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Youth Corps Leaders Commencement Ceremony 2024

Opening Remarks by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law at the Youth Corps Leaders Commencement Ceremony on 30 March 2024

  1. Good evening to everyone and our community partners. To our Youth Corps Aspirants – congratulations! It is so good to see you. To families and friends who are here, welcome! I am very glad that you are all here to celebrate this occasion with us. 
  2. Today is quite a special occasion. I want to start this evening by congratulating all 209 Aspirants. As we have seen through the reflections and stories that our emcees mentioned earlier, you can gain so much from the Youth Corps Leaders Programme. You learn about the world we live in, the community that you belong to, and also about yourself. 
  3. Together with our community partners, Youth Corps mentors, assistant mentors, and staff, all of you have gone through an intensive programme – including a residential induction camp, training sessions, and a service-learning project. 
    1. In addition to developing valuable skills such as project management and engaging beneficiaries and stakeholders, you have led service-learning community projects that benefitted a wide range of beneficiaries. 
    2. Together, you have rallied more than 600 volunteers to serve various communities, and impacted more than 1,000 beneficiaries over the past year.
    3. For that, you deserve a round of applause! 

    Developing Youth Leaders 

  4. In 2014, the Youth Corps Leaders Programme (YCLP) was started as a flagship programme with 90 participants to nurture youth leaders. 
    1. Since then, the YCLP has nurtured over 1,500 leaders from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life with different interests, passions and starting points. The programme has nurtured more than 30 cohorts. 
    2. Some youth leaders have gone on to pursue careers in the social sector or start ground-up initiatives. The passion that was ignited while they were in this programme carried through. And now they are doing this every day, benefitting even more beneficiaries. 
  5. The YCLP was designed to be a unique opportunity to develop and hone these leadership skills – to give you an opportunity to discover something hidden in yourself and to hone skills outside the classroom, with the support from our community partners and mentors who have played an invaluable role. These mentors see the world differently and have a different perspective. They bring their experience to bear, and coupled with your youthful energetic passion, that would make a lot of difference. 
  6. You have also heard from our Valedictorian, Erina Oh, on her leadership journey, experience, and perspective in the past year. 
    1. Every journey is different, and each of you will have your own speech to make one day about your journey; about what made an impression on you and gave you the strong motivation to serve. 
  7. Besides Erina, I would also like to mention a few others, whose work as youth leaders has been inspiring:
    1. Sasidharan S/O Mahandra applied for the YCLP during his gap year before enrolling in University as he wanted to challenge himself to try something new and expand his knowledge of Singapore’s social service sector. 
      1. Teaming up with Rainbow Centre, Sasidharan and his team spearheaded Project Shine. 
      2. Through this initiative, they actively engaged youths with special needs aged 16 to 35 years old in biweekly activities, such as modified sports, and arts and crafts. The initiative aimed to promote greater inclusion and enhance social engagement among youths.
    2. As a young student, Asiyah Begam Binte Yusuff Mohamed Yunus faced difficulties in connecting with people and taking up leadership roles. She stepped up to be here today to confront these challenges and build her confidence. 
      1. Asiyah was part of Project WE+65, in partnership with Blossom Seeds Limited.
      2. Project WE+65 is a programme aimed at enhancing the physical and emotional well-being of seniors through biweekly programmes. 
      3. Asiyah and her team led 33 volunteers to conduct various activities, bringing joy, laughter, and inclusion to the 26 seniors, who may have felt that they have been forgotten by society. 
    3. Lastly, Anita Chan, was part of the pioneering cohort in 2014.
      1. She had participated actively and led community projects on intergenerational bonding and sustainability.
      2. Anita is a practising lawyer. In spite of her busy schedule, she is actively volunteering. She is part of the Special Needs Cluster that advocates for Persons with Special Needs, and leads programmes for youths to work with Persons with Intellectual Disabilities. 
      3. She is also part of the pioneer group of community peer supporters at Project Re:ground at The Red Box, providing a safe space where youths can seek respite from daily routines through conversations and self-care activities.
  8. There are also many other Youth Corps Leaders who are passionate to serve, directly and indirectly, with both benefitting many parts of our society. 
  9. Importance of Youth Leadership

