Active Agers Step Up As Volunteers To Help Disabled People

 Singapore, 28 November 2007 – 

  • Handbook to be launched to guide new volunteers on how to help and interact with disabled people
  • Plans in pipeline to engage more senior citizens in helping disabled people


Despite battling diabetes and having survived a stroke, Mr Jimmy Yeong is every bit an Active Ager.

At 60 years old, he is a picture of health with his trim figure and tanned looks.  He neither smokes nor drinks and exercises daily either swimming or working out on his exercise bike at home.

And when the semi-retired businessman is not engaged in either of these activities or at work, he spends his time helping disabled people.

Mr Yeong volunteers twice a week at the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD). A familiar face there since 2002, he encourages the clients undergoing occupational therapy and physiotherapy and helps people with physical disabilities in hydrotherapy at the nearby public pool. He is also a part of a group of volunteers who organises events so that physically disabled people have the opportunity to engage in new experiences.

The father of two grown boys aged 17 and 29 said, “Having recovered from my stroke in 2000, I know the journey of recovering is not easy. It is a long process and you need to be very determined. Now that I’ve gone through it, I want to use my experience to help others. I heard about SPD for some time already having been a donor and then a volunteer. Helping here has brought me so much more than I’ve given.”

He joins the likes of Mdm Han Kim Eng and Mr Lim Bong Tit, both volunteers above 50 years old, who choose to spend their time helping to improve the quality of life of disabled people instead of staying home. They assist in programmes at SPD and help to maximise the potential of disabled people, the mission of the society. Mdm Han visits the Day Activity Centre fortnightly with a group of volunteers from SOKA to befriend and engage in activities like singing and dancing with the clients, while Mr Lim comes to the Sheltered Workshop almost daily to help maintain the quality of the work produced by the trainees.

On average, SPD’s volunteer programme sees close to 10 volunteers passing through its doors everyday to provide assistance in various programmes. Last year, it had 285 registered volunteers who, along with more than 5,000 ad-hoc volunteers, clocked up close to 19,000 service hours at SPD.

For its annual Volunteer Appreciation Day which will take place on 1 December this year, volunteers have been invited to the movie screening of Enchanted at GV VivoCity, a Walt Disney movie about a fairy tale princess thrust into present-day and changing her view about life.

At the event to be graced by Mrs Tan Chee Koon, Chief Executive Officer of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), SPD will also be launching its first Volunteer Handbook, produced to help new volunteers orientate and ease into their role. It covers subjects like volunteer entitlements, do’s and don’ts, code of conduct, communication guidelines, and an introduction to wheelchairs and handling techniques.

“The book will be useful for those of us who want to help but don’t know how to. It will also help us feel a part of SPD by giving us tips to understand and be able to relate to disabled people, so we won’t feel so lost,” said Ms Chew Yiping, a 23-year-old student of SMU and a newly-enrolled volunteer with SPD.

“I congratulate SPD for building on its efforts to bring its volunteer management practices to new levels. Volunteers are an invaluable asset to resource-strapped non-profit organisations (NPOs) and wise is the NPO that invests effort and resources in building a volunteer-friendly culture as SPD has,” said Mrs Tan Chee Koon, CEO, NVPC.

For its efficiency and effectiveness in the area of volunteer management, SPD won the Non-Profit Organisation Award in 2006. This award is given by the NVPC to non-profit organisations in recognition of their practices in the management of volunteers, donors and resources.

SPD is planning to attract more elderly volunteers in 2008 to help in areas such as tuition, public education in schools, care-giving, befriending and providing administrative support.

Among its volunteers, 22 are aged 55 and above and they help in different ways from offering technical and administrative support to assisting in classes and outings.

“With the ageing population, there is a growing number of people who may have time on their hands and want to use it fruitfully. While providing this ready base of potential volunteers with a meaningful way to engage themselves, we hope to be able to help our people with disabilities achieve a better quality of life,” said Dr Ow Chee Chung, Executive Director of SPD.