Story by Li Ting Chan, News Editor | Photo credit to KidsAccomplish
Community service at Yale-NUS College had a rocky start, but ComPact, a new service-oriented student organization, is hoping to change that. The volunteering scene at Yale-NUS could finally be getting a second wind.
More than 50 students have indicated interest in joining ComPact, which held its welcome tea on March 18. This level of participation is a stark contrast from the days of the now-defunct Service Executive Committee (SEC), which saw little engagement from the student body.
The SEC was disbanded after slightly more than a year because of low student interest. Founded in early 2014 by members of the Class of 2017, it aimed to encourage the growth of service-oriented student groups and promote service related experiences for the wider Yale-NUS community.
The initial lack of engagement in community work was puzzling, because a good number of students were involved in service work prior to entering Yale-NUS. Li Nanlan ’17, who volunteers regularly with external organizations, said that Yale-NUS students hold different perspectives of how one should contribute to society, and this affects the level of community involvement. “The concerns of Yale-NUS students tend to be less localized and more global, and I think that… contributes to the [lack of service] within the local community,” she said.
On the other hand, recruiting volunteers was not a problem for KidsAccomplish, one of the more visible service groups in Yale-NUS, according to its vice president. However, Lim Chu Hsien ’18 said that maintaining manpower was more problematic because of the high level of commitment required. At KidsAccomplish, volunteers teach children from a variety of backgrounds every Saturday and are involved in planning the curriculum. “We want our curriculum to enrich the volunteer as well, and thinking about how to curate the lessons also takes time—not everyone can commit to that,” she said.
Still, community service groups at Yale-NUS remain hopeful about maintaining their pool of volunteers, especially with an expanding student population. Clarissa Leong ’17, president of ComPact, said that students are becoming more aware of the gap in the community service culture on campus, and have shown more interest in becoming involved in volunteer work outside Yale-NUS. Lim also explained that KidsAccomplish tries to work with its volunteers’ time commitments so that less-committed volunteers would still be able to make meaningful contributions.
Similarly, Li stressed the importance of making meaningful contributions when volunteering. She pointed to Cendana Serves, in which first years from Cendana College collectively volunteered at a local soup kitchen. Li said that there was virtually no interaction between the students and their beneficiaries.
In fact, the students had at times created more work for the regular volunteers because of their poor culinary skills. Li overheard the regulars—aunties and uncles from the community—complaining in Hokkien about the students. “It’s better to have small groups of students volunteer on a regular basis [as compared to] a large group going [to volunteer] on a single day,” Li concluded.
Moving forward, the various service-oriented organizations hope that the community service culture at Yale-NUS will grow in strength. According to Leong, ComPact plans to partner with the already well-established community service programs at the National University of Singapore (NUS). It also hopes to hold a community service fair in the near future, so that different service groups from Yale-NUS and NUS have a platform to raise awareness of volunteering opportunities.
This article was corrected on Thursday, March 24 at 11:40 a.m.