From privilege to purpose

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05 Dec 2023 | COMMUNITY

From privilege to purpose

SAFVC Volunteer (SV) 1 Nadim Van Der Ros shares why he was inspired to give back to the community and help build the lives of those in need, within and around Singapore.

// Photos by Amos Chew & courtesy of SV1 Van Der Ros

SV1 Nadim Van Der Ros, 46, is the founding consultant of Be An Idea. He joined the SAF Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) in 2021 and serves as an Auxiliary Security Trooper.

I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, immediately placed for adoption, and generously supported for a year by an unknown benefactor. As the year ended, I was adopted by my Dutch parents who were living in Asia.

I spent my first two years in Singapore, where I fostered a bond with the country. We later moved to England. I attended prestigious schools. Privilege provided opportunities like an internship and a full-time job in Hong Kong, where I met my wife through common friends.

SV1 Van Der Ros (left) with his wife, Ms Stefanie Sun, attending a first aid certification course together. His humanitarian aid work with the Singapore Red Cross Society has taken him to places like Batam and Sri Lanka.

A chance to give back

In 2010, I gave up my successful marketing career. Although I had lived a charmed life, I felt the need for purpose. I wanted to express my gratitude for the community around me and the privileges I'd enjoyed, by serving others.

I founded a consulting firm to assist social organisations with brand strategy. We hosted Fuze Nights, which were monthly events showcasing social initiatives in Singapore.

My involvement in volunteering grew from fundraising to hands-on contributions, including serving as a first aider with the Singapore Red Cross Society. I also led missions to Batam, Indonesia, with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for low-income families.

SV1 Van Der Ros (far right) bringing supplies to students in a school in Sri Lanka. He visited the school in August this year, as part of a humanitarian mission trip with the Singapore Red Cross Society.

These trips often concluded with heartfelt thanks from those we helped. The aid we offered, though seemingly simple, had significant impact, such as enabling a daughter to study without worrying about rain damaging her books.

In 2016, terrorists were arrested in Batam for planning to launch rockets against Marina Bay Sands. This incident was a stark reminder of the importance of building stronger, safer communities through compassion and strength.

From Batam, one can see the lights of Marina Bay Sands, a symbol of our prosperity. It's not hard to understand the resentment that can build when people struggle to keep the rain out of their homes while witnessing our luxurious indulgences.

This incident reinforced my belief that humanitarian work, like helping neighbours keep their homes safe from rain, is critical to keeping Singapore secure. It also reminded me that Singapore's safety requires not just a compassionate heart but also strength and decisive action.

SV1 Van Der Ros (far left) with his fellow SVs. In addition to his role as an Auxiliary Security Trooper, he actively organises and participates in various SV programmes.

Playing a part in Singapore's defence

I was drawn to the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) because I recognised that my volunteering could directly influence the safety and security of my home. This uniformed volunteer scheme was introduced to provide more Singaporeans and Permanent Residents with the opportunity to contribute to national defence.

I joined in 2021 and am now serving as an Auxiliary Security Trooper.

Being in the SAFVC has instilled in me a remarkable clarity of purpose, one that goes beyond the boundaries of active duty to shaping our very notion of service.

Even when not on duty, I continue to serve my fellow volunteers through our own SV programmes, helping them grow as competent and confident volunteer soldiers.

SV1 Van Der Ros sharing his journey of volunteerism at the SAFVC Townhall on 19 Aug.
Commander SAFVC, Colonel Soliano Paulinhno (left) and Formation Sergeant Major, Senior Warrant Officer Chew Kim Leng (right) presenting a Letter of Appreciation to SV1 Van Der Ros for his support with Basic Training Fitness Training and Engagement, at the townhall.

Finding purpose

By volunteering as a soldier, I've also grown as a humanitarian volunteer. During a recent mission in August to Sri Lanka with the Singapore Red Cross, our team visited four schools.

We distributed food, installed water filters, and provided training in basic first aid and humanitarian principles. I was entrusted with teaching the students about good oral hygiene, proper handwashing techniques, mosquito control, and physical movement.

SV1 Van Der Ros (in dark blue shirt) believes that the skills he picked up as an SV have helped him in his humanitarian mission trips. He is pictured here interacting with students in Sri Lanka.

Skills like planning and preparation are essential to military as well as humanitarian missions. My experience in the SAFVC's Basic Training, along with the Singapore Red Cross' Overseas Disaster Deployment Training, taught me the value of teamwork, leadership, flexibility, and decisive action.

While they have different missions, the military and humanitarian spaces often intersect and do share common skills and disciplines.

Just as in the military, where no plan survives contact with the enemy, humanitarian missions often require on-the-spot adaptability.

For instance, when we arrived in Sri Lanka, the lesson plans created in our offices had to be modified to suit the realities on the ground as there were no standard classrooms.

SV1 Van Der Ros and his team were moved to tears when they received a warm welcome from the Sri Lanka Singapore Friendship College. The students played Singapore's national anthem and raised the Singapore flag alongside the Sri Lanka flag in honour of their guests.

We visited the Sri Lanka Singapore Friendship College, a girls' school established after the 2004 tsunami with funding from the Singapore Red Cross.

The school's marching band greeted us with a warm welcome, playing the Singapore national anthem as our flag was raised alongside their own during the flag-raising ceremony. I must admit, many of us were almost moved to tears.

This was their gratitude for the kind and generous spirit of Singaporeans who helped build the school with their donations and support.

It solidified my belief that our homeland is worth protecting, whether as a volunteer soldier or by aiding our neighbouring communities through humanitarian efforts.

Volunteering isn't just an act; it's a calling. It's a life filled with purpose and contribution.

In every small gesture, in every meaningful endeavour, we have the chance to make a difference. Let's not merely make it an act; let's make it mean something.

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