Grooming The Next Generation of Leaders: SINDA Youth Leaders Seminar 2016

Over 130 post-secondary Indian students from Institutes of Technical Education (ITE), Junior Colleges (JC), Centralized Institutes (CI) and Polytechnics attended a 3 day - 2 night residential seminar from June 10 to 12 at the College of Alice and Peter Tan in the National University of Singapore.

The SINDA Youth Leaders Seminar 2016 , now in its sixth year, is the brainchild of the SINDA Youth Club. The objective of the Seminar is to provide an opportunity for our youth to learn, listen, dream and work together to unleash their collective potential towards the common good - building a better Singapore for everyone. This year's seminar is titled Collectivising Responsibility and Paving Pathways and it focuses on encouraging a sense of personal responsibility, collaboration and civic engagement to pave pathways to uplift the larger community - Collective problems demand Collective responses. During the seminar the youth explored and collectivised ideas and resources to address social issues in five key areas (i) Disabilities and Special Needs (ii) Elderly and Ageing; (iii) Family Violence; (iv) Transient Workers; and (v) Underprivileged Families.

When I mention SINDA to peers from my generation, most of them react with a rather negative outlook. Some would criticise the organisation for not doing enough while most will complain about their monthly contribution to the organisation. Well, let me assure you that your contribution is well-utilised. The students are only required to pay $25 for this residential seminar with SINDA absorbing the significant majority of the costs involved.

For the few who know me personally, I am not one to mince words. This seminar was indeed an amazing experience for the youth. I may have been a naysayer where SINDA is concerned but I will be generous where a compliment is deserved. I was one of the volunteer facilitators for this seminar and this was a fulfilling event in allowing me to serve the community. This gave me a first hand insight in being part of the SINDA machinery to uplift the community.

The seminar also allowed the students and volunteers to have direct interaction with a few of our community leaders; Mr Viswa Sadasivan, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Mr JY Pillay. While the former may ring a bell to most of us, it was being in the presence of a living legend, Mr Pillay, that gave me goosebumps. This is a man who built Singapore Airlines into a world-class carrier. He served as the Chairman of Singapore Airlines from 1972 till 1996. He is currently the Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers. For his public service, he was awarded the Order of Nila Utama (First Class) in 2012. The seminar allowed the students to have a dialogue session with him.

As part of the seminar, the students also took part in a Service Learning component, where they visited families residing in rental and interim housing flats at Spooner Road. They helped the families with cleaning and spent quality time to learn from their experience. They also gave each household some groceries which were graciously sponsored by KNP Trading Private Limited. This was a complete eye-opener to most of the students as this was one aspect of Singapore that is usually masked behind the public image our City State prefers to project: The enthralling City Skyline symbolising our economic success depicting our First World status. They met families who never experienced the joy of home ownership or children who never had their own rooms or laptops. They learnt to appreciate things in their lives they previously took for granted.

While the seminar had fun elements and allowed students to build new friendships, it also pushed the students to the limit. They were split into groups and each group had to research on social issues to craft out a solution that will address a specific problem that affects Singapore. Each group had to present their solution to our Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Most of us would shiver at the thought of presenting to our own bosses. Imagine being 17 and having one of sharpest minds in the world listening to you.

The students were not left alone to fend for themselves for this challenge. They received guidance from the volunteers who helped our at facilitators as well as subject matter experts from collaborating organisations and individuals ie. @27 Family Service Centre, Sree Narayana Mission, Society for the Physically Disabled , Thye Hua Kwan Moral Family Service Centre @ Jurong and Mr Kandhavel Periyasamy. Over the next few months, the students will work with the above volunteer organisations to implement their ideas and give back to society.

One notable feature that we should be proud of is that this seminar is conceptualised and operationalised by youth volunteers with relentless support from the SINDA youth development staff, for whom I have the utmost respect for. These people are really the silent heroes.

Personally, I want to thank Mr Sentill Ananthan for connecting with me and providing me with the opportunity to give back to the community. 

For all the youth who participated in this seminar, this is just the beginning.



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