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Published: 12 Jun 2012 05:36PM (Singapore)
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Forget retirement, ‘Chief Volunteer’ is better
Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee stepped down from his official post as Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs, and into that of ‘Chief Volunteer’ of MHA, carrying on as a volunteer for more than 30 years and counting.
 
By Charissa Tan

Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee is the inaugural Chairman of the Home Team Volunteer Network of MHA, carrying on as a volunteer for more than 30 years and counting, after he stepped down as Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs in March 2011. PHOTO: Charissa Tan

Associate Professor (A/P) Ho Peng Kee has been known to the residents of Sembawang and Nee Soon East as their elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon East since 1991.

But that is not the only hat he has been wearing.

Since his school days he has been a volunteer extraordinaire.

A National Junior College alumnus, he was a student counselor, and had organised visits to homes for old folks and the disabled, and cared for them.

I have been a volunteer for a long long time, because I really believe in doing something for the community,” said A/P Ho.

These acts of volunteerism would carry on through A/P Ho’s university days, and throughout his entire career.

As a Sub Dean of his alma mater National University of Singapore’s Law faculty, A/P Ho was also Master of the Kent Ridge Hall from 1988 to 1993.

During this time, A/P Ho was in charge of student welfare, amongst other roles in his portfolio as Sub Dean.

His colleagues would tease him, saying: “Wah, whole day look after students in the law school, go home also look after students in the hall.”

“But that was something I was passionate about – young people… That’s why I’m 57 years old, but I still talk like a young man, right?” joked A/P Ho, who is also a past President of the Football Association of Singapore.

As Master of Kent Ridge Hall, A/P Ho inspired his students with his spirit of volunteerism.

In 1990, Kent Ridge Hall was approached by Camp Rainbow to organise a stay-in residential camp for kids with cancer.

“At that time, people didn’t want to take risks … they’d say ‘Wah, cancer kids, don’t know whether you’ll fall ill.’ Worse were the misperceptions that if you let them stay, the linen and the room would have to be disinfected,” recalled A/P Ho.

“But I talked to (the Junior Common Room Committee) and they said “sure, we’d do it!” and they had to convince their electorate, as they were the elected student body of the hall. So I’m very happy that we actually opened our arms and the kids came in.”

These students graduated and eventually formed a society called WALK – Walking in Aid of Leukemic Kids.

“Normally new graduates are so busy doing many things, but they said that we’ll form this society, and continue with the work,” said A/P Ho, who completed his Master’s Degree at Harvard Law School.

In 1995, WALK was renamed the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

“That’s when they asked me to be their Patron, and I said sure! And today I’m still the Patron, and it’s voluntary,” said the former Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Law and Home Affairs. 

So it came as no surprise when A/P Ho accepted the invitation to be Chairman of the Home Team Volunteers Network (HTVN) overseeing 11,000 volunteers and counting.

“The cause is better promoted and in a way, I walk the talk, because now I call myself the chief volunteer. I’m not paid, and I’m very thankful for my 18 years with Home Affairs, and basically I’m just doing what the rest are doing now – I’m one of them, the Chief Volunteer.”

Since the official launch of HTVN on 15 July 2011, a Minister’s Award for Home Team Volunteers has been put in place to honour their efforts.

“The HTVN will give our volunteers a greater sense of purpose and identity in helping to further this cause… also to look at their aspirations and needs and get their feedback and input to what they think we can do to better their volunteer experience,” said the HTVN Chairman.

A/P Ho and his team also regularly engage in dialogues with Home Team Volunteers.

He said: “First, (these dialogues) let them know what we were doing, and secondly to hear their views. I think it’s fantastic - good ideas emerge.”

Permanent Secretary of MHA Mr Tan Tee How serves as Mr Ho’s right hand man in the HTVN Steering Committee as the Deputy Chairman.

The Steering Committee of the HTVN consists of both Home Team key appointment holders and existing Home Team volunteers.

Having walked alongside the Home Team volunteers in the course of his appointment as office-holder in MHA, A/P Ho does not see the HTVN as the start of a milestone project.

“Our track record has shown that we believe in what these volunteers are doing,” he said.

 “The (HTVN) merely puts together what the volunteers have been doing for the past 15-20 years, gradually building up the Home Team with a strong core of volunteers performing various tasks … contributing significantly to the cause of the HT – which is to keep Singapore safe and secure.

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