Youth volunteerism, building social bridges are vital: DPM Heng Swee Keat, Edwin Tong

SINGAPORE – Volunteerism by the youth and building social bridges are vital to Singapore’s society, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong on Saturday (April 17).

They were at a dialogue and signing event organised by charitable youth volunteer organisation Heartware Network.

The network inked two agreements to provide more opportunities for young people to volunteer and contribute to the community.

It will work with SG Cares to strengthen youth volunteer management and training, and grow regular and sustained youth volunteers. The partnership also aims to inculcate the values of care, consideration and contribution in the young.

Heartware Network will also partner Temasek Foundation for a programme that aims to propel young people to take action in order to address societal challenges facing Singapore and the region.

Youth leaders will be guided and mentored to become active citizens and effective drivers of change, the network said in a press statement.

Mr Heng, who is also chief patron of the network, said: “We can do more, where everyone puts in a little bit of effort, and we make a difference.”

He added that in the past, people focused on the five “Cs” – cash, credit card, car, condominium and country club membership. But now, young people have three priorities – to create value, care for people and the environment, and chart the future.

Mr Tong agreed: “We are now able to look at things that really matter to us, to the heart of Singapore, and I think volunteerism is at the core of that mission.”

He added that volunteering helps youth gain soft skills that are vital in job searching, while also building bridges between social groups.

This is especially vital as one of the biggest pressure points in society today is the growing assertion of individuality, he noted.

“These are all matters which are of course important and I think we have a lot to learn about them. But in Singapore, one of the merits of our society is the coexistence of everyone harmoniously in a multiracial, ‘multi-everything’ society. And I think it is very important for us to preserve that common space.”

This means young people should constantly reach out across divides by interacting with those outside their socioeconomic group, school or race.

“We didn’t get here by chance and I think it’s very important for young people today to realise that by sitting still, we will not continue in this state. We have worked very hard at it,” he said.

“So … think of things that you can do, be they events, community outreach, volunteer-based activities that allow you to reach across different strata of society, different segments of society, and to really understand. We’ve spoken previously of religious tolerance in Singapore. I think we need to go beyond that, we need to … really embrace (everyone) as fellow Singaporeans.”

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