The youth sector in Singapore received a boost when the National Youth Council (NYC) welcomed adventure learning group Outward Bound Singapore and Youth Corps Singapore, an organisation formed to promote youth volunteerism, into the NYC family in January 2015!
Now an autonomous agency under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, NYC will support youth aspirations, prepare youth for new challenges and amplify youth action for the community through its expanded offerings. Douglas Chew tells us how.
MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
After a 21-day course with Outward Bound Singapore (OBS), Ms Nur Fi'la Saeman, 18, found herself drawn to its outdoor culture and spirit of community service.
During her OBS stint, Fi'la participated in Si Ling Primary School's Tri-Love Student Care programme, which inspired her to start volunteering.
OBS Alumni - a group of past OBS participants who give back to society through community projects - provided such an outlet.
The group has since engaged youth-at-risk, distributed food to low-income families and carried out environment conservation projects.
Last year, Fi'la led a group of young volunteers in a reforestation project at Pulau Ubin, planting young saplings on burnt areas of the island. She also participated in a coastal clean-up at Pasir Ris to promote a collective ownership of Singapore's natural environment.
"Volunteering is a two-way street. Not only do you give back to the community but with the time spent, but you can develop many skills, values and create new relationships," says Fi'la.
For those thinking of volunteering, she says: "There are unlimited things you can do in contributing to making the world a better place. Start small, start local and start to spread some kindness."
CREATING GARDENS OF HOPE
Just because a person can't speak, it doesn't mean he or she has nothing to say. Ms Joey Tang Hui Yee, 26, learnt this important lesson while volunteering with her fellow Youth Corps Singapore Aspirants at an adult day activity centre for the intellectually disabled.
She introduced the Aided Language Stimulation (ALS) method to the centre, over a period of six months, last year. ALS uses visual aids in combination with the spoken word to encourage language learning.
Joey taught structured teaching methods to the staff, leveraging her experience as a special education teacher at Eden School, a vocational school for students with autism. The staff successfully employed these methods to simplify, demonstrate and guide the centre's beneficiaries to make terrariums - miniature gardens in glass containers.
"I could see a sense of achievement in the beneficiaries' faces when they received their certificates and gifts for successfully completing their training in terrarium making," she says.
Joey has been an aspirant of Youth Corps since June 2014. Youth Corps aims to match youth volunteers with critical community needs.
"Through Youth Corps, I learnt to work with diversity, be it in age, interest or stages in life. My team has students, working adults and married individuals, and while we have different priorities in life, we share a similar goal of giving back to society," she says.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Depression is the most common mental illness in Singapore, with most mental illnesses occurring by the age of 29, according to the Institute of Mental Health.
A team of students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) set out to raise awareness about depression among young people, aptly naming the project Embrace(D), supported by NYC's Young ChangeMakers grant.
"Through Embrace(D), we could make a difference in the perceptions that the public has towards depression, hence providing a supportive environment and encouraging more people to step out and seek help," says Ms Tan Wei Qing, 22.
The students used social media and created a website to bust myths and provide information on sources of help for youth with depression. They also organised a roving exhibition at NTU, Temasek Polytechnic and *SCAPE in February and will reach out to other tertiary institutions and junior colleges to spread the word further.
The exhibition made an impact with its "Invisible Museum", where personal items contributed by people with depression were showcased.
"Visitors often tell us after they've read the accompanying write-ups that the stories shared changed their perspective of depression and those who have it," adds Wei Qing. The Embrace(D) project has given the team a taste of the satisfaction that comes from helping the community.
"Everyone should play a part to give back to society, even if it is a small part," she says. "A good first step is to be open-minded and understanding and always offer a helping hand to someone in need. This could go a long way to make someone's day a lot better."
Start now to unleash your talents, challenge your limits and do good for the community. Visit https://www.facebook.com/nycsg