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!


Rise in the number of donations in Singapore

Charitable giving has been growing steadily in Singapore.

Finance Minister of State Josephine Teo said there are measures put in place to encourage the well-off to contribute more.

These include tax benefit for donations to approved charities was increased from 200 to 250 per cent in 2009.

And the government also provides matching grants for donations to institutes of higher learning and the long-term care sector.

There are also non-tax measures to increase giving.

Liang Eng Hwa, MP, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, said: “While philanthropy have increased in Singapore over time, when compared to many countries, we are still lagging behind in charitable giving and generosity.

“If the World Giving Index 2011 published by Charities Aid Foundation is any indication, Singapore was ranked number 91 in the world.

“In the whole of ASEAN, Singapore was just ahead of Vietnam but behind neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.”

Mrs Teo said: “Just like to clarify that the methodology used in the construction of the World Giving Index 2011, or WGI, actually understates the level of charitable giving in Singapore.

“The WGI measures the percentage of people who donated and volunteered a month before the survey was conducted.

“An alternative study, done by the NVPC, the Individual Giving Survey, tracks giving over the full year.

“In 2010, the survey found that 85 per cent of the Singapore population contributed money while 23 per cent volunteered time in 2010. This is significantly higher than the 41 per cent and 11 per cent recorded under the WGI.”

– Source: CNA

He cheers up morning crowd

He clears trays, fetches high chairs for toddlers and guards over spills until they are cleaned.

He does everything a cleaner at McDonald’s is supposed to do.

Except that he isn’t a cleaner.

He does it all willingly, and for free, just to set an example for others that they should clear their trays.

Mr Dauglas Sim, 53, who according to his website is a consultant and a trainer in ministry work, once worked in McDonald’s for a few years. More than 20 years later, he still feels a connection.

For the past five years, he has been turning up at between 5am and 6am at the fast-food chain’s outlet in Northpoint Shopping Centre at Yishun Avenue 2 to clear tables.
Mr Sim helping a customer open the door to the outlet.

He said: “After being in the service business, it’s become second nature for me to clean up.”

“Only in Singapore do people not clear their trays after they’re done,” he added. “I want to be an example for other Singaporeans.”

Mr Sim, who is single, lives in a three-room flat just opposite Northpoint, making it convenient for him to report for “work” at the 24-hour outlet.

When The New Paper arrived at the outlet at 7am on Tuesday, Mr Sim was already hard at work.

He had placed his belongings – books, breakfast and a hat – on one table at his usual corner of the restaurant.

Another hat, a small umbrella attached to a harness, sat atop his head as he went about clearing trays, often with a coffee cup in hand.

He had bought his usual coffee and muffin set from the restaurant.

Amuses kids

When parents with small children entered, he immediately pulled out high chairs or offered McDonald’s balloons to the kids.

He would go about “working” for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, between free refills of coffee and retreats to his seat for more bites of breakfast.

By 9am, it was time for a well-deserved break.

Mr Sim changed his T-shirt and settled into his chair with the day’s newspapers.

He said he had been doing these acts of kindness for some time, but not exclusively at the Yishun outlet.

He said: “I’ll do this at McDonald’s in Ang Mo Kio or Yishun. Wherever I am. Even at Burger King, KFC, and Delifrance.”

A McDonald’s spokesman said Mr Sim has been a regular customer “for a number of years” and noted that he takes great pleasure in helping other customers.

Said the spokesman: “(Mr Sim) often insists that he is happy to do these things, in spite of offers to help from our crew… As Mr Sim seems happy and is just trying to be helpful, we do not stop him.”

Mr Sim said he gets job offers all the time – the McDonald’s spokesman said they had invited him to apply for a job with the company – but that he prefers to manage his own business.

As his income varies depending on bookings, his sister, an accounts officer, helps out with bills for his house, Internet and telephone to the tune of $500 a month.

Regulars’ favourite

Mr Sim appears to have earned the affection of regulars at the McDonald’s Northpoint branch.

A 39-year-old housewife who is at the restaurant every day and gave her name as Ms Zai said: “Kids normally like him. He’s very cute and makes them laugh”.

He amuses patrons with his various hats – he said he has eight. They include a farmer’s hat and a cowboy’s hat.

Added Ms Zai: “Sometimes when I have a stressful day, I come in and see how jovial he is. It makes me smile and makes my day.”

Another customer, a retiree in his 70s who gave his name as Mr Chew, said MrSim “does everything except take out the trash”.

He added: “Sometimes I’m a bit dizzy and he’ll help my carry my tray. It’s wonderful that he’s willing to help.”

Mr Sim denies being over-enthusiastic, though.

“I might be crazy. But the right kind of crazy, not the wrong kind,” he said, before high-fiving a customer.

Source: The New Paper