The pandemic might have meant some volunteer projects had to be cancelled, but this did not stop Cynthia Mannivannan and her team from the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Interest Group from coming up with alternative ways to reach out to those in need.
One of the community projects she was involved in was ICARE – a webinar that focused on the mental health of Republic Polytechnic (RP) students. The webinar held in 2020 reached out to 39 people.
Cynthia, who is Vice President of NYAA IG, said: “During the webinar, my CLIP (Community Leadership Initiative Project) team and I raised awareness on how we should not stigmatise people who struggle with [their mental health].”
In another project, Nurul Insyirah and 11 volunteers from the Marsiling Youth Network (YN), organised an eco-friendly workshop out of a strong sense of responsibility and care for her community.
Insyirah shared that the workshop was originally planned to be a physical session. However, in light of the ever-changing restrictions, her team had to be flexible in accommodating the changes. She said: “It was very difficult as we had contacted the vendor and did the publicity posters. The changes were too sudden.
“However, we still have to keep the community spirit alive during these times. We can’t just go missing-in-action during this pandemic,” said Insyirah, citing her reasons for not giving up on the project.
Her project was eventually held virtually and saw more than 40 participants. Insyirah and Marsiling YN’s goal of educating the community about the environment was achieved as they were able to raise awareness about climate change.
Worth the effort
Volunteering during the pandemic is no easy feat, especially when volunteers have to travel and physically be there to help out with their assigned tasks.
For Cynthia, being able to help beneficiaries outweigh any risks. Though she admits that she does worry about the coronavirus, she notes that volunteer organisations prioritise volunteers’ well-being and safety by mandating the wearing of masks at all times. Volunteers must also work in the permitted maximum group number and no intermingling of groups is allowed.
Cynthia said: “I usually volunteer at places that have strict SMM (Safe Management Measures) restrictions.” She believes that her work outweighs the risk of Covid as it allows her to continue helping others.
When asked, Insyirah shared the same sentiments. She said that though Covid-19 made volunteering events harder to execute, they were not entirely impossible to carry out.
For her, the responsibility she has as a Marsiling YN member drove her to volunteer especially when she was aware of how much the Marsiling residents looked forward to their events for it kept the community spirit, sanity and sense of togetherness alive.
Joys of giving
Cynthia said she is motivated to continue volunteering because she learns so much from the people she meets. She recounted an incident in 2020 when she met an elderly lady at Willing Hearts, a volunteer-run soup kitchen.
“She was super old, she was very tiny, she was very frail,” recalled Cynthia. “She could be doing anything in the world – she could just be resting, but she chose to help out with meal preparation [for the underprivileged].”
Cynthia added that it is important to continue to reach out to the beneficiaries during the pandemic because they need the help.
Meanwhile, Insyirah volunteers out of a sense of duty to the community. “The feeling of satisfaction that you get from volunteering is something that you really can’t get from anywhere else,” she added.