400 young people to take part in programme to raise funds for voluntary welfare organisations

SINGAPORE - Some 400 young people embarked on a 15-week fundraising effort on Tuesday (May 17) for an annual social entrepreneurship and youth development programme.

Called Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes, it is jointly organised by a volunteer-based organisation YMCA of Singapore and Citi Singapore. It is in its 14th year.

The programme seeks to allow young people, aged 15 to 25, to promote and raise funds for their chosen voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) from now until Aug 31.

Last year, participants of the programme raised more than $813,000 in support of 46 VWOs, including some $284,000 raised for 17 VWOs under the President's Challenge list of beneficiaries.

This year's launch, held at Hwa Chong Institution, was attended by Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Trade and Industry.

The 100 teams of four people each were picked from a total of 158 applications.

In going through the applications, the judging panel - which comprised senior management executives from corporations and the public sector - looked at criteria such as innovation, feasibility, as well as the level of public and volunteer engagement for a proposed project.

Among the teams was Project Eido, which is working with the Dyslexia Association of Singapore to increase awareness on dyslexia and raise funds for dyslexic children from low-income families.

The all-girls team from Hwa Chong Institution comprises Zhong Jia Ning and Xu Mengwen, both 17, and Zhang Yunqi and Jia Jixuan, both 18.

The team members first met the Dyslexia Association of Singapore during a service learning project in Nanyang Girls High, and wanted to continue working with the association.

Their project includes a book entitled My Inner World, which contains paintings and short stories by people with dyslexia.

Said Jia Ning: "We are trying to show the public the strengths of dyslexic children. Even though they have learning difficulties, they are actually very creative. So, we want to showcase their strengths.

"For example, some children with dyslexia cannot distinguish between the letters 'b' and 'd'. So by selling this book, (people) can see that these are some of the problems that these children face."

There were also teams which continued working on projects which their seniors had implemented during previous editions of the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes programme.

One such team is Project 100acreslove from Dunman High School. It comprises Victor Tan, Tan Yan En, Teo Shi Qi and Valerie Low, all 17, who share a passion for animals.

They aim to increase public awareness about animal cruelty and raise funds for wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

Said Valerie: "We thought that carrying on a project would be more effective in raising awareness as compared to starting from scratch."

The team will be hosting a Vegan Week at their school, where vegan food will be sold at the school canteen and students will be encouraged to go vegan for a week. They will also be holding a 5km run and walk, in which participants will dress up like animals and be chased by people pretending to be poachers.

Another project under the programme is by Team Enable from St Joseph's Institution, which is working with Very Special Arts to provide people with disabilities the opportunities to access the arts for the purpose of rehabilitation and social integration.

They are holding an art exhibition with art pieces created by people with disabilities, and are creating a social media challenge where people attempt to recreate an art piece created by someone with a disability.

Each of the 100 shortlisted teams will receive $1,600 in seed funding from Citi Foundation, which invests in philanthropic causes. Team members will undergo training in areas such as financial management, events management and marketing, as well as fund-raising. Training is conducted by YMCA in partnership with NUS Business School.

A volunteer mentor will also be attached to each team. These mentors are professionals from various business sectors, government ministries, statutory boards and social service providers.