Youth scheme raises $8m for charities

Students pitching their project proposals to judges at an interview for the 15th run of the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes initiative at the YMCA of Singapore building in Orchard Road on April 29.
Students pitching their project proposals to judges at an interview for the 15th run of the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes initiative at the YMCA of Singapore building in Orchard Road on April 29.PHOTO: YMCA OF SINGAPORE

Participant numbers in Citi-YMCA social enterprise scheme up since launch in 2003

They are aged 15 to 25, with most yet to start their first job. But these young people have raised much awareness - not to mention millions - for charities here through a youth social entrepreneurship scheme.

More than $8 million has been raised for at least 160 charities since the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes initiative started in 2003.

The initiative - possibly the longest-running youth social entrepreneurship programme here - is organised by Citi Singapore bank and charity YMCA of Singapore.

Each team of four participants under the scheme is given seed funding of $1,600 and other resources to plan and implement a project that will benefit a charity of its choice.

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The 15th run of the initiative will be launched next Tuesday by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, after 100 teams were shortlisted from 111 teams, which pitched their proposals at an interview two weeks ago.

The scheme has grown over the years. In 2005, organisers doubled the number of selected teams from 50 to 100. Participant numbers have also increased from the first year, when only 31 teams made a pitch, reflecting the growth of social entrepreneurship among young people in Singapore.

GROWING INTEREST

While it may be true that youthful interests often do not last long, part of the reason may be because these interests are not nurtured or taken seriously. Programmes like Youth For Causes offer young people a means to explore their interests, while providing them support and resources, so their ideas have a fighting chance of being turned into a reality.

A SPOKESMAN FOR RAISE, a centre for social enterprise in Singapore.

For instance, there were 11 nominations each for the Youth Social Enterprise of the Year category of the 2013 and 2015 President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award, up from five in 2012.

Latest figures from the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE) show that as at March last year, 112 of its social enterprise member organisations were founded by people aged below 35, up from 91 in March 2015.

Mr Alfie Othman, chief executive of raiSE, the national advocate for the social enterprise sector here, told The Straits Times: "Back in 2003, the term 'social entrepreneurship' was not a common one. But there were some stirrings in the social sector of the value that the enterprise model could provide in terms of solving social needs in a sustainable way."

A spokesman for raiSE said the growth in youth social entrepreneurship could be due to more young people wanting to marry their interests of being employed and giving back to society.

She said: "While it may be true that youthful interests often do not last long, part of the reason may be because these interests are not nurtured or taken seriously. Programmes like Youth For Causes offer young people a means to explore their interests, while providing them support and resources, so their ideas have a fighting chance of being turned into a reality."

  • How 4 teens got 4,200 volunteers to raise funds

  • They were just four teenagers, but managed to mobilise some 4,200 volunteers to sell notepads, postcards and teddy bears on the streets, and collected more than $170,000 for charity.

    After adding in proceeds from two charity concerts and factoring in costs, the group, called Team Inspire, raised more than $125,000 for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund in 2011.

    This is the largest amount raised by a team in the history of the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes initiative, which marks its 15th anniversary this year.

    National University of Singapore global studies undergraduate Seah Yi Jing, then 17, was one of three team members from Hwa Chong Institution, with another member from Nanyang Girls' High School.

    The street sales were held almost daily over a few months, but there were two main dates on which hundreds of volunteers were mobilised, she said. On one of those dates, about $120,000 was collected.

    "We roped in friends from many different secondary schools, and each of them tapped their network of friends. They had the flexibility to sell the items with friends and in the place and time they choose," said Ms Seah, 23.

    When asked how her team raised so much money, she said: "I think it's our large network of volunteers, and we marked out the two main dates well in advance, so our volunteers could keep those days free."

    Over the years, some groups have adopted creative ways to raise funds and awareness for charities.

    Last year, a team from Dunman High School held an "escape event", in which people race to solve puzzles, and raised about $7,000 for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

    The game helped to raise awareness of animal abuse. For instance, players took on the role of dogs chained for slaughter, or animals facing laboratory tests.

    In 2014, a team from National Junior College recruited volunteers to don wedding gowns in Orchard Road and Raffles Place to get cash donations and bone marrow donor sign-ups for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP).

    The idea was to show that finding the perfect donor is as difficult as finding one's life partner on the streets. The project raised about $6,000 and recruited 140 donors.

    BMDP head of donor recruitment Elise Lee said of the Youth For Causes programme: "It provides a platform to engage more youth to create and lead a change in the community - they can propose ideas to the charity partners, and they have the ownership of the project and... help to change the community one step at a time."

    Priscilla Goy

Mr Amol Gupte, Citi Singapore's country officer and Asean head, said: "Youth For Causes has empowered young people by enabling social entrepreneurship supported by the programme's seed funding, training and mentorship by Citibankers."

Singapore University of Technology and Design undergraduate Chua Rui De, 25, took part in the programme in 2005 and 2007, and returned to volunteer for three years.

Mr Chua, who is studying engineering product development, also co-founded Mobearlize this year, a start-up that designs engineering solutions to help the disadvantaged.

He said: "Though I was just a Secondary 3 student when I first took part, I learnt about the social service landscape then and realised I could make a change in people's lives, however small the impact is."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Youth scheme raises $8m for charities'. Print Edition | Subscribe