Volunteer work is a good way to build leadership, discipline and other good human qualities as well as promotes national integration, says Mustafa K Anuar.
Properly guided and channelled, the idealism and restlessness of youth can be mobilised and put to good use for the benefit of society.
Opportunity should be given to young people to involve themselves in healthy activities that will make a positive difference, especially when many political leaders have shown themselves to be ill-equipped to be role models.
In fact, these so-called leaders, some of whom are corrupt, arrogant, unscrupulous and not-so-intelligent, are bad examples and morally paralysing for the young people to respect, let alone idolise.
Even the youth wings of certain political parties do not inspire confidence and enthusiasm, especially when they champion such narrow causes as race and religion, as if oblivious to the larger issues of the global economic recession, lack of food and water security, the social impact of artificial intelligence and climate change.
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Volunteerism in social activities, such as helping the poor, the needy and the marginalised, would also help them imbibe the right values and improve their social skills so that the future they inherit would be a better one.
It is therefore inspiring and exhilarating to learn that 53 young people completed 5,200 hours of voluntary service in August to October during the pandemic, helping civil society organisations working for the environment, Orang Asli and animal welfare.
These young adults were selected from 170 applicants for a volunteer programme initiated by Roots and Shoots Award Malaysia and Yayasan Hasanah. The many applicants indicate a youthful eagerness to serve society, especially during a health crisis. The chosen volunteers provided assistance online and on site.
Programmes such as the above provide the youth with a lived experience of squarely facing issues of poverty, environmental degradation and endangered animals. This serves as a training ground for personal discipline and leadership.
While some of the volunteers may be new to such situations, they may not need to have their hands held. What they can do with are ingrained values of compassion, social justice, selflessness and responsibility to guide them in their work and personal life.
Helping the poor and the marginalised, for instance, will help the youth understand and appreciate that help should be given where needed, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and culture.
Blind to such superficial divisions, the young should be able to help alleviate human suffering conscientiously.
They will learn to appreciate the need to work together, again irrespective of one’s racial and religious background, towards forging national unity, which is urgently needed at a time when politicians are working hard to polarise society to serve their vested interests. In other words, youthful idealism harnessed properly could be a substantive bulwark against racism and bigotry that could drag a society down a slippery slope and result in socioeconomic stagnation.
Volunteer work is a good way to build leadership, discipline and other good human qualities. It also goes a long way towards promoting national integration.
This is “national service” at its best – and without colossal costs to taxpayers and racial bigotry for the participants, too.