If you’re a young person between the ages of 15 to 35, here’s an opportunity to contribute and make a difference to the lives and help people in our neighbouring countries. Be a Youth Expedition Project (YEP) volunteer with Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) and you can gain valuable life lessons – whether it’s organisational skills or expanding your world view – that will help you in your future pursuits.
The YEP has seen consistent growth each year and up till 2019, there were 4,500 participants going through the program on a yearly basis. We speak to YCS to find out more about YEP and how it’s a precious learning experience for all their volunteers.
Q: Personally, what do you think are the biggest benefits of being a volunteer, and participating in YCS’ YEP projects?
YCS: YEP volunteers would develop into confident and resilient youths. Participating in a YEP allows youths to be empowered to plan their own community projects to address the needs of the overseas and local community in ASEAN countries (and India and China).
It is also a chance for them to step out of their comfort zones and broaden their world view by working with people outside of their usual social circle as they come together to work on the project.
Q: For parents in Singapore, why do you think a YEP experience is invaluable for their kids and themselves?
YCS: Youths aged 15-35 are eligible to receive YEP-GO funding and start their own projects. Parents can expect their children to pick up leadership and project management skills through the planning and execution of the project. Parents can also expect to see their children mature, as they develop into caring young people who can empathise with and care for other communities.
Q: What are some of the main takeaways volunteers will get from the YEP initiative?
YCS: Other than gaining leadership and planning skills that will aid them in life, we also hope that the experiences our participants gain will widen their world view. We hope they will learn valuable intercultural lessons from their overseas counterparts which would motivate and inspire them to serve the community at home. We also hope that these youths will become more open and aware about people from diverse backgrounds.
Our hopes would be for volunteers who have gone through a YEP to be developed into Asia-Ready youth who are socially and culturally aware, and are able to forge friendships in the ASEAN member states, China and India.
Q: YEP is targeted at local youths; how can adults also contribute to YEP and the projects?
Young working adults under the age of 35 can join YEP as a participant, or even lead a project team. We have had several working adults who were leaders of their YEP project team, using their experience to lead the team.
Alternatively, adults with children who are in the youth age range could also consider actively encouraging their children to join or start a YEP and do their part for the wider community.
Q: With the pandemic, what will YEP’s volunteering programs and projects be like in the future? Will it be a hybrid mix? And how will this be different from an in-person experience?
YCS: As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the YEP has pivoted online so that it can continue to meet the needs of the overseas community despite travel restrictions. This new online iteration, called YEP Goes Online (YEP-GO), was launched in July 2020. In Sep 2021, we recorded 1,100 participants taking part in YEP-GO since it started.
We are exploring the possibility of having both online and offline experiences. We envision a type of YEP where participants can decide if they would prefer to have a complete in-person experience where they fly to the host country to execute their project (subject to travel restrictions), a full online experience where projects are conducted virtually, or even a mix of offline and online engagement.
One Young Man’s Volunteering Experience
Lim Zi Jie Rodney, 20, is a recent graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (Diploma in International Trade and Business) and is currently serving National Service training to be a Guardsman with the 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards.
He has been a long-time volunteer with YCS, and has participated in and led the following YEP Projects: YEP Team Malah (2018), YEP Team Sambal (2019-2020) and YEP-GO Project Ceria (2020).
Even right before the day he was enlisted, he was still providing help for some YEP Projects. Here, he shares more about the projects he was involved with, his experiences and what he gained as a volunteer with YEP.
Rodney: “Working on YEP programmes over an extended period of time was something I never saw myself doing when I joined my first trip. Over the years I kept coming back to volunteer, enticed by what I’ve accomplished from the different projects and hoping to do even more.
YEP was never just about serving the overseas communities, but also what we as participants can learn from such experiences. Throughout the various projects, I was privileged to experience the sense of community in rural villages. I was also able to go on cultural exchanges and professional company visits which widened my perspective as a business student.
Being able to visit such communities was something most young people would not have a chance to do at a young age, even as a tourist. The programme gave me an avenue to build and improve on myself while serving a good cause.
With Covid-19 clamping down hard on international travel, physical YEP trips became impossible. With the support of the YEP team at YCS, I led the first YEP-GO project which supports the educational development of thousands of young children across Indonesia through online and livestreaming media.
Teaching online was something that most of us were inexperienced with, and not trained for. With the lack of interaction out of the classroom, it was significantly more difficult to bond with the students and community partners. However, we moved forward and adapted by allocating more time for fun interactions and games.”
On YEP Team Malah: Chengdu, China (2018)
Team Malah was Rodney’s first physical YEP, where he was a participant. His team spent two weeks at a school in Chengdu, China.
Their main aim was to expose to the students the world beyond their community through cultural exchange sessions, boost their confidence in speaking in a foreign language, and share teaching pedagogy from Singapore.
Their team also visited Harmony New Home and Qing Cheng Shan Old Folks Home, where they celebrated festivities with themed handicrafts, conducted games and performed for the residents. Through this experience, they also managed to befriend local university students who were volunteers at retirement homes and learn more about their perspectives on youth volunteerism in China through informal conversations.
YEP-GO Project Ceria: Indonesia (Aug 2020)
Project Ceria was YEP-GO’s pilot project, led and pioneered by Rodney and his co-leader, Rasheqah.
Originally a physical YEP, the team quickly adapted to the new form of online engagement in order to provide education to 300 students in Indonesia. As their schools were closed due to the pandemic, Rodney and his team worked together to teach the students Mathematics, Arts & Craft, Character Building and Global Perspectives.
Rodney and his co-leader were responsible for recruitment and interviews, fundraising, fund management as well as managing and structuring their team.
Photos:Youth Corps Singapore