Earth Hour 2012 Official Video

This Earth Hour 2012: 8.30pm, Saturday 31 March, celebrate your action for the planet with the people of world by switching off your lights for an hour, then go beyond the hour.

From its inception as a single-city initiative — Sydney, Australia – in 2007, Earth Hour has grown into a global symbol of hope and movement for change. Earth Hour 2011 created history as the world’s largest ever voluntary action with people, businesses and governments in 135 countries across every continent coming together to celebrate an unambiguous commitment to the one thing that unites us all — the planet.

Initiatives to promote volunteerism, social enterprises

President Tony Tan Keng Yam (second from left) at the launch of this year's President's Challenge

President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Tuesday announced two new elements to the President’s Challenge 2012, to expand its scope beyond fundraising.

These include the President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive and President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Award.

The initiatives are aimed at encouraging people to go beyond money and give time, talent and business acumen to help the less fortunate.

Laksania, a social enterprise, trains and employs beneficiaries who were formerly from the Institute of Mental Health.

And to encourage the setting up of more of such social enterprises, a President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Award was announced.

This is to recognise outstanding social enterprises which are innovative and have made significant contributions to help the disadvantaged in the community.

This will be the only award within the social enterprise sector in Singapore that provides recognition to outstanding social enterprises, for their contributions made to the social service sector.

The award will have three categories – Social Enterprise Start Up of the Year, Youth Social Enterprise of the Year and Social Enterprise of the Year.

This year’s President’s Challenge will also include a Volunteer Drive to promote volunteerism.

The National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre will work with corporations, institutions, community and charitable organisations to raise awareness of the impact of volunteering. They will also create more volunteering opportunities within communities.

President Tan said: “Our traditional charities and voluntary welfare organisations are still very important and should be supported. Young people have new ideas, new outlets for energy and I think that volunteerism and social enterprise will reinforce the value of the President’s Challenge.

“If you can do all of this, then this will encourage Singaporeans to give, I hope not only their money, which is important, but also of themselves, of their talents, their time, their enterprise, and together we will build an inclusive, caring and engaged society in Singapore.”

The President’s Challenge will be raising funds for 55 social service organisations this year, up from the 39 last year.

Source: CNA

Firms giving staff time off to do volunteer work


By Tay Suan Chiang

Business planning and development manager Lee Chen Chuen takes up to three days of leave annually for volunteering activities such as building homes for needy families in Batam.

The time-off does not come from his annual leave but from the volunteer service leave granted by his employer, Standard Chartered Bank.

‘Regardless of how busy we are at work, having three days of volunteering leave allows me to take some official time off to make a small but significant contribution to the community,’ said Mr Lee, 32.


‘Regardless of how busy we are at work, having three days of volunteering leave allows me to take some official time off to make a small but significant contribution to the community.’

Standard Chartered business planning and development manager Lee Chen Chuen

The desire to help staff do good has spurred more companies to approve special leave to let employees take part in the firms’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes or other volunteering efforts. These companies tend to be large ones, from investment firms to banks to multinational companies. Most give two to three days of volunteer service leave.

Source: The Straits Times

10 tips when volunteering overseas

When volunteering overseas, there are a few things one needs to do before you set out on your trip. Here’s some tips from the Singapore International Foundation.

If you’re thinking about volunteering overseas over a weekend or a few months, here are 10 top tips by our friends at the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) before you make that trip that could be your adventure of a lifetime:

Enhancing new-born services – SIF volunteers training medical personnel at the Intensive Care Unit for newborns at Chengalpattu Medical College and Hospital in India.

1) Passport validity ­­– Many may think this is a ‘no-brainer’, but it is often overlooked. Before you apply for any volunteer trip, do ensure that your passport is valid for at least another six months or more (depending on the length of your volunteer stint).

2) Visa requirements ­­– The organisation that you will be volunteering with should be able to advise. However, it is always a good practice to check with the destination country’s consulate or embassy for accuracy. Do give yourself ample time for visa applications.

3) Travel insurance ­­– Need we say more? Insure thyself!

4) Medication & vaccination ­­– Ask your doctor about the country you will be visiting and what vaccination you should take prior. Ensure that you bring along sufficient dosages of medication (i.e. those that you are prescribed on, as well as the generic paracetamol, anti-diarrhoea pills, mosquito spray, etc) as medical services or supplies may not be easily available in the areas you volunteer in.

5) Cultural sensitivities ­­– Equipping yourself with some basic knowledge of cultural sensitivities (i.e. the do’s and don’ts) could save you a whole lot of hassle. For example, in Laos where an encounter with a monk on the street is a regular event, it is considered inappropriate to have any form of physical contact with him. This is especially so for women.

6) Register with foreign missions ­­– In today’s unpredictable world, you never know when a natural disaster may strike, or riots may break. In the event of emergency or crisis, the foreign missions will be able to locate you and provide necessary assistance. If you’re a Singapore citizen, you can e-register at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

Water for Life – SIF volunteers building water filters in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

7) Learn basic foreign language terms ­­– Don’t assume English is the primary language of communication in your volunteer destination. Learn local words like, “hello”, “toilet”, “restaurant”, “hotel”, “hospital” and “thank you”. They will come in very handy and may also score you some brownie points with the locals.

8) Business card of your hotel/lodging ­­– In line with the previous tip, always bring along a business card of your selected accommodation for directions. The locals will be less bewildered, and you may save on unnecessary taxi fare!

9) Food & water conditions­­ – Avoid tap water and uncooked foods in developing countries. Our sanitised stomachs don’t usually take very well to local water and food conditions. Go with bottled water and ensure that your food is always thoroughly cooked.

10) Local currency ­­– Some local currencies may not be available for exchange in Singapore. Always check with your host organisation on foreign currency matters.

Above all, volunteer with a trusted organisation that has a strong track record in overseas work.  Keeping an opened mind is key to a satisfying volunteering experience. Enjoy the adventure!