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Rooted in volunteerism

16 Jul 2019

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Ashik with some children in Nepal, where he was part of a mission to a school to promote health awareness (Photo: Muhammad Ashik bin Mohamed Daud)

Muhammad Ashik bin Mohamed Daud, graduand from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School) at NUS, is a strong advocate of volunteerism. While studying for his Master’s in Public Policy at the LKY School, he was also a mission leader for the Singapore Red Cross.

His four-year career as a secondary school teacher started him on his path in the organisation. Previously a teacher in charge of the Red Cross society in his school, the organisation appealed to him and he stepped up to become an active participant in their missions. In the course of six years, Ashik enthusiastically took part in a range of activities, including education, medical and livelihood programmes, and interventions across various organisations. One of those activities was a dual education-medical mission to Kupang, Indonesia in 2016. This involved pedagogy sharing between educators in the two countries, and medical screening for the people in rural areas. He also formed part of the Sulawesi, Indonesia, post-disaster impact evaluation in 2019. “It is always an eye-opening experience for me to learn from those with such fiery passion,” he reflected. “They are remarkable.”

One particularly memorable mission was to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in 2018, when Ashik led a team to provide medical screening and consultation for the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and the Bangladeshi host community. He recounted an unexpected chaotic situation when a mob of 200 people brought in a sick person on a make-shift stretcher, sealing the routes to the shelter. “We were caught by surprise, but we responded as though we had rehearsed for it,” he said. While the medical team quickly attended to the patient, he worked with the Bangladesh Red Crescent to disperse the crowd and calm the family.

Ashik is also active in the local community. Since 2018, he has been co-leading a mentorship project with a team of youth leaders — named "Inspire" at Kebun Baru Community Club — to provide academic and non-academic opportunities for under-privileged children. “To add value, we also connected the loose threads between families and social service organisations, engaging schools to ensure continuous learning for each child under mentorship, as well as developing our volunteer mentors sequentially,” he elaborated. The project gathered support from his peers who became weekly volunteers in the programme.

I am interested to facilitate community growth, and I believe the best way to do so is to promote the growth of this institution called family — however it may be defined. It has no substitute, and it is the resilience of the entire society. — Muhammad Ashik bin Mohamed Daud

Ashik’s education at the LKY School dovetailed with his passion for community work. Being selected as a fellow of the Global Public Policy Network gave him international exposure and he is now part of different community-focused interventions across countries. “Such experiences are crucial for me as I strive to deeply understand community development,” he said.

The LKY School gave him a strong grounding on the best practices and robust tools for policy interventions in a given landscape. He said, “I found the modules that are about effective situational judgments across contexts to be particularly meaningful; beyond content, we learnt from the practitioners’ ways of thinking and perceiving, especially in a tricky situation, and I found this to be inspiring and highly relevant.”

Ashik enjoyed learning from and being inspired by the various faculty and invited speakers he had interacted with, but his most meaningful experiences in NUS came from simply spending time with his peers. “In class, we expressed divergent views and fleshed them with the perspectives and concerns of the community, government, private sector and international actors. When we worked with community on development programmes, I could feel us connecting academic learning to practice and becoming better leaders. Together we have done field work in Malaysia, Nepal and the Philippines, and I cannot describe all the plot twists in the journeys and how they all contribute towards good works that are accepted by the respective stakeholders,” Ashik acknowledged. Despite describing it as “hectic and chaotic”, he pointed out that they developed kinship together. “These are the moments that make strangers and friends into a family,” he mused.

Ashik is currently looking for a job in the social service sector, and is certain that he will continue serving local and regional communities in development projects. “I am interested to facilitate community growth, and I believe the best way to do so is to promote the growth of this institution called family — however it may be defined. It has no substitute, and it is the resilience of the entire society,” he said, adding that regardless of what path he might take career-wise, he will remain rooted in volunteerism.

This article was first published in NUS News on 15 July 2019.