Monday, March 25, 2013

Volunteer Options

I have been mulling over my volunteer options recently. While I was in Singapore, I had volunteered for around a decade between a teenaged girls' shelter and the Children's Cancer Foundation. [Click here and here.] But I had to quit volunteering by the mid-2000's due to the ridiculous demand that my I.T. management made on my time.

Before I launch right into rebuilding my career in Canada, I would like to commit myself to some volunteer assignments. After all, I would like to live a balanced life by allocating my time between:
  • Work (e.g. working as a registered nurse when I receive a job offer), 
  • Personal pursuits (e.g. getting a B.C. driving licence and learning French), 
  • Voluntary service to the community (see more below), 
  • Social time (e.g. hanging out with friends and social groups), 
  • Leisure time (e.g. catching movies, dabbling in creativity/arts, blogging, surfing the internet, simply lazing around and watching the world go by).
The thing is, given my broad range of interests, it is really hard for me to decide which areas and what projects to volunteer for. 
That said, I had once volunteered for a televised fund raising event with a Vancouver-based ethnic/cultural group. However, I have decided not to volunteer with them going forward because I would prefer to be serving a wider community (i.e. not limited by linguistic/cultural demarcation). 
Here some options that I have thought of.
  1. Vancouver Arts Gallery. I volunteered recently for the Family FUSE Weekend. It was a busy but fulfilling day. Plus Sherry, the Volunteer Coordinator, was really friendly, supportive and encouraging.
  2. Theatre production groups. I have been involved on-and-off in a couple of Vancouver theatre productions during my 2+ years here. In fact, between 16th to 23rd Mar-2013, I volunteered at several shows for a fabulous theatre production in downtown Vancouver. Theatre always holds a special place in my heart because of its impact on my life.
  3. MOSAIC immigration settlements services "Host - Culture Connections". I have previously spoken with the co-ordinator for the "Host - Culture Connections" programme, the chances of me being accepted as a host is pretty high.
  4. MOSAIC immigration settlements services "Workplace Connections Mentoring Program" (after I have eased into an RN job). Last month (Feb-2013), I had an opportunity to meet and share my experience of returning to nursing with some IENs (internationally educated nurses) who were taking a professional-English course at Kwantlen. Given my experience as an IEN who has undergone CRNBC's SEC (Substantially Equivalent Competency assessment), Kwantlen's GNIE nursing re-entry program (Graduate Nurse, Internationally Educated re-entry program), passed the CRNE (Canadian Registered Nurse Exam) and obtained my B.C. nursing registration; other newly arrived IENs may be interested in my experience. 
  5. Joining groups that support vulnerable populations. In 2011 and 2012, I had the privilege of sitting in (as a trusted guest, thanks to the reputation of the group I represented) at a couple of sharing sessions run by an LBGT refugee support group. That started me thinking about working/volunteering with vulnerable-population support-groups. On a separate note, I made a donations-in-kind at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre recently. I arrived late in the afternoon (almost closing time) on a grey and gloomy Vancouver day. The moment I stepped through the entrance, I was struck by the contrast between the weather outside and the buzz inside. I immediately felt that it was a place that was providing important support to this vulnerable population. That got me thinking once again about volunteering with these or other similar groups.
  6. [Addendum on 25-Mar-2013 as per suggestion by reader Chrono, see comments below.] Urban farming or sustainability groups. My late-paternal grandfather was a poor farmer in China before he travelled to Singapore (南洋 Nanyang) to make a living. I think it would be an interesting completion of a cycle if I do pick up farming skills. As for sustainability, my friend EM works on sustainability design with an architect firm. I always thought that her work is very interesting and meaningful. I am somewhat guarded with regards to environmentalist groups though, mainly because I do not feel comfortable with the aggressive, confrontational, media-attention-seeking and sometimes destructive approach taking by groups such as PETA. 我不想做个不合理的人。 [I don't want to be an unreasonable person.]
  7. Ad-hoc volunteer services that utilize my linguistic, computer, nursing and/or other skills. E.g. Becoming an Emergency Volunteer. Within a month of landing in Canada, I sought to volunteer with various groups since I heard that it was a good way to network and become integrated into the Canadian society. My first application was turned down because I was "too new" in Canada and I was advised to apply again when I became more "settled down" (e.g. at least 3-6 months later). Another of my application proceeded past the point of Criminal Record Check and I was called up for a final follow-up interview to determine my actual volunteer placement assignment. A day before the follow-up interview I received a call that my interview has been postponed due to the interviewer going on an unplanned extended leave. Thus, I was advised to wait some months until the replacement was available and had adjusted into his/her new job. I did not follow-up with that volunteer opportunity.
As you can tell from the above, I am pretty much undecided at the moment. That said, over brunch on Sunday (yesterday) with a social group, I have just committed myself to playing a part in organizing a regional gathering to be held next year (2014). 


