Volunteering in the community

We give every employee at Standard Chartered three days of volunteer leave each year. There are no restrictions on how these days are used – as long as it’s something that’s going to benefit others. But we have many established partnerships for staff to explore. In Singapore, for instance, our HR team partners with a school called The Lighthouse which provides special education to children with visual impairment and hearing loss.

Iris Zhang, Associate Director, Learning Product Management

Singapore

One of the reasons why I’ve stayed with the bank for ten years is that I’m a huge believer of giving back to society and our bank offers a great platform for this. I first joined in Shanghai, where I started volunteering as the China coordinator for Seeing is Believing, our flagship community programme that helps to tackle avoidable blindness and visual impairment across the globe. After relocating to Singapore to take up a new position in a different department, I wanted to continue with my volunteering activities. So I organised a couple of outings for pupils at the Lighthouse, as well as starting a programme with senior citizens to provide exercise classes that would help to prevent falls. 

“The children’s smiling faces inspire me and remind me how grateful and humble we should be.”

Now I’ve just completed my fifth visit to the Lighthouse School and I was so glad that the children greeted me as an old friend. Every visit to me is reflective and healing. Their smiling faces inspire me and remind me how grateful and humble we should be.

Giving back to society goes beyond the relationship between volunteer and recipient. It connects the whole bank to society and it’s a privilege to play a part in this. While driving commerce in our markets is how we do business, building sustainable social impacts in our communities is why we do it.

 

Laura Yeap

Laura Yeap, Organisation Design Specialist, Head Organisational Design

Singapore 

These visits are always a humbling experience as it quickly becomes apparent that we tend to place restrictions on what these children can or cannot do based on our own trepidations and assumptions. Some people can find volunteering at the school a little daunting initially, as a result of not understanding how to interact with disabled children. But that feeling often dissipates the minute we meet them.

At the beginning, I didn’t introduce myself because I didn’t think they’d be able to remember or recognise us. However, one teenage girl took the initiative to introduce herself to me and I followed suit, not thinking too much about it. After playing and mingling, I eventually came round to her again over an hour later. She touched my elbow and immediately asked “Laura? Is that you?”. I was genuinely amazed and lost for words as I had not expected her to remember my name, much less be able to recognise me merely by a touch of my elbow. 

“Spending time with these children has taught me to focus on the gifts they have rather than on their disabilities or the stigma that comes with them.”

Spending time with these children has taught me to focus on the gifts they have rather than on their disabilities or the stigma that comes with them. It reminds us never to make assumptions about others and to focus on what people are capable of rather than how they fall short. If you speak to any of the volunteers, they would all tell you that they get a lot more from the experience than they give. This is definitely true for myself. 

What I love about the bank’s culture is that we are encouraged to use our volunteer days and give back in whatever way we can. Using these days is not frowned upon, but actively encouraged. For me, this enforces our brand promise of ‘Here for good’. We’re able to put into practise what we say, which gives me a deep sense of pride in our organisation.

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