Friday, December 6, 2013

A LITTLE HELP THAT CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE

Yesterday, 5 December was International Volunteers Day (IVD), a day set aside each year by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 1985 to celebrate the contributions made by volunteers, non-profit organizations and community groups to promote global peace and improve the quality of life.

Volunteerism is something that was instilled in us back in school. We joined various uniformed groups of our choice and learned about helping the needy and the less fortunate. As a girl guide and later a member of the school's Interact Club, I found community service to be rewarding in terms of the joy and personal satisfaction I derived from knowing that I had contributed in a small way to helping others.

It is sad to visit a nursing home and see frail elderly residents, bed-ridden, moaning in pain and waiting for their final days to come quickly.

Now as a retiree, I am happy to say that the spirit of volunteerism is still alive and thriving in me. And that is what led me to start Seniorsaloud - the realization that my friends and I, all newly retired, were now in a position to give back to society. We had the time, the energy and some money to do so. Since the majority of NGOs and volunteer groups preferred to support children and animal rights, and environmental causes, and hardly any NGO was interested in working with senior citizens' groups, Seniorsaloud would take up the challenge. It would be Seniorsaloud's raison d'etre to promote active ageing and lifelong learning for senior citizens. This would be the starting point towards preparing baby boomers like us for the retirement years.

Not an uncommon sight
- an elderly begging for alms in the city streets 
It is really not surprising that few NGOs and companies are interested in improving the welfare of the less fortunate elderly. Old folks are remembered only during the festive season, when companies pay visits as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme. Usually these are one-off visits, and the old folks are forgotten for the rest of the calendar year.

I may sound cynical, but this is the sad truth. Children and animals are far cuter and more cuddly than old wrinkled people, hands down. And there is a world of difference between changing the soiled diaper of an infant and that of a frail elderly person. There are two Children's Make A Wish Foundation in Malaysia, but no Elderly Persons' Make A Wish Foundation. Companies sponsor computer classes for children, but none even think of doing the same for senior citizens who are IT-illiterate.

Most old folks homes do not accept the elderly who have children, as their children are supposed to take care of their parents. The homes give priority to single and widowed elderly, and rightly so. But filial piety is in short supply these days, hence the growing problem of the homeless elderly.

Seniorsaloud is fortunate to have a small team of dedicated seniors who volunteer their time, energy and money to help organize events and activities for the seniors community. Whatever small amount we raise from these events is channeled towards helping less fortunate elderly.

For instance, last year Seniorsaloud was able to make two donations in kind, thanks to proceeds raised from our events. We bought provisions for the Tong Sim Old Folks Home in Old Airport Road. A big thank you to all the participants who made the donations possible.

Some of the provisions donated to Tong Sim Old Folks Home purchased with money raised from Seniorsaloud events.
Tong Sim Old Folks Home occupies the floor above a funeral parlour. The owner, Mr Cheong, is generous in offering shelter to the elderly who have been abandoned by their families. The more able among them look after the less able as there is no paid staff, only volunteers.

Seniorsaloud will continue to work towards raising money through our activities, and contributing our services and support to other charitable organizations who share the same mission and goals. We believe in encouraging seniors to keep themselves physically fit, financially secure and mentally sharp through living an active lifestyle and developing the right attitude towards life and all its challenges. In turn, they will be in a better position to help less fortunate seniors. Of course, we welcome any assistance across the board from any corporations and NGOs.

Seniorsaloud has volunteered at the NGOs listed below, and supported them either through promoting their activities and causes, or participating in their events. We encourage you to volunteer your services too.

(Top) Volunteers at Kechara Soup Kitchen in Imbi Road helping to dish out free lunch to the elderly and the needy.(Above) Packing food, raincoats and blankets to distribute to the homeless in the city.
(Left) Donations to help the elderly; (Right) Some members of Seniorsaloud team who volunteered at the official opening of the AUTORR Centre in Ampang.

If you are already an active volunteer with an NGO, but would like some help with recruiting more volunteers, do check out Do Good Volunteer (DGV). According to the website, DGV is a 'social initiative set up by The Star and Leaderonomics to serve as a meeting point for volunteers and organisations to find their match in the pursuit of doing good. On 1 August this year, the Do Good Academy was launched with the aim of helping NGOs run their organisation more effectively with a series of workshops conducted by experts on topics ranging from how to write effective proposals for grants to how to PR your organization. SeniorsAloud members have participated in and gained much from the workshops.

Do register for the above event if you would like to network with other NGOs and benefit from the workshops conducted specially to help NGOs function more effectively and sustainably. To register, click here.



Related articles:

The kitchen that feeds all who come (KECHARA SOUP KITCHEN)

A rest and recreation centre for our aged parents (AUTORR FOUNDATION)

A daycare centre that's like a second home (ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE FOUNDATION MALAYSIA)

Old and abandoned by their children (TONG SIM OLD FOLKS HOME)


2 comments:

Robyn Lee said...

Congratulations to SeniorsAloud on a wonderful effort.

Once I retired, I started volunteering as a marine radio operator for a local rescue organisation and also working in the office for U3A (University of the Third Age) of which I am a member. I needed to do something as my various other activities only take up so much time of the week so volunteering was the way to go and I really enjoy it.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

el-f said...

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones too, Robyn. Always delighted to hear from you. Glad to know that you are also a U3A member. Seniorsaloud has a link to U3A Malaysia through me - I administer their Facebook page. Small world indeed.