Igniting change, a volunteer at a time

With conviction, passion and perseverance, anyone can be empowered to make a difference, and help build a better world.

Youth Corps Singapore is a national establishment that supports youths with a heart for serving the community.

Launched by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and the National Youth Council (NYC) in 2014, Youth Corps has been inspiring and nurturing youths to catalyse change through volunteerism.

Ardent Youth Corps Leaders Sheila Manokaran and Owen Tan are among the rising new breed of young, active citizens committed to shaping the community positively.

Volunteerism - A Beautiful Thing

"I look up to Mahatma Gandhi, and I believe in his conviction to 'Be the change you wish to see in the world'."

A taste for adventure and a hunger for achievements drive Sheila Manokaran. Currently pursuing Aviation Management at Republic Polytechnic, the spunky 22-year-old dreams of running her own airline business some day. She displays the same robust spirit in championing youth volunteerism as a Youth Corps Leader.

Sheila first discovered her interest in volunteerism when her grandaunt brought her to the Sree Narayana Mission Home. She was, in her own words, "inspired by the beautiful idea that just a single individual like myself could make another person smile and laugh so heartily."

Sheila was then introduced to Youth Corps by Mr Chong Leong Fatt, deputy principal of her former alma mater, ITE College Central, and the rest is history. 

Share with us your volunteer experiences with Youth Corps.

I was part of both local and overseas Youth Corps projects that spanned six months each. The overseas project was a collaboration with Vietnamese Environmental Agency. The objective was to raise environmental awareness.

It was truly an eye-opener for me as I worked with Vietnamese youth leaders and learnt how environmental issues are addressed in a foreign land. The local project was just as interesting.

My team worked with Lakeside Family Services to conduct an English Reading Programme for local kids. It was an experience I would never forget.

We did not have enough students to start with, but the response became overwhelming at the last minute before registration closed.

I realised that even in our modern, affluent country, there are less privileged people who need our help.

What's your most memorable mission as a volunteer? 

It would have to be my experience with students from the Little Learning Club.

During my exams, I couldn't conduct their Saturday classes as often. I thought the kids would have forgotten me when I returned.

To my surprise, they welcomed me with warm hugs. A little girl called Aqila touched my heart with her heartwarming words, "Where did you go? You must come again next week. We miss you."

We may seem to be doing something small for these kids but to them, we are everything. We are why they have grown to love learning.

The Ripple Effect Of Giving Back

"Many youths are becoming volunteers, but I hope we can have more, in particular, male volunteers. They are a rare breed on the volunteer scene."

For Owen Tan, kindness is a way of life. And the 26-year-old has been certainly walking his talk in inspiring others with his burning passion for volunteerism.

A food technologist at Health Food Matters Pte Ltd, the bubbly, resourceful 26-year-old was already involved in volunteer work in his school-going days.

At 14, he was approached by his schoolteacher to join a Lions Befrienders programme. where he and two schoolmates were attached to an English-speaking octogenarian staying alone in a one-room-rental flat.

Owen was also the former president of the Community Service Club (CSC) at Nanyang Polytechnic. 

What drives Owen to help others is simple - seeing people smile makes him happy.

At the lowest point of his varsity life when his results fell short of his expectations, Owen did not brood over it. He channelled his energy into  spreading joy through volunteer work by joining the Youth Corps Leaders Programme.

Share with us your volunteer experiences with Youth Corps.

"Barriers to healthy eating in older adults in Singapore" was the thesis that I was working on for my Honours.

Coincidentally, the Youth Corps project I was involved in aimed to help residents of one-room rental flats eat healthily.

It was like killing two birds with one stone! I could use the information for my thesis to implement this project.

At the same time, I could use my experience to beef up my thesis.

As the team leader and main trainer for the project, I was tasked to impart the knowledge to a group of senior volunteers from TOUCH Senior Activity Centre (SAC), who have been keeping in touch with the residents.

I also took part in an overseas educational project, a collaboration between Youth Corps and ETCH Empathy.

My team flew to Cambodia to teach villagers how to diversify the usage of plastic.

It was a memorable experience as we celebrated Christmas together.

We cooked a few local dishes for the Cambodian students and used fairy tales to creatively introduce the dishes.  

What's your most memorable mission as a volunteer?

In 2014, I organised a Christmas cum birthday celebration at Thong Teck Home for the Senior Citizens without any initial support from corporate or community organisations.

Eventually, I got an organisation to sponsor the buffet for 250 people.

I tapped on my network of friends and received 6 free handmade birthday cards and a 5kg cake. A childhood mate and her buddies formed a band and put up a show for the celebration.

Inspired by Sheila and Owen? Take the first step at www.youthcorps.sg