When Shah Anaz B Sulaimi was 13, he got to know about online gaming.
He was soon hanging out with other players in LAN (local area network) shops, spending all his time in front of the screen and subsisting on cup noodles when he got hungry.
The addiction gradually took a toll on his health, grades and family ties — he even lied to his parents in order to continue frequenting the LAN shops.
It was only when his father smashed his laptop that he was jolted out of the online world.
The real turning point, however, came in his first year at Ngee Ann Polytechnic when he decided to go on a Youth Expedition Project.
He and his team implemented an overseas service-learning project in Hai Duong, Vietnam, where they helped with the construction of a school.
Inspired by that experience, the 20-year-old has since prioritised volunteer work over his gaming activities.
Shah shares his story and what motivated him to continue his volunteering journey:
What made you sign up for the Youth Expedition Project (YEP)?
I’ve always dreamt of extending a helping hand to others but didn’t really know where to start. It was only when my school e-mailed everyone from my cohort about the YEP trip that I thought that maybe I could do something.
What did you learn from your project in Vietnam?
The emotional bonds and friendships we forged with the villagers were very memorable. Though hiring workers would have made the construction easier, the school we built with our own hands was something so precious and greatly cherished by the local community.
Why did you continue volunteering back in Singapore?
During my YEP, it was heartwarming to see that despite communication barriers, the villagers were still eager to interact with us. After this experience, I decided that I wanted to continue volunteering back home.
That’s when I signed up as a Youth Corps Singapore member. Since YEP is one of Youth Corps’ programmes, I discovered that I could continue giving back after my YEP trip in causes that interest me. The community is very friendly and I’m empowered to serve!
How’s your relationship with your family now?
I’ve made it a point to eat with them as often as possible and to be more involved and present, instead of staying in my room. They noticed these changes and are appreciative of my efforts.
In Vietnam, Shah encountered an elderly man who was eager to communicate despite the language barrier.
“He began to take a stone with a jagged edge and started scribbling on the floor what seemed like numbers. He wrote ‘74’ — his age — and drew three lines to express how many kids he had, mimicking cradling a baby to explain his point. This act of mini charades was very heartwarming. Even though we were not able to speak each other’s language, we still connected as humans and were interested in each other’s life. We spent the whole rest time writing with stones, trying to share our stories with one another.”
– Shah Anaz, Youth Corps Singapore volunteer
Ignite positive change today! www.youthcorps.sg