updated 29 Dec 2011, 15:07
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Help kids grasp idea behind social initiatives
by Kwan Jin Yao

It was reported recently that non-profit organisation Social Change in Action organised a trip for a group of pupils to a village in Cambodia in June, where they taught the local schoolchildren the basics of personal hygiene.

Other initiatives by the organisation - which encourages children between the ages of nine and 14 to address social problems and promote change - include helping the elderly.

It is important for pupils to recognise their roles and responsibilities as stakeholders in the community from a young age, and the social initiatives would certainly yield tangible benefits for participants.

But one worry is that these children may merely be going through the motions, especially when they are part of a group. Therefore, it is necessary for teachers and organisers to design reflection exercises for them, so that they can make sense of their experiences.

Sharing sessions are a great way to find out what they have learnt from interacting with different people under different circumstances.

Also, the motivations behind social initiatives should be discussed. Increasingly, students at higher levels seem to be taking a pragmatic approach to performing community service - they see such projects as a way to boost their curriculum vitae.

Concerned with meeting targets, they lose sight of what's important - helping others.

It then comes as little surprise that their enthusiasm for and participation in social initiatives decline when they enter the workforce.

Granted, personal and work commitments make it more challenging for Singaporeans to dedicate time and effort to contribute to the community.

Still, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre should work on raising awareness of the ways in which young working professionals can contribute to society. For instance, it can design online portals to increase publicity for community projects, encourage households to sign up collectively for such initiatives, or come up with mentorship schemes for school projects.

Ultimately, children need to realise that helping others is a lifetime commitment. It would be a great pity if students' interest in community projects is nurtured in school, only to diminish in the long run.


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