“Work for a cause, not for applause” is a quote 19-year-old Samantha Sethi lives by.

Having grown up with a family of dog lovers, she has been actively volunteering with 2 animal organizations, Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and Save our Street Dogs (SOSD), since 2013.

Till this day, Samantha Sethi still remembers the joy she felt the first time she volunteered. Photo courtesy of: Samantha Sethi

She said: “I remember the first time I went to help out at an ASD Adoption Drive – I got to take care of 5 adorable puppies all by myself! I felt really happy and honored to be a volunteer because I was involved in rehoming dogs.

“Many people also asked me loads of questions about these dogs and the whole experience was very rewarding because I got to raise awareness about stray dogs and puppy mills.”

Samantha is grateful to have the opportunity to give back to society and gain valuable new experiences. In fact, more and more residents here are doing the same. According to the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NPVC), the rate of volunteerism has jumped from 18 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent in 2016.

Among the youth, however, volunteerism rate remains low.

A survey conducted by The UrbanWire with 52 respondents, aged 18 to 25 years old, found that while 98 per cent of them agree that helping the less fortunate is important, only 7.7 per cent volunteer at least once a month. Most of them said school and work are keeping them too busy.

Survey findings based on 52 respondents, aged 18-25 years old. Infographic by: Kelsey Tan

Mr John Chong, 32, Lead of Youth Engagement at the NPVC, said: “You make time for what you value. I think the main problem is that people don’t really see the value of volunteering.”

He hopes that school community involvement programs such as Values In Action (VIA) can help encourage the spirit of volunteerism in youth. He said: “If youth have a good volunteer experience, they are more likely to continue volunteering when they are out of the education system.”

While he noted a slow and gradual increase in youth volunteers, he feels that most are volunteering for the wrong reasons. “There are 3 main categories of volunteers. The first is those that volunteer for practical reasons ­– to add to their resume because it looks good – this is the category we see the most. The next is because of their friend’s influence. The last, which is the category we hope to see more of, are the idealists – people that really believe they can make a difference,” said Mr Chong.

How can you start volunteering?

There are many ways you can volunteer, even on a tight schedule. You can offer a skill, help with events or even pledge a certain day of the week to make a difference.

Another way you can volunteer is to put your skills and talents to good use, suggested Mr Chong. Skills such as photography, videography, writing and graphic design are sought after, especially in non-profit organizations that don’t have the capacity to hire professionals.

Active youth volunteer Samantha advised: “Find your passion and discover what makes you happy. Once you find that one thing that drives you, nothing can hold you back.”