MALAYSIANS are often said to be a generous bunch, eagerly donating cash and food to disaster victims when the call for aid arises.
But, a recent report in The Star highlighted that there is not enough volunteerism among Malaysians.
The report quoted an NGO saying that Malaysians like to help, but at the same time they valued convenience when contributing, such as donating money online.
StarMetro spoke to members of the public to find out just how far people will go when it comes to turning their compassion into action for charity.
Senior operations design executive Patrice Chan, 27, said she had not volunteered for any charitable cause because of the time involved.
“Usually by the time I finish work on weekdays, it is already late in the evening and I feel pretty tired then.
“Then on weekends, I want my personal time,” Chan told StarMetro.
She said that she did have an interest in doing volunteer work, but did not know where to go to find out what she would be able to help with.
“Because of this, I think I do agree with the NGOs saying that people are more eager to donate money compared to giving their time and effort because it is the easier option.
“Perhaps it could also be due to people not having much exposure to what types of volunteer work were available in their respective areas, which was the case for me,” she added.
Senior lecturer D. Faustina Lerene, in her 30s, shares the same sentiment as Chan.
Faustina said she had been looking for a way to do volunteer work, but there was no one-stop platform for her to check on the types of charity work available.
“I do agree that Malaysians are very big-hearted in terms of donating money, but in terms of contributing time, not so much.
“It may be due to the lack of awareness, especially among the younger generation.
“I think there needs to be a one-stop platform that lists types of volunteerism needed by NGOs.
“As a lecturer, I would love to provide education to the poor or underprivileged children, but I am not sure how to go about it,” she said.
StarMetro recently reported that non-governmental organisations were urging Malaysians to go the extra mile by volunteering.
Charity work seems to be lower on the list of priorities for Malaysians who juggle earning a living and spending time with their family.
There are those who say that people today, especially youths, are materialistic, and that it falls back on the older generation to focus on community service.
Faustina, however, disagrees with youths being labelled materialistic.
“At the university I teach in, I have a lot of students, especially those from the medical school, who contribute their time and skills to helping people.
“The university offers guidance to those who have the passion to help those in need.
“I think the onus is mostly on working adults like myself to find the time to help people,” she acknowledged.
Teacher Syarmila Yahya, 44, said parents needed to be more open-minded about allowing their schoolchildren to take on different community-service tasks.
“Schools do hold gotong-royong from time to time to instil the importance of community service, but the students seem to be only interested in doing the basic cleaning.
“If it was something a little more than that such as cleaning the toilets and drains, their parents might get upset and blame the school for forcing their children to do such dirty work.
“Parents need to be more open about this.
“Every task has its purpose and we want our students to learn and grow by putting themselves in the shoes of others, such as our school cleaners, so that they learn to be more responsible in caring for the environment,” Syarmila said, adding that she agreed to some degree with the statement that Malaysians were less likely to get involved with charity work due to their work or family.
“But, I think they just need to find a group of friends who keep in touch with charity issues and can do charity work together, then they will be more motivated.
“I would love to give my time to help underprivileged women like single mothers, but right now I am too occupied with work and looking after my children at home to do so,” said Syarmila.
Management trainee Amirul Mohd Amin, 22, echoed the sentiment.
Amirul said he was too occupied with his work now to even think about volunteerism.
“I work nine hours a day, six days a week.
“So, on the one day off that I have, I would like to rest at home,” he said, adding that he could see why there were not many youths volunteering to do charity work, because either the motivation or exposure was not there.
“They are more preoccupied with enjoying their social life, I guess,” he said, adding that if he had the time, he would not mind helping to clean up places of worship and orphanages.
Clerk Razlan Zakaria, 31, said that while people might not have the time, there were others who could not spare the money to donate to a charity either.
“I would rather choose to donate money instead of my time, because I just do not have the time for volunteering.
“I think that both time and money are equally important,” he said.
Razlan said NGOs could not expect everyone to give both their time and money.
“People donate money because they do not have time to volunteer.
“Perhaps people who volunteer do not have enough money to donate to charities.
“It seems pretty balanced to me,” he said.
Razlan also said NGOs could do more by being more creative in finding ways to educate people, especially youths, about volunteering work.
“If they know people do not volunteer because the work is not interesting to them, then maybe they can find ways to make it more fun?” he suggested.