New 10-week immersion programme for youth volunteer leaders

President Halimah Yacob and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the 4th Youth Corps Singapore Leaders Commencement Ceremony on Sept 1, 2018.
President Halimah Yacob and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the 4th Youth Corps Singapore Leaders Commencement Ceremony on Sept 1, 2018.ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

SINGAPORE - Volunteer leader Chua Han Yun could not have gained her knowledge from merely reading a book.

What she learnt on the ground - to align the needs of seniors at Ren Ci Nursing Home and troubled youth from community partner Trybe through a music befriending session - was invaluable.

The 24-year-old, who is doing her final year at the National Institute of Education (NIE), said: "I learnt it was easier to plan than to execute. But when I witnessed both groups communicating and making music together, I felt I had achieved my goals."

Ms Chua, is one of 22 young people who joined a pilot programme run by Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) that was announced on Saturday (Sept 1) at the 4th YCS Leaders Commencement Ceremony at Gardens by the Bay.

The 10-week immersion programme took the youth beyond skills training and learning by putting them on the ground in real situations.

From April to June this year, the volunteers learnt about programme planning, design and implementation via full-time job placements in social service organisations.

Answering President Halimah Yacob's call for more volunteers to support this year's President's Challenge Volunteer Drive, YCS Leaders initiated a slew of projects with 12 community partners, helping more than 1,900 beneficiaries and tackling social issues like care for the environment, the elderly and people with special needs.

Two projects - Project Picturesque and Project JAM - engaged adult residents with intellectual disabilities at Metta Home and seniors from Ren Ci Nursing Home respectively.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said at the event: "The objective is for our Youth Corps Aspirants to develop a better understanding of the social sector and to acquire skills in serving the community.

"The pilot involving 22 Youth Corps Aspirants was well received."

Guest-of-Honour, Madam Halimah, noted in her speech that statistics show more youth volunteering.

A survey by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre revealed Singapore's volunteerism rate rose from 18 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent in 2016.

It also found there was a rise in the volunteerism rate among youth aged 15 and 24 over the same period.

However, she pointed out that fewer young working adults are volunteering.

Madam Halimah said: "Understandably, many of our youth in their mid-20s to mid-30s may be preoccupied with their new careers, or with starting their own families. They face more impediments in setting aside time to contribute to the society. "

Her solution on how to encourage more youth to continue volunteering involves engaging employers of youth volunteers.

"We should facilitate a good tripartite volunteering movement between our youth, their employers and the VWOs they serve," Madam Halimah said.

By creating opportunities, young working adults can volunteer through their workplaces.

The Straits Times understands that the National Youth Council and YCS are working to pilot some initiatives in this area.

But keeping the volunteerism spirit alive requires reflecting on what a volunteer sets to achieve.

Said YCS Leader Galen Yeo, 26, a supply chain executive: "When you reflect on what you have done and its effect on beneficiaries, that's the spark to keep you coming back for more."