4 ITE students raise $86,000 for peers affected by Covid-19 pandemic

ITE students (from left) Danish Sufi Usyair, Margie Ybanez, Dela Cruz Trisha Mae Guzman and Cheryl Oon Siew Ying raised the money by producing a video showcasing their fellow students' stories. PHOTO: YOUTH FOR CAUSES

SINGAPORE - A team of four students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East have raised some $86,000 for their peers who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

They achieved this feat by producing a video showcasing and telling heartfelt stories of their fellow students who have been struggling in this period.

One such story was of 23-year-old Ahmad (not his real name), whose mother lost her job during the circuit breaker period earlier this year. To support her, he decided to take on a part-time role as a Covid-19 front-line cleaner at a community recovery facility used mainly for migrant workers, earning about $2,600 a month.

Four others' stories were told.

The group behind the video - Cheryl Oon Siew Ying, 18, Danish Sufi Usyair, 18, Dela Cruz Trisha Mae Guzman, 19, and Margie Ybanez, 20 - took part in this year's Youth for Causes (YFC) fund-raiser organised jointly by Citi Foundation and YMCA of Singapore.

The virtual awards celebration event was held on Friday (Nov 20) and was attended by Education Minister Lawrence Wong and other guests.

The YFC programme promotes social entrepreneurship and community leadership development among Singapore youths.

This year, 316 youths across 79 teams participated. Teams were each given the same seed funding of $1,600 and they got to decide how to utilise the funds to help a voluntary welfare organisation of their choice.

In total, over $450,000 was raised for 36 social service agencies that tackle social issues, including mental wellness, special needs, less privileged youth and environmental conservation.

In a speech at the awards ceremony, Mr Wong praised the participants for putting aside their personal challenges amid the Covid-19 crisis and stepping up to help others in need.

"Volunteering is powerful because it has a profound effect on our lives. It teaches us to care for the well-being of others, especially those in need.

"When we serve, we meet people in circumstances different from our own; we develop greater empathy and we learn what it means to walk in the shoes of others. We develop a stronger sense of duty and responsibility for our fellow citizens.

"This binds us, and this is what makes us a community."

The ITE team that produced the video of their peers emerged as the best fund-raiser in the YFC this year. They chose to help Bethesda Care Services, which focuses on servicing the community in eastern Singapore and collaborates with ITE for youth outreach programmes.

Funds raised will go towards these programmes, as well as study grants for students whose families were affected by the pandemic.

Calling themselves "YOUth Counts", the four posted their video on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. Viewers were directed to a Giving.sg fund-raising page, where a total of $21,590 was raised.

Ms Ybanez, the team's leader, said they had also sent out e-mails to a number of companies to ask for corporate donations, raising another $20,000.

With their seed funding, as well as dollar-for-dollar matching by the Government, the total donations add up to about $86,000.

Ms Ybanez said the team had drawn inspiration from video publisher Our Grandfather Story. But it was challenging to find students who were willing to open up on camera - they needed a great deal of persuasion and encouragement, she added.

The team also expressed appreciation for guidance from a number of volunteer mentors: Mr Francis Lim, a freelancer in the media industry; Ms Ember Xu, who works as a video editor; Dr Chew Tong Gunn, who works at Citibank; and Mr Chris Ngon from Bethesda Care Services.

Said Ms Ybanez: "We learnt a lot from this experience... We learnt that some people need more encouragement than they do financial help. We saw people who needed a listening ear, and also, we discovered that there are many people out there who are compassionate and willing to help those in need."

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