Youth and mentors adapt to stay connected during Covid-19 outbreak

President Halimah Yacob during her visit to the New Life Youth Hub @ Fajar yesterday, where she met (from left) youth mentor Bong Kai Ning, 30, and New Life Community Services beneficiaries Ayumi Tan, 13, Tang Jia Xin, 14, and Vinathi Seenivasulu Nai
President Halimah Yacob during her visit to the New Life Youth Hub @ Fajar yesterday, where she met (from left) youth mentor Bong Kai Ning, 30, and New Life Community Services beneficiaries Ayumi Tan, 13, Tang Jia Xin, 14, and Vinathi Seenivasulu Naidu, 15.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

As the older child with a brother who is in Primary 2, secondary school student Ayumi Tan does not have an older sibling to guide and advise her.

The Secondary 1 student at West Spring Secondary School rarely has the chance to chat with her hairdresser mother and her father, who is a manager in the food and beverage sector, as both of them work long hours.

When she cannot turn to anyone at home for support, Ayumi confides in youth mentor Bong Kai Ning, 30, whom she met at New Life Youth Hub @ Fajar in Bukit Panjang.

The hub is operated by social service agency New Life Community Services (NLCS).

Thirteen-year-old Ayumi was one of nine NLCS beneficiaries who met President Halimah Yacob during her community visit to the hub yesterday.

Describing Ms Bong as a sister figure, Ayumi said: "She is kind-hearted and guides me when I am in need of help. She gives me advice on not just schoolwork but also my relationships with family and friends. If I have a problem, I know I can reach out to her."

The bond between them was unaffected during the circuit breaker period, when they kept in touch online.

Agencies such as NLCS have been grappling with an influx of cases and are adapting to the changing needs of their beneficiaries amid the Covid-19 situation.

A funding recipient of the President's Challenge this year, NLCS assists its beneficiaries through various services, including financial assistance scheme Project Love.

Before the pandemic, the agency received about five cases a month.

However, the number of cases doubled during the circuit breaker, owing to people facing income loss, which particularly affected those in the gig economy or industries such as tourism or retail.

 
 

NLCS executive director Felix Wong said: "With the various relief funds provided by the Government during and after the circuit breaker, we saw a slight reduction in the number of cases, particularly since phase two.

"However, with retrenchment expected as a result of the economic slowdown, we anticipate the number of cases may rise due to unemployment and those affected having depleted their savings."

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Ayumi remains optimistic about the future. A sports enthusiast, she aspires to be a physical education teacher and a mentor.

She said of the hub: "What we have here is a safe and comfortable space where we can make friends and speak freely. I will keep coming here as long as I can. This is my second home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2020, with the headline 'Youth and mentors adapt to stay connected during Covid-19 outbreak'. Subscribe