During the 30th National Day celebrations, there were more than 50,000 people at the National Stadium. Thousands and thousands of people marched past His Majesty, thousands were on the field performing, and thousands more participated in the Human LED, the performances from the benches, and the spectacular fly past by Royal Brunei’s Airbus A320 paratroopers. This does not include the hundreds of bus drivers, the officials manning the gates and the participants, the police force, army and the Red Crescent.

The most important people there were not the Chairman or the Secretary but those people who were working and helping behind the scenes – the many thousands of unpaid volunteers.

These are the unsung heroes of any national day celebrations here in Brunei Darussalam. Call them and they will come. Without them, the National Day celebrations would not happen. None of them are in it for the money but they come because they love the country.

Brunei’s Civil Society is a large and growing sector of the society. Nobody knows about the hundreds of Community Development Department’s volunteers who go to old people’s houses to help look after them. Nobody knows about the hundreds of volunteers who go out to assist whenever there are fires or other natural calamities. Nobody knows about the young professionals who now go to countries like Cambodia to teach English and to teach the people how to farm or how to be better at health management. And these are just a few of the many examples which I can give.

These people are all “Unsung Heroes”. That’s who they are.

“Not many people may know about the work you do but that does not matter. You will know what you have done and you will definitely feel good about yourself. And that is what matters most of all.” – Hj Rozan Yunos

Rotary Club Volunteers providing pipping services for Penan villages in Sarawak.

If you are not one yet, I hope your next question will be ‘How do I become one?’
There are many ways for anyone in Brunei to become a volunteer. For example, the charity organisations looking after people with special needs such as SMARTER, and LEARNING LADDERS welcome volunteers. Brunei’s welfare organisations such as the Department of Community Development (JAPEM) and Pusat Ehsan are always on the lookout for volunteers who will help them. JAPEM has a website where you can register to be a volunteer.

What do I have to do?
That depends on where the needs are. With JAPEM, it could be helping out with the counseling services; volunteering to visit the senior citizens who are living alone or those who have no one to visit them; or by being available during emergencies and natural disasters such as fires and floods. The charity organisations always need people to help out in many areas such as looking after the less fortunate children and assisting with office administration duties.

Can I really make a difference?
Remember the story about this boy who was throwing starfishes back into the sea after a storm had thrown thousands of them on the beach? So this boy started picking them up one by one and throwing them back to the sea. A man who was watching him told him that there are so many starfishes on to the beach that there is no way he can help them all and that it does not make a difference to the starfish. The boy continued to throw the starfishes into the sea and told the man that it made a difference to the ones that were able to be thrown back to the sea.

Just like this boy, I am under no delusion that we could change the whole world by our volunteering efforts. It would be wonderful if we could do that. But we can make a difference to the one person that we are asked to look after. If everybody does their part, then we can truly change the world.

Am I limited to Brunei?
Of course not. You have the whole world. In fact, just outside Brunei, there is the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme (AYVP) which is aiming to implement projects with diverse stakeholders from Higher Education Institutions, International Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, Government Agencies, Intergovernmental Organisations (e.g. UNV, UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank etc.) to industries and foundations. This group focuses on four thematic areas – Rural Development and Poverty Eradication; the Environment; Conserving ASEAN’s Heritage and Social Entrepreneurship.

What else do I need to know?
Now that you are all fired up, you need to step back and think it through. Here are some of the most important things that you need to consider-:

1. What are the issues and causes that are important to you? Do your research and look for a group that works with issues which you feel strongly about.

2. What skills can you offer? If you are a teacher or enjoy interacting with people, choose voluntary work which is best suited to your personality and skill set. If you have professional skills, you can help with the accounting or legal work etc; and even if you have expertise in working with equipment, this may also come in handy in certain organisations.

3. Would you like to learn something new? You might be able to learn something new and expand your knowledge and experience while helping others.

4. What about your day-to-day schedule? Be sure to factor in your daily schedule so that you do not over-commit. Remember that you want a long-term relationship. You have your life and family too. So do be careful.

Finally, voluntary work gives you an opportunity to follow your heart and to feel good about yourself knowing that you are making a difference to the world. Keep up your enthusiasm. Keep your wits about you. What you will get is indeed a priceless gift. You may be an “Unsung Hero” and not many people will know you or about the work you do but that does not matter. You will know what you have done and you will definitely feel good about yourself. And that is what matters most of all.

This article was published in the Oct-Dec 2014 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!

Rozan Yunos

Haji Rozan currently holds the post of Permanent Secretary (Media and Cabinet) at the Prime Minister’s Office. His busy schedule does not deter his writing where he has the longest running column at The Brunei Times and has written more than 250 articles. He has also published three books. He has also presented a number of papers at international and local conferences and seminars.