The International Volunteers Day acknowledged the 89 million hours of voluntary work carried out by volunteers over the past year.
Contributed By Esther Ang
The crowd at the Marina Barrage on the evening of Dec. 5 was not a coincidental throng of kite-flying enthusiasts, but volunteers from all over Singapore who had gathered to celebrate International Volunteers Day. It was organized by the National Volunteer And Philanthropy Centre and the Young Men’s Christian Association.
“We love you!” shouted Stanley Tan, Chairman of NVPC, to the crowd of cheering volunteers. In his speech, he highlighted the importance of the volunteers’ contribution to the community, reassuring the volunteers that while volunteerism is on the rise in Singapore, their efforts will not be taken for granted.
His words were supported by Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, who was also the Guest-of-Honor that evening. He said that without volunteers, Singapore would not have achieved much of the success it enjoys today. “What you really brought to this is not money, it’s your time, your heart, and your hands,” said Balakrishnan.
The number of hours put in for voluntary work over the past year hit a record high of 89 million hours, or S$1.8 billion in monetary value, double the figure two years ago. This figure was calculated based on a service sector employee’s average wage of S$20 per hour—it surpasses even the monetary donations given to charities in 2009 by S$1 billion.
In a video clip depicting the work of volunteers, one volunteer said, “It is hard, but you can’t put a price on love.” Indeed, it is heartening to know that such love abounds among Singaporeans. What was even more touching was the fact that some of these volunteers are not even Singaporean. Says Jenny Zuo, a 21-year-old Vietnamese student who volunteers with Singapore Cares, “I feel happy helping people and I find that volunteering work is fun. It also creates opportunities for me to make more friends.” Singapore Cares is an agency that matches volunteers with beneficiary organizations according to their interest, availability and location.
Attended by over 6,500 volunteers, the event included recreational attractions like the zorb ball and waveboarding, as well as the V-Collage, which set the record as the largest volunteer-themed mural painted by the most number of volunteers in a single gathering. At the other end of the atrium, a large crowd pooled around the stage as singer Corrine May, talents from the Lee Wei Song School of Music and taiko drummers from SIA MINDS entertained.
One of the highlights of the evening was a performance by The Strikeforce, a street percussion band made up of over 20 youths. Bounding onto the stage with drums strapped to the front of their bodies, The Strikeforce percussionists were in top form as they put up their trademark rhythmic performance. As a voluntary band, The Strikeforce has performed both overseas and locally, at various charity events and national celebrations including the Chingay Parade and National Day Parade. One of the members, Liew Yong Qiang, 22, an undergraduate, said that he was most happy to be part of this event.
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“I feel that this event is very meaningful because other than saying a big thank-you to all the volunteers, it is also creates more awareness about volunteerism,” said Jimmy Oh, an event participant. “I particularly enjoyed the soothing vocals of Corrine May, the heart-warming choreography of Sign-A-Story by the hearing-impaired and the vibrant performance of The Strikeforce, which got us dancing and jumping to the beat.”
International Volunteers Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. It is now celebrated worldwide on Dec. 5 to recognize the contribution of volunteers as well as raise awareness of volunteerism in the local community.