Participants at Mendaki Club youth leadership programme tackle real-world challenges

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin (front row, fifth from left) with participants of a 30-hour hackathon organised by Mendaki Club. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - How can we get traditional Malay-Muslim Singaporeans to look at mental illness as a medical condition, rather than a religious issue?

That was one of the challenges issued to 62 students and young professionals in a 30-hour hackathon that ended on Sunday (Sept 23) at the ACC EduHub in Somerset.

The hackathon, which began on Saturday, was part of the eighth Leadership Incubator programme organised by Mendaki Club, an affiliate of the Malay-Muslim self-help group Yayasan Mendaki.

Participants were given 30 hours to come up with solutions to real-life challenges in the areas of enterprise, socio-religious issues, youth and health, issued by eight project partners such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and inter-religious non-profit group Roses of Peace.

Among the participants were four students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East, who partnered Club Heal, a charity which offers rehabilitation and counselling services to those with mental illnesses.

They eventually emerged as the top group in the hackathon and received a cash prize of $5,000 from Mendaki Club, after all the groups pitched their ideas to a panel of five judges on Sunday afternoon.

They produced a humorous short film about a Malay-Muslim man diagnosed with paranoia, to reach out to young people and get them to look at mental illness from a medical perspective rather than a religious one.

In the film, the man's wife initially asks a shaman to cure him, but eventually realises she has to seek professional medical help.

The group, consisting of Hilman Eddie, Ruzaini Razak, Muhammad Afiq Azmi and Fithri Haslim, said their win was "completely unexpected".

Institute of Technical Education (College East) students (from left) Hilman Eddie, Ruzaini Razak, Muhammad Afiq Azmi and Fithri Haslim emerged as the top group in the hackathon. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

"We executed the project in the way we saw the challenge statement, and tried to make a change from the bottom of our hearts," they said.

The second- and third-placed group received $3,000 and $1,500 respectively.

The two-month Leadership Incubator programme also included six workshops to help participants better understand community issues and develop technical skills they would need in the hackathon, such as design thinking and presentation skills.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, who was the guest of honour at the hackathon, said that the young people should try to take their projects a step further.

He said: "Ideas have to lead on to something concrete, something tangible, for our community to benefit.

"This is a phase in which we are trying to get our youths to go into, for them to be involved and part of the solution, and to walk the talk."

Separately, Yayasan Mendaki opened its seventh satellite centre in Choa Chu Kang earlier on Sunday.

These centres reach out to the surrounding Malay-Muslim community, and link families in need to Mendaki programmes such as tuition, job placement and financial support for education.

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