GIC scheme not paid volunteering

The report on Sunday ("Youth who give their time to society get cash grant from GIC") gives the impression that the GIC Sparks & Smiles Award is "paid volunteering". It is not so.

What GIC offers is a leadership and mentoring programme to selected students who, despite their difficult financial circumstances, are happy to put in time to befriend those from disadvantaged homes.

Key to this programme is understanding the impact of empathy, positive role modelling, the need to instil confidence and encouragement to others.

The cash grant is essentially for the financial support needed.

GIC Sparks & Smiles came about because we wanted to financially help young people from low-income households who are pursuing post-secondary education.

This could have been simply a straight cash grant.

But we felt we could do better for the lives of these young people, rather than just address their financial needs.

We are extremely encouraged to have been able to find so many young people willing to see beyond themselves.

This way, we are able to multiply the value of our social impact programme: The students get financial support, and the young children and youth get friends who are prepared to offer their hearts and helping hands, and who can also be an inspiration as to where they themselves can get to in the future.

If GIC can help instil this spirit of looking out for the less privileged, we would be happy to have played a part.

As we do not have the capacity to train the young students for their roles as befrienders and mentors, we are thankful to have Beyond Social Services as our partner.

It designed the programme which inspires and enables our award recipients to play a positive role in the community.

GIC Sparks & Smiles started with the universities and will be extended to the Institute of Technical Education and all the polytechnics in the coming months.

It is worth noting that the idea for the pilot with the Singaporean undergraduates comes from studying Teach For America, where new university graduates volunteer to teach for a period and are assigned to schools in low-income communities.

For our programme, we took the tack of young people expressing their social concerns rather than teaching in schools.

Our corporate social responsibility programme echoes our singular mission to benefit present and future generations of Singaporeans by managing the foreign reserves of Singapore.

GIC Sparks & Smiles is funded from our own budget and not from the Government's.

Jennifer Lewis (Ms)
Head, Communications

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2016, with the headline GIC scheme not paid volunteering. Subscribe