Thursday, January 3, 2013

View volunteerism positively

Jan 03, 2013
[First, this will not be one of my usual caustic rant against morons who write letters to the forum page.

As someone who DOESN'T volunteer, I admire those who do, and respect those who wants to.]

SINGAPORE ranked near the bottom on helping strangers in the 2011 World Giving Index survey conducted by Charities Aid Foundation ("Ask, and you will receive"; Dec 21). The Philippines and Hong Kong scored respectable 26th and 33rd positions respectively in the 146-nation ranking.

We should not attribute our poor ranking to survey methodology, as suggested by those interviewed in the article.

Malaysia, China and Japan were also near the bottom, and India ranked last. My guess is that cultural factors are to blame.

[Why? One might argue that we have the same culture and same level of development as Hong Kong!]

Singapore also fared very badly on volunteering time and donating money, according to the statistics available on the foundation's website.

On volunteering time, Singapore was also ranked near the bottom, behind the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, which were ranked fifth, sixth and 10th.

[I do agree that the cultural milieu may have something to do with it... if by culture you mean affluence and a highly urbanised society, with a highly pressurised lifestyle. Then again, HK puts paid to that theory, no?]

Singapore was ranked 53rd in monetary donations, lagging behind Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong who were among the top 10.

We should do more self-reflection, and review the environment and existing regulations on charity and volunteerism activities here.

Two weeks ago, I helped in the flag day of the Lions Home for the Elderly. At first, I worked at a bus stop but later decided to work at a hawker centre nearby. I took a short cut by walking through a shopping mall. Within seconds of entering the mall, a security guard approached me and asked me to leave.

Based on my experience, there may be a few who do not like to be approached in public places and asked to donate money; but the majority do not mind. Some even compliment the volunteers. Those who have children with them would often ask their children to put the money into the collection tin, teaching them about charity in the process.

[Seriously? You think kids learn charity that way?]

In 2011, Singaporeans contributed $896 million in tax deductible donations alone. In terms of dollars per capita, the figure is one of the highest in the world.

However, the Charities Aid Foundation survey showed that only 29 per cent of Singaporeans donated in 2011, compared with 71 per cent among Indonesians and Thais. This was how we lost out in ranking. We need to expand the base of our donating population.

This also applies to helping strangers and volunteering time - more should come forward to boost our meagre participation rates.

Ng Ya Ken

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