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On August 12, 2021, we commemorate International Youth Day. Inaugurated by the United Nations in 1999, this special day celebrates the qualities of young people and recognises the multi-faceted challenges youths face in society today.

At SNCF, we interviewed three outstanding youths – our very own scholars Mohamad Raihan, Alycia Wong, and Raena Leang – on what being a youth today means to them, the social causes they champion for, and how best to navigate the social media landscape.   

In your personal capacity, what are some social causes you are championing for at the moment? How do you go about doing it?

Raihan: I volunteer weekly to help tutor children from less privileged backgrounds.

I am a firm believer that everyone should be given equal opportunities to perform and excel. In the field of education, some children may require additional support due to financial constraints or other external factors. Providing tuition and one-to-one guidance is one of the ways to make a difference to their lives.

Alycia: I am currently involved in NTU’s Welfare Services Club (WSC), a volunteering Co-curricular Activity (CCA) that supports vulnerability groups in Singapore. I have spent a bulk of my time helping primary school children from disadvantaged families by conducting weekly tutoring lessons and activities. I will be starting my role as Vice Centre-Head in one of the centres this academic year. Some of my new responsibilities include handling the student volunteers from NTU, planning and conducting CCA sessions, and working closely with the social workers in-charge of the children.

Raena: I have been involved in projects for two main causes this year: promoting inclusivity for people with disabilities and reducing the impact of socio-economic inequality.

For the former, I have been involved in organising Purple Outreach, a series of eight activity sessions, for students with special needs at Mountbatten Vocational School (MVS). I joined this initiative to understand more about interacting with individuals with special needs which is key to promote inclusivity. With my team, I planned the programmes for the volunteers and student beneficiaries to include a range of interactive lessons, such as urban farming. For the latter, I take time off to tutor children from lower-income families and organise occasional holiday programmes. Being able to support these children by developing their character and improving their academics is something I am passionate about.

As a youth, what empowers you?

Raihan: Surrounding myself with like-minded people who are goal-oriented and passionate about the things they do. I feel that it creates a healthy environment for me to learn more about others and the world around me. It also encourages me to step out of my comfort zone and strive towards a better society.

Alycia: I am empowered by the opportunities and platforms youths have in Singapore to try and make a difference to the community. I started volunteering since I was a Secondary One student and despite my tender age, I have never once felt dismissed. The community here has been encouraging and supportive, especially towards youths who have interest in community work. 

Raena: Being a youth means having energy and time to pursue what I find meaningful and joy in. I also have a safer space to experiment, make mistakes, learn from them, and try again. To me, this is a precious phase of my life where I get to explore and learn. These empower me to have courage to pursue what my interests are.

When we speak of youths, the use of social media comes to mind. How can youths today better make use of social media to learn more about the world?

Raihan: Information is so readily accessible these days with the Internet. Besides being a source of entertainment, social media can also be used for educational purposes too. We can use them to learn about pressing issues happening elsewhere in the world, and all you need to do is to follow accounts that promote these current affairs. Sharing these posts on our social media can also help raise awareness on these issues. On top of that, social media can be used as a platform to express personal opinions and views, allowing us to learn about different perspectives from others.

Alycia: Social media has become such a powerful medium for youths to glimpse a world outside of their own. For instance, we can follow organisations that champion different social causes on Instagram. Many of these accounts post weekly happenings pertaining to their causes or updates on the activities youths can participate in.

Raena: The very idea of what social media aims to do is to allow us to share what’s going on in our lives. Youths may leverage these platforms to understand people with various backgrounds and develop understanding, empathy, and take on less critical and judgemental lenses.

Having interned with us for a while, what are your takeaways from SNCF and of co-operatives in Singapore?

Raihan: It has been really enlightening and insightful to see what SNCF does behind the scenes for co-operatives in Singapore. In particular, there are frameworks that SNCF has established or are striving to put in place for the best interest of co-operatives. Overall, I find it meaningful that SNCF and co-operatives have the goal of doing good for the community, and I aspire to do the same as well.

Alycia: My internship at SNCF has allowed me to better understand SNCF’s vital role in Singapore’s co-operative scene. As the apex body, SNCF is responsible for disbursing grants to co-operatives to help them in their business development or through hard times, especially with the pandemic impacting all sectors. Throughout my internship, I caught a glimpse of the needs different co-operatives from different sectors have. It was a very enlightening experience on the whole for not only did I get to learn skills related to my degree, but also things like grant processes. 

Raena: Being highly involved in the grants review process and planning women outreach activities made me realise the great power that SNCF can have in guiding our affiliates to improve. Our actions and decisions have a ripple effect across co-operatives and greatly help our co-operatives improve. Through research, data analysis and discussions, I have also learnt in greater depth of how different co-operatives in Singapore can have feasible business ideas and still show concern for the community.

These interviews have been edited for clarity.

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