Community spirit and volunteerism

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.

– SHERRY ANDERSON, CANADIAN CURLER

Disasters, natural or man-made will always be a part of the cycle of life.

The efforts to mitigate and alleviate the suffering of people after a disaster is very important. One such often underrated and underreported mitigation efforts are those by volunteers.

Volunteerism is defined as the practice of being an individual volunteer or of using volunteers, without pay, in social agencies, charitable organisations or NGOs.

It is basically the principle of donating time and energy to benefit other people in the community as a social responsibility rather than for any financial reward.

The spirit of volunteerism the world over have always played an essential role in minimising the negative impacts of disasters.

In many cases, volunteers are the first on-site to render immediate assistance and aftercare support.

The vital role of volunteers again came to the forefront during the recent flooding in various parts of Malaya.

It is estimated that a total of 210 areas across Malaya were submerged, with inhabitants trapped by rising floodwaters.

Houses and roads were submerged. There was a desperate need for supplies such as food and clean drinking water. It was reported that the flood victims experienced hunger and the cold. Some even lost their homes and their lives.

The dreadful situation was further made worse by the persistent pandemic where a vast number of people have little income and savings to restore their lives. They were left to pick up the pieces themselves.

These victims of the floods needed help immediately.

Fortunately, there was an outpouring of support from the community. Many NGOs and individuals stepped forward while waiting for government agencies to get their lethargic machinery into action.

In a potent act of solidarity, many good Samaritans offered their support through donation drives and by carrying out a range of kind acts to help lessen the victims’ misfortunes.

It was heartening to see the many videos on social media showing Malaysians coming out in force to extend help to those affected by ruinous floods, especially in the Klang Valley.

I was glad to see many people from the Sikh community among those who volunteered to send aid. It is one of the three primary principles of Sikhism — to serve others.

For me, it was even more pleasing to see Malaysians from all walks of life coming together in the Sikh gurdwaras. They were packing, cooking, loading and distributing food together as one community.

A representative of the gurdwara said, “There is equality here. Everyone is working in harmony and it is beautiful to see after such a difficult time.”

While there were attempts by some quarters to drive a wedge into this community spirit, it is fortunate these attempts were lampooned by right-minded people.

These volunteers were bound by collective empathy and generosity, for the unfortunate souls in times of desperate need by flood victims.

This is proof that Malaysians at their core and community level do share a perpetual and resilient communal spirit, despite the continuous attempts by some quarters to split them up.

It is noteworthy to see that these devastating floods incident galvanised Malaysians to help one another, irrespective of their race or religion, in times of dire need.

However, why wait for such disasters to happen to galvanise our diverse peoples?

Our politicians need to always work towards bringing people together and not divide the communities rather than coming up with laws, rules and policies to divide our people.

If you are unable to volunteer, do help to support the efforts made by volunteers via donations of items required to help them achieve the necessary community objectives.

Being a volunteer is the essence of being a human. We have all at one time or another helped someone to make it through life. We have also all been at the receiving end of someone else’s help to make it through our lives.

Do step up and be a volunteer during normal times as well as challenging times. It contributes towards the building of a resilient community that will see us through thick and thin.

Together with some friends, I have had the privilege of volunteering in various organisations on a sustained basis, be it at the regular weekend blood donations for the past many years or the COVID-19 vaccination centre last year for nine months.

I can assure you voluntarism helps to make our community a better place.

It is our community that becomes the beneficiary of your voluntary efforts.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune. 

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