Bridging Gaps in Inequality
Social inequality is one of the biggest challenges in Singapore today. Numerous ground-up groups, non-profits, and governmental efforts have emerged in the past years to tackle this issue, primarily targeting the underprivileged and under-resourced youth.
Source article: The Strait Times
As an organisation, Praxium has chosen not to limit our work to such a demographic. While our audience has historically been mostly students in mainstream schools, including academically weaker and less privileged students, we have also actively chosen to engage with elite schools as well.
My experience working in the social impact scene got me to learn that all wicked problems are complex and good solutions cannot be narrow in scope. In a simplified example of the charity scene, significant funding and financing come from the empathetic rich who believe they have an important role in improving society. The charity scene has a great need for more such people. Wealthy and willing to help. The country is well-saturated with the rich after all.
But where do these altruistic rich come from? How can we nurture more of such people through the education we have? This article is a documentation of the background and activities we arranged to help nurture talented future leaders with a heart for their communities.
Due to my work at Crater, I got the privilege to co-teach a class to students at Nanyang Girls’ High School, a premier secondary school in Singapore. The school runs a Talent Development programme focused on Service Learning, where students grow their leadership capabilities and service mindset. The intended outcome is to nurture talented leaders with a heart for the community.
Part of a lesson around social impact innovation
One of the key lessons I wanted to share with the students was the importance of empathy. Of concern and care for those different from us.
I’m glad that through our lessons, students did indeed show that they cared, and they did want to help the community. However, they struggled to truly connect with people who were different from them.
Even though I set tasks for them to have a conversation with someone from a different background, e.g the school’s security guard, janitor, administrative staff, or canteen vendor, few, if any, went to have the conversation.
And so, we signed up for a journey that transcended textbooks and test scores, focusing instead on empathy, resilience, and the profound impact of service.
Stepping into the Heartland
Leaving the familiar world of their school behind, the students embarked on a trip that would challenge their perceptions and broaden their horizons. The heartland neighbourhood was just like any other part of Singapore, seemingly perfect and well-run.
What was hidden were the intimate details of the kinds of lives people led. That was what we were here to learn. Lives focused on modest means and everyday challenges.
The Strength of Everyday Heroes
A key feature of the Resilience Trails was that the guides were members of the community itself.
Community Guide describing the experiences faced as a physically handicapped resident
Both Janet and Julie were people who students had mostly heard about but almost never got to interact with personally. While most people would only see them as ‘beneficiaries’ and people in need, the Resilience Trails showed the strengths and resourcefulness they had instead.
Sure, their lives may be difficult. But it’s not like they had nothing to offer. Despite their struggles, they continue to do their best for their loved ones and even contribute to the community through their own initiatives.
These initiatives include things like a community cat-feeding initiative or support for single mothers.
Community Guide describing personal experiences, hopes, and struggles
One of the most significant takeaways from this excursion was witnessing how everyday heroes like Janet and Julie faced adversity with grace and determination. They shared stories of triumph over trials, and the students couldn’t help but be inspired.
Empathy in Action
The heart of the excursion was the opportunity for the students to engage directly with their Community Guides.
By walking in their shoes, seeing their usual sights, and hearing their stories, the students and guides bridged the gap that often separates communities and people.
Community Guide shares about challenges in commuting, eating, and living as well as the kindness from strangers and friends in the neighbourhood.
The girls listened to personal stories, laughed together, and learned that empathy goes beyond mere words; it’s about truly understanding and connecting with another person’s experiences.
A Sense of Purpose
The learning journey concluded in an intimate dialogue and chat between Students and their Community Guides.
Dialogue between Community Guide and Students
Students finally got the chance to ask their curious questions:
“What motivates you each day?”
“You mentioned going through a period of depression, how did you overcome it?”
“What are your hopes and dreams for the future?”
These questions showed that students began to be truly curious about people different from them. Beyond their own personal lives at school, filled with the stressors of grades, exams, and homework, they got to see how others struggled with truly difficult circumstances.
As a participant in the trail myself, I was reminded once again of the immense privilege I had growing up. Just like the students, I could go to school without worrying about money, or any caregiving duties at home. If I needed help in school, my family would be able to provide support.
It is only after realising that not everyone has the same privileges and luxuries that I began to care for those different from myself. That I began to work to support those different from myself.
This was what I hoped to bring to the students as we organised this trail.
Empowered for the Future
At the end of the trail, everyone shared their personal reflections from the experience.
It became evident that students were inspired by the Community Guides. They realized that they were not passive observers but could potentially be active participants in shaping a better world.
Returning to their school, these young girls brought back more than just memories. They carried with them a newfound sense of empathy, resilience, and a commitment to service. Their experiences in the heartland neighbourhood had given them a perspective that textbooks couldn’t provide. They had glimpsed the strength that can emerge from adversity and had discovered the power of human connection.
“Through this Resilience Trail, we were able to gain a deeper insight on the lives of our Community Guide on their journey of empowerment from beneficiaries to being active volunteers. We also managed to witness how they overcame their struggles and learnt to be more empathetic towards others.” - Kei Rui Min, Ashleigh Wong
“Dear Community Guides, your dedication and hard work are truly commendable. Thank you for your tireless efforts in supporting our community. Your guidance and assistance make a world of difference to all of us. Keep up the fantastic work, and know that your contributions are deeply appreciated. Thank you for making the community stronger and more vibrant.” — Tzi Xuen
Youth who gain advantages and privileges through school are more likely than not to end up in positions of power and influence. As political leaders, business owners, and managers. They end up shaping policies, organisational structures, and financial remuneration packages. They define how Corporate Social Responsibility projects are carried out.
These things directly shape the state of inequality beyond government spending and redistribution efforts.
This learning journey was merely a small step in our journey of trying to bridge the gaps in society. This is why we believe that we cannot only work towards supporting the less privileged. Why we need to work on the highly privileged as well. (albeit with a different approach)
At Crater, we’re constantly on a lookout for ways to support the education system to inspire youth to become future changemakers and impact leaders.
Reach out to me at email@example.com if you’re keen to explore other possible innovative ways to build an enriching and holistic experiences for students.
For more information about the Resilience Trails by Skillseed, do visit their website on this link!
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