Foo Say Thye – Growing Spiritually through Volunteering
Growing Spiritually through Volunteering
Foo Say Thye
He was an institutional stock dealer, caught up in the fast pace of the stock market every day, always on his toes, and with a short temper to match.
It all changed one day for Foo Say Thye. He had an epiphany during a friend’s wedding in 1994. “I had a friend who was a volunteer with disabled people. He had invited all the beneficiaries to his wedding. I felt inspired when I saw them at the wedding. I realised that what he was doing was meaningful, and interesting,” he explained.
That was a pivotal day for Say Thye. “I felt that my life had been meaningless. I wanted to help people. So I told my friend that I wanted to be a volunteer as well.” Say Thye’s friend advised him to contact the National Council of Social Services for training. As part of its orientation course, Say Thye visited the Sree Narayana Mission. There was no turning back for him after that.
The Sree Narayana Volunteers group had been formed in 1992 as a team who visit residents in the Sree Narayana Mission Home for the Aged every weekend. Say Thye joined them by the end of 1994.
But it was a rough start. “In the stock market, you have to think quickly and make quick decisions, so your temper is also quick. After becoming a volunteer, I had to change – because initially we had a lot of misunderstandings since the volunteers come from all walks of life. Monday to Friday, I have my quick temper and then on Saturday and Sunday, I have to change myself. I learnt a lot.”
Say Thye also grew spiritually, learning to harness the Guru’s grace. ‘When I started, we only had eight volunteers. I was a new volunteer then and didn’t know much about the Guru. One day, I just started praying in front of his picture at the Mission and asked for help to get more volunteers. I said to him, ‘If you want me to help you, you must help me.’ By our tenth anniversary, we had 300 volunteers. Whatever I wish for started to come true slowly. I feel that when you look upon the Guru, he will help you.”
Say Thye now helms SN Volunteers. His genuine wish to serve the residents at the SNM Home keeps him committed, “If you don’t go and visit them, the elderly will miss you. So we must find ways to sustain our activities. The benefit that we get is greater than what we are doing. People think that we are doing a lot but the benefit that we get is a lot. My temper was the first thing to change. It has also turned me in to a person with a better character – I am more approachable, I have more friends, more contacts, more people come to you for help, and people trust you more and are willing to help you more when they see you helping people. Even though you don’t start volunteering with this in mind, but this is the result. I am lucky. I am glad I went this way, for otherwise, I’d be a different person. I like the way I am now. Even my whole family is doing this. My son and daughter are the second generation running this group of SN Volunteers.”