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.

4 responses to “I am volunteering for this. Will you?”

  1. passerby says :

    if helping the needy is not the govts job. then why do they keep so much of the cpf and why do we have to pay taxes plus gst. now they say it is not the govts responsibility, if it is like dubai or brunei where it is taxless, I will certainly volunteer and you will get a good turn out, but as it is, who in their right frame of mind would want to help a govt that is clearly derellict and even takes pride in shriking responsibilities, dowan lah

    • Qi says :

      Where to start? a) The government doesn’t “keep” CPF…it goes into individual accounts for use at retirement, purchasing a home, etc., unlike many other countries (e.g. the U.S.) where their social security goes into a bankrupt black hole. b) Countries like Brunei are sitting on top of an ocean of oil. We aren’t. c) Our government already subsidises and assists the needy to a greater extent than other Asian countries, d) We have some of the lowest tax rates in the world, e) Notwithstanding the above, there can be no substitute for the human touch. That’s why BOTH government and non-government action is needed.

  2. anon says :

    Like squeezing blood from stone.

    Why do we always allow the govt to decide the agenda
    and the playing field. It seems to decide everything and
    beyond questioning.

    The picture is so lopsided. the argument and assertion so
    skewed. Govt should not have a monopoly of how things should
    be decided and done, esp. with this govt, if the end objective is to build
    self reliance and self help in the community. It should focus on building
    leadership at ALL levels, not just the elites.

    But when you have a govt that is FOREVER and habitually paranoid about
    its pole position being usurp and act on it by nipping it in the bud at every
    promise or stirring of leadership potentials at every level – project it as a
    GRAVE threat to its political leadership then you can only create or nurture
    ‘pretend’ or make believe leaders, people who pretend to be leaders but always
    have BOTH eyes scanning for signals on how to respond. There is a saying,
    ‘Great minds think alike, but fools never differ’. Even during Goh K S’s time
    I was told that he gathered around himself only those who said things he likeD
    to hear. And really, all you need as a leader is to hint at what you would prefer,

  3. KAM says :

    It is easy to write about lofty ideals.
    The root cause is this: if the govt will not or cannot take care of the people (while many people are taking care of people), how can the people be encouraged to care for other people?
    There is no better education than “walk the talk”. No need so many laws and campaigns, just take a look at how govt take care of people. Ask if it is enough, compared to the billions spent on F1, Casino and rich-people’s enrichment objects in Singapore.
    If we can build a F1 track inside CBD, surely we can build more rams in MRT stations, Bus Stations and taxistands?
    Cannot? why?

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