3 youth causes you can support at the YMCA

Youth are the forefront of our society – they lead us into a tomorrow with new possibilities. Beyond being the most technologically savvy and forward-thinking generation, they have become a driving force for change. The YMCA of Singapore is on a mission to champion, challenge, and train youths in Singapore, empowering them to become effective contributors towards an inclusive society.

If you are passionate about empowering youth, here are three youth causes you can support at the YMCA:

1. Youth with Special Needs

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Michael Ang, a youth with mild intellectual disability, has made some amazing accomplishments in recent years. At just 25 years old, he has managed a cafe on his own and even received the Exemplary Employees Award by SG Enable in 2019. He has also taken on different volunteer roles at our community events, and is now waitering full-time at The Social Kitchen, Singapore’s first social enterprise cloud kitchen.

Michael’s journey first started at Y Camp Challenge, an outdoor adventure programme for youth with special needs. Through high rope elements and water sports activities, his confidence and motor skills improved. The camp also gave him the chance to make new friends and interact with volunteers and fellow clients.  

Michael was then employed at our hospitality social enterprise, YMCA @ One Orchard, before taking a new role at The Social Kitchen. Michael was also once a mentor in the YMCA Special Needs Hospitality Programme which empowers and upskills other youth with special needs through hospitality-related vocational skills. Trainees get to build their confidence and work capabilities through a real-life employment environment, opening their employment options for full-time jobs.

On top of that, YMCA also runs various activities and programmes like the YMCA Inclusive Challenge which challenges youth with special needs to summit Japan’s majestic Mount Fuji.

2. At-risk Youth

Growing up can be difficult, especially when things don’t work out how we want them to. 14-year-old Hexzal was unmotivated to go to school when he came to Project Bridge’s Y Explore programme. The youth now takes a new lease on life after completing the five-month intervention programme that supports vulnerable youths aged 13 to 14 and has since returned to school.

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The oldest of six children, Hexzal felt the need to care for his siblings as his family was trying to put food on the table. As there were barriers landing a job due to his age, he was frustrated and wished to find a way to support his family.

Y Explore hopes to support youth like Hexzal to transit back to mainstream education. While on the Y Explore programme, they learn vocational skills, participate in a Work Experience Programme, and receive life guidance from social workers and counsellors.

“Over time, I felt that joining (Y Explore) has changed my character and it (has) helped to make me a better person. No matter what, there’s always a path. We can always improve ourselves and become a better person,” said Hexzal.

YMCA’s Project Bridge supports and empowers at-risk youth, out-of-school youth, youth with mental health struggles and those living in a vulnerable environment.

Besides Y Explore, Project Bridge also runs the Vocational and Soft Skills Programme. Launched in 2011, the six-month programme equips at-risk youths aged 15 to 21 with specific vocational skills, which can be put to use immediately for a job. Some of them include barista and culinary training, baking, digital marketing and hairdressing.  

3. Youth Volunteers 

Beyond empowering youth with special needs and vulnerable youth, YMCA also trains youth volunteers through University-YMCA, YMCA Youth for Causes and the YMCA-NUS Business School Volunteer Service Management Programme.

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Not one to shy away from giving back to the community, Jun Jie (JJ) joined University-YMCA as the International Service Programmes Director. During that time, he was involved in two Overseas Community Service Programmes while completing his degree. 

In 2020, JJ stepped up as President of the University-YMCA SMU club. While juggling two internships during his Presidency, he still volunteers regularly, kickstarting two new COVID-19 initiatives to serve the elderly and migrant workers. With his achievements, he became a recipient of the YMCA-Lim Kim San Volunteer Excellence Award 2020.

“We often fail to appreciate the blessings in our lives and take them for granted. Through volunteering, (I was) exposed to the less privileged community, with the chance to bridge the gap to make their lives better. I want to work towards building a more inclusive society where we can establish strong communal support for each other,” the youth shared.  

University-YMCA, also known as Uni-Y, has been impacting the community for 15 years, with student volunteers across four universities in Singapore – Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Uni-Y strives to be changemakers in their campuses, being a community that serves communities. Their leaders and members are strongly passionate about supporting their peers and those in need through various community programmes and events. Diving deeper into the field of mental wellness, Uni-Y launched their first ever mental wellness campaign in 2020, titled #IAMWHOLE.

YMCA also trains youth volunteers under the YMCA Youth For Causes community initiative, promoting social entrepreneurship among youths aged 15 to 25. They are given seed funding, training and volunteer mentorship to execute self-initiated projects to raise public awareness and funds for different social service agencies. In its 2020 run, a team of ITE students even managed to raise $86,000 for their peers who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The YMCA-NUS Business School Volunteer Service Management Programme (VSMP) empowers and equips volunteers and staff of social service organisations with skills and knowledge to implement community service programmes with excellence. Conducted by lecturers from YMCA and NUS Business School, participants receive a professional certificate at completion.

With the right support, every youth can excel in life. Through our diverse programmes, we aim to champion, challenge and train youth to become independent and effective contributors of an inclusive society. Be part of this journey today!

Make a donation: giving.sg/ymcasg

Volunteer opportunities: volunteer@ymca.org.sg

Partnership opportunities: partnership@ymca.org.sg

Contributed by Megan Khaw (megankhaw@ymca.org.sg)