Justin stumbled upon the #volunteerlife and discovered the joys of giving back to the younger generation.
Justin (25) has been volunteering for the past three years. However, three years ago, he would not have imagined himself as a volunteer, much less a volunteer leader.
His first encounter with volunteering was in 2015, when a friend invited him to an event called “You Matter”, organised by a student group called Caretalyst SIM. It was a yearly appreciation effort for service staff such as migrant workers, bus drivers and cleaners. He was apprehensive to join them because he just started University and was working part time after classes then.
Although he was ‘afraid of commitment…’ (as he himself quipped), something moved in his heart when he showed up for the event.
“They were touched by our actions and genuinely happy… seeing them smile made me want to continue giving back.”
The little group of students gave out goodie bags and words of encouragement to over 300 service staff in total that day, and Justin enjoyed his first volunteering stint. However, he was still having doubts about whether he should volunteer with this group.
Friendships – his biggest gain
But upon his seniors’ steady encouragements, he decided to stay on and that was how he started. “There were challenges along the way, but I overcame it with the support from friends.” He told them he would do his minimum to stay in the CCA group, as student groups like these were not compulsory in University. The leaders intentionally created a special role of “subcommittee” for him so he could serve in a smaller capacity. However, he later found out that he was the only subcommittee member in the group. As time went by, he formed deep friendships with this group beyond volunteering and the bonds are strong even till today.
One turning point in his volunteering journey was when their student group visited Yangon in 2016 for the first time. They visited two orphanages, taught and gave out supplies to over 60 children. This was the breakthrough year when he took over the responsibility of becoming President of the student group and led the CCA for another year. Even after graduation, the team continued to plan and carry out a Harry Potter themed party for children from Woodlands Care Corner in Singapore. This year, the team planned a Children’s Day party for an orphanage in Batam. The sole purpose of these activities? To bring joy and smiles to these little ones.
Justin shares the reason behind his passion for children as a cause. He grew up in a typical Asian family where his parents were more passive in showing their love. Because of that, he could understand how unexpressed love might cause a child to feel unwanted and insecure. “Often, extroverted or “loud” behaviour is a cover-up for their low self-esteem. Because of this personal experience, I feel empathy for children, especially those who might have had the same experience as me.”
Valuable skills and experiences
Through planning different volunteer events, Justin grew in project management skills, such as event planning and publicity, and bringing his team members towards the same goal. He has gained leadership skills, as he took a deeper interest in the lives of others. This is credited as helping with his current job as a software engineer, where he has connected with colleagues in the workplace beyond deadline completions.
Joy of volunteering
This journey has also taught Justin many precious life lessons, that he could count on, especially during hard times. The different experiences have brought him to places he would not usually go to. These interactions shaped his perspective: especially on being content and appreciative of life.
Justin encourages any others who might be in his shoes 3 years back. “As long as there’s an interest, just try it out first! Don’t worry about the future and take it one step at a time, then see if you like it.”
He continues excitedly, “You can either find a friend who is currently volunteering or simply search for volunteering opportunities online. You just need to have an interest for it.”