5 questions with a VTeamer: Inspiring the next generation to give back
Clareta Chia- Lam, a Citizen Verizon Volunteers Champion, shares how volunteering resonates through generations
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When Clareta Chia-Lam was growing up in Singapore, her parents enlisted the whole family to help at a local assisted living facility. “We’d bring the residents essential items and provide performances or fun games,” says Chia-Lam, a managing associate general counsel for Verizon.
As part of her work with Citizen Verizon Volunteers, Chia-Lam has extended the tradition of volunteering to her kids, ages 11, 15, and 16. When coordinating Verizon volunteering events in Hong Kong, where she now resides, her children often design the event posters and sometimes help out with organizing. Chia-Lam has led several volunteer projects, including tech seminars, STEM mentorship programs, beach cleanups and book drives.
1. What drives your enthusiasm for volunteering?
A desire to give back to communities I’m connected with, including youth, but also the elderly and any underprivileged communities.
2. How have you kept volunteering alive during the pandemic?
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we did a lot of disaster relief focused virtual volunteer events. We organized Chinese New Year lantern making and pushed that initiative out to the employees so they could make decorations from home and donate them to the senior living facilities together with food essentials. The preparation was done virtually, and we gave employees the option of dropping it off at one of the centers or at the Verizon offices.
It was impactful to visit the residents in the assisted living facilities. It brings out more compassion from employees. I was moved to see our VTeamers pull together for people in our community.
Clareta Chia-Lam sorts through donations to Rebooked, an organization that gives books to children in impoverished countries and raises funds by selling used books. Credit: Tory Ho
3. How do you get families involved?
I’m very big on including families in our events. That’s how my parents raised me. For a number of events we’ve done, we open it up for employees to bring family members into the fold. A lot of the posters to promote [the Hong Kong events] are done by my kids. I’m not an artistic person by any means. In this day and age, my girls can whip those up really fast! By turning these things into family events, it builds a cycle of sustainability — have the young ones involved, so they can learn to give back in the future.
4. How has volunteering through the program impacted you personally and professionally?
I’m proud to be part of a company focused on social responsibility. Being involved keeps me energized. Being engaged in volunteering has also allowed me to build stronger friendships and connections with my colleagues.
I find it funny that people think that I’m really tough during legal negotiations. I say, “You know, when you come out for these volunteer initiatives, I turn into a different person.”
Clareta Chia-Lam encourages her children to help with the Verizon Hong Kong volunteer events, including designing announcements. Credit: Tory Ho
5. How do you motivate people to get involved in the Citizen Verizon Volunteers program?
There’s a core group of people who will always be there, and they’re quite passionate about these causes. I’d like to reach out to those who have the passion, but may not be active.
I always tell hesitant employees: “Look, I always find that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. If you set aside the time and make volunteering a priority, you’ll find that it helps you a lot in the other aspects of your life, too.”
You feel energized giving back to the community. You feel empowered, and at the same time, you’re connecting with your colleagues on a meaningful thing.
Chia-Lam suggests VTeamers who have yet to try volunteering take a small step and find an activity that resonates with their interests or passions on the Citizen Verizon Volunteers portal.
"You feel energized giving back to the community. You feel empowered, and at the same time, you’re connecting with your colleagues on a meaningful thing."