400 Youths Embark on World-Changing Journeys for the Needy

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As countless spinning tops soared through the air in the Concert Hall of the School of the Arts (SOTA), the journeys of 400 youths embarking on a mission to change the world for the less privileged began. This was at the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes (YFC) Official Launch Ceremony held on 17 May, where Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education joined students, teachers and representatives from social service agencies in launching spinning tops into the air, symbolising a flying start to the youths’ YFC journeys.

Under the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes programme, 100 teams of four, aged 15-25, will be given a seed funding of $1,600 each, mentorship, training and a fundraising license to work on projects they created to champion a social cause of their choice. The Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes Official Launch Ceremony was graced by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education.

This year, some of them have taken up social issues prioritised by the nation, such as fighting against diabetes, food wastage, and encouraging inclusiveness to people with physical and mental disabilities. Some teams have also chosen issues in need of public awareness, such as guide dogs for the visually impaired in Singapore, haemophilia which is a disease that prevents blood clotting, bone marrow donations and supporting organisations such as Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening chronic illnesses.

Over $864,000 was raised and 16,570 volunteers were mobilised by 100 teams of four, benefiting 42 Social Service Organisations (SSOs) through the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes (YFC) 2018 programme. This year, 45 SSOs will benefit from this programme, 14 of which are SSOs supported under the Presidents’ Challenge.

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The launch ceremony started with a dazzling performance put up by Very Special Arts, an organisation that encourages the participation of people with disabilities in the arts, alongside vocalist Lauren Yeo, YFC alumni, and students from ITE College East Dance Club.

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Inspired by what he saw that night, Mr Ong went on stage to share a few words with the audience. He said in his impromptu speech: “Charities like YMCA and companies like Citi are doing right for running a programme like this for 17 years, exposing our young to social work and people who need help more than we do. For the young generation, I know you are educated well, you have a heart of gold, and that is a bright future for Singapore”.

Among this year’s budding social entrepreneurs is 16-year-old Then Shan from Project Meraki, who also participated last year. Despite being a part of three CCAs, a Regional Studies programme and studying a third language, he is leading new team members to be the voice for Beyond Social Services, an SSO committed to helping children and youths from less privileged backgrounds to break free from the poverty cycle. Last year, his team raised awareness and funds for the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN). 

“YFC provides an opportunity to do something for someone else. It builds empathy, an invaluable trait in building a kinder and more understanding Singapore of tomorrow. As youths of tomorrow who are fighting for change in our society, we must realise that we are all the same, as people with skills, weaknesses, hobbies, fears and passions. The only difference is that some people live with added difficulties and we must do our best to alleviate this, no matter how big or small our voices may be,” he said.

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The Minister for Education, Mr Ong Ye Kung, interacted with Project Meraki at the launch ceremony, encouraging them to keep up the good work.

Other participating teams this year include Project Apollo with Riding for the Disabled Association of Singapore, the only SSO that provides hippotherapy locally. They plan to hold a carnival at the association’s horse stables to raise awareness to the public about what they do. Project Apatite looks to create an art piece with the public involving the folding of wishing stars representative of funds raised, and Team Solidarity, consisting of a team of home-schooled youths, are reaching out to corporations to hold a fundraising laser tag event.

Citi-YMCA YFC empowers youths and gives them hands-on experience in contributing to the social service sector, to alleviate a social issue they are passionate about. Combining the mentorship from Citi volunteers, YMCA of Singapore and industry experts with the creativity of youths, these teams seek to bring about a positive social impact through a wide range of activities that engage the public.

Some proposed activities by participating teams this year include flash mobs, carnivals, sales of products and crafts made by clients of their chosen SSOs, concerts, street performances and community engagement activities such as running events.

“YFC, now into its 17th year, is a signature programme under Citi’s Pathways to Progress initiative, which aims to equip young people to become career-ready through leadership and entrepreneurship training. In addition to funding from Citi Foundation, YFC also provides an opportunity for over 60 Citibank volunteers annually to be directly involved as organising committee members, judges in the selection process, or mentors to guide the youth.” said Mr Adam Proctor, Global Market Manager for Citi Private Bank, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The 100 teams were carefully chosen based on their project proposals and performance at a selection interview attended by 121 teams of hopeful applicants on 27 April. This year, about 82 new teams and 18 legacy teams, which are teams succeeded by new students from the same schools, will execute projects that will aid 45 SSOs. Four SSOs will be participating for the first time, which are Food Bank Singapore, Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation, Haemophilia Society of Singapore, and the Singapore National Paralympic Council.

“This is also part of our efforts to support the government’s leadership to increase volunteerism and community participation across the nation. We believe in starting them young!” said Mr Steve Loh, General Secretary & CEO, YMCA of Singapore.

 

Contributed by Sim Yu Xiang