International Volunteer Day is observed annually on December 5, with the objective of promoting and encouraging volunteerism and as a way of thanking volunteers for their contributions to society.
Why volunteer? As a volunteer with several organisations, I am frequently called upon to speak to youths and new volunteers. Faith groups, youth groups and special interest groups have their own reasons for promoting and advocating volunteer work, but what would impel individuals to invest their time, energy and resources in public interest work that would bring them very few, if any, tangible returns? My arguments in support of volunteering are as follows:
1. Volunteers perform a valuable community service that has economic worth. I have always believed that if governments and public bodies had to pay wages for the service that is rendered by volunteers, the economy could very possibly collapse overnight.
2. Volunteering exposes volunteers to a wide range of experiences, people and situations that they would not usually encounter in their daily work. These experiences help us develop our capacity to cope with crises, difficult and frustrating situations, and learn how to manage time, people and (often very limited) resources to the best of our ability. It also helps develop perseverance, commitment and resilience, qualities that would stand one in good stead in life.
3. Volunteering empowers you to be the difference you want to see.
This year, the Malaysian Nature Society (Selangor Branch) decided to hold a Volunteer Appreciation Weekend at our Environmental Interpretative Centre in Sepang for some of our longest-serving and most active volunteers. Being the biggest branch in the country with a membership of over 2,000 members, Selangor Branch is blessed with a pool of committed, diligent, resourceful and big-hearted volunteers. The Committee therefore decided to invite around 50-60 of our key volunteers for a weekend of camaraderie in the great outdoors.
Our Environmental Interpretative Centre was established on 9th April 2009 with the purpose of monitoring and creating awareness on the conservation of mangroves and river systems.
Volunteers exploring indigenous crafts at the Centre. Note the clever use of natural lighting and ventilation in the building.
At the rate of time we were taking to solve the Mah Meri courtship/matrimonial puzzles, we'd all end up single and celibate.
I organised a Green Living Word Scramble Hunt as an ice-breaking activity. Each volunteer was paired up with volunteers from other Special Interest Groups and sent to search for word clues hidden all over the ladies' hostel.
My fellow volunteers gathered around as I recorded and tabulated the results of the Word Scramble Hunt.
The results of the Word Scramble Hunt were announced and I invited Pasu, our longest-serving volunteer with the greatest number of years in membership, to hand out prizes to the winners. We gave out boxes of Hershey's Kisses and Toblerone bars as prizes.
I distribute blank cards and instruct my friends on the next activity, the Affirmation session.
...We write good things on each other's cards...
... But they won't be able to see their own cards until it's time for everyone to peel their cards off their backs!
And what a lot of happy faces the Affirmation cards created!
I take a walk to the mangrove swamp at the back of the Centre while waiting for tea to be served.
... Gasp! There's someone on the rickety pontoon at the end of the mangrove boardwalk... It's... it's... Oh, it's my favourite set of sisters, Li-Li and Li-Kim! Hello, girls!
Having fun on the rickety pontoon. I have bin bags with me because I was planning on conducting a mangrove cleanup session.
We made a unanimous decision to go down to the Sepang Goldcoast Beach after tea.
Lenny Hassan bought everyone ice cream and I missed the ice cream man by minutes because I was too busy trying to find a parking space for the Battletank.
But Mark reappears with an eagle kite which created a ripple of excitement.
I buy a kite, which I have since dubbed the Rainbow Stealth Fighter, and dash across the beach with it.
... And suddenly nobody minded the drizzle anymore, and nobody wanted to go back to the Centre even after being reminded that there was briyani for dinner.
A briyani dinner is just what we need after 2 hours of flying kites!
We had a post-dinner Sharing Session to allow Special Interest Group Coordinators the opportunity to talk about the challenges faced and their plans and strategies for their groups in future. Here, Stewart shares his views on nature photography and offers his expertise.
The following morning, on International Volunteer Day proper, we were briefed on the itinerary for the day over breakfast.
The Sepang Environmental Interpretative Centre is the joint responsibility of MNS members as well as our Secretariat, so it is important that we help to keep it clean, orderly and welcoming.
I finished weeding my plot and go over to Doc Kana and Gary to help them with the unruly Bird of Paradise plants.
20 saplings were planted in a plot behind the Centre.
Volunteers taking a well-deserved break at the pontoon and boardwalk during low tide after working up a sweat.
It's International Volunteer Day, and we have gifts for all our longest serving and most dedicated volunteers! The gift idea came from Mark, and so the Branch purchased Sea-To-Summit dry packs for all the top volunteers as our way of saying "Thanks For Your Contributions!"
We had a steamboat lunch at the Golden Palm Tree Restaurant at Sepang Goldcoast to end our International Volunteer Day celebrations with a bang.
Happy International Volunteer Day, everyone! Goodbye and Thank You for the Memories!
The Environmental Interpretative Centre in Sepang is jointly managed by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Sepang Goldcoast (SGC) and provides many interesting nature-based activities such as river cruises, mangrove guided tours, shell identification, mangrove tree planting, beach clean-up, birdwatching and Orang Asli craft sessions. Ecology programmes available include water monitoring, river/ stream ecology and beach ecology sessions. The Centre is open from 8.30 am to 6.00 pm daily.
Tel : (603) 3142 2748
Fax : (603) 3142 2749
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org