Volunteering the family way

When it comes to giving back to society, Ms Krishnavani Veerappan believes it has to be a family affair.

For the past 10 years, she has roped in her son Sainiran Thanapal and daughter Santhiya as volunteers for the Singapore Indian Development Association’s reading programme, Project Read.

On July 7, Ms Veerappan received a gold award for her 10-year volunteer service while Santhiya, 15, received an award for her five years as a volunteer with the self-help group. They were part of the 81 volunteers who were honoured at SINDA’s Volunteers’ Tea held at Nanyang Polytechnic Auditorium on July 7.

The event, which is held every two years, was attended by Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean, chairman and life trustee of SINDA’s Board of Trustees, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Finance and Minister for Manpower Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and SINDA adviser Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, life trustees S. Dhanabalan and S. Chandra Das and SINDA’s president, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC Indranee Rajah.

In his speech Mr Teo noted that SINDA had more than 1,300 volunteers, with more than half being long-term volunteers.

“There were also 300 new volunteers, an encouraging sign that more people are coming on board to help out in this worthy cause,” he said.

Ms Veerappan told tabla! that she and her children get plenty of support for their volunteer work from her husband.

She added that her boss encourages her too. “My chief executive tells the team that we have to give back to society and I think it is important that all of us do, no matter what age we are. Volunteering is a passion and I hope more people will come on board and give some of their time to it,” said the training co-ordinator.

Santhiya added that she gets a tremendous amount of satisfaction from volunteering.

“Especially when I see improvements in the child I am reading to. It is a good feeling,” she said.

Another volunteer who was motivated by a family member to give back to society was 12-year-old Swarna Kalyanaraman (left). The NPS International student said that her father Kalyan Raman pushed her into spending some time on weekends reading to other children.

“He thought it would give me an opportunity to share my knowledge with other children and develop some leadership skills,” she said.

Swarna is one of the youngest volunteers to join the Eunos Community Centre’s Reading Circle in 2011 and currently is part of the Kaki Bukit Reading Circle.

Mr Raman, a management consultant, told tabla! that he learnt about the reading circles which are a part of Project Read from SINDA’s chief executive officer T. Raja Segar.

He explained that his older daughter, who was in the local school system, had plenty of opportunities to do community work and he wanted something similar for Swarna. Hence the push, albeit a strong one, into the reading programme.

“I think it is good exposure for Swarna to learn how to be a leader, be in a situation where she can gain confidence,” he said.

As for Swarna, the initial apprehension has passed and now she looks forward to her weekends where she spends a few hours reading to groups of children at the Kaki Bukit Reading Circle.

“I am having a lot more fun,” she said.

This article was first published in Asiaone