Elfi Sufiyanti Sunar, 26, is a youth worker associate at CARE Singapore, a non-profit organisation with a mission to help at-risk youths succeed. She was a CARE student herself back in 2009, when CARE Singapore came to run a programme in her secondary school. Ten years later, she is now a CARE staff member.

Tell us more about what you do.

Together with my colleagues, I am currently running a mentoring programme alongside seven schools under the Ministry of Education (MOE). This mentoring programme aims to develop self-leadership qualities in the students. We run two types of programmes: Corporate Mentoring and Community Mentoring.

Both programmes consist of two components, a life skills session and mentor-mentee engagements, where students will be mentored by volunteers.

CARE staff conduct the fortnightly life skills sessions after curriculum hours in school. These topics cover a range such as self-esteem, choices and consequences, education pathways and goal settings. These sessions are more interactive than classroom-based.

For our mentor-mentee engagements, they are held once a month. During this engagement, students can meet their mentors and participate in activities or mentoring sessions to build better relationships with each other.

What inspired or motivated you to do this?

Before I became a CARE student, I did not realise that I had chances to do the things I enjoyed doing. As I was a Normal (Technical) student, being in an Institute of Technical Education (ITE) was the dead end I expected for myself. But the CARE programme was always fun, full of activities and the topics were always something relatable for me, and nothing was academic-related.

My CARE teachers always took the time to talk to us after school or play some activities with us, connecting with us like friends. Along the way, they started empowering us by focusing on our strengths – and what we could do with them.

I remember playing darts with one of my CARE teachers, and I was consistently missing the bull-eye and hitting the same spot. Instead of making fun of me, he said, “You are good at aiming, you consistently aim at the same place over again. ” And I did not feel bad about it! They always saw the good in us.

I eventually did well in my studies, and when I was nearing my graduation, I thought about joining CARE Singapore to help those like me. If I could do it, so can they!

What were some challenges you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the mentoring programme was entirely physical. We engaged the students and mentors through different kinds of activities such as “Mega Adventure”, Go-Karting and even sandwich-making. It gave underprivileged youth a chance to be exposed to these activities.

Due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic, a lot of things were held back. We had to toggle back and forth between physical and online sessions. It was hard to motivate the students to join us, as our mentor-mentee engagement activities were very limited. However, we did not let that stop us from trying.

We consistently checked in with our students and tried to engage them meaningfully online through mobile games. I’m not good with mobile games, but this gave them the opportunity to teach me and take the lead, which in turn helped us to bond and build our relationship.

If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow youth, what would it be?

You do not have to compare yourself to others who may have done or achieved more, because everyone defines success differently.

What are your hopes or plans for the future? What do you want to see or perhaps do?

I hope for more open doors in society for mentoring opportunities for underprivileged youth, as I find that they can learn a lot from interacting with adults. With a little bit of our help to create opportunities for them, they are able to see what their future have in store for them. I also hope for more volunteer mentors who can commit to being part of these young people’s lives, to guide them in making good life decisions.

I want to better understand the youth I lead on a personal level, especially with regards to their mental health. I have had experiences with youths with mental health issues and feel like I am not competent enough to be the one helping them. Hence, I am interested in furthering my studies in counselling or social work.

Also, as I am embarking on motherhood very soon, I hope to be able to guide, empower and affirm my child the way I have done with my youths by applying what I’ve learnt in CARE to my parenting journey.

This article was published on Nov 20, 2021

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