A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Politics in Play

Chris de Sousa was a college friend of mine from Singapore. So passing through the city, I stayed with him and his wife for a couple of nights. I did not know this before I arrived, but Chris had recently been elected as an MP for Singapore. At 30 he is the youngest in parliament. So I got to go along to one of his ‘meet the people’ sessions, a weekly community forum in which residents can address their concerns to their local MP. In this instance, Chris.

I went along to the session not to get into heavy discussion, but to see the political process in play. Which was interesting. When we arrived a queue had already formed with local residents and their issues, and about 15 volunteers, many young, were there to help out on the night. The process was efficient. The residents first met a volunteer, where the case was heard, recorded and if a response was required by the MP, briefing notes were prepared and draft letters written. I sat in on a few briefings. A man who needed a visa extended for his Indonesian wife. Another who need a letter for emergency dental treatment. Another who needed references for this children so as to apply for scholarships. All fairly basic things, but nevertheless genuine concerns.

What interested me also was the volume of volunteers, many under 30 who turn up every Monday evening to help out. ‘Why?’, I asked them, ‘What motivates you?’. ‘To be part of a community’, one replied. ‘To gain experience’, said another. ‘I enjoy it’, said another.

This is the reciprocity of volunteering at play. People give, people gain. Motivations may be political, or people may just need to belong. Whatever the reasons, in those rooms I did get a sense of community, and saw the ‘meet the people’ session as a necssary cog to help the system tick.

(Thanks Chris and Sharon for the warm welcome).


Post a Comment

<< Home