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Youths today are the voice of the next generation.
These inspiring Singaporean youths have taken the chance to make a difference in something they are passionate about and leave an impact on those around them.
From them, we can learn that we are capable of more than we think, even from a young age.
Aanya Rao (Art:Connect)
15–year-old Singaporean Aanya Rao is the founder of Art:Connect. Its mission is to connect youths with artistic talent to healthcare centres and senior care homes, providing a creative platform for youths to display their art in healthcare centres.
In early 2018, Aanya’s father had a kidney transplant. When accompanying her father for treatments, Aanya noticed that many clinics did not have environments that were conducive to the healing process.
So she decided to combine passions in art and science to start her movement. She approached various hospitals in Singapore to offer student-contributed artwork that would create a vibrant and positive environment.
She hopes to incorporate art into the healing process while also creating a happy environment for patients, residents, and staff in healthcare facilities and nursing homes.
Today, she conducts student facilitated workshops in clinics and nursing homes and uses her platform to make a difference in the way the society views patient care.
“To me Art:Connect is more than just a platform, it is a passion.”
She encourages students to contribute their artwork or to volunteer their time. Aside from mural projects at clinics and health centres, Art.Connect also runs a virtual elderly buddy system where volunteers interact with seniors as well as creating cards for seniors.
Art:Connect wants more youths to involve themselves in projects like these. As she wants Art:Connect to be a youth-centric organisation, Aanya wants to make sure that every youth gets their voices heard.
“I believe that Art:Connect will help make that small bit of change in the world,” says Aanya.
You can find out more ways to volunteer here.
Khwong Zhi Ying, Chloe Ng, Ernest Wong, Charmaine Jael (Movement of Inclusion)
These talented youths aged from 24 to 25 are founders of Movement of Inclusivity (MOI), a social enterprise that focuses on inclusion within Singapore.
They started the organisation in 2018 after noticing a gap in the special needs space. Today, MOI has expanded to cover three sectors — businesses, schools and caregivers.
One of its first projects was a collaboration with Land Transport Authority Singapore (LTA) to launch the “May I have a Seat Please” lanyard initiative.
This aims to help those with invisible disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic pain and fatigue or epilepsy to make other commuters aware of their condition.
This is to allow them to receive any necessary assistance on their commute, without having to constantly ask for it.
On its website, the team at MOI has the mindset that “inclusivity starts from an individual. It requires every one of us to pay attention to our stereotypes, thoughts and values, and how that leads to actions,”
The team also conducts programmes to share more about the special-needs sector, as well as to inspire those with diverse conditions to contribute to the community.
To that end, MOI started a campaign called ICONVERSATIONS with the aim to understand the special needs community, understand inclusion and discrimantion and apply these concepts to our schools or workplaces.
As Zhi Ying said in an interview with Today: “Ultimately, an inclusive society will bring about more sustainable peace and progress in Singapore, where all members of society can participate actively.”
J’den Teo (TAD Charity)
J’den Teo, 16, is the founding artist of Tad Charity, a non-profit organisation that supports underprivileged children.
He has been painting for charity since he was 6, after a trip to Cambodia. Sharing his story with Tatler Singapore, J’den explained how he was inspired to help children in need.
“I never really understood the significance and impact of charity until my family trip to Cambodia.”
“When I was six, my parents took my brothers and I on an educational trip with the mission to help underserved families through donations and volunteering.
“It was here that I came face-to-face with the harsh realities of impoverished communities. I saw kids as young as I was in tattered clothing, selling items on the streets. It was heart-wrenching, and I had a strong desire to help but I didn’t know how,” J’den says.
Today, he has raised over $90,000 for charities like the Children’s Cancer Foundation and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund through fundraising exhibitions and dinners.
He still aims to do more and encourage more individuals to join his cause.
He tells The Pride: “I need to be able to inspire, recruit and rally like-minded individuals to subscribe to the Tad ideology. The Tad initiative has to eventually go beyond J’den Teo and his art. This is why I am so keen to share my art and ideas with others.”
