29 August 2006
Singapore City, Singapore:
The Singaporean education minister believes volunteering is key to national education. He notes that student volunteerism is continuously growing, up from 17 per cent in 2002 to 25 per cent today.
"I think it is important for our young people to understand what is happening in society around them, what the areas of needs are and more importantly, how they can respond and be responsible in meeting some of these areas of need," says Minister of State, Education RAdm Lui Tuck Yew .
"The government provides some degree of support but rather than be too prescriptive about what each person ought to do, we let them decide what it is that they really enjoy doing. Community action is very much part and parcel of National Education, it is one of the key pillars if you want a rooted-ness in the country," he adds.
While some youths rely on directives from the authorities to carry out local charity projects, it's a slightly different picture when it comes to overseas volunteerism.
In the past, students relied on organizations like the Singapore International Foundation to facilitate overseas projects. Now, young people are increasingly arranging trips themselves, conducting community surveys and implementing new projects in remote villages all over the world.
"Local organizations need help but not as much compared to those organizations overseas. When we go abroad and accomplish a project, we see that the people there really gain from what we bring and teach to them," says student volunteer Amelia Tan.
Other issues that are raised at the conference include how to secure funding and how to ensure volunteers are not abused by wayward charities.
Raymond Huang from Heartware Network, a local volunteer organization, says young people need to learn how to be more street smart when working with the various charity organizations.
Minister Lui says going forward, the next stage in the development of the youth volunteer scene will require a volunteer leader to address local and national volunteering issues.
He adds that many of today's youth volunteer activities are conducted either in isolation or on an one-off basis, with individual groups focusing on their own cause.
He hopes there can be more exchange of information between would-be volunteers and the community services.