Execs use skills to do good deeds

TIME may not always permit it but working executives here are finding ways to give back to society on an ad-hoc basis.

These adults, typically in their 20s to 40s, use their professional expertise to help those in need, from creating mobile- phone applications to doing audits for fund-raising events.

my paper spoke to three charity and community groups which benefit from an increasing number of professionals offering their skills.

They include the Singapore Red Cross and the Industrial and Services Cooperative Society (Iscos), a social organisation which helps former offenders re-integrate into society.

Ms Carol Teo, head of corporate communications at the Singapore Red Cross, said: "In this day and age, many young working adults find it challenging to commit to volunteer stints on a regular and long-term basis."

She added: "Many would rather be 'ad-hoc' volunteers, (where) they choose to volunteer for projects which they are interested in, as and when they are available to do so."

One such charity, The Kind Exchange, was even set up to cater specially to professionals who wish to do their part for society.

The online portal matches the skills and availability of volunteers to the needs of community groups. The platform has seen a spike in membership, from when it started in 2008 with just five members to its current volunteer base of 1,000 members.

Ms Victoria Camelio, the group's director of operations, said the founders noticed a gap in volunteer opportunities and the professionals who hoped to offer their services.

She said: "Singapore is an ideal market to start such a niche platform. There are so many educated professionals with great skills to offer but don't have (ample) time to do so."

To help professionals plan their volunteer schedules, the website specifically lists task descriptions, time-commitment needed and deadlines.

But what many young professionals bring to the table is their savviness in technology.

For instance, Mr Ong Junda, 28, created an iPhone application called SG Blood in 2008 to help potential donors find the nearest Singapore Red Cross blood-donation point.

Mr Ong, who works as an applications developer advocate for Singapore telecommunications company Hoiio, admits that he does not have time to volunteer on a regular basis.

He said: "My teachers in school taught me that everyone has his way of contributing to society. "And my iPhone (app) development skill was my way of doing this."

Doing the good deed has reaped an unexpected benefit for Mr Ong. Last year, SG Blood caught the attention of an American blood bank, and it approached him to develop a similar app for it. Mr Ong was paid for his work.

"It was an honour for me to help them," he said.

Volunteer Trevor Woo, 40, started contributing to society three years ago, when he helped out at a charity event.

Since then, Mr Woo, who runs a technology company, has become hooked on helping others. He is now a regular volunteer who organises all sorts of outreach events for Iscos.

Encouraging others to follow in his footsteps, he said: "Even if it's just five minutes of your time, whatever you do to help makes a difference. What matters is that you take that first step."

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