From a baker who promotes mental health through food, to a computer programmer with a heart for minority communities, we discover what keeps them up at night and what exactly they’re doing about it.
“Though Singapore has an education system that is the envy of many around the world, beneath the veneer, not all students will have an equal chance to succeed in their studies,” he says.
“Students from poor families will be naturally, structurally disadvantaged even at before Primary One. The increased prevalence of tuition centres only serves to widen that academic gap between the poor and the rich.”
As a volunteer, he also struggled constantly to find free, high quality educational resources as well. To remedy that, he and his partners launched SmartGuppy, a free, easy-to-use online platform that consolidates resources from exam papers to worksheets for everyone. He also received help from NVPC’s Groundup Sandbox (an incubator programme that offers help to startups dedicated to social good), which opened his eyes to the fact that most disadvantaged kids don’t even prioritise having a good education.
“In the Sandbox programme, we decided to shift away from the academic emphasis and use dance as a way to attract the underprivileged children. Unlike typical dance programmes, we focused more on inculcating values such as self-confidence, resilience and perseverance and how it’s applicable to their academic studies as well,” shares Shen Fai.
He adds, “Much has been said about social inequality in Singapore, but little has been said about educational inequality, the root cause that perpetuates social inequality and thus the poverty cycle in poor families.”
It’s come a long way since its founding in 2016, and the fact that it’s run entirely by youths makes it even more impressive.
It all started with a group of students (one of whom is Brendan Loon, Advisory’s current vice-president of content and external relations) who met at the Youth Corps Leaders Programme, an initiative by Youth Corps Singapore to groom the younger generation to become leaders and empower them to create positive change in society.
“For many of us, we are where we are in part due to factors beyond our control – not everything can be attributed to sheer hard work, industry and meritocracy. Sometimes, our success is because we were in the right place at the right time, or because we knew the right people,” Brendan says. “
Not everyone is fortunate enough to benefit from such luck because information, opportunity, access, and connections are unevenly distributed across society.”
Being part of the Youth Corps Leaders Programme granted him and his team the seed funding they needed to support Advisory’s infrastructure, as well as invaluable feedback, insights, and expert contacts who lent a hand in areas such as intellectual property and legal rights. Above all, it was the community of like-minded people with a heart for others that humbled and inspired him to do better.
“It helps to know you are not alone, especially when the going gets tough for a young non-profit like Advisory.”
“Whenever she hears voices, she tends to be violent and verbally abuses me,” she reveals.
Outside her family, she is surrounded by friends who are dealing with their own demons as well. In 2015, she lost her job as a learning support educator and went through a harsh breakup, eventually leading to a diagnosis of mild bipolar disorder.
“There are times my mood will be affected, and I will sleep the entire day,” she says.
“As a result of this, I was unable to go to work and ended up losing my job. If I get triggered by certain issues, I may not want to go out to meet friends or carry on with my tasks during the day.”
The issue of mental illnesses, especially that of anxiety and depression, is still largely misunderstood by a large portion of the population – raise your hand if you’ve heard someone suggest “shaking off” the depression.
“It is alarming to know that there is an increasing number of people in Singapore suffering from mental health conditions. It can be the anybody around you. Education plays a crucial role to understanding mental health and mental health knowledge begins with us,” Peirong says.
“My strength comes from my father, good friends as well as my passion in baking during my recovery process. I am a firm believer that food can serve as a valuable means for opening up greater conversations about mental wellness amongst the general public … If I give up hope, who’s going to be the voice to advocate for mental health?”
Organising women-only hackathons and coding workshops, The Codette Project empowers women from all walks of life and equips them with the skills to break into the tech industry.
Nurul says, “I felt very strongly that minority and Muslim women needed to play a larger part in tech … [these] women deserve success and tech will help them get there.”
Starting out with initial funds from Mendaki, the startup has since reached a significant mass of women and collaborated with tech giants such as Google and Facebook.
“We do it because we believe that minority and Muslim women are creating change for themselves, their families and their communities and we want to help them get the success that they deserve.”
Imagine endless cages of abandoned, unwanted dogs, not having a home or a family to love. What’s worse, this number of dogs and cats will only increase, with the older ones getting euthanised if there isn’t enough space. It was an “overwhelming” image that broke Christine’s young heart, and fuelled her passion for giving these animals a better life.
“[There is] a ballooning street dog population and this has been disregarded for far too long,” she says. While Singapore combats this by sterilising strays and preventing population growth with the Trap Neuter Release Programme, Christine promotes the adoption of rescue dogs with Causes For Animals. Formed with four other individuals, it goes beyond being a regular shelter and organises adoption and vaccine campaigns as well.
“Bobbie was adopted as a senior dog. She was meant to be eaten by some workers and was rescued by a senior lady who placed her at a boarding facility. She eventually won our hearts and we adopted her,” Christine shares.
QQ, on the other hand, was rescued after an irresponsible adopter lost her. Despite time and energy constraints, Christine continues to fight for her furry creatures, hoping there’ll be a day when she won’t have to see another forgotten pet left for dead on the streets.