Making Time to Help Others

There is often so much going on in life that it is difficult to make time for loved ones or even enjoy some “me time”. It may thus seem unthinkable to even consider spending precious time on complete strangers. Yet volunteering is not only good for the community, it also does wonders for oneself.

There has been scientific evidence that volunteering has a causal relationship with happiness. A study in Social Science and Medicine conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics found that the more people volunteered, the happier they were. That sense of accomplishment that stems from doing good for others is a significant booster for self-confidence and self-esteem.

Aside from emotional fulfilment, volunteering also has other practical benefits. It brings people of diverse backgrounds together through team work and camaraderie, rendering each session an opportunity to network, make new friends and improve social skills. Depending on the type of volunteering you do and the organisation you volunteer for, the knowledge that can be obtained ranges from contacts for local resources to learning new skills to discovering your own hidden talents. You gain professional know-how like leadership and team building skills, and build on skills that you already have, such as organising activities.

With so much media limelight on the frontline volunteering, such as helping the underprivileged overseas, or rendering assistance in disaster zones, it is easy to forget that volunteering can also mean providing back-room support in administration or social media marketing, and also more casual and lighter activities. It is certainly possible to volunteer without taking leave from work or burning all your weekends.

First of all, decide how much time and how frequently you can commit. One hour a week, once a fortnight, once a month… you’re making a difference as long as you’re doing something for the community. But be responsible, give advance notice if you can’t turn up, and don’t come and go as you please. When organisations give volunteers the convenience of flexibility, they have lots of administration work to do in terms of planning and scheduling.

Next, consider working with organizations near home to save on travel time. This also reduces the inertia on rest days when you just want to hole up at home. Here are some organisations within the Bishan and Toa Payoh estates that welcome volunteers:

Alzheimer’s Disease Association (Singapore)
Blk 157 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh,
#01-1195, Singapore 310157
Tel: 6353 8734
Volunteer opportunities: http://www.alz.org.sg/join-the-cause

Care Corner
Blk 149 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh,
#01-973, Singapore 310149
Tel:  6250 6813
Volunteer opportunities: http://www.carecorner.org.sg/volunteer.html

Centre for Seniors
9 Bishan Place,
#10-02, Junction 8 Office Tower
Singapore 579837
Tel : 6478 5010
Volunteer opportunities: http://www.centreforseniors.org.sg/volunteer.htm

Home Nursing Foundation
93 Toa Payoh Central, # 07-01,
Toa Payoh Community Building,
Singapore 319194
Tel: 6252 5677
Volunteer opportunities: http://www.nkfs.org/be-a-volunteer.html

NTUC Eldercare
9 Bishan Place, #10-02,
Junction 8 Office Tower,
Singapore 579837
Tel: 6478 5482
Volunteer opportunities: http://www.ntuceldercare.org.sg/

9 Bishan Place,
Junction 8 (Office Tower),
#07-01, Singapore 579837
Tel:  6354 9340
Volunteer opportunities: http://www.myheart.org.sg/giving-and-helping/volunteers/5/11

(Note: Some of the above are main offices. Aside from back-end support, activities may be held elsewhere)

And not forgetting the Grassroots Organisations and Resident Committees that are made up of volunteers serving the residents to improve their quality of life. Together with the MPs, they help to reach out to those in need at the Meet-the-People Sessions and through activities for the less fortunate like food distribution exercises.

Choose something that you already know how to do, and enjoy doing. This would not only make your stint more enjoyable, but you get to spend less time learning the ropes. There is no lack of variety if you know where to look, and you’re bound to find something that would appeal to you. Here is our pick of lesser known volunteer activities in Singapore in recent months:

Karaoke coordinator: If you love singing, you would enjoy this activity that involves singing along with and cheering on patients at karaoke sessions, as well as assisting them with mobility issues to and from their wards to the activity areas.

Swimming coordinator: Swimmers can help build up the capacity and self-esteem in individuals with autism by assisting them with swim routines.

Hair grooming coordinator: Giving patients a simple hair cut may not be challenging for professional hair stylists and those in training, but they can surely take heart from lifting the spirits of the patients.

