by Naomi Tham
More youths give time and effort to create an inclusive society.
The recent Purple Parade celebrating disabilities on Nov 15 saw about 80 per cent of the 200 volunteers aged between 15 and 25, mostly from the different junior colleges and tertiary institutions in Singapore.
In its second year, the Purple Parade created a splash of bright colour and tangible enthusiasm on an otherwise bleak and overcast Saturday at Hong Lim Park. The literal ‘rain on the parade’, however, did not stop any of the 160 youth volunteers from giving their best to keep the event running.
This comes as no surprise as last year, nearly eight out of 10 volunteers registered on SG Cares, a volunteer opportunity website, were youths.
The 25,756 registered youth volunteers today is a far cry from the 1,599 registered in 2009. This is an increase of 93.7 per cent over five years,indicating an ongoing upward trend of youth volunteerism.
The Purple Parade is the first large-scale centralised movement joining people of special needs and members of the public together in one location to celebrate and enjoy a carnival event, complete with an array of items on sale, as well as food and game kiosks.
It has reached out to more than 5,000 people about supporting inclusion of people with disabilities, which gave William Marthiono, a second-year Republic Polytechnic student volunteer, a sense of fulfillment for his contribution.
William said: “It is very heartwarming to see people with disabilities enjoying the carnival and socialising with other members of society.”
Zachary Phang, a final-year Business & Social Enterprise student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), was first exposed to the movement at Adrenalin Group, an events agency catering to social enterprises, where he was posted as an intern.
“I felt this [was] particularly meaningful as it involved spreading the awareness of people with special needs on a large scale,” Zachary said.
Eventually, Zachary roped in his other course mates to volunteer for the publicity efforts conducted at NP, as well as nine other institutions. Each location garnered overwhelming responses, with an average of 20 students per location who wanted to help out and contribute to the cause.
“We had no shortage of manpower. We had students who wanted to volunteer because they were truly passionate about the cause and not [for] co-curricular activity (CCA) points or Community Involvement Project (CIP)” Zachary explained.
Mr Jesse Sie, 43, who works at St. Andrew’s Autism Centre, said that the autism centre has seen an increase in requests from youths keen on volunteering at the centre in the past three years.
He added: “It is not easy to handle people with autism but some youths will persevere and they will come back.”.
Indeed, the perseverance of these young volunteers was seen during the lead-up to the event, where many of them juggled school hours and sacrificed their time to help out in pre-event publicity and setting up for the event..
Other than the Purple Parade, they also help out in community centres and some even come up with their own initiatives. One example is Project Shoe Drop, initiated by NP’s Business and Social Enterprise students, where used shoes are given to the needy.
Miss Shirley Wee, Managing Director of Adrenalin Group, noted that it is becoming better with more and more youths who are “on a look-out to inject [an] element of doing good in their daily lives”.