“I’m currently a student at the National University of Singapore and I major in global studies. Why that major? Well, I’ve always been interested in current affairs and I’ve always found it important to understand things that are occurring around the world, not just what’s happening in my own country.
We don’t really go deep into cross-cultural understanding, but I definitely think there are gaps in understanding between different people. We don’t even have to talk about people from different countries; we already find it difficult to understand people from different communities within the same country.
To understand someone who’s different from you, it’s very important to have one-on-one interaction, which is something we hope to encourage through Youth Corps Singapore (YCS). I’m part of the Empathy Task Force and we try to create and curate programmes that inspire empathy.
For example, because it was intergenerational month last October, we wanted to come up with programmes that encourage intergenerational interactions, so we collaborated with a non-profit organisation called Etch Empathy to do an elderly simulation.
Participants had to dull their senses by putting on earmuffs, goggles and even body weights that didn’t allow them to stand straight. We wanted them to have a taste of what it’s like to live like an elderly. With that being said, we do realise that our programmes are short-term and merely touch the surface of what our community really needs, so that’s a limitation that we’ve identified.
What have I learnt at YCS? Well, I’ve learnt that volunteering is more than just interacting with beneficiaries; there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Through the many good people whom I’ve met, I’ve also learnt that Singapore is a much more compassionate place than it seems; there are actual opportunities for us to turn our compassion into action here.” – Vanessa, 21
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