feel strongly about, it is a fantastic opportunity to enrich your CV and yourself as a person. There is nothing like the feeling of contributing to something and knowing you are making a difference. It’s also a fantastic excuse to travel!!” – Ben
“No matter how much you love your family and friends, they will always be there for you, the real world is out there. Take courage and buy your plane ticket to your dream destination and let life happen to you. Once you have left your room, there are so many amazing things that can happen. Volunteering is an act that is gives an amazing feeling, it gives you a warm feeling inside and the fact that you managed to help someone is irreplaceable. Traveling leaves you speechless and turns you into a story teller!” – Ana
“Local or international volunteering is a type of activity that can provide the framework for an amazing personal and professional development opportunity. For every young person who wants to grow, learn, have practical work experience, become a leader in their community and at the same time help others, volunteering is the perfect chance.” – Daniela
“I would say volunteering will help you get to know yourself better and you improve yourself along the way, doing something for someone without expecting anything in return teaches you selflessness and to be always giving, it makes you more humble, kind, and loving it will just reshape your personality and makes you discover that money isn’t important at all as much as values like love, empathy and sharing. Your experience will be very rich with moments that you will never forget and stories that you want to tell to everyone. Not only will you help another person but this person could also be inspired by you to help another and in an indirect way you would be encouraging the culture of doing things for people just because you care not because you have anything you want from them. Volunteering to visit an elderly home for example will enrich you and make those around you happy and in return you will be paid in happiness and that trumps any paid job in the world.” – Hadeel
“Every Malaysian should volunteer now and then to share their knowledge and skills as everyone deserves to learn to make their lives better. There are so many underprivileged Malaysians and joining an organisation to help them will definitely make you a great human being because to do more for the world than the world does for you is the real definition of success.” – Thashwini
“Be strong and be courageous to do something that you think is worth taking the risk for. It’s really hard to beat our local working culture, society norm, and local mentality. It is very natural for us to want to feel secure about our future, but if the feeling of security chains us down from growing, then for me, it’s not healthy. Thus, if you are passionate for personal growth (for yourself and others), volunteering might be a great platform for you to aid for such purpose. Plus, there are so many areas to help that allow us to choose one that suits our heart!” – Ashikin
“The beauty of helping develop people no matter where in the world is a feeling you will never find unless you accept volunteering for good and great causes. The only way you will know is if you try!” – Reza
Be it near or far, there is definitely a cause that needs you to step up and volunteer your time, skills or wisdom for a better good. Despite volunteerism being viewed as a noble act, you will experience personal gains no words are worthy enough to describe.
To volunteer with SOLS 24/7 Malaysia check out their webpage at www.sols247.org/my or email [email protected] for more information.