NUS extends a helping hand

03 September 2018 | Community
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An NUS student volunteer participating in the clean-up at Sungei Pandan Mangroves, which saw the group collecting 180kg of rubbish

The NUS Day of Service (DOS) — now in its third iteration — has gone from strength to strength over the years, with a record 2,050 NUS staff, students and alumni turning out in full force on 1 September to organise community service activities reaching 6,130 beneficiaries.

An initiative of the NUS Alumni Advisory Board and managed by NUS Alumni Relations, DOS 2018 featured some 57 activities — an increase over 42 activities last year — across 10 categories ranging from Animal Welfare and Sports, to the Elderly, Environment, as well as Children and Youth.

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An NUS student guiding a member of the public on using a 3D pen to make a basket

Chairman of the DOS Organising Committee and Member of the NUS Alumni Advisory Board Mr Jeremy Ee found the growing response for DOS, especially in the number of activities, encouraging. “It shows that the NUS community has been participating actively in community service. More than just sustained volunteerism, many are change agents leading service efforts despite their day-to-day jobs. They put their knowledge and skills to use, through conducting free health talks, operating coding classes, and even helping in marine life conservation. I am quite inspired by their sacrifices and the impact of their activities,” said the NUS Engineering alumnus who also helmed DOS in 2016 and 2017.

The day saw participants engaging in activities as varied as preparing food for the elderly, needy and migrant workers; packing and delivering groceries to families living in rental flats; cleaning up the waters around Lazarus Island and at Sembawang Beach; spring-cleaning homes for vulnerable seniors; as well as putting on choral and musical performances at the Singapore General Hospital and National University Hospital, among others.

I think a person’s value is determined by how much he helps and gives instead of how much he achieves personally. I’m inspired by the idea of NUS Day of Service and I take this as a great opportunity to give back to school and society.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye kicked off DOS by carrying out maintenance work at the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre in the morning. In the afternoon, Prof Tan joined the NUS Students’ Union and the Waterways Watch Society in cleaning up Marina Reservoir while paddling a kayak. NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost Professor Ho Teck Hua, together with NUS alumni, took part in the East Coast Park Clean-up, which saw the volunteers bagging 88kg of trash.

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Prof Tan (holding drill) carrying out maintenance work at the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre

NUS alumni groups located overseas did their part in helping their communities as well. The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Alumni Chapters in Thailand and Sri Lanka visited the Phayathai Babies’ Home orphanage and the children’s ward at the National Cancer Institute respectively; the NUS Alumni Auckland Chapter mobilised a team of 10 participants to hand out blankets for the homeless this winter; the NUS Alumni Myanmar Chapter conducted a clean-up at the See Sar Yeik Old Age Care Center; and the NUS Alumni Melbourne Chapter organised a Father’s Day Afternoon Tea.

NUS Science alumnus Mr Xiong Zehao was the champion for Dignity Kitchen One Day as a Hawker, which saw participants preparing tasty dishes alongside the physically challenged at Dignity Kitchen, a school that teaches the disabled and disadvantaged to cook hawker food. “It’s a great opportunity to understand the needs of the disadvantaged community by working closely with them,” he said. A firm believer in giving back to the community, Mr Xiong added, “I think a person’s value is determined by how much he helps and gives instead of how much he achieves personally. I’m inspired by the idea of NUS Day of Service and I take this as a great opportunity to give back to school and society.”

Year 1 NUS Arts and Social Sciences student Katya Narendratanaya, a first-time participant in DOS, helped out at Care4Elderly, a carnival for the elderly organised by Residential College 4 at NUS. There, some 60 enthusiastic senior citizens played games, had their photographs taken and did arts and crafts. Katya shared that she signed up because she enjoys interacting with the elderly, saying, “They have a lot of wisdom and I feel like chatting with them would provide me with a lot of insightful knowledge. I am also pretty close to my 90-year-old grandpa back in Indonesia, so I would say that I have some experience in interacting with elders.”

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Volunteers from the NUS community baking for the needy at Dignity Kitchen

Year 1 NUS Biomedical Engineering student Muhammad Afiq Bin Zaini, who also participated in the Dignity Kitchen One Day as a Hawker activity, said that the experience was wholesome and heartwarming. He found the event meaningful as he had the opportunity to help the elderly and pick up new skills at the same time. As to whether he would volunteer again next year, he said, “Definitely, without a doubt.”