Youth discuss volunteering, active citizenship in Emerging Stronger Conversations dialogue

The dialogue was hosted by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam (both centre). PHOTO: MINISTRY OF CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH

SINGAPORE - The youth on Saturday (Oct 31) exchanged views on topics ranging from volunteerism and being active citizens to mental health issues and rebuilding the country's economy in a virtual dialogue.

A total of 50 young people took part in the Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations session, the vast majority of them aged between 17 and 25.

For most of them, it was their first time participating in this dialogue series to share their hopes and plans for a post-Covid-19 Singapore.

The two-hour session was organised by government feedback arm Reach and hosted by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam.

This is the 13th Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations session since the first one was held in June. At least 20 such discussions will be held by February next year, including some in mother tongue languages.

In his closing remarks, Mr Lee noted how some participants talked about learning to adapt as the Covid-19 outbreak upended the lives of many Singaporeans.

Not all were able to adapt well, he said. Some of the more vulnerable had difficulty complying with safety measures in public, which meant caregivers were reluctant to take them out.

"But the wonderful thing was that even though we were very stretched - at some point, some of us were at breaking point - Singaporeans pulled through. Other countries, societies fell apart, and you can see them in the news every day," he said.

Ms Rahayu said she was encouraged and inspired by participants who talked about being more inclusive, and about stamping out discrimination and not leaving anyone behind.

"I'm glad to know that we care and we want to do something about this," she said, highlighting an example raised during the discussion of how foreign and healthcare workers were discriminated against.

More than 1,650 Singaporeans and community partners have participated in various Emerging Stronger Conversations, including surveys. The virtual discussions are open for people to sign-up online.

Participants said Saturday's session allowed them to hear views they were not normally exposed to.

Ms Tan Wanxuan, 21, a politics, law and economics undergraduate at the Singapore Management University, said the discussion was a good platform not just for hearing about government policies but for engaging in conversation with other young people from all walks of life.

"Such conversations during this Covid-19 period also bring us together to reflect on what we're going through, and share ideas about how we can go about building a shared future together," she said.

First-time participant Danish Hisham, 25, who is an international relations student at the Singapore Institute of Management, said the session helped him realise that there were other young people who faced similar challenges as he did during the circuit breaker period in taking online classes.

These include not having any face-to-face interactions with classmates, having family members interrupting video calls, and no longer being able to organise events on campus.

"For me, it's heartening that my question has been answered. I know I'm not alone in facing these issues," he added.

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