A group of young people uses social media to generate support for projects under the banner Volunteers Unite. Members speak to AUDREY VIJAINDREN about their work.

ALL it takes to make a change is to use skills one already has.

Volunteers Unite founder May Wong said many people underestimated themselves by thinking they had little to offer to their community and, therefore, did not participate in any charity work.

“Everyone has something to offer and no matter how small it seems, it can make a difference.

“Although people may be sceptical of what young people can offer, we cannot deny the strong connection between youths and social media.”

Volunteers Unite is a platform for people to volunteer, get together and share their experiences.

Wong, 35, said the group had 6,171 members, including donors.

“We started more than two years ago with just 2,000 members. Since then, we have grown by leaps and bounds, with members working with orphanages and the urban poor, providing medical assistance to the homeless and teaching underprivileged children.”

She said members used their creative skills to create ‘ang pow’ packets and face painting for kids in the orphanages.

“We encourage youngsters to help out in areas that they are passionate about so that we
can expand our members’ network.”

She said most of the members had day jobs and hoped to spread the spirit of volunteerism to other youngsters.

“We encourage youths to use their skills to give back to society.

“For example, we have a hairdresser who gives haircuts at discounted rates and a baker who sells food items at cost prices to orphanages.

One of its members, Dr S. Madhusudhan (also known as the “Teddy Bear Doctor”), organises free medical clinics in Kuala Lumpur and offers medical
advice to residents of old folks homes.

Wong, who is a cancer survivor, said youths shouldn’t waste their time and energy on frivolous things.

“Once you are faced with a terminal illness, you will realise that there is more to life than what you seek from a certain lifestyle.

“When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015, we collaborated with the National Cancer Council of Malaysia, Taylor’s University and hair salons to raise RM40,000 through a hair donation campaign.”

She said youths should try to make an impact on society.

“Ask yourself how you can give back and what your legacy is going to be.”

“It can be as simple as sharing with others the good work you have been doing so that others are inspired to do the same.

“It can also be a platform
for volunteers to seek support when they face hardship, or for those who need that extra push to continue doing good for others,” she said.

Group administrator Alfred Samuel Mariyaras, 34, said it was easy for him to decide to volunteer.

“Knowing that it’s the right thing to do fuelled my desire to do more.

“I have time and energy and I should make full use of it by catering to those in need.

“I can’t help everyone, but instead of sharing Facebook posts, I do my part by putting my mind, heart and words into action.”

He said he hoped to continue making contributions.

“I have built a network of people who want to make changes in society.

“It’s a great way to support each other. We’ve collaborated with Teddy Mobile Clinic, Bornean Unite, Volunteers Unite Rawang and F&S — Friends And Strangers,” said Mariyaras, who also works as an analyst.

He said his decision to give back to society stemmed from an experience he had four years ago.

“That day, I decided to hang out with my three buddies at a cafe in Klang. I was there from 10am to 4pm. More than 20 friends came and went during that single seating.

“I realised that my friends who came that day didn’t stay long because they had family commitments.

“I was the only one who didn’t go anywhere. That’s when I decided to do something about it and signed up with Kechara Soup Kitchen as a volunteer.

Mariyaras, who spent more than three years organising charity projects, said the journey had been enriching.

“Every project gave me personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.”

Some of the big projects he initiated were the Homelympic 2016 and Project Malnutrition-Gerik 2015.

Last year’s Homelympic saw 300 kids from orphanages and refugee schools collaborate with the Rotary Club of Klang in a carnival.

Project Malnutrition-Gerik 2015 was organised to help
communities in Kelantan following the floods, especially the Orang Asli.

Volunteers Dr Madhusudhan and Shalini Yeap, who run Teddy Mobile Clinic for the homeless in Kuala Lumpur, delivered more than 150 sets of food items
to flood victims in just 24 hours, with help from the public.

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