Which brings me to the topic, youth volunteering in Malaysia. We lack exposure and initiative when it comes to giving our time and energy to help. The majority of youths nowadays prefer to loiter in shopping malls with their friends or stay in the confines of their homes in front of a flat screen, as opposed to getting out there and sweating it out. Most college students volunteer because they are required to fulfill certain hours of community service to pass a subject, and their reluctance becomes eminent when they try to do as little work as possible.
I try to spend some time volunteering to do some community or environmental work every month. It’s a humbling experience, knowing that there are people out there who have been shoved around and given the short stick in life but are still struggling to achieve their dreams. Their experiences move you and at times, you marvel at how strong they are, how it is that they can grit their teeth through tough times and eventually emerge as a winner. You get a glimpse of humanity. You’re touched when you hear their stories, of how the family members and friends support the handicapped individual. You see a wife guiding her blind husband and you can just see the love evident between them. Yes, you get to experience the beauty of life, and it renews your faith in humanity.
When you volunteer, you obtain new skills. At times, you’re thrown out of your comfort zone. Learning how to adapt and perform your best in new situations is a skill that is very useful, whether in daily life or at work. You’ll also gain knowledge that may be beneficial to you. If I hadn’t spent a whole morning in a home for handicapped individuals, I would never have known that a person with stunted muscle growth may look around the age of 4 at the age of 20. If I had never helped out in a community eye check, I would never have known that the Chinese have the highest risk of getting Glaucoma, an eye disease which causes irreversible blindness. Similarly, if I’d never volunteered to build a shelter at an Orang Asli village, I wouldn’t be able to fashion a brick out of mud, water and coconut husks now.
And then there’s the plus point that you get to meet and interact with people who have this mindset of helping improve our community and preserve our environment. Since volunteering, I’ve expanded my social circles and met a whole bunch of friends whom I know will always be there when I need help. A wealth of knowledge can be gained from each individual as we all come from different backgrounds and varying walks of life. It expands your horizons and broadens up your view of life. If you want to, volunteering during activities can even be a way for old friends to meet up and do something to benefit the society. In that case, there’ll be no space for awkward silences and you’ll share a sense of accomplishment together.
So, take a step away from computer screens and air-conditioned rooms. The community and environment need you. Youths are the most influential group in the society, since we are the group that voices our thoughts most freely and it may sound clichéd, but we are indeed, the leaders of tomorrow. Get out there, and play your part in our country’s development!