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For the Love of Volunteering

Hanaffia and Safiah met through volunteering. Now married and with one child on the way, the couple talks about how their mutual passion for giving back led to a life together.

By Clara Tan

For assistant engineer Hanaffia Hamzah, 41, and admin executive Safiah Mahmud, 32, volunteering has always been a part of their lives. Little did they know they would be doing it together for a long time. 

Good sport

It all started in 2011 when the couple met at an event organised by Young NTUC, a movement that engages young adults in Singapore. At that time, it was Safiah’s first time volunteering; she was roped in by a friend and joined out of interest. Hanaffia, on the other hand, was already an active volunteer at organisations like the Singapore Cricket Club and Young NTUC.

After that day, they added each other as friends on Facebook and started chatting. Subsequently, Hanaffia invited Safiah for more events, and by the time they joined Team Nila in 2012, they were officially a couple.

“I had friends who worked with Sport Singapore and they called me over to volunteer at Team Nila. I’ve always had a passion for sports, so I tried one or two events,” recounts Hanaffia, who joined Team Nila with Safiah and a group of mutual friends.

At Team Nila, participants help out at events organised by Sport Singapore. It was initially formed to build a network of volunteers for the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore. Today, apart from just supporting sports-related functions, Team Nila is also involved in community initiatives, such as home visits. Regular functional and leadership trainings foster camaraderie, and members are also close-knit and meet up regularly.

“The bond grows each time we volunteer. Sometimes we meet up for coffee, meals, and even plan holidays,” shares Safiah.

Team effort

Volunteering together over the years brought Hanaffia and Safiah closer. In fact, it was through those experiences that affirmed Safiah’s conviction that Hanaffia was “The One”.

“When we are out volunteering, it allows me to see and experience things which may not otherwise be possible in any other relationship, such as how he treats others and how he handles stress. After witnessing how Hanaffia takes care of his family and the people around him, I was won over and sure that he was the one,” she shares.

It was the same too for Hanaffia. “After observing Safiah in different volunteer events, I now understand her character better and have discovered the simplest things, like her favourite food and colour, as well as the events she prefers. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s the small things that count, and this way I can spring little surprises to add some spice to our married life.” The couple tied the knot in 2016.

That’s not to say there are no challenges to volunteering as a couple. The biggest is staying impartial, whatever the situation, said Hanaffia.

“It’s hard not to show favours. At events, we have to give each other instructions on specific tasks; there must be no bias,” said Hanaffia. “But my wife understands the requirements of being a volunteer so that’s where it works well,” he shares. One example, he recalls, was when an item went missing during an event and he had to assist the police with investigations – including not leaving his wife out for questioning.

For Safiah, she sees volunteering together as a partnership and respects him for the various roles he often has to play, including sometimes being a mascot.

Spreading the love

Today, Hanaffia and Safiah still volunteer together, but it’s down from several times a month to just once a month as Safiah is pregnant with their first child due in July. After she delivers, however, they hope to get back into the swing of things again. The couple also wishes to introduce volunteering to their child as early as possible.

“We want our child to experience the joy of volunteering. We also want to let him learn and understand that life is not all about taking, but also about giving from the heart unconditionally,” Hanaffia explains.

Would they encourage others to get into the spirit of volunteering as well?

“Definitely. Volunteering allows us to meet – and help – people from different walks of life. It is a platform to have real conversations and build real friendships over time,” Safiah says. 

Pay it forward

Inspired by Hanaffia and Safiah? Here are some upcoming Team Nila events to consider:

  1. Team Nila @ Toa Payoh - Swim Night – 14 June 2019 (7pm - 9pm)
    Do you want to volunteer and help out in pool-based activities? Join us in an evening networking session with other Team Nila and indulge in water-based activities (e.g. scuba diving tryout) or attend sharing session on Team Nila's Lifeguard & Pool Guardian programme!
  2. Team Nila @ Yishun - Giant Float - 29 June 2019 (9am - 12pm)
    We are bringing the Giant Float to you! Engage the community through simple sport tryouts at giant float and land-based activities. Don't miss out on the opportunity to relieve your chilldhood memories!
  3. Get Active! Singapore 2019 Flash Mob - 6 July 2019 (9am - 6pm)
    Did you miss the flash mob last year?  Join the group and dance to this year's National Day Parade's theme song! No worries if you do not have prior experience in dancing, just bring your fun self along!