Hello, I am Affan Othman and I have been a member of the SC family from 2015 to 2020. I started as a volunteer, then as a module director, VP of Strategic Planning, VP of Project Management, Advisor, and finally as a VP of Project Management (again! haha).
Throughout my 5 years with SC, I have learned so many lessons. However, I am very interested in sharing with you 3 lessons I learned from volunteering with SC:
1. It’s not about you but the beneficiaries and the people you work with.
I encountered the first lesson when I volunteered with SC for the first time in 2015. My friends and I were just sprinting to volunteer here and there during the summer break, and that was when I discovered SC. I joined SC because someone decided that they could not attend Seeds of Deeds at Penang, so I stepped in since going to Penang also meant good food and endless opportunities to take nice photos – it was definitely voluntourism (volunteer + tourism) for me. However, things quickly escalated when I saw the school that I was volunteering at. It only had one academic building; they shared a public football field with the community around the neighborhood, and the lodging was a room they shared with the mosque next door. The infrastructure was nothing in comparison to the more elite schools I was used to seeing. It was then that I realised my intention to volunteer was superficial. It was selfish of me to only care more about how fun the trip will be.
2. Some people give what they have even though they have very little to themselves.
The second lesson is based on a story I heard from our co-founder Azri Malek (@azrimalek) about a person who at that time only had RM10 with him. He was supposed to get something else, but he saw SC’s booth and found what the volunteers talked about very lifting. Without an ounce of hesitation, he decided to give all that he had as a donation and said, “I have not much to give, but I’m giving my all.”
Very often, poor people could not save because they have to use 100% of their income to support their livelihood, while many of us could afford things and even splurge. This story resonated very deeply with me, and it made me yearn to use my privilege to help others. When I worked as a VP, I was always very grateful whenever SC received donations because it serves as a trust from the public. Never have I taken a cent for personal gratification, and never will I take the money because people like the man in the story taught me that taking money from a charity is not just a civil crime, but a crime against humanity. I owe it to the beneficiaries and people like that man.
3. We owe our success to our beneficiaries, stakeholders, and partners.
The third lesson is about understanding that our success stems from others. As much as I want to say that I’m proud to serve SC for six years, my journey has barely started. Poverty and inequities will always be there. Therefore, the idea is to consistently think of ways to support communities around us even when we are not working for any charity organisations.
Volunteering is an excellent way to check our privileges. Also, don’t volunteer because you want to feel good about yourself; volunteer because you sincerely want to help others to your best capacity.
I implore everyone to always look for lessons at every opportunity presented. When we ask God for strength, God would grant the opportunity to be. So, remember, when we ask for wisdom, look for the opportunity to learn.