Super hero cosplayer: Morph into a real super hero by dressing up for fund raising.

Dance outreach: Put those K-pop dancing skills to good use by helping patients to improve psychomotor skills and breathe vibrancy into them.

Party planner / supporter / performer: Celebrate birthdays for beneficiaries by planning the party games, putting up a performance or just cheering them up with your presence.

To search for the above volunteer activities and more, visit the following websites:

http://www.healthnetcafe.com/community_sharing/be_a_volunteer.html
http://www.touch.org.sg/volunteer
https://www.sgcares.org/public/Volunteer/SGCares_P_Volunteer_Home.aspx

You can also check out some activities where you may be able to volunteer with your child. Volunteering with family members provides opportunities for bonding. Many volunteers bring their friends, or make new friends at the activities. Aside from increasing interaction, it also provides common ground.

Last but not least, regardless of your agenda, always volunteer with a genuine heart. Only then will you truly appreciate the beauty of this profound activity.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

Giving Others the Time of Your Day

“Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever? If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.” ― Mitch Albom, For One More Day.

Have you recently turned down a loved one’s request to spend time together or work together on something due to work or personal indulgence? You would be in the minority if you answered “no”, but you deserve a clap on the back for that. Time is a precious commodity and most of us, when we’re busy or thirsting for some time off, would rather invest the free time on ourselves. Yet it is this self-centredness that has been dulling bonds, brewing loneliness, mounting desires for relentless pursuit of material gains stemming from the void in the heart. No man is an island, and if you are stingy with time, you may find that you continue to struggle with making time for your endless individual commitments.

Professor Cassie Mogilnor of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School who studies happiness, once did an experiment to find out if giving time away made one feel that he had more time. The answer may seem obvious, but in fact, the experiment produced surprising results. The experiment was held over three occasions and the experiment subjects were divided into two groups. The first group were tasked with doing meaningful things for others in all experiments. The second group were asked to waste time on mundane tasks, to do something for themselves, and to do nothing in each of the three experiments. The first group always responded with a greater figure when asked how much time they could spare for another task, or expressed the feeling of having more time, in contrast to the second group. It was deduced that doing meaningful things for others made one feel more capable, confident and useful. This makes them feel that they can accomplish more in future, and less anxious about lack of time.

The next time someone asks for your time, don’t be so quick to turn them down with “I’m busy”. You don’t have to be free with your time, but you should be gracious with your time, while ensuring that you still have time for the other necessary things. Offer to help with the housework, go shopping with the significant other, spend time with your folks, be a companion to a troubled friend… You will discover that you aren’t as busy as you thought you are. The clock is always ticking, and work never ends. But relationships dull when neglected, and neither time nor people turn back if you don’t cherish the moments that matter most.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

Taking the right steps to become a sporting nation

When one thinks of sporting achievements, Singapore is certainly not one of the first countries to come to mind. After all, we feature less prominently in international sports events, and hosted few on our small island. About a decade ago, the thought of having a viable career in sports was laughable for most Singaporeans.

Yet in recent years, our island has been basking in the glitz and glamour of professional sportsmen and athletes. We have played host to renowned international events, including the Formula One World Championship since 2008, the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics, the annual Singapore Marathon, a Gold Label Road Race according to standards set by the International Association of Athletics Federations and the 2015 Southeast Asian Games. In the years to come, we will see more sports fans come to our shores for the likes of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, football friendlies and other regional games that will be held at our Sports Hub.

No doubt these events and the sports heroes who emerge from them are sources of inspiration for sports buffs. The Singapore Sports School, established in 2004, combines a secondary school curriculum with professional training in a student’s preferred sport, allowing aspiring athletes to pursue their dreams in the sporting arena. Several have gone on to do us proud in the global sports arena.

For those who pursue their love for sports on a more casual basis, the choices are staggering. There are numerous sports establishments and exercise corners that can be used for cheap or free, stadiums including the new Singapore Sports Hub with a capacity of 50,000 along with more sports facilities like gyms, swimming complexes and large parks with jogging and cycling tracks. It is almost strange to not come across a jogger on a daily basis. Office workers are even spotted in their exercise gear running down Orchard Road or the Central Business District during off working hours.

