I co-founded Interfaith Youth Circle (IYC) in 2015 as a response to the lack of accessible spaces for young people to safely navigate controversial topics pertaining to religion and to encourage religious pluralism.
We live in a globalised world, and Singapore is fast becoming a melting pot. To respect someone else’s world – view doesn’t require you to agree with it or to accept it. That’s what IYC aims to address. You’re talking about changing people’s mindsets – to be a part of that process is a huge responsibility and an incredible experience.
My other organisation, Back2Basics, was founded in response to the shortage of programmes that delivered free basic groceries to families in need.
Right now, we’re looking into seed funding for both organisations. IYC is self-funded and Back2Basics is currently funded by individual private donations. For us to impact the community in the way that we want, it’s crucial that we can scale.
This will allow us to address the problem in a larger and more holistic manner, including issues of social inequality and social mobility. It’s not just about providing those who are less fortunate with the basics anymore – we want to completely take them out of the vicious cycle of poverty and ensure that the children in these families don’t fall back in.
Young Singaporeans may be accused of being apathetic, but I don’t think you can stereo-type an entire generation. A lot of it comes down to what they can see and emulate. Are we setting a good example for them in terms of community involvement? It’s also important to think about the values we emphasise in schools and as a society – are we too focused on academic achievement alone, or are we prioritising character excellence as well?
The potential of this generation is massive, because we have so many things available so quickly at our fingertips. The advancement of technology has made it easier to connect with people and advocate a cause. It’s a very powerful time to be in.
“The potential of this generation is massive… it’s a very powerful time to be in”
My advice for young people who want to start a social organisation is to just do it. Do your ground research and find out if there’s already an existing programme that addresses what you’re trying to achieve. If there isn’t and you discover a gap, then go for it.
One thing that you need to maintain throughout the process is the integrity of your cause. Really understand what you are doing, who you are doing it for and why you are doing it. When that takes root in you, then no matter what happens – whether you fail a few times or people doubt you or you aren’t taken seriously due to your age – nothing matters, except why you started.
Illustrations by Stuart Patience
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This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine