Transforming Lives of Persons with Special Needs, A Gala for Brighter Futures

After her GCE ‘N’ Levels, Clarissa Ng, a youth on the autism spectrum, faced an uncertain future. Yet, the 19-year-old today has already found stable employment in an F&B-related job at a local hotel. She has nurtured an interest in dance, which provides stress-relief and improves motor skills. “I have grown more confident in myself, and feel joyful communicating with my colleagues,” said Clarissa Ng.

This was largely thanks to the YMCA-Inclus Train & Place Series, a new vocational programme launched this year. Over five weeks, youth with special needs are equipped with vocational skills related to the F&B and hospitality industries. Additionally, they are provided with enrichment activities aimed at improving their physical, mental and emotional well-being. Upon completion, the programme supports them through guided interviews and access to a network of partners, to enhance their opportunities for long-term employment.

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The YMCA Giving Gala 2022 is a fundraising dinner that supports programmes just like the YMCA-Inclus Train & Place Series. It called upon members of the public and supporters to witness the transformational journeys of youth with special needs and youth-at-risk, interact meaningfully with them, and contribute generously to uplift lives. The event was graced by YMCA’s Patron-in-Chief, President Halimah Yacob. The event raised a total of $163,000 (excluding matched funds).

“I like to learn new things, but it can be difficult because I get very anxious. The trainers at YMCA were all very nice and patient with me, and I felt very comfortable in the programme,” shared Clarissa Ng. Her mother, Celine, adds: “Clarissa has always wanted to be in the F&B industry. It was a good chance for her to learn something, and some of the skills she learned can also be applied in our daily lives. We were so happy when she got a job, and this has given us a lot of hope!”.

The YMCA of Singapore has served and impacted the community for 120 years. In recent years, it has placed high emphasis on nurturing and strengthening youth with special needs and youth-at-risk. Funds raised go to the YMCA Community Services Fund, which sustains arts, sports and vocational training programmes for these client groups.

Other key programmes this event supported include the YMCA Vocational and Soft Skills Programme (VaSSP). Over 6 months, this programme equips youth-at-risk with vocational skills such as hairdressing, culinary arts and digital marketing, and soft skills such as interview and conflict management skills. In 2019, the YMCA of Singapore also launched the YMCA Inclusive Climb, intensively training 10 persons with special needs and bringing them to challenge Japan’s tallest mountain, Mt Fuji. It was an extraordinary journey of self-discovery where they developed resilience, independence and confidence.

“Our youth of today will become the leaders of tomorrow. It is therefore important to nurture them so that they will thrive and uphold strong values in our society. Beyond providing a platform for youth to develop their strengths, it is also vital to journey alongside them as they carve out their unique paths to success. I am heartened to hear of the many lives that have been transformed thanks to YMCA’s vocational training programmes and support,” said President Halimah Yacob.

“The YMCA of Singapore’s youth programmes all aim to do one thing: to strengthen youth – all youth – to rise above their circumstances and to reach their full potentials. We are so proud of their achievements and journeys – for many of them, their lives have completely transformed after much hard work and a little support from us. We hope the public will come alongside and support us generously in this upcoming YMCA Giving Gala, so that we can reach out to more youth, to build a future and a hope together with and for them,” said Ms Wu Mei Ling, General Secretary & CEO, YMCA of Singapore.