120 Years of Volunteerism – A Celebratory Appeal for Helping Hands

For 15 years, Cheerene Wee Li Ping, 37, has been putting time, energy, and heart into reaching out to those in need with the YMCA of Singapore. She has set foot in Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines and Nepal, and served those communities in over 10 trips. During these trips, she interacted with under-privileged families, planned and executed meaningful or educational activities, cooked, and worked on infrastructural projects such as building roads and schools.

Last year, as part of the YMCA Inclusive Challenge 2021, Cheerene cycled over 625km and raised over $8,500 for youth with special needs. While the challenge was to walk, run, or cycle up or around Mt Fuji alongside YMCA Special Needs Ambassadors, she also created her own fundraising initiative where she delivered homecooked food to significant donors.

“Each time I volunteer, I am reminded of the kindness in people around me. It reminds me to be more appreciative of what I have in life,” Cheerene shared. “No effort is too small. If we keep going, our efforts will amount to something bigger. We cannot change the world by ourselves, but we can inspire others to join us and make the world a better place.”

Volunteers such as Cheerene are the bedrock that makes the impact of Social Service Agencies (SSAs) possible. This year, the YMCA of Singapore is celebrating its 120th anniversary. Since 1902, the YMCA has been serving those in need through a myriad of educational, sports, community service and vocational training programmes. In recent years, it has strengthened its focus on youth, strengthening youth with special needs, youth-at-risk, youth volunteers and leaders.

While commemorating this special year, the YMCA is launching a year of initiatives and events, and is establishing a Youth Hub to encourage volunteerism and youth engagement in Singapore. They hope to recruit 120 YMCA Ordinary Life Members for $120 per sign-up, to put in 120 minutes to kick-start their volunteering journey. At the YMCA, all YMCA members are volunteers, who also benefit from networking and training opportunities, as well as discounts and privileges with partnered merchants. The membership attained through the one-time fee remains valid for their lifetime.

Throughout the year, the YMCA will also host Honour Luncheons for their clients, where these volunteers will have a chance to serve and interact with youth with special needs, form meaningful relationships and raise awareness for special needs inclusion.

From May to August, YMCA’s signature event, the YMCA Special Needs Inclusive Challenge will take place. It is a continuation of their first-ever YMCA Inclusive Climb 2019, where 10 individuals with special needs went through intensive physical training and challenged Mt Fuji. The YMCA Special Needs Inclusive Challenge invites the public to take part in a virtual challenge by clocking their elevation to “summit” Mt Fuji virtually alongside these YMCA Special Needs Ambassadors, by climbing and hiking around Singapore. This year, they hope to recruit at least 120 teams of the public for this programme.

In June, a new Youth Hub will be launched at YMCA @ One Orchard, serving as a space for youth to engage in meaningful social and developmental activities. It will be open for all YMCA members, clients and volunteers, and can be used as a dwelling space and as a meeting location for YMCA programmes including YMCA’s youth intervention programme, YMCA Project Bridge.

“We are so privileged to have the opportunity to make a significant impact on society for 120 years, thanks to the contributions of donors, partners, volunteers and the hard work of our clients themselves. Yet, the volunteering journey is a life-long one. There are many who need support around us. We hope to foster a growing community of compassionate and active Singaporeans to build a more inclusive home for all,” said Steve Loh, General Secretary & CEO, YMCA of Singapore.

Members of the public who wish to read more or sign up as a YMCA Ordinary Life Member may visit: bit.ly/ymca120yearsinfo.

Contributed by Sim Yu Xiang