Lions Befriender has been volunteering for 30 years
Lions Befrienders hopes to inspire more people to work with seniors
When the then Ministry of Community Development (MCD) approached his churchfor volunteers to befriend needy elderly 30 years ago, he was the only one who signed up.
Today, Mr Soh Swee Kiat, 68, is one of the longest-serving volunteers at Lions Befrienders (LB), which works with seniors who are living on their own and have few kin or friends.
"When I started to befriend the seniors, it never crossed my mind that I could serve for so long," Mr Soh, a former human resource executive, told The New Paper.
"The MCD officials told us we would be providing some service to the elderly around the MacPherson estate.
"I thought it was quite convenient since I lived around the area, so I decided to volunteer."
LB was formed in 1995 by the Lions Clubs of Singapore and a Lions District Project.
The voluntary welfare organisation had its inaugural Silver Bow charity dinner on Friday attended by about 500 people, including Minister for Family & Social Development Tan Chuan Jin.
"Silver Bow started as a movement to raise awareness on social isolation among seniors and inspire the community to take action," Dr Chey Chor Khoon, executive director of LB, told The New Paper.
When I started to befriend the seniors, it never crossed my mind that I could serve for so long.Mr Soh Swee Kiat, 68, on his 30 years of serving as a volunteer at Lions Befrienders
"The aim of the event is to raise funds for LB's ongoing service activities for the seniors that LB serves and ensure that we are able to sustain our programmes in the years ahead."
LB has about 1,000 Befrienders, and it currently reaches out to 5,800 seniors.
The organisation has served about 17,000 seniors since 1995.
Mr Soh's role as a Befriender allows him to build relationships with his eight "befriendees" through weekly home visits and phone calls, and also ensure that they are in good shape.
He also helps clarify certain government rules and regulations for them from time to time.
Mr Soh's passion for people prompted him to take up a master's in social sciences (counselling) after he stopped working 10 years ago.
"I thought this course could assist me in my befriending skills and at the same time, keep me abreast of what is going on around the world."