Young Singaporeans to watch: Clean sweep

SAMANTHA THIAN, 26 Founder of social enterprise Seastainable
SAMANTHA THIAN, 26, Founder of social enterprise SeastainableST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Samantha Thian, 26,

Founder of social enterprise Seastainable

A scuba-diving trip with her father when she was 16 led Ms Samantha Thian to make protecting the environment her full-time pursuit.

With her savings from giving tuition while she was in university, she started Seastainable, a social enterprise that organises events like workshops and panel discussions to help people become more aware of their carbon footprint.

The enterprise is now profit-generating, even after she shut down its retail arm - which sold items such as metal straws and reusable cups - to stop encouraging consumerism.

This year, Ms Thian also started a community-led initiative to clean up East Coast beach after she saw rubbish collecting on the shore.

The Telegram chat she created now has more than 2,700 people who have helped to pick up more than 12 tonnes of trash since July.

Raeesah Khan, 27


Ms Raeesah Khan of the Workers’ Party made history this year by becoming Singapore’s youngest ever parliamentarian.

At just 27, she has had a history of fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised. In 2016, she started the Reyna movement, which has helped to support Rohingya refugees in Kuala Lumpur as well as female education in Singapore.

She faced a police probe into her Facebook posts earlier this year, but was successfully elected as an MP of Sengkang GRC in the general election.

“I think my proudest achievement is being able to overcome the challenges that this year has thrown at me,” she said.

“My aspiration for the future is that we see a country that allows everyone to reach their full potential.

All of us, regardless of age, want to see a Singapore that progresses without leaving anyone behind.”

Nadia A. Samdin, 30


Elected on the People’s Action Party slate for Ang Mo Kio GRC headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in July, Ms Nadia Samdin is one of the youngest MPs in Parliament.

A lawyer by training and a former journalist, she has advocated for issues such as early intervention for at-risk youth and modern loneliness, especially among seniors, which has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

She has also spoken up on the need for more blue and green spaces.

“I’m no stranger to being in rooms where I am the minority in age, race and gender,” she said.

Her desire to represent the voices of those who may be marginalised drives her to speak up in Parliament, where most MPs are older than her.

Still, she asserted: “Age should not hold anyone back. Young people are willing to be counted on.

Community building is more meaningful when everyone, regardless of age, participates.”

Francesca Phoebe Wah, 29

Founder of non-profit group Bless

A fund-raising drive started by Ms Francesca Phoebe Wah during the circuit breaker period raised over $180,000 and helped more than 3,000 people living in rental flats put food on their tables for three months.

She had noticed that part-time jobs were the first to go as a result of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Residents in rental flats are more likely to hold part-time jobs.

Brought up in a low-income family, Ms Wah has worked with underprivileged groups for about six years since her university days.

She founded Bringing Love to Every Single Soul, or Bless, in 2014. The non-profit group counts among its activities reading sessions with underprivileged children at the void decks of rental housing blocks.

Her next project is to work with her fiance to make sure families living in rental flats have their own laptops and are able to keep up with digitalisation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2020, with the headline 'Young Singaporeans to watch: Clean sweep'. Print Edition | Subscribe