Three exemplary youth receive awards for their contributions to society at the closing of the SHINE Youth Festival.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF OLIVE CONSULTING GROUP|
Last Saturday, the SHINE Youth Festival came to a close after a month of youth-led, community-centric activities. SHINE Youth Festival is an important platform for youth. Said Martin Tan, co-chairperson of the SHINE Steering Committee, “Our youth are dynamic and passionate. Not only does this festival echo their sentiments, it also demonstrates that our future leaders can express themselves and are multi-talented.”
As part of the closing ceremony, three exceptional youth were named Stars Of SHINE. The Stars Of SHINE Award is a youth role model award that recognizes extraordinary youth who have overcome personal struggles and made meaningful contributions to society. To be nominated, an individual has to be between 15 to 35 years old and has to fulfill a stringent set of criteria, with the winner eventually selected by the SHINE judging committee. Through this award, the organization hopes that the winners will serve as a beacon of inspiration to others.
The winners received their award from the Guest of Honor, Mr. Liu Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts. City News takes a closer look at this year’s winners.
Kenneth Wong, 25
Wong’s passion for community involvement began as a small spark when he participated in a flag day event. Today, his many accolades and appointments testify to his enthusiasm for doing good—he has volunteered with the National Environment Agency, Public Utilities Board, the People’s Association Youth Movement and is also a three-time winner of the prestigious National Youth Achievement Award.
The path that Wong has chosen is indeed one that is less traveled. While teenagers his age were playing the latest computer games or having fun, Wong would be engaged in community work. Wong recounts forgoing personal time and work opportunities, counting those as small sacrifices compared to the fulfillment attained from giving back to the community.
Challenges abound too. Having recently taken up the post of Chairperson at the Joo Chiat Community Club Youth Executive Committee, Wong had to lead a team that was older and more experienced. It was only over time that he was able to gain their respect and trust. The undergraduate is currently pursuing a degree in Social Work in the National University of Singapore. He hopes to continue serving his community, tapping on new media to broaden his outreach to residents in the Joo Chiat Constituency.
Benjamin Loh, 23
With humorous honesty, Loh shared that he initially got involved in community projects with the intention of widening his social circle of female friends. However, after personally witnessing the living conditions and poverty of the villagers during his first trip to Cebu, Philippines in 2006, he inadvertently found himself with a different set of priorities and perspectives.
“It’s very humbling and also heart wrenching to see people your age having so little and yet having so much joy in their lives. It made me realize that I have so much more than I think I have,” he said.
Putting his bachelor’s degree in accountancy to good use, Loh has volunteered at an orphanage in Cambodia as a Project Director for Finance and Administration at Project Creative Home. He also served as the President of Youth Advolution for Health at the Health Promotion Board to advocate health among the young.
As the project head for the Footprinter’s Expedition 2006, one of the biggest lessons he learned was to communicate with his team of at-risk youth volunteers. The project turned out to be a success, with 200 families in the Cebu Province being provided with meals and daily essentials. The team was also involved in the construction of two toilet water piping systems in the neighborhood. Practicalities aside, they also organized a Christmas party for the children in the village.
Currently, Loh volunteers as a Life Coach at Executive Coach International, helping to empower his clients to achieve breakthroughs in life. Going forward, Loh has no intention to stop. With his accountancy training, he hopes to combine his business expertise and knowledge with his interests and passions by venturing into non-profit consultancy in the near future.
David Thorairajan s/o Manickam, 29
As an ex-offender who spent some of his early years behind bars, Manickam’s positive change is a strong affirmation of the value in a redeemed life.
Imprisoned for eight years for various offences, he found forgiveness and the courage to change through his Christian counselors. Thanks to their encouragement and their faith in him, he took the N, O and A-level exams in prison despite a lack of resources and scored remarkably well.
Even when he was serving his sentence at Kaki Bukit Prison School in 2007, Manickam became a student leader for the Rotary Community Corp in 2007, leading a group of students in planning, organizing and executing events for the inmates.
Since being released from prison, he joined Glenn Lim Consultancy Pte Ltd as a motivational speaker, sharing his life experiences to other youth. He has co-organized educational workshops for schools, sharing his life experience as one youth to another at several secondary schools.
However, his journey after rehabilitation has not been easy. Manickam recounts not being accustomed to simple routines like taking a public bus, nor having a circle of friends to rely on or the finances to pursue his dream of furthering his education. Yet, in spite of the difficulties he faced, he is now pursuing a double degree at Singapore Management University, majoring in Psychology and Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource.
His successful enrolment into SMU serves as an inspiration to many who are struggling on the same downward path that he once took; he regularly spends his free time to counsel other youngsters facing similar problems through a youth-at-risk program. “Basically my past is my great forte, because I have gone through what they are going through and I have overcome certain obstacles, I can show them and tell them that this is not the way,” he said.