  1. Hi WD,

    Have you considering doing volunteering work in environmental field? It could be a good direction to to try.


    1. Hi Chrono,

      Thanks for your interesting suggestion! My friend EM works on sustainability design with an architect firm. I always thought that her work is very interesting and meaningful. OK, another option to add onto my list. Hahah :-D

      Cheers, WD.

  2. Well, I'm sure there are less aggressive groups around. Afterall, it's mainly those who are aggressive that get into the news. Do blog about your volunteering experience as I'm sure it'll be an interesting experience to read about.

    Volunteering in Singapore is still evolving and while there are dedicated volunteers around, I still feel that a lot of volunteers we are seeing treat volunteering as a pros/cons proposition, especially students.


    1. Hi Justin,

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

      > it's mainly those who are aggressive that get into the news

      I agree.

      As for blogging about my volunteering experience, it depends on what areas I volunteer in. Any sharing will be subjected to constraints of respecting personal privacy and client confidentiality. This is especially true when servicing vulnerable populations, such as clients of the teenage girls' shelter where I volunteered while in Singapore.

      IMHO, the development of volunteerism in Singapore faces serious challenges; from the commonplace long work hours (which leave individuals with little personal time for other pursuits) to the competitive kiasu, kiasi, kia-boh culture. Thus it is not surprising to see that "a lot of volunteers ... are seeing/treating "volunteering as a pros/cons proposition" . Thank goodness for the "dedicated volunteers around".

      Once again thanks for your comments and keep them coming.

      Cheers, WD.

    2. Hi WD,

      Yet it's these aggressive organisation that catch people attention. With the advent of the internet, information is so easily available to everyone that information overload and shorter attention span is affecting many people these days, aggressive groups do have their part to play although there is a risk that they will divert attention from other groups.

      Yup, definitely agree on the privacy and confidentiality issues but I'm sure that you will be able to write and share about your experiences without infringing on it.

      As for volunteering in Singapore, it's quite sad but this is the reality on the ground. The paper chase is well and alive despite the changes being implemented to the education system. Society has a part to play for such a sad mindset because it takes 2 hands to clap. And with the end result that volunteering is mainly used for padding CV for people here.

      Of course, as you mentioned, the long working hours in Singapore is a huge damper on any individual pursuit of personal interests. Seriously, I would wish that the government change the law to bring the work hours from 44hrs/week down to 40hrs/week for a start. It's not as though that working longer means we are more productive. Statistics has proven otherwise with our productivity so low over the years. I personally can feel the difference, having worked in a 44 hours work week in my previous company and now in a 40 hours work week in my current job (not including OT since I do OT when necessary in both jobs). Some people might say that 4 hours may be little but somehow, I felt that I have more personal time to myself. This will definitely help free up time for people to pursue their own interests but I doubt our government will dare to make such a change.

      The stupid kiasu, kiasi, kia-boh culture is really a pain in the ass for our society. Just encountering such behaviour in my daily life really irritates me to no end. It's no wonder we are being taken for the ride by our government as well as for our society lacking any identity and so sheep-like. Scare of this, scare of that, how to even get things done.

      I really do hope a volunteering culture can take root in Singapore, for I believe this is what make a society/nation great though it will really need a substantial change in mindset with everyone in Singapore.


    3. Hi Justin,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience.

      > I really do hope a volunteering culture can take root in Singapore... though it will really need a substantial change in mindset with everyone in Singapore.

      Sometimes I feel that many in my generation (middle-aged Singaporeans) are lost cause. Those older (e.g. blogger "Feed Me To The Fish" and "Gintai") and younger (e.g. blogger "Kristen Han") seem to be the real torch bearers for the "hope of change" in Singapore. At least these folks think of issues beyond their personal daily bread-and-butter.

      In addition, I am glad that there were 5,000 folks who attended the recent Hong Lim protest against the 6.9 million population white paper. 5,000 Singaporeans who are no longer apathetic could spell hope for change.

      Cheers, WD.

    4. Hi WD,

      I think it's not fair to generalise the different generations. All generations has their own fair share of the apathetic people.

      I have seen enough of apathetic people from all ages who just don't look beyond their own bread-and-butter and who feels that as long as the issue don't affect them, then they wouldn't care. At times, when interacting with them, it's very frustrating and sad.

      I definitely salute those bloggers as well as oppositions who are willing to step forward to seek changes for the rest of us, especially those meek sheep. I wish them luck and give them my support.

      Yeah, I'm quite surprised with the number of people who turned up for the protest as I was expecting a much smaller numbers from meek Singaporeans. It proves that some hope do exist for us although I wonder is there still time for us to effect change as a nation. Looking forward to the second protest on 1st May.