I am volunteering for this. Will you?
“Sir, while we will do our best to ensure that the social safety net can provide help to the low-income, the elderly and the children, the government’s efforts alone will not be sufficient. We will need the involvement of the community. I cannot emphasise this enough. They can help to identify gaps in the system so that together, we can help plug it [sic].” – Minister of State (MOS) for MCYS, Mdm Halimah Yacob. Parliament, 9 March 2012.
Often, Singaporeans look to the government with accusing fingers, that it is not doing enough to help the needy. But if one goes through the new initiatives and improvements to various help schemes announced and explained by both the Minister for MCYS and his MOS, it is clear that the ministry has taken a comprehensive approach to handing out aid. And this is to be applauded.
Do read Mdm Halimah’s speech in full to see what her ministry is planning to do, going forward.
This article is not going to focus on what the government is going to do or can do. Instead, it is to ask ourselves – Singaporeans who care for the needy or who get upset that the government is not doing enough – what we ourselves can do and should do.
Helping the needy is not and should not be the job of the government’s alone. Granted that the government has the biggest role – in formulating the policies, programmes and providing the funding needed to care for the aged, the sick, children, disabled, and so on.
But these are the administrative parts of the entire outreach. What is just as important are the hands and legs on the ground – and I am not referring to just those of the social workers and volunteers of voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs).
These should also include the ordinary Singaporean. That means each one of us.
But often, we do not know where to start, and even if we want to, we may not have the time. We all have our own commitments to our families, work and friends. But the good news is that volunteering does not necessarily have to take up a lot of our time.
I came across this report in the New Paper on 10 March on this project called “Project Helping Hands”. I hadn’t heard of it before then. Apparently, the project’s aim is to keep an eye, as it were, on our senior folks who live alone, and for volunteers to check if the elderly person is suspected to have run into problems at home.
Sensors will be installed in the homes of these elderly to recognise their movements. If no movements are picked up over a pre-set period of time, an SMS alert is then sent to the volunteer or care giver. They can then go and check up on the elderly folk and see if he or she is ok or if he/she needs help.
The project – a collaborative effort between The Lions Befrienders Service Association and Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and supported by The New Paper – is a response to the more than 50 elderly people who have died in their homes since 2007.
It is a simple – and hopefully, effective – project which most of us can volunteer for. We can argue about whether it is a good programme, whether the government is doing enough, and so on. And indeed, that should continue for there is always more to be done, especially going forward and as Singapore’s population ages.
But in the meantime, we should also chip in where we can. After all, the elderly folks do not exist in the future. They are here, now. Some of them are living alone in small flats, without any relatives or dependents. So, while we engage in intellectual discussions and debates, lets not forget that in there are real people out there who need our help – and that we can do our part, no matter how small.
For more information on the project, to donate or to sign up as a volunteer, click here: http://www.sph.com.sg/article.display.php?id=5360
It is a simple commitment which will bring comfort to the elderly folks.
I am signing up to volunteer.
I hope you will too.
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