Breaking barriers: Over 15 years of uplifting youth, supporting aspirations

SPS Eric Chua shares his hopes for youths to first understand who they are as individuals, before pursuing their passions.

Amanda Tan

Published: 28 July 2023, 5:04 PM

In celebration of Youth Month, Youthopia is highlighting stories of those who have created spark in their life. Among them is Eric Chua who, in his role as a political office holder, provides opportunities in life for youths.

Sometimes, the greatest journeys begin once we step beyond our comfort zone. Eric Chua, 44, knows this all too well.

A familiar face in the youth community, easily recognisable with his infectious smile and effervescent energy, it’s hard to believe that the Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS) and Member of Parliament (MP) is in fact introverted by nature.

He candidly shares how joining the Grassroots movement was initially to push himself out of his comfort zone, to take on more things that would allow him to interact with people. This included opportunities like moderating dialogues and being emcee for events.

“Although the start was really painful, over time, I became more comfortable and I began to even enjoy it. There were also opportunities for me to be able to do my bit for social causes,” he quips.

The impact of his work, however, only hit him years into his volunteering journey – it was when a group of Secondary Three students he mentored reached out to him after graduating from polytechnic, to thank him for his efforts.


Eric has been a Grassroots volunteer for more than 15 years. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/TIANA QUEK


His volunteer work scope gradually shifted to uplifting youth-at-risk and rental flat families, and he recounts one particular episode that left a deep impression on him. 

There was once he rallied a group of youths to help out some rental flat families to clear out bed bug infestations in their units. He admits that he wasn’t confident that they would stay the course but to his pleasant surprise, they stuck throughout the day and did what was needed of them.

“(It) really made my day and it just shows that our young ones, they’re not strawberries and they really are big-hearted and passionate about the causes that they pursue,” he shares. Instances like this “gave (him) a lot of reason to cheer” and propelled him to go further in his work in the Grassroots.


Prior to his political career, Eric served in the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Ministry of Home Affairs. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/TIANA QUEK


In his tenure as SPS in the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) as well as the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Eric has been actively involved in several initiatives to support and uplift youth.

One such example is the SG Mental Well-Being Network, launched in July 2022. It was set up with the intention to tackle mental health issues across a wider range of population segments.

Following that, as Advisor to Queenstown District, he spearheaded the Safe Pod@Queenstown initiative which features a roaming van equipped with a counsellor whom residents can share their troubles with. Thereafter, the counsellor will determine the level of support the individual needs.

“I do try to champion the need for us to remove and reduce stigma surrounding mental health conditions and persons with mental health conditions,” shares Eric, adding that as the majority of young people are digital natives, they often deal with the stressors of the online world.


The Network is part of the broader national effort under the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being, and is the partnership arm of the Taskforce, to galvanise citizens to support the Taskforce’s policy focus areas. PHOTO CREDIT: MCCY


Beyond mental wellbeing, Eric also called attention to widening the definition of success. With the whole range of possibilities for young Singaporeans today, he says they should feel empowered irrespective of their educational qualifications and job titles.

Drawing back to his time as a youth, Eric recollects going through school without a clear direction in life and blindly following the herd. Now that he speaks with youths on the regular, he has also noticed the same phenomenon of “drifting”. 

“Some youngsters tell me: ‘Well, I don’t need to aim very high in life, you can get by and can land a job, that’s okay. I’m not a high achiever.’”

On this, he emphasises on the need for youths to be “a little bit more fearless”. “Don’t let ourselves be our own barrier,” says Eric.

To support more young people in the pursuit of their passions, he shares that his aim is to connect them to possibilities by serving as “the facilitator”. 

In fact, he recently met up with a group of youth from Tad Charity, a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising funds for the less fortunate through art. The founder, 17-year-old J’den Teo had dropped him a message on LinkedIn, asking for support as they were raising money for The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund.

“I supported them in their endeavour, and we kept in touch and recently, I just connected them to Henri Chen and I was very happy that I did that.”

To the youths of today, Eric urges them to break out of the habit of settling and instead push themselves to aim higher because it’s “never too late”.

“I think this journey of discovering ourselves is one that is life-long but the sooner, the earlier we ask ourselves these hard-hitting questions, perhaps the better it is for us in terms of uncovering who we can be so that we can all be the best versions of ourselves.”

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