Drawing them in through social media

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 29 Jun 2014

TO attract the Gen-Y, volunteer organisations are banking on the lure of social media.

“We engage with youths on our website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a mobile apps,” says iM4U brand management group director Efny Johan, adding that they try to make volunteering cool and fun through social media and celebrity ambassadors so that it appeals to youngsters.

“The aim is to translate cyber interaction into volunteer work so that these youngsters get to meet in real life, joined by a cause that they are passionate about.”

Although Malaysians are known to give back, he feels that there is still low awareness and information on how to volunteer

“We are stuck in the gotong-royong mindset. (And, shockingly) some youths even define volunteering as helping their parents.”

Stressing that volunteerism is colour-blind and free from any form of discrimination, he says, to date, iM4U’s one million volunteers have participated in some 2,000 activities, including flood relief works nationwide.

Plans to do more are already underway pending the completion of the iM4U Youth Sentral in Puchong later this year.

iM4U also wants to be part of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and plans to include the upcoming International Volunteer Day (IVD) celebration on Dec 5 in its calendar of activities.

ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme (AYVP) executive director Prof Datuk Dr Saran Kaur Gill believes that youths, with their passion and commitment, form the bedrock of the nation’s development.

Like iM4U, it also relies on the online platform to highlight opportunities for youngsters. Having “captured the Malaysian spirit of giving”, the local Gen-Y, aged between 18 and 30, are very focused, willing to share their knowledge, learn collaboratively and, most importantly, contribute to the communities they work with, he notes.

Calling for a more coordinated and systematic approach to volunteerism here, he says that in Japan and Korea, volunteerism starts in school.

“It is institutionalised, so the youths are socialised to contribute to society and volunteer from an early age. We should emulate that,” he says.

Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs president Mohd Hasri Mohd Hadzir is confident there are many “willing hearts” that we can reach out to and social media is the way to go.

“They are enthusiastic but don’t know how to help. The majority (of volunteers) I’ve come across aren’t bothered about allowance or freebies and they don’t even mind sleeping on the floor if there is no proper accommodation,” he notes.

The MAYC, a coalition of some 400 youth clubs nationwide, set up its Very Able Volunteer (VAV) squad last year, which has to date attracted 3,000 members. Urging the government and private sector to encourage young volunteers, he says funding and recognition for community activities are important.

“Introducing a national excellence award for volunteers will motivate more youngsters to come forward,” he suggests.

In his speech at the launch of the National Youth Day celebrations in Putrajaya on May 15, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called on youths to embrace the spirit and culture volunteerism, before announcing an incentive of RM1.5mil for the National Youth Council to bring together youth-oriented non-governmental organisations in the region by 2015.

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