SINGAPORE - Young people planning projects to benefit the community during the Covid-19 pandemic will now be able to tap funds more easily.
Applications and fund disbursement for the Young ChangeMakers Grant will now be fast-tracked, said Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann on Wednesday (May 27) during a Zoom interview with the media.
Up to half of the approved grant will be given out within seven working days in a special Covid-19 edition of the grant.
Before this, it would have taken two to three weeks for the money to be disbursed.
Those aged 15 to 35 have up to Dec 31 to apply for the grant which is administered by the National Youth Council.
Applications need to be submitted at least a week before the project commences, as compared to six weeks before.
The grant awards up to $5,000, or up to 80 per cent of total project costs, whichever is lower, depending on the project's scale and impact.
Started in 2005, the grant provides funds to young people looking to champion causes they are passionate about in the community.
"We have also relaxed the funding criteria to make it easier for young people to use this scheme in order to effect plans that help the vulnerable and also to pursue causes that are very important to them," said Ms Sim, who co-chairs the Youth Action Plan panel with Mr Edward Chia, co-founder and chief executive officer of Timbre Group.
Previously, the funding from the Young ChangeMakers Grant would not cover gifts like food items and supplies, but now, such items that meet community needs like masks and thermometers can be covered.
One project funded by the grant is #codeForCorona, an initiative by three 18-year-olds.
The trio organised a virtual hackathon on May 9 and 10, where young people created solutions to issues that Singapore is facing during the Covid-19 pandemic, and then presented their work to judges for feedback.
The final three teams are being guided by the judges to help their ideas become reality, and are now applying for the Young ChangeMakers grant, said Mr Arya Vohra, one of the organisers. The ideas included a congestion tracker and an informative Covid-19 game.
Mr Arya, who recently graduated from United World College, planned the hackathon with two friends, Mr Khush Jammu and Mr Taichi Kato, with whom he set up AI product company Questo AI.
The funding from the grant helped to cover logistical and technical costs to organise the hackathon,said Mr Arya.
"In times like this it is difficult to get corporate support for such projects. That's why we really appreciate the grant in helping ground-up initiatives like us to enrich the community," he said.
Ms Sim also said that $30 million from the National Youth Fund has been set aside over the next five years for Youth Action Plan initiatives. These projects would be in line with the Youth Action Plan themes, namely inclusiveness, fairness, care, sustainability and progress.
The next term of the National Youth Council, which will begin in July 2020, will see a new team take over the panel to steer the Youth Action Plan.
The panel was set up last year to lead efforts to articulate young people's vision for Singapore in 2025, and to come up with an action plan to get there.
In the past year, the panel has pushed for more mental health support as well as advocated mentoring to help empower youths.
Several initiatives such as a video documenting real counselling sessions have helped to spur young people to share their own mental health stories and remove the stigma attached to mental illness.
A new interactive website has also been set up at youthactionplan.sg to attract and engage young people.
"A lot of our work in the past one year has now been a good foundation for us to actually meet the challenges of Covid-19. Mental health is one thing that has been brought up that has particular importance," said Mr Chia.
Said Ms Sim: "Even before the pandemic occurred, in our conversations with young people, and in the work of the panel, employability and job opportunities have already emerged as one of the frequent themes of youth engagement."
She added that connecting young people with career advice and mentorship opportunities will be more important in the future, as traditional methods for young people to be connected with job opportunities such as job fairs and networking sessions will be curtailed.