Elements of Volunteerism
By Patricia Hului
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Perhaps this is one of the many reasons people take part in volunteerism.
Among those speaking about volunteerism at an Angkatan Zaman Mansang Sarawak (Azam Sarawak) seminar on Sept 7 to mark its 32nd anniversary was public speaking champion Stephen Fernando who gave some insight on how to make a difference by being different.
Stephen has been a trainer in soft skills since 1982 besides working as an emcee.
He himself has been involved in volunteer work for many years through religious groups, community and Toastmaster activities.
Among his current activities are conducting youth camps, visiting HIV foster homes and being a member of an informal group called ‘We’re There Cos’ We Care!’ which gives comfort to bedridden people in hospitals or their homes.
Besides lightening the atmosphere with jokes in between, the stand-up comedian shared the values needed in volunteerism, one of them being something he learned during a talk held in a Buddhist centre in Kuala Lumpur about 30 years ago where the speaker emphasised that when somebody volunteered, they must share their God-given talent.
“He said that when we volunteer we are very noble people because we are giving part of our lives to others,” Stephen shared, adding that based on the book ‘The World is Waiting’ by Sean Claffard, there were four important elements in volunteerism; awareness, communication, respect and being different.
“When we want to help others, we must be aware of what happening, we must be able to communicate, we must respect the people irrespective of their standings and we must be different,” said the 69-year-old speaker.
“We must be aware of our surroundings, how we can be of use and what we can do for those who are in need.”
Stephen gave an example of Sim Ee Hoong, who has been volunteering for the past three years with the Society of People Support (PSP) Selangor, a NGO that helps with disabilities (PWD) and old folk.
Sim was aware of the needs of the old and infirm and volunteered her assistance in anyway she could.
He pointed out that it was important to have an inquisitive mind and find answers to needs in volunteering.
“We must be able to communicate at the level acceptable to people,” Stephen said, mentioning the power of silence was equally important as a volunteer must be a good listener.
When speaking of respect, Stephen also urged the need to respect society, elders and fellow volunteers.
In addition to that, Stephen reminded the 150 volunteers who attended the talk to be a people person when reaching out.
“Always develop the habit to make friends,” he said while reminding people to make the right friends.
“Remember you can always make a difference.”
The one-day event saw a keynote presentation called ‘Volunteers as Modern Change Agents’ by Dr Peter Devereux, followed by Datuk Ahmad Abd Talib and Mohamad Ariff Irwani bin Azahari who spoke on ‘Volunteerism Today: Challenges and the Way Forward’.
The seminar which was attended by various government agencies and NGOs was aimed to initiate discussions on the future direction of volunteerism in Sarawak particularly on how volunteers could be effective social change agents.
Apart from that the seminar was to generate seed ideas on how the various voluntary organisations, individual volunteers and other relevant stakeholders in Sarawak could collaboratively to bring volunteerism in Sarawak to the next level.