SINGAPORE - Mr Alwis Lim, 18, used to spend three evenings every week between January and March getting to know and talking to primary and secondary school children living in rental flats in Kebun Baru.
His goal was to understand their digital and connectivity needs better and gain their trust so he could help them catch up with their more digitally connected peers.
Mr Lim saw first-hand how these children were disadvantaged compared with their more digitally savvy friends and classmates, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to The Straits Times, he said: "Digital devices are a basic need now. If you've never seen a smartphone, you've never had constant Internet access, how will you know how to use (teleconferencing app) Zoom and (presentation programme) Google Slides?"
The second-year Singapore Polytechnic student said: "We can ask friends or family members. But some of the parents of these youths don't have permanent mobile phone numbers or subscription plans."
These observations prompted Mr Lim, who is pursuing a diploma in infocomm security management, to organise digital literacy workshops for the children between March and June. Some were carried out in-person in small groups and some entirely online.
The children who benefited from these workshops learnt how to use Zoom for educational and recreational purposes.
For his contribution to the community, Mr Lim, was presented on Saturday (Sept 18) with the National Young Leader Award, which is given out by the Halogen Foundation Singapore.
He was one of five winners at the awards ceremony that was held at arts training centre 10 Square at Orchard Central.
Selected from a pool of 150 applicants aged 15 to 19, the 10 finalists were chosen for their strong leadership skills and contributions to the community.
Among the 10 finalists, five emerged as award winners after a stringent selection process that included two rounds of panel interviews and an online voting exercise by members of the public.
The other four winners were: Nazra Zafar, 17; Nicole Sim, 16; RaeAnne Yap, 16; and Tan Yun Xuan, 16.
They initiated projects to provide free tuition to less privileged students and raise funds for patients with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease, among others.
At Saturday's ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was guest of honour, commended the finalists for their achievements.
Mr Heng noted that the young have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in many societies, as their education has been disrupted and they struggle to find jobs.
But in Singapore, instead of letting Covid-19 define their generation, youths are determining their own paths and redefining the crisis, he said.
Mr Heng said: "Many have adapted and adjusted their plans. More importantly, they have also reached out to those around them who face even greater adversity."
In recognition of their contributions, the five award winners will be offered a six-month mentorship programme to help them further develop their projects.