Clearly, our infrastructure for becoming a sporting nation is visibly taking shape after decades of hard work, making good progress with Vision2030, the national goal of achieving the spirit of living better through sports. For skeptics who thought Vision2030 and the rapidly growing interest in sports are yet another product of Singapore’s attempt to milk tourism dollars, they cannot be further from the truth.

According to SCC Sports Museum, official records of matches and tournaments can be traced back to colonial times. In an era when communication was mainly through letters and telegrams, these sporting events functioned as leisure activities for the Colonials to make bearable, the long wait of news from home. The colonials brought in their own sports through the establishment of sports clubs, inspiring Asian immigrants to do the same. Soon, various communal clubs had sprouted up, including the Chinese Swimming Club, the Indian Association and the Ceylon Sports Club.

As the various ethnic groups became more integrated, sports clubs became less community-specific and more sports-centric. Associations for specific sports were formed, such as the Singapore Rifle Association, Football Association of Singapore and the Singapore Rugby Union. These would later become part of the current National Sports Associations (NSA). To cater to the growing interest in sports, the British began building public sports facilities from the 1930s.

In 1965 when Singapore became an independent nation, the government called for sports participation to build a rugged and robust society. A Sports Division was created in the Ministry of Social Affairs in 1966 to boost the promotion of sports, followed by the establishment of the National Sports Promotion Board (NSPB) in 1971. There was also the National Stadium Corporation (NSC) formed to operate and manage the National Stadium. Eventually, all these efforts were consolidated under the Singapore Sports Council (SSC). The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth continues to oversee the incorporation of sports in the Singapore culture.

The decision to encourage sports participation in an era of instability was truly sound. Sports transcend borders, and it is a great way to encourage bonding between people of all walks of life. From individuals to neighbours to schools to companies, sport fuels the competitive spirit, while encouraging team building, camaraderie and strategising. It is also an excellent nurturer of important values like perseverance and integrity. On a personal basis, it improves personal wellness, makes one look good and be confident, and helps relieve stress through the release of endorphins, a feel-good substance that induces euphoria and well-being.

In Singapore, there is the added incentive of being rewarded for kicking-start a fitness routine. Registering with ActiveSG, one can receive $100 credits to offset fees for participating sports programmes and facilities in participating sports centres, schools and the new Singapore Sports Hub.

Some facilities in the Bishan-Toa Payoh area covered under this incentive include:
– Bishan Sports Centre, 5 Bishan Street, home to ActiveSG Gym and Bishan Sports Hall
– Bishan Stadium, 7 Bishan Street 14
– Bishan Swimming Complex, 1 Bishan Street 14
– Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, 301 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
– Toa Payoh Stadium, 297 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, also containing the Toa Payoh Petanque Courts
– Toa Payoh Sports Hall, 297A Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
– Toa Payoh Sports Centre, 301 Toa Payoh Lor 6 which also houses an ActiveSG gym and swimming complex

For those who fancy working out in the open greenery, there’s always the Bishan ACTIVE Park and Toa Payoh Town Park. In fact, an integrated town park plan in Toa Payoh is currently in the works to bring together the park, library and stadium. Not to mention, the numerous fitness corners dotting the neighbourhood estates. Additionally, community sports events are frequently organised by the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, free for residents to participate in, such as the Community Sports Festival that included a Mass Walk, Soccer Clinic, Beach Volleyball Clinic and Mass Zumba. Residents are encouraged to check out your notice boards regularly for information on these activities.

The more adventurous who wish to challenge their limits can partake in the numerous marathons in Singapore, many which are annual and feature professional runners worldwide. Marathons in the last quarter of the year include The Standard Chartered Marathon, The North Face 100 and Swissôtel Vertical Marathon. A regularly updated calendar of marathons can be found on http://www.runsociety.com

It seems that slowly but surely, the presence of our little red dot will grow on the world stage of sports.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine for Bishan-Toa Payoh residents.