Friday, May 3, 2013

Volunteering and it's rewards

Volunteering is offering a service willingly and without pay. 

I have been exposed to the idea since I was young, when I would go with volunteer groups to give donated goods to less fortunate families or those badly affected by natural disasters like typhoons or volcanic eruptions (remember Mt Pinatubo?). My parents were also both involved in their own volunteer activities in church and in the community. What a great feeling it was knowing that I have done something good. 

When I had my boys, I knew that I would still want to continue to contribute to the community somehow by doing volunteer work. With 2 growing boys, time wasn't really something that I have enough of. But that only meant my volunteer stint had to take a side step for some time. When they were in preschool, I was given an opportunity to do volunteer work again - as a parent volunteer for the learning journeys. It was the first step towards my life as a parent volunteer.

Being with preschoolers was a different experience. They were full of energy but needed more attention. They had a lot of questions sometimes not even related to the learning journey we were in. I was no longer giving donated goods to the needy, but these kids needed something else - my full attention, my energy running after them, and my knowledge of whatever it was that they wanted to ask. Being a parent volunteer then also paved way for me to know more about my sons' teachers and friends. This was definitely beneficial specially when my boys were in primary school.

When Kelvin was in primary 1, I didn't have much time to volunteer in his school because of the conflict in schedule with Ira's preschool class. When I did have the time, I would help in the library. That was my first stint as a parent volunteer at Montfort Junior School (MJS). The few hours a month in the library became few days a month helping out in other events and school programs as Ira joined the same school 4 years after. Schedule was no longer a big problem, the advantage of having both boys attending the same school.

Volunteering can be addicting. Why did I say so? Because the few hours turned into few days, until Amie, the Vice Chairman of MJPC (Montfort Junior Parent Connection - parent support group), pointed out that I was the PV who attended most of the activities in the school year 2011 after she tabulated the event participation data (the most active PV!). That's being there for almost all of the school events, as and when I can. We both couldn't believe it. But when you are doing something you are enjoying, I think you wouldn't really notice that you've already done a lot!

So why do I do it? What's in it for me, because everyone says there should be something there for me to keep coming back and doing it? Money is definitely not the answer, as volunteer work means you don't get paid for the work you do. You actually spend money from time to time, to help make things happen. Advantage for the kids in school as I am visible? Not really, because in Singapore education system, the marking is very objective - one of the things that motivate me to continue volunteering as it doesn't give bias to my sons' performance in school.

I enjoy volunteering because it gives a sense of belonging - parents who want to give their time to help the school provide better experiences to our boys and be a part of the process. Friendships are formed, experiences are shared. Our boys benefit as a result.

It gives me satisfaction knowing that I am not just on the sidelines waiting for things to happen, but being an instrument in making things happen. We help give our boys quality learning experiences through working hand-in-hand with the school.

It provides an opportunity for me to know my sons' friends, who are the people they are interacting with in school, the type of environment they are in. Nothing beats the feeling of being the mom/dad who almost everyone knows and respects (we hope so!) because the boys see that we care that is why we give our time to them.

I also get to see the teachers in action - how much effort they are putting in to teach 30 or so boys everyday. It is not an easy task, I tell you. Maintaining discipline in itself is already a big challenge, imparting knowledge is a different thing. A balance between the two is almost an impossibility. But the teachers do it somehow. And I'm really very fortunate to know, and work with, a handful of teachers who are very efficient and effective in their chosen field. They discipline, they teach, they care. I've already named some of them in my previous blog about teacher's day. And there are still more of these unsung heroes of sorts. 

Being a parent volunteer opened my eyes to some parenting and school system realities. I had a deeper appreciation for the teachers and the work they are doing. It proved my belief that parent involvement is that crucial to our children's development. When I am aware of the different activities and programs the school has for my children, and I spend time helping out in making these programs happen, the end result is that my kids as well as the rest of the school benefit a lot. I develop good relationships with their teachers which enables us to work together to make learning a fun experience for my children. I get to know their friends, which I'm sure is something my kids appreciate a lot.

In addition to these positive outcomes, I take home a sense of self-worth. I am happier because I get to do things I enjoy and love with the people that I get along with and respect. I gain self-confidence. I am blessed with good friends. I learn from different experiences. And I am recognized - not by any awards, but when my sons' friends and other students I have helped somehow say "hello, Auntie". That meant I have left a good impression with them. When I see their happy faces during events that I am assisting in, that is priceless. And when my son tells me, "Mom, can you volunteer for my learning journey?", which means he appreciates my role as a parent volunteer in his school. I think that is the biggest reward I can ever ask for.

Being a parent volunteer can be a very taxing but truly rewarding / fulfilling experience.  Volunteering may not be for everyone, people may say, but my take on it is - if it feels right, it is right. So come aboard!

after Mother's Day celebration in school 2012

Kelvin's P6 Financial Literacy Programme which I helped facilitate in 2012

Olympic Fun Day 2012 - Kelvin's final year in Primary School

Parent Volunteer friends get-together

Parent Volunteers for International Friendship Day
- Filipinos, Singaporeans, Indians (we live by example)

time to go formal, during 97th Founder's Day

my labor of love - Teacher's Day gifts 2012

I even get to do other things I love - like dancing!
Chinese New Year celebrations 2012

Olympic Fun Day 2012 - we're tired but we're happy!

Olympic Fun Day 2013

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