At the service of mankind

IN the last few years, I've been meeting a lot of interesting people who give their time, effort and money to make the world a better place. Being volunteers, they're always looking for a good cause to serve.

In a nutshell, volunteering is considered an unselfish activity, where an individual or group provides services for no financial gain "to benefit another person, group or organisation".

It is also intended to promote goodness or to improve the quality of life in society.

Like what philosopher Aristotle said many thousands of years ago: "What is the essence of life? To serve others and do good."

I think many will do so when their lives are more stable. I'm of the view that we can help others when our lives are cruising along nicely.

In other words, charity begins at home. If we still have to make ends meet, volunteering outside our homes should be put on hold until things get better.

What actress Audrey Hepburn said made a lot of sense to me: "As you grow older, you realise you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others." What can I say, except to show two thumbs up?

And we must not forget the words of deaf and blind author Helen Keller, who asserted that "the unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves".

Her words were also somewhat reminiscent of what the third US president Thomas Jefferson said: "I believe that every human mind feels pleasure doing good to another."

Having gone so far into the subject of helping others, I'm pleased to note that more than 600 people from near and far will converge at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from today until Sunday to better appreciate the joys of volunteering.

They are attending the 15th Asia Pacific Regional Conference of International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), an event that's held once every two years.

It's being organised by Yayasan Salam Malaysia, a local non-governmental organisation that has been involved in volunteering for the last two decades, to showcase volunteerism by Malaysian organisations and to allow foreign volunteer groups to share their experiences as well.

Held under the auspices of IAVE, a Washington-based umbrella organisation that promotes volunteering through 64 national volunteer centres and three regional volunteer networks, it's being organised for the first time in Malaysia as part of Salam's 20th anniversary celebrations.

Close to 100 working papers on the benefits and management of volunteering will be presented. They're aimed at exploring the diversity and power of volunteering with the first two days dedicated to the efforts of youth volunteers.

Six major topics which hold a particular interest in the Asia Pacific take centre stage. They are leadership; technology and social innovation; sustainable development goals focusing on poverty, education and climate change; financial sustainability; corporate volunteering; and strategic partnerships.

Some speakers will dwell into areas such as 'developing student volunteerism', 'employee volunteering increases professional development' and 'unearthing the true value of corporate volunteering for development impact'.

In the final analysis, the conference will allow participants to evaluate the benefits of volunteering and how improvements can be affected.

The words of former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan should make us take better recognition of the power of volunteering: "If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever."

Jeff Yong, after making his mark in the twisty maze of mainstream journalism, has finally decided to enjoy what he does best – observing the unusual and recounting the gleeful. He can be contacted at