Volunteerism is not only about packing hampers, lunch bags or cleaning homes — the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) is encouraging companies to take the lead in skill-based volunteerism by offering their professional expertise and experience in the corporate world to help groups of under-privileged individuals.
Research Director at IBM Research Collaboratory, Dr Ching-Hua Chen-Ritzo, designs algorithms at work, using mathematical equations to address real-world challenges. However, her mathematical skills also come in handy outside work.
As a volunteer tutor, she gives maths and science lessons to students from under-privileged families. And having supportive employers helps to get staff to chip in.
Dr Ching-Hua said: “The first time I volunteered to help, I told my manager that I need to take leave so that I can do this. And he wrote back to me and said, ‘You don’t need to take leave for this, this is a great cause, and we’re very thankful to you for doing this.’ And it just sets the tone.
“I just knew that if it’s something worth doing, I’ll make the time, I obviously manage my time, so that it doesn’t interfere with my work. It helps a lot to know that you’re not going to then have a manager who starts questioning why you’re spending so much time volunteering.”
President of the NCSS, Hsieh Fu Hua, hopes that more companies can lend a helping hand this way, by contributing their expertise or corporate experience for a good cause.
Mr Hsieh said: “Skill-based obviously plays to the strengths of the companies because companies bring not just products but skills, and it is their problem-solving that they have to do every day. It’s their range of resources, experience in whatever field. They can use that to actually try and find solutions for problems in society and of course, they do that in business because they actually try and find products that meet the needs of society.
“Now we’re saying, ‘look, look at this sector, the sector where the community is under-privileged, obviously. How can we find solutions to actually enhance or bring solutions to meet the needs of this segment?’ So that’s really intrinsic to any business.”
The council also wants to encourage companies to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
The Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore’s CEO Keh Eng Song said companies that have concerns about safety can apply for government funding to help build ramps in the office or even reconfigure the office environment.