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Volunteers lauded at MSF event

More than 100 volunteers were lauded at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Volunteer Awards Ceremony last night.

The awards were to honour volunteers who have contributed significantly to the community and changed the lives of others through their efforts to reach out to the less privileged and vulnerable in Singapore.

Seven volunteers received the Outstanding Volunteer Award, which recognises individuals or groups who have contributed significantly to various groups and causes served by the MSF.

Another 17 volunteers were awarded the Friends of MSF Award and 107 volunteers were given the Long Service Award.

'You need to make time for people'

tantam@sph.com.sg

He set up a dental clinic in the Woodlands Home for the Aged, which provided free dental services to over 700 residents at the home, in 1986.

Finding the resources to start the clinic was no easy feat, but with the help of various dental suppliers and some friends, Dr George Soh Yi-Wei eventually managed to do so.

He said: "The clinic cost about $80,000 to set up. Back then, nobody thought much of dental care, so getting the support and funding was quite difficult."

Dr Soh noticed that residents of the home lacked dental care - many could not eat properly because they had no teeth or dentures and almost all had gum disease.

Almost 30 years later, the orthodontist who practises at a private clinic is now 59. He still volunteers regularly as the Chairman of the Board of Visitors (Welfare Homes), a group of 11 members appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to survey and conduct checks on welfare and old-age homes.

For his volunteer work, Dr Soh was awarded the Outstanding Volunteer Award by the MSF in a ceremony held last night. (See report above.)

BETTER STANDARDS

Under his leadership, the Board of Visitors has established better industry standards for welfare and old-age homes in such areas as food safety, medical protocol and fall prevention.

Residents in homes now get to see a doctor every three months and go for regular tuberculosis and mammogram check-ups.

Said Dr Soh: "They are given medical check-ups more regularly than some of us, and this ensures that they are given the care and attention they need."

The board comprises members from all walks of life, some of whom are lawyers, union workers and retirees.

Dr Soh said that the different expertise of each member allows the board to come up with creative solutions that add value to the social sector.

He believes that the spirit of volunteering is something that needs to be made a way of life in Singapore.

His enthusiasm for volunteer work has been passed on to his adult children, who volunteer regularly at annual dental screenings held at the homes.

His daughter is working as a dental surgeon and his son is attending dental school at National University of Singapore.

Dr Soh said: "One day, I envision that we will be asking each other: 'Where do you volunteer at?'. It will be a common way of life."

He added: "When you volunteer, you don't just do it in your free time. You need to make the time (for the people). Because these people will always need help, so what's going to happen to them if you don't have the time?"