BRITISH politician Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
This quote should be dedicated to the volunteers who take up various good causes in the name of altruism.
Although statistics released earlier this year by the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics shows that volunteering was at a 10-year low, Malaysia seems to be moving forward in embracing the spirit of volunteerism — with more government initiatives and volunteering portals set up to encourage meaningful contributions from the public.
In conjunction with International Volunteer Day on Dec 5, Metro Online Broadcast takes a look at some of the ways you can contribute to a good cause.
1. Donate a meal to the poor
Some of us dine at nice restaurants every weekend, but there are many who cannot afford even a proper meal.
For only RM7, you can purchase a ‘suspended meal’ at participating restaurants under the Meals for All programme.
Funds collected will be used to provide food for the homeless. Cooking is done by the restaurants and then handed over to soup kitchens for distribution.
Meals for All founder Ramesh Vadiveloo decided to tweak the suspended coffee concept in Italy where cafe patrons purchase a cup of coffee for the homeless which can be claimed as needed.
So far, 2,500 meals have been produced and Ramesh aims to get 10 more restaurants to join the cause.For more info visit https://www.facebook.com/MealsForAll.
2. Recycle old technology
“Malaysia generates over 100,000 tonnes of e-waste a year, but over three million people in the country do not have access to digital devices and the Internet,” said Science of Life Studies 24/7 (SOLS 24/7) Malaysia human resource and communications director Danutcha Catriona Singh.
Tech Cycle is a programme by Sols Tech, the technological arm of Sols 24/7, aimed at reducing e-waste and to bridge the digital divide.
The public can donate their old digital devices such as computers, laptops and printers to Tech Cycle’s recycling centres, which will then be repaired and refurbished before being distributed to underprivileged communities.
“The aim is to protect the environment, reuse technology and serve the underserved in Malaysia,” said Danutcha.
For more visit http://www.solstech.org/
3. Tutor a refugee child
Education should be a basic right of every child. However, the reality is different for refugee children who fled their native countries for fear of persecution by their own governments.
“An estimated 10,000 Myanmarese refugee children are on the streets and are unable to go to school, leaving them illiterate and vulnerable to organ traffickers, drug pushers and child prostitution,” said United Learning Center (ULC) founder Mink Ong.
ULC is a centre that provides free education for 130 Myanmarese refugee children in Kuala Lumpur, and are constantly in need of tutors.
“Volunteers only need to spend a few hours every week to teach the children and keep them company. We also have fun activities like story-telling, singing and dancing,” said Ong, adding that no experience was needed other than lots of love for the children and being able to speak English.
Those interested to volunteer can call 012-6054 990 (Johnathan).
4. Become a digital volunteer
Rather than surf Facebook all day, youths can put their tech-savvy skills to good use by becoming a ‘digital volunteer’. Another programme by SOLS Tech, it aims to empower youths to volunteer for good causes via digital technology.
Open to youths aged between 17 and 24, volunteers invest 20 hours over a three-month period to help a non-governmental organisation (NGO) of their choice to build an online presence, from setting up and updating social media sites, helping to create social media campaigns and blogging.
Once the three months are over, the volunteers can choose to stay on as consultants for their respective NGOs.
Those interested to join as a digital ambassador can e-mail DV@sols247.org.
5. Help out at an animal shelter
NGOs such as SPCA Selangor are always in need of volunteers to help out with duties such as cleaning, preparing and serving meals to the animals and socialising them.
One can also become a kennel guide by assisting members of the public when choosing an animal.
Those with experience handling animals can also help with walking, bathing and grooming.
Often, animal welfare NGOs are also in need of people to handle other aspects such as marketing, photography, outreach and education. For more information, visit www.spca.org.my
6. Create an urban green environment
To encourage a love for nature, the Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur (FTSKL) grows and nurtures plants, which is then given away for free to individuals, schools and community projects.
Those with a green finger can contribute to the promotion of a clean and green urban environment by helping FTSKL with its planting.
Volunteers label polybags and pots for planting seeds and cuttings, water, weed and fertilise the garden, nursery plants and pond at their premises in Bangsar. Landscaping work is also involved, such as hoeing, and on giveaway days volunteers help with booth set up and helping the public choose suitable plants.
For more information, visit www.freetreesociety.org
7. Become a blood donor
Blood banks are in constant need of supply to treat various patients, including those suffering from diseases and accident victims.
However, only 2.5% of Malaysians are blood donors, well below the international mark of 5%.
Head of National Blood Bank blood procurement division Dr Norasrina Ishak said their aim was to get constant supply of blood throughout the year.
Blood donation drives are common at neighbourhood malls or at charity events.
To become a blood donor, you have to be between 18 and 60 years old, healthy and weigh 45kg and above, with a minimum of five hours sleep the night before.
One should not be on medication recently or have any congenital diseases, and should have a healthy lifestyle.
8. Lend a listening ear
Depression is known as the ‘silent’ killer of the modern age.
The Befrienders is a non-profit organisation with a mission to alleviate distress and help reduce the risk of suicide amongst the public by offering confidential emotional support via a 24-hour hotline, face-to-face appointments and email.
“We are basically looking for people who are warm, caring, non-judgmental and good listeners.
“No paper qualification is required,” said Befrienders KL outreach director Kenny Lim.
Volunteers need to undergo training and commit to a three-hour weekly duty and monthly overnight shift.
9. Volunteer at a home
Some non-profit organisations, such as the Great Heart Charity Association, regularly visit homes for children, old folks and the disabled. Volunteers also help out by organising luncheons and trips to various places such as zoos and theme parks, or celebrating festive seasons with residents.
“One of our aims is to make charitable giving a part of everyone’s life by acting as a platform to influence and inspire people,” said association secretary Ric See.
One of their programmes, the Family Care Supervisor, involves training volunteers to be part of a team to handle cases of underprivileged families applying for assistance - from conducting applicant interviews and screening to delivering monthly groceries.
10. Put your skills to good use
You don’t have to be a world class carpenter to build a home for poor orang asli communities, nor do you have to be an excellent cook to bake items for a charity sale.
Corporations are also moving towards CSR movements through various events and charity programmes.
Volunteers can also check out online platforms such as Do Good Volunteer and ngohub.asia, which connects NGOs to the public. Con-duct research on a cause you are passionate about and what you are able to offer before committing to it.