Service winner: being active, making friends and being satisfied are the benefits he gets from volunteering
When meeting rooms at Sport Singapore (SportSG) headquarters were converted into a Covid-19 call centre, Mr Keh Eng Song signed up to support the operation out of curiosity. For five days in November 2021, he spent hours calling people in the sports and fitness industry to make sure they were following their weekly tests under the national Fast and Easy Testing (FET) scheme.
“A lot of people didn’t know what they had to do, so we helped guide them and explain the process to them,” says the vivacious 66-year-old retiree, who regularly volunteers with Team Nila, a national initiative of volunteering under SportSG. which aims to foster a culture of giving, civic partnership and social harmony through sport and related activities. Specifically, Mr. Keh is part of the Team Nila Silver Champions program, which enables people aged 60 and over to stay active through sports volunteering.
Mr. Keh’s love for volunteerism stems from a compassionate heart and a desire to help the most vulnerable members of society, no doubt influenced by his 10 years as Executive Director of the Movement for Intellectually Disabled Singapore (Minds).
In addition to his involvement with Team Nila, the veteran volunteer also provides emotional support to young suspects as a suitable adult, visits the elderly weekly as a Lions Befriender, and serves as a pro bono assistant for those with an intellectual disability. Most recently, he did part-time work as the General Manager of Special Olympics Singapore, where he helped run weekly sports programs.
However, getting involved in sports volunteering is what keeps Mr. Keh energetic in his silver years. He joined Team Nila after retiring from Minds in 2017, wanting to do something more active.
Finding camaraderie through volunteering
He has done everything from wrist marking spectators at Bishan Stadium for the Suzuki Cup tournament last December (2021), to taking on a bigger role at the Pesta Sukan floorball event in 2021. His duties there- bottoms included supervising and organizing fellow volunteers to ensure they had their rapid antigen tests (ART), briefed them and assigned them to various roles. He recognizes that no matter what role he may play, it all helps to help the whole event run smoothly.
Although he doesn’t consider himself a “sportsman”, Mr Keh enjoys the thrill of being able to watch matches in person and learn the rules of different sports. He is further motivated by the passion he sees in others and the sense of community he builds with other volunteers who come from all ages and walks of life.
“When you volunteer as a group, that kind of camaraderie is amazing,” he says, fondly recalling when he was part of the team that cheered on local athletes in unison at the Asian Games. Southeast Asia (SEA) 2019 in Manila.
” Not only [volunteering] getting you out of the house also gives you the opportunity to make new friends and learn new things,” he continues. “When I volunteer, I actually forget my age. It gives me that adrenaline rush and, at the end of the day, a sense of satisfaction when the event is successfully executed. This is what keeps me going. »
The action plan for aging well
- Launched in 2015 by the Ministerial Committee on Aging (MCA) to chart the way forward for Singaporeans to age with more confidence and grace.
- In 2017, the MCA also launched the “I Feel Young SG” campaign to promote the action plan and encourage active ageing. To visit http://www.ifeelyoung.sg for more details.
- To respond to a greater diversity of the needs of seniors today and tomorrow, and given the new operating environment and lessons learned from Covid-19, MCA is updating the action plan with the following emphasis:
- Care: We will empower seniors to take charge of their physical and mental well-being through preventive health programs, active aging and care services to stay healthy and pursue their aspirations.
- Contribution: We will enable older people to continue contributing their knowledge and expertise and to remain resilient, through an improved learning, volunteering and employment landscape
- Connectivity: We will help seniors age in place in an inclusive built environment, while staying connected to loved ones and society through digital platforms and support networks that embody the “kampung spirit”.