ITE students raise $86k to help peers hit by pandemic

Their video featuring fellow students' moving stories is top fund-raiser in youth programme

Institute of Technical Education College East students (from left) Danish Sufi Usyair, Margie Ybanez, Dela Cruz Trisha Mae Guzman and Cheryl Oon Siew Ying posted their video on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to raise funds. They also reached
Institute of Technical Education College East students (from left) Danish Sufi Usyair, Margie Ybanez, Dela Cruz Trisha Mae Guzman and Cheryl Oon Siew Ying posted their video on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to raise funds. They also reached out to corporate donors. PHOTO: YOUTH FOR CAUSES

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

They achieved this by producing a video showcasing heartfelt stories of fellow students who have been struggling during this period.

One of them is 23-year-old Ahmad (not his real name), whose mother lost her job during the circuit breaker period earlier this year. To support her, Ahmad took on a part-time position as a cleaner at a Covid-19 community recovery facility mainly for migrant workers, earning about $2,600 a month.

Four other students' stories were also featured.

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

YFC's virtual awards celebration was held last Friday and attended by Education Minister Lawrence Wong and other guests.

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

This year, 316 young people across 79 teams participated. Teams were each given a seed funding of $1,600 to help a voluntary welfare organisation of their choice.

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

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

He said: "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 video by the ITE students was the top fund-raiser at this year's YFC. The students chose to help Bethesda Care Services, which mainly serves the eastern part of 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.

The ITE students 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 the team also sent e-mails to several companies, raising another $20,000 in corporate donations.

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

Ms Ybanez said it was challenging to find students who were willing to open up on camera, and the interviewees needed a lot of persuasion and encouragement.

She added: "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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2020, with the headline 'ITE students raise $86k to help peers hit by pandemic'. Print Edition | Subscribe