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Published: 03 Aug 2012 04:28PM (Singapore)
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The Accidental Volunteer who went a Long Way
Dr N Varaprasad, Chairman of the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA), shares about his experience with youths and how he sees himself as a volunteer.
 
By Joanne Yan

Dr N Varaprasad chooses to target youths to spread the drug prevention message because he feels that preventive education is the first step in the fight against drug abuse. PHOTO: NCADA


One would think that Dr N Varaprasad, who has had more than 20 years of experience working with volunteers and non-profit organisations, would be a willing volunteer right from the start.

“I did not volunteer to volunteer; I was coaxed into joining NCADA by its former chairman and I didn’t know I would be taking his place,” Dr N Varaprasad, who is Chairman of the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA), laughingly recalls. 

“I was so naive I did not know when I was being arrowed”, he added.

This accidental volunteer has helmed NCADA for almost four years now.

Under his leadership, NCADA’s community outreach efforts include campaigns such as the “Party clean, Party again” Clubs Against Drugs Campaign in 2010 that rallied night-clubs in the fight against drugs, and the anti-drug online gaming challenge launched in 2011 

With his guidance, NCADA went into new media aggressively and co-organized a new media competition – Flash Games Competition – with Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in 2010, when the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and Polytechnic Students worked with prominent game design institution, DigiPen Institute of Technology – Singapore, to produce anti-drug flash-based games for youths.

Check out the games at www.facebook.com/lifedoesnotrewind.

Being the founding principal of the creative and vibrant Temasek Polytechnic (1990), it is no wonder that Dr Varaprasad has insights into the way youths think.  

“We have to use new methods to spread the message. Youths today are very independent-minded, with shorter attention spans and they communicate primarily through their smartphones,” says Dr Varaprasad. 

“They live in the hotspot all the time. No wi-fi, and their life seems to come to a stop,” he adds jokingly.

He chooses to target youths to spread the drug prevention message because he feels that preventive education is the first step in the fight against drug abuse.   

“Once a person starts on the drug journey, then enforcement will kick in. So deterrence and prevention is very important,” he says.

“Learning about the drug situation opened my eyes, it showed me links to violence, abuse and many other problems which stemmed from drug abuse,” he added.

He agrees that NCADA can take the responsibility of public education especially amongst youths as they are the most susceptible to substance abuse.

“It is not easy to change adults who are already in the drugs cycle. For them, it is enforcement and rehabilitation. It is easier to engage youths who have not ventured there, we should reach out to this group of young people,” he notes.

Dr Varaprasad is also no stranger to volunteering.

He is a life trustee with the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) and has been a part of the association since 1990.

Over the years, he has been involved in tuition programmes, parent outreach, student development initiatives and strategic reviews.

“You cannot claim to be part of a community unless you are engaged. If you stand outside and watch, there is no real sense of belonging,” he says.

Come 6 August 2012, Dr N Varaprasad will be receiving the ‘Minister for Home Affairs National Day Award (HT Volunteers)’.

The award recognizes HT volunteers for their outstanding contributions.

It exemplifies the community’s active involvement in the achievement of the Home Team’s mission to work as a team, in partnership with the community, to keep Singapore Safe and Secure.

Interested in becoming a volunteer? Click here to find out more!  

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