Giving Back


What do I enjoy most besides having a great work life balance? The answer is crystal clear – I enjoy giving back to community as much as I possibly can. This can take various forms, for example I can volunteer to raise funds for needy causes or educational support. For past generations giving back to community or community work or volunteerism was part and parcel of growing up. In the local context, the spirit of ‘gotong royong’ is widely practiced in villages, schools or religious activities. Has this spirit or value been disseminated amongst our younger generations or the organisations that we work in? Even though I cannot give a definitive answer, I can share what I have personally experienced.

In general, volunteerism or the spirit of giving back can be seen sporadically in Brunei. Both members of the younger generation and older generation do not seem to practice this as consistently as they did two decades ago. A lot of the activities related to ‘giving back to community’ seem to have strings attached to them especially in terms of gaining publicity. However, having said that, there are also numerous groups of genuine people who continuously practice giving back to community on a monthly basis, simply because they truly want to make a difference in the lives of the people that they work for. In my world, this is another one of my favorite phrases, ‘little changes can make a big difference’. This phrase can be echoed in any context (work, community or social life). I believe this to be true because of the unsung heroes who tirelessly do what they do without expecting any returns.

What is the situation in organisations in Brunei Darussalam? From the media, we can certainly see numerous articles on local organisations actively involved in fund raising and contributing to needy causes which is heart-warming. Other bigger companies especially international affiliated ones have their own ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy’. The thing that differentiates these organisations is that most tend to go for Strategic Social Investment where there is a direct impact or return to be gained. Any other form of contributions or support will be classified as ‘philanthropy’ where there is no direct impact or return to the organisations. In Brunei’s landscape there is a lot of support in relation to giving back to the community whether there is an expectation of direct or indirect impact or return to the parties involved. In my view, we need to encourage more support for local community initiatives that are sustainable, like the ‘one kampong one product’ initiative; innovative educational activities and others that can be driven by our community. It is important that we identify the natural leaders in these communities so that it can be propelled by them.

We are truly blessed to be living in this abode of peace we know as ‘Brunei Darussalam’ for there are so many opportunities for those who want to make a difference in various areas. I believe that it is time that we focus on giving back to the field of education. This can be done if those who have relevant credentials in specific subject areas volunteer to lecture at our local institutions. Volunteering in this way would not only set a sterling example for our young people to follow, but would also help to mold and enrich their minds. This topic is close to my heart and I would like to appeal to those of you who are interested to move themselves to action.

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

Hjh. Zainab Omar

Hjh Zainab is a HR Professional & Mentor. She was active in the Oil & Gas Industry for the past 30+ years. She has significant business experiences gained in a multi cultural environment in Brunei (BSP, Brunei LNG), Oman, Qatar, and Europe in the areas of HR & Learning and Development. She is passionate about people development and upholds the mantra ‘don’t let others tell you what you can’t do, and show them what you can do.