Confessions of a volunteer: He helps families of sick children feel at home
Mr Lee Hin Jin loves volunteering so much, he wants to do it full time when he retires
He is only 56, and has a full-time job, but Mr Lee Hin Jin is already making plans for retirement.
The time he has spent in the past year, volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House at the National University Hospital has convinced him to take it up full-time once he stops working.
Mr Lee, a father of three, told The New Paper: "In 10 years, I should retire, so volunteering came as my calling.
"Supporting children and the family unit is important to me and that's why I'd like to volunteer more."
The Ronald McDonald House acts as a temporary "home away from home" for families of children undergoing serious treatment.
As guests of the home, the family members can be near the child during the hospitalisation.
"Families do not think to care for themselves when their children are in critical condition, and they don't get enough rest," said Mr Lee.
"The home provides a place for them to rest."
Every Friday, he leaves an hour early from his job to start a four-hour shift at the home, from 5pm. He says this shift is the "most unpopular" one as people are busy with the start of their weekends, so he decided to take it up.
You think you want to do it, you know you want to, but there is like an inertia. You have to be brave, physically and emotionally. Mr Lee Hin Jin on becoming a volunteer
While on duty, Mr Lee ensures that the home is fully stocked, grants security access to new occupants, assists with people who are leaving and does basic household duties.
There are times when he has to clean up the messes the families make, such as helping to mop up vomit.
But his help goes beyond that. Mr Lee said a big part of what he does is provide a listening ear.
"It is important to hear them out. That's something every volunteer needs to do," he said.
He said: "We have to support them and help to affirm that their decision (to stay at the home) is correct, to give them motivation to carry on."
Mr Lee admitted that volunteering has its challenges.
When he started out, it took a while for him to learn how to deal with families going through a difficult time.
In his professional life, Mr Lee said he works closely with people and he drew upon these skills to console families.
"You think you want to do it, you know you want to, but there is like an inertia. You have to be brave," he said.
Mr Lee lit up when he talked about the thank-you notes he received from families.
He said: "It's really nice when they thank you for the work you do. It makes me feel appreciated."
But he is quick to add that these are just bonuses - Mr Lee does the volunteer work not for the appreciation, but for the knowledge that he is "doing good for somebody in need".
"When you see people benefit from doing something you do, it's an amazing feeling," he said.
"The returns and that sense of fulfilment are not something that you can buy."
Secrets of volunteering
- Before you volunteer, read up on the organisation and make sure they align with your personal views.
- Think about why you are volunteering. If your reasons are anything but sincere, it will be problematic in the long run, both for you and the organisation.
- As a volunteer, you might be asked to do more than what you signed up for. It is important to be adaptable.