21 December 2006
by Dewi Mohd Sofri
Volunteering is an act of giving and sharing while contributing to the community, the satisfaction comes from knowing that you have made a difference in the life of others.
The satisfaction is usually greater when one does selfless acts without seeking financial gain or publicity.
Through such selfless experience, one may even discover skills or untapped energies that they never knew existed.
Volunteering can be done formally, through organisations, or informally like buying groceries for your elderly neighbours.
In Brunei, the culture of voluntarism is not well-developed compared to neighbouring countries.
This is despite the fact that the Sultanate is known for its close-knit family units.
Of course, this does not mean that the spirit to do voluntary community work is weak among Bruneians, because there has been many instances in the past where Bruneians rose to the occasion in helping the unfortunate. One example is the 2004 tsunami tragedy where Bruneians did not hesitate to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to help victims in Aceh while countless man hours were deployed to the Indonesian' territory.
A quick interview with a group of youths who want to do community work revealed that most are ignorant about the avenues to channel their interest.
A check at various government agencies showed that there are many places that one can do voluntary community work.
The Community Development Department under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has developed programmes like the Senior Citizens Family Project, Young Persons Support Group, Individual Guidance and Mentoring to address this issue.
There are also non-governmental organisations like the Brunei Aids Council (BAC) and its youth outfit, Penyinar; Brunei's Drug Prevention Association (Basmida) and Brunei Darussalam National Association for the Blind (BDNAB).
People can also give time and energy to children and teenagers at centres such as Pusat Ehsan Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam, Association for Children with Special Needs (Kaca) and Society for the Management of Autism Related Issues In Training, Education and Resources (Smarter).
There are a lot of benefits to doing community work, as The Brunei Times discovers from Ali Yusri Abdul Ghafor, an education officer and counsellor at the Schools Department of the Ministry of Education.
He says those interested in volunteering should keep in mind that one must not have a hidden agenda when joining. Volunteers should also abide by the rules of the organisation or association they are joining and remember the main reason of volunteering is to help out.
"There is an advantage for students as volunteering can be seen as an avenue to get experience and knowledge that they can make use of when they start working," says Ali Yusri.
He adds that job interviews nowadays not only focus on academic results but also on the qualities of the person that is most fit for the position most companies look for someone who is well-rounded.
So apart from building your spiritual character, voluntary community work also benefits your career plans.
A government servant who requested anonymity says that the culture of volunteerism among youths can be encouraged if there is more non-governmental organisations dealing with social problems.
The woman who is active in informal charity work also says that such NGOs would appeal more to the youths.