  10. This leads me to my next point, which is the spirit of volunteerism – the desire to do something that impacts more than yourself and your immediate social space, and to think about the world we live in and what difference you can make to Singapore. 
  11. While we have built a safe and strong country, and nurtured it over many years, we live in a highly volatile world today. If you look around the world today, you cannot take anything for granted – our peace, security, harmony, and cohesion. We are dealing with multifaceted, complex challenges and Singapore is not immune to the fault lines that occur in many other parts of the world. On top of this, we also have challenges within our own society.
    1. Amongst other things, a rapidly ageing population. 
      1. In just 6 years, it is estimated that almost 1 in 4 Singaporeans would be over 65 years old. 
      2. If you think about our population, it means that workplaces, hospitals, community spaces, and the daily environment will need to adapt their infrastructure to meet the needs of seniors, against the backdrop of rising healthcare costs, and other challenges that we face. 
      3. But what this means is that there is a greater scope of opportunities for volunteers to play a bigger part. An ageing population means more volunteers and community support will be needed to address the needs and challenges of this changing demographic. 
  12. As such, volunteers will increasingly play a more important role in society. 
    1. Volunteers help to make a difference in the last mile. You can have a good programme and systemic approach, but what happens in the last mile when you meet face-to-face with your beneficiaries? The reliance that the beneficiary has on you, the bond that you build with them – this is made possible through the care and love that you show your beneficiaries. And this is in many ways the story of what we need to be doing as volunteers, as we look down Singapore’s horizon. 
    2. Compared to 20 years ago, we now have a much wider pool of volunteers; we have been able to grow this pool, whether it is through Youth Corps or the many other programmes that we have in Singapore today. However, in recent years, we have seen a decline in volunteerism rates from 35% in 2016 to 22% in 2021, partly due to the pandemic. But this is a trend that we have to reverse, and we need to make sure that we do what it takes to get back on track to increase our volunteerism rates. 
    3. Many of our youths have the strong desire to volunteer, but they have to balance their school, work, and family commitments. In the face of complex global challenges that we continue to face all the time in Singapore, it is particularly important that we have a constant stream of youth volunteers coming forward – interested, passionate, dedicated in different segments of society, and serving the underserved in those areas. 
  13. This year, Youth Corps turns 10. We have come a long way in positively impacting various needs in our society and building a strong community of youth leaders and volunteers. 
    1. Launched in 2014 by then Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, it has grown from 90 youth leaders in the pioneering cohort of the Youth Corps Leaders Programme (YCLP) to a national youth movement with over 30,000 members today. 
    2. Over the years, Youth Corps has provided a range of learning and volunteering opportunities, with The Red Box in Somerset as a focal point for Youth Corps volunteers to gather, exchange ideas, and plan community service projects. 
    3. Apart from the YCLP, we introduced Mission X, a 3-4 day community service leadership programme, bringing student leaders from different IHLs together, providing them with the skills and knowledge to serve the community. 
    4. We have enduring programmes such as YOLDEN, a senior befriending programme. 
    5. KidsLearn, a literacy programme for children in partnership with SSO-ComLink, which is currently running in 7 sites across Singapore. 
    6. We built up 12 cause-based and skills-based Youth Clusters to sustain youth volunteerism in line with their passion and interests. Our Youth Clusters have developed signature projects such as Big Brother Big Sister where volunteers participate in activities over several Saturdays with children with special needs to offer respite for their caregivers.
    7. Annually, we have about 6,000 youths engaged as active volunteers and participants, doing good through a variety of local and overseas volunteer programmes through the Youth Expedition Project (YEP), as well as youth-led initiatives. 
  14. We have done and achieved all these in the past 10 years, and I think it is time to reflect on the progress made, capture the gains, and think of the next bound of what Youth Corps means and what volunteerism in Singapore means. 
  15. Youth Corps has thus embarked on a visioning exercise, engaging past and present leaders and volunteers. 
    1. The purpose is to gain a deeper appreciation of the Youth Corps experience and take some learning points from the last 10 years – the impact we have made, how much more impact can we make, key challenges and how we overcame them, aspirations for the future and youths, and what the needs are in the community that can be best served with volunteerism. 
    2. We have conducted several deep dive discussions and sought young persons’ views through digital surveys. 
    3. Together, we want to collectively develop an aspirational vision for Youth Corps in its next phase of growth. 
  16. As part of the celebrations, you can look forward to an exciting 10th Anniversary Youth Corps Carnival in July this year.
    1. We will bring back past and present Youth Corps leaders, volunteers, and community partners, who have journeyed with us over the 10 year period.
    2. It will be a nostalgic walk down memory lane showcasing past efforts and achievements over the last 10 years. We want to strengthen and re-energise the entire cohort of leaders, mentors, and partners that we have and see what we will do for the next bound.
    3. We will round off with the annual Youth Corps’ Do Good campaign happening from May to July 2024, where we can expect more than 3,000 learning and volunteering opportunities for youths. 
  17. Alongside MSF’s Year of Celebrating Volunteers, Youth Corps’ 10th Anniversary will also celebrate the good work by our volunteers. More importantly, we want to strengthen our social compact and build a caring and inclusive society together. 
  18. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our community partners, mentors, and staff who have committed themselves to grow alongside our youths. 
  19. I am sure you also benefitted, learning from our youth volunteers in this programme. A big thank you to all of you! This progress that we have made, we could not have done it without you – your focus, passion, dedication, and generosity in sharing your experience, which has been an important aspect of this programme. 
  20. Congratulations once again to all our young leaders. 
    1. I hope that today, as you come on stage, you see this as the starting point for what more you will be doing on this journey of volunteerism, which is a life-long journey. 
    2. Let us aspire to really score a perfect 10 to do good together on this journey. 
  21. Thank you.
Last updated on 02 April 2024