Volunteer and learn – James Mansfield-Page, a volunteer firefighter with the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit, shares his learning experience.

I signed up to be a volunteer firefighter with the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit without any expectations. Apart from knowing that I will get to pick up new skills during the Volunteer Firefighter course, I went in with an open mind, ready to make a full commitment. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that it was going to be a challenge on my schedule as well. But that is just part and parcel of being a volunteer.

Having volunteered with the Singapore Civil Defence Force since the beginning of 2019, I have had the opportunity to work and interact with people from various backgrounds. The experience has broadened my mind, and given me a better understanding of the teamwork involved in protecting and saving lives and property. I believe that one does not have to be of a particular profession, or social or financial standing, to volunteer. Everyone who takes the initiative can make a difference.

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No two incidents in operation will ever be the same, and it is impossible to train for every possible scenario. For example, at the academy, drills taught during the course are the fundamentals of firefighting in a controlled environment. During operations, these fundamentals have to be adapted to the specific scenarios that are rarely as straightforward as those encountered during training.

As a volunteer, I am paired up with my regular and full-time National Service colleagues when I am rostered for duty. However, the onus is still on me to refresh my knowledge both in theory and in practice, as well as to maintain an optimum level of fitness. My preparedness has to be like that of a full-time officer.

While what I have learnt may not contribute directly to my professional or academic growth, I have certainly taken away valuable life lessons, skills and friendships. Everyone has the ability to give back. Do it in a way that excites you.

I believe that one does not have to be of a particular profession, or social or financial standing, to volunteer.