PETALING JAYA: In the face of injustice, it’s all too easy to think that one person cannot make a difference.
But volunteer extraordinaire Wong Ee Lynn, 39, was never sold on the idea of inaction: “I have always believed that if someone has to do something, then let me be the one.”
For over 20 years, her long-held convictions about environmental responsibility and justice – as well as animal welfare and rights – have manifested in her continuous voluntary work at more than a dozen charitable causes.
“As I grew older, I started seeing volunteering as a form of voting. We vote through our actions for the kind of world we want to live in,” says the in-house legal counsel.
After leaving school, Wong started volunteering at SPCA Selangor in 1996, doing everything from administering medication to ill and injured animals, to preparing food and cleaning kennels.
An interest in meeting other birdwatchers and hikers led her to join the Malaysian Nature Society in 2001, where the Selangor committee member now coordinates the Green Living special interest group and the Eco Kids family-based programme.
She even found the time to start a personal animal rescue initiative called Project Second Chance in 2006.
Wong’s tireless spectrum of efforts has touched many lives, and some have written in with thanks after attending her talks or to share news of positive lifestyle changes.
“E-mail like these are very gratifying and the best ones often come from children. Once, a seven-year-old boy saw my cat adoption appeal in the papers and texted me from his mother’s phone to say ‘thank you for helping animals’ and that animals make him happy.
“Two young kids also drew a picture of baby turtles returning to the sea after attending one of my Turtle Volunteer Programmes in Masjid Tanah, Malacca. You can imagine my delight when I get messages like these!” she says.
“Volunteering may not be a walk in the park, but it gifts volunteers with formative experiences that build perseverance, commitment and resilience.
“It empowers people to be the difference they want to see instead of just airing their grievances,” Wong adds.
However, she is quick to remind do-gooders to also speak truth to power.
Deeming personal lifestyle changes and personal action as never enough, Wong says hands-on volunteering needs to be reinforced with political action: “We can’t go on buying school uniforms for needy children, cooking for soup kitchens and paying to neuter stray animals out of our own pockets forever. It is exhausting, unsustainable and does not compel those with political and economic leverage to change the status quo.”
To effect change, she says, Malaysians need to speak up about their advocacy, lobby their MPs and the authorities, meet with the relevant government agencies, educate others, write letters to the editor and press statements, initiate petitions and phone-in campaigns and have a succession plan to train others to be volunteers and activists.
“Everyone should volunteer and take direct personal action to make a positive difference, but we also need to get political to change the status quo. Be a volunteer, but also be an activist.” – By Michelle Tam