In 2021, J’den received the President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropist award (PVPA). The PVPA organised by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre puts the spotlight on individuals, organisations, and leaders who go the extra mile to support those in need.
Additionally, he conducts assembly talks in schools to inspire youths to embrace philanthropy as a way of life in whatever small ways they can. He also recently partnered with the Chinese Development Assistance Council to share about common struggles youths might face, to help others understand them better under CDAC’s “Youths Can Do It Too” programme.
He has also been featured several times in the media.
“Charity is ultimately a universal concept. It should not be something that is only accessible to those older.” J’den tells the Pride.
As someone who started out with community centre art classes, he shares how he wishes to use his experience to share with youths that it is possible to start charity initiatives of their own or start volunteering to do good for charity using their talent and passions.
“Charity is not dictated by your life circumstances that you are subjected to. Anybody, whether you are poor or rich, young or old, can contribute to charity in whatever small ways you can.” J’den said in an interview with Mothership.
For now, J’den tells The Pride how he is trying to juggle between his studies (he is doing his O-levels this year) while also trying to fulfil commission work for TAD Charity.
“With the resources collected, I aim to build the foundation of Tad Charity, a not-for-profit organisation that utilises art and youth to do good.”
“While my art will still be my primary funding, I am still drafting plans to have groups of volunteers who can use their talents to contribute to charity,” says J’den.
Vihaan Iyer (Yellowship)
Vihaan Lyer finds a new purpose for used tennis balls.
The 16-year-old tennis player started Yellowship, a community initiative to reuse old donated tennis balls. He was inspired by his mother, Dipa Swaminathan, who runs Its Raining Raincoats, a ground-up movement that aims to help migrant workers.
Reusing these tennis balls isn’t only good for the environment, it also benefits communities in small but effective ways. For example, Vihaan recently sent a batch of tennis balls to a school for use as chair supports and to improve the condition of the classrooms.
Yellowship also gives donated tennis balls to migrant workers in dormitories for them to exercise and use for games in their dormitories.
Migrant workers use these tennis balls with basic physiotherapy methods to relieve their neck and back muscles. Not only that, these tennis balls can double up as a source of entertainment with their peers!
Today, Vihaan has repurposed over 9,000 tennis balls into meaningful tools for the migrant worker community.“Every bit of progress counts — even a simple act of kindness has an impact,” says Vihaan.
Vihaan also shares with The Pride that when he first started out at the age of 14, due to his age, it was difficult for him to build connections and get people to start donating.
Paradoxically, however, as the brand started to grow, his age became an advantage and a talking point as people could not believe a 16-year-old was doing something like this!
Those who are interested in taking part in volunteer activities or donating their used tennis balls can contact Yellowship through its Instagram.
Nur Maisarah (XOBYMAI)
Singaporean Nur Maisarah is a very typical Singaporean active on social media about her life and thoughts. But that changed when she heard about what was happening in Palestine.
Today, the 21-year-old uses social media platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram to spread awareness and speak up for a cause she is passionate about.
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Some of Maisarah’s videos have gone viral, having over 800,000 views with 200,000 likes overnight. She founded XOBYMAI last September, which features handmade jewellery that ranges from necklaces to phone charms.
When asked what differentiates her from other jewellery businesses, she says: “I make my goodies by heart and each piece is crafted with love.”
Her goal for the brand is to raise funds for different causes every month. Dedicating 10% of her proceeds to different charities every month, she is able to raise awareness and funds for something that she feels needs to be highlighted on.
Customers can find out more about the charity that she is supporting on her “Charity Of the Month” page.
So for every piece of jewellery purchased, you will know that you are making a difference in someone’s life.
Maisarah tells The Pride that she hopes that more people would be inspired to take a stand for what they believe in.
“If I can do something about it, then I should.”
So can all of us. No matter our age or background!