A Heart to Serve

Upon coming to Singapore three years ago, Al-Sayed Jacques Knudsen sought opportunities to help people in need and chanced upon the opportunity to volunteer at the Bloodbank. He shares his responsibilities, challenges faced and his motivations for becoming a volunteer leader. 

“If we compare society to a complex machine, then volunteers are like the oil that makes the different parts of the machine run smoothly; volunteers connect the community and make it a better place,” shared Al-Sayed Jacques Knudsen, volunteer for the Singapore Red Cross’ (SRC) Blood Donor Programme.

Al-Sayed Jacques Knudsen, 54, is a half-Danish, half-Syrian volunteer who previously worked in Australia for 20 years as a Management Consultant and came to Singapore three years ago. A typical day in his life includes doing research on the financial markets, reading widely, engaging in volunteer work and doing yoga.  

When asked what superpower Jacques wished he had, he replied, “The power to heal, especially emotional and mental traumas. Much suffering in the world is unseen and far more pervasive than we realise, and those suffering on the ‘inside’ are often misunderstood and neglected in society.”

Jacques had always enjoyed volunteering and firmly believes that it enables a person to practise compassion and to grow. His journey as a Bloodbank volunteer started by coincidence. During the COVID-19 period, he sought opportunities to help people in need, and he chanced upon the opportunity to volunteer at a Bloodbank.

A glimpse into the life of a volunteer 

When asked what a typical day as a Bloodbank volunteer encompasses, he replied, “I start around 10 a.m. and finish late in the afternoon or early evening. As I undertake different responsibilities, I do not have a typical day. To me, that is exciting as it provides variety. I may be bandaging donors in the Bloodbank, dealing with queries over the phone or planning and organising activities and providing guidance to other volunteers.” 

Besides the day-to-day operations, he was also involved in the planning of Bloodbank events. He was the volunteer Project Lead for World Blood Donor Day. Unfortunately, challenges of the pandemic soon arose, the physical World Blood Donor Day event was cancelled and the comprehensive and detailed project plan Jacques had drafted became obsolete. Undeterred by this challenge, he took a step back, looked at the positive side of things and contributed in other ways. In his case, he helped to plan, oversee and manage the distribution of donor medallions and certificates.

The perspective of a volunteer leader 

Jacques also attended the Volunteer Leader training held from November 2021 to January 2022 as part of the first batch and soon became a volunteer leader. His decision to become a volunteer leader was partly driven by his desire to help shape the future of the SRC by setting an example and providing guidance to other volunteers. 

"Coming from Denmark, my leadership style is very equality-oriented, and I can always be found 'on-the-ground', where the action is, as opposed to leading from afar. I typically spend much of my time with new volunteers to ensure they are supported and have the best possible volunteer experience," he shares.

When asked about his aspirations as a volunteer leader, he says, “To motivate and inspire others and provide guidance and mentoring to new or young volunteers. I see my ‘job’ as helping others shine and become the best version of themselves.” 

The experience as a volunteer leader was a humbling experience for Jacques. 

"Volunteer leaders and volunteers are constantly learning from each other and growing together," he says.

Final takeaway

Having served as a Bloodbank volunteer for some time, Jacques recounted his most rewarding moments.

"The most rewarding aspects of volunteering were the people I came across, their life stories and their comradeship. Sharing a meal with other volunteers and Red Cross staff is always a wonderful experience. Everybody is open and friendly, and it is exciting to interact with people from different countries and backgrounds,” he explains.

These unique interactions further affirmed his belief that “at the core, most people are kind and giving.” 

Many volunteers come from different walks of life. Yet, they share a common ground in their willingness to serve and contribute to society. This made him feel positive and gave him tremendous hope for humanity. 

As a word of encouragement to potential volunteers, Jacques shared, “Volunteering is an opportunity to not only make a difference in other peoples’ lives, but also to grow and improve your own life.” 

By Diamond Koalitas, Volunteer 
Copyedited by Michael Gutierrez, Volunteer


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