CLICK ONLINE: Volunteer work is enriching and rewarding, but many Malaysians are clueless as to where and how they can offer their services. Suzanna Pillay discovers that help is at hand thanks to www.dosomething.gd
DO Something Good (www.dosomething.gd) is an online community-driven volunteering platform that helps volunteers find volunteering opportunities in their community, while helping social and non-governmental organisations (NGO) manage their volunteers.
Launched in June, the Do Something Good (DSG) website is the brainchild of a group of youth passionate about volunteering who got together over a weekend last year to build the core components of the platform, said Yap Jin Rui, DSG project leader.
So far, 63 NGOs have come onboard, with 1,000 active volunteers on site and another 1,000 in the database, said Kal Joffres, director of Tandemic, the company which helped the youth create the DSG website, adding that 85 per cent of the volunteers were below 30.
Joffres said the need for this platform was evident when Tandemic helped build Malaysia's largest open database of NGOs, hati.org.my.
"We were getting people as young as 13 emailing us and asking where to volunteer. It was obvious people wanted to volunteer, but if you don't have a pre-existing relationship with an NGO, you don't get their newsletters or find out about its volunteering opportunities, and so it becomes difficult to know where you can volunteer."
Since its launch, the DSG team has been adding features, including translating the platform into Bahasa Malaysia, as it receives feedback to improve the platform.
There are also plans to extend DSG to a mobile platform for smartphones.
Yap said that currently, volunteering opportunities and volunteers are mainly based in the Klang Valley, DSG hopes to reach out to other major states such as Penang and Johor by year-end.
Eventually, another feature which the team wants to introduce to help NGOs is a ranking system.
"This will make it easier for them to ascertain which volunteers are suitable for their organisation as each NGO requires people with different skills and qualities. For instance, some NGOs deal specifically with children and need to assess the suitability of volunteers to work with them. We have sent out emails to NGOs asking whether this feature would be beneficial and the feedback has been positive," said DSG project co-ordinator Shafiq Kassim.
Passionate about volunteering, both Yap and Shafiq first started getting involved with volunteering when they were still students.
While Yap was in secondary school, a friend took her to a charity drive which was raising funds for victims of an ongoing war. From there, she started volunteering with social movements and campaigns.
"What struck me most profoundly was how empowering it can be to get out there in your community and actively contribute to building aspects of that 'better society' many of us often talk about. That's why I am working with DSG."
For Shafiq, volunteering at a centre in Puchong for Chin Refugees from Myanmar was an eye-opener,
"We had to teach English to children between the ages of 6 and 13 at a small school. We had to make it fun for them by teaching via games, song and dance. We also walked with these children back to their homes, which was usually quite a distance away from the school. Seeing how they lived in Malaysia was heart-wrenching. Because of their refugee status, these people were so poor, they didn't have anything."
The DSG team believes volunteering can develop civic consciousness in Malaysian youth, and its website aims to provide students and youth with the volunteering information and opportunities they are looking for.
So far, things look promising, said Shafiq. "At our student outreach programmes, they asked us whether they would receive certificates to recognise their volunteering efforts, but when we said no, they still volunteered. What they wanted to know was information like volunteering opportunities and where to go."
To encourage students to volunteer, the team allows youth to register via Facebook as opposed to registering at participating NGOs' websites. To make it fun for the young, volunteers also receive virtual points and badges based on their volunteering activity.
To encourage the spirit of volunteerism in the community, DSG has engaged the help of celebrity ambassadors such as journalist and TV host Daphne Iking and supermodel Amber Chia.
Iking champions the cause of Yayasan Chow Kit, a 24-hour crisis and drop-in centre for at risk children in the area, while Chia is celebrity ambassador for SOLS 24/7, which trains underprivileged youth in English, Maths, Science and computer skills. Four other participating celebrities include squash player Mohd Azlan Iskandar, rapper Altimet, TV host Ben Ibrahim and Red.FM DJ Sarimah Ibrahim.
They are celebrity ambassadors for Epic Homes, an NGO that focuses on building sustainable housing for underprivileged Malaysian communities, National Society for the Deaf, National Cancer Society Malaysia and the Dignity for Children Foundation, an NGO that empowers underprivileged children to break the cycle of poverty through education.