In August, the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine launched the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme to cultivate a culture of volunteerism and service in the School and build camaraderie amongst staff while making a positive impact on society. The programme comprises three activities – Environmental Conservation, Animal Welfare and Community Service – giving staff an option to choose a cause which resonate most with them.

 

Putting trash in its place

The first of the three CSR activities to be rolled out was Environmental Conservation. For its maiden activity, the team focused on marine litter in mangroves and partnered with International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS). ICCS has over 20 years of experience in coordinating clean-ups and raising public awareness of coastal conservation.

 

A safety briefing and educational talk conducted by the ICCS prior to the cleanup ICCS prior to the cleanup gave informative and thought-provoking information to participants, who learned about the resurgence of biodiversity in Singapore, the effects of trash on recovering habitats and the importance of conservation.

 

Volunteers reached the Lim Chu Kang mangrove site on August 12, excited to start their day. Nine teams fanned out to retrieve trash along the 150-metre stretch of mangrove. The discarded bottle caps, straws, plastic bags, foam pieces, glass and construction materials added up to 164kg!

 

Observed a participant, “The activity ended with a substantial amount of trash cleared and many new friendships forged. Most importantly, it was an opportunity for a group of people to be closer to nature and understand the intimacy between us and the environment, which has been silently providing for us”.

 

Adopt, don't shop

The animal welfare volunteers were greeted by Stinko, the office dog at Mutts and Mittens on the morning of August 24. The mild-mannered dog was blind, injured, frightened and reeked of a foul smell (hence, the name Stinko) when rescuers found her at an illegal breeding farm in Singapore.

 

This is just one of the many sad stories that staff shared with volunteers at the commercial boarding facility, which is also heavily involved in animal welfare work. There are about 100 rescued dogs and cats under their roof, waiting for new homes. Many are old and require medical and tender loving care.

 

NUS Medicine volunteers were brought on a short tour of the facility before cleaning the area, which includes a park and swimming pool. While the act of sweeping leaves and pulling weeds under the blazing sun may not be appealing, it was certainly most rewarding. Clean spaces provide these animals a healthy and conducive haven as they wait for adoption.

 

The rest of the day was set aside for staff to spend time with the furry friends. Canines were let out of their cages into the spacious field for their afternoon run, while felines took a lazy afternoon nap. Many purred in contentment when their chins were gently stroked. It was a joyful sight to see these once abused and abandoned animals now free of the horrors of their past.

Food from the heart

Staff who signed up for the Community Service CSR came together on September 15 to lend a helping hand at Willing Hearts. A secular, non-affiliated charity, Willing Hearts operates a volunteer-run food kitchen that offers free, nutritious meals to the needy in Singapore. They distribute about 5,000 meals daily to over 40 locations islandwide year-round.

 

The hustle and bustle in the kitchen starts as early as 4.30am and food is distributed before 9am each day. NUS Medicine volunteers arrived in time to help with kitchen cleaning and the washing of used utensils. That done, the volunteers were next tasked with food preparation duties, helping to cut and clean vegetables and poultry meat. These would be placed in the chiller room, ready to be cooked the next day.

 

Care had to be taken to ensure that food was cut into small, bite-sized pieces for senior citizens who may have difficulty chewing and swallowing.

 

It is heartening to know that there are good samaritans out there working hard to provide for the less fortunate without expecting anything in return. For the group of 45 NUS Medicine volunteers, it was meaningful time spent away from the office – mingling with co-workers and doing good work. And exhausted as they might be, they left the soup kitchen with their hearts full.