SINGAPORE: In a bid to boost youth volunteerism, the Republic’s sovereign wealth fund GIC will hand out cash grants of between S$3,000 and S$5,000 to students who take on community work.
The scheme, called GIC Sparks & Smiles, will hand out S$2 million worth of grants over the next four years to more than 500 students in local universities, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
To qualify, students have to commit to at least 25 hours of community service, including mentoring. They also have to come from households with a per capita income of below S$2,000, GIC said.
Recipients of the grant will receive mentorship training from GIC’s charity partner Beyond Social Services, which will also connect each student to a disadvantaged child, youth or family. The students must build a relationship with the person or family they are matched with, and take on activities together such as tutoring, mentoring or facilitating conversations about key issues such as employment or education.
To date, 48 university students have received the grant, undergone training and started their community work, GIC said.
One of the recipients, university student Ivan Neo, was matched with six-year-old Syafiq to be his mentor.
“When I chose to work with pre-schoolers, I didn't expect it to be so challenging, as I needed to be constantly aware of how I was speaking and behaving after I observed Syafiq picking up my speech habits and actions,” he said.
“As a student who needed financial assistance, I often wondered why no one was helping me more so I didn't have to worry constantly about fees and other expenses. This experience as a GIC Sparks recipient made me realise I have the power to help others.”
He plans to continue volunteering even though he has completed the required 25 hours of community work, Mr Neo said.
Ms Deanna Ong, GIC’s Director of Human Resources and Organisation Development, said: “We believe a higher level of youth volunteerism will bring about a positive impact in improving education and the general well-being of the community.
“Through the quality interaction between the recipients and community members, we believe both sides will experience the impact of empathy and positive role modelling, which builds confidence for their future,” she added.