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'Give staff time off for volunteer work'

Young people, youth workers say schools, firms can help boost social involvement

'Give staff time off for volunteer work'

COMPANIES should give employees days off to do voluntary work, said participants of the first Our Singapore Conversation with the youth sector yesterday.

About 100 representatives of various organisations and social enterprises discussed what motivates the young and the challenges they face in creating social change.

They felt that schools and organisations should help students and employees become more involved in the community such as programmes to help people identify interests and causes that they want to champion.

"If they are doing something they are interested in, they will identify with and have a sense of belonging to that volunteer group," said undergraduate Wong Chong Jun, 25, who attended yesterday's dialogue at *Scape Warehouse in Orchard Link.

The participants, who were split into eight groups, also said mindsets needed to change. They felt that more had to be done to help youngsters focus on the purpose of volunteering.

For instance, students should be given time and space to come up with activities instead of merely carrying out compulsory community involvement projects. "They shouldn't be volunteering for the sake of it," said Mr Farhan Mohammed, 27, president of youth organisation Voluntarius. "Instead, we should be encouraging them to develop a heart for community."

Yesterday's event was organised by the National Youth Council. Its chairman, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, agreed that mindsets needed to change. But he added that it takes time to bring about "fundamental changes".

Mr Wong said: "It's a lot about engagement and communication, and getting people to understand why we are doing certain things."

He added: "We'll get it right if we give enough support, resources and empowerment to the next generation. We can change mindsets and norms and move forward to a more vibrant and inclusive society."

Last month, a survey commissioned by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre showed that more people are volunteering in Singapore than ever before.

The poll, which has been carried out every two years since 2000, sampled 1,500 respondents aged 15 and above.

It found that one in three now helps out for a good cause - the first time the proportion has crossed the 30 per cent threshold.

COMING FROM THE HEART

They shouldn't be volunteering for the sake of it... Instead, we should be encouraging them to develop a heart for community.

- Mr Farhan Mohammed, 27, the president of youth organisation Voluntarius

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