Making a difference with Uni-Y

Find out how youths at Uni-Y are stepping up to make a positive impact on the community.

Nabilah Ismail

Published: 16 March 2015, 12:00 AM

Setting up creative initiatives that have a social impact is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of guts, hard work and determination to serve the community.

Youth.SG met with the people behind initiatives such as The Sidewalk Gallery Café and The YMCA Conversation Series. Both are some of the many available programmes initiated by youths from Uni-Y Singapore, the university service club in YMCA of Singapore.

We caught up with Kang Li and Andrea from The Sidewalk Gallery Café to talk about the initiative and the struggles they have faced.


Andrea and Kang Li


The café is a social enterprise programme under Uni-Y National University of Singapore (NUS) that was set up in 2012. It hopes to provide those with intellectual disabilities with relevant work skills that can help them seek future employment. It also serves as a platform for them to interact with the general public and improve their social skills.


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Kang Li, a year two student studying social work in NUS, joined the enterprise when she was a year one student. She has grown from being a regular volunteer at Sidewalk to becoming the Social Development Head in 2014. The Social Enterprise Programme Director is Andrea, a year one student studying business in NUS. Andrea now oversees every aspect of the cafe from finance to marketing, making sure that Sidewalk Gallery Café progresses and improves.

When asked what motivated them to get involved, Andrea said that “social enterprises can be a powerful tool to make an impactful change.”

Initially, Kang Li had joined to find out more about how she could start her own social enterprise. She soon found working at the cafe to be empowering and it also allowed her develop leadership and team management skills, thus, she stayed on.

It has been an eventful journey for the both of them but things have not always gone smoothly. Juggling both schoolwork and their commitment to the café is arduous and multi-tasking is key to accomplishing their tasks.

What keeps them going is being on the ground and interacting with their beneficiaries such as Taiyuan.


Kang Li posing for a photo with Taiyuan
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“When you see growth in them and the progress they’ve made, the hard work becomes worth it,” said Andrea.

Kang Li is also in charge as the Chairman of the Organising Committee of another initiative called The YMCA Conversation Series. We also got a chance to talk to Clara and Rui Si too. Clara is a member of the Organising Committee for the fifth instalment of the series and Rui Si, for the third and fourth instalments. The YMCA Conversation Series is a dialogue session where youths can hear from invited panel speakers, share and exchange ideas and learn more about different social advocacies.


Clara, Rui Si and Kang Li


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Their objective is to encourage youths to become servant leaders who will impact local and international communities.

In their fifth instalment, Special Seeds, they targetted parents of children with special needs. Kang Li decided to provide an opportunity for parents to learn about how they could support their children when she saw the struggles parents had to go through.


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In the process of planning the fifth instalment, Clara found it a reflective experience, saying “I think many of us need to overcome that mind set of thinking that someone else will do something but everybody needs to play a part in helping the community.”

“The YMCA Conversation Series has inspired and given me the opportunity to help these beneficiaries and I believe that the call-to-action each Conversation Series entails is very important,” said Rui Si on how the initiative has impacted her as a person.


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Even though she is already committed to two initiatives, Kang Li still strives to continue working with the beneficiaries that have special needs.

“I began to see their disabilities as just a weakness or limitation that can be overcome and I felt very encouraged by the support given by the people around them,” said Kang Li.

She hopes that through the Conversation Series, Special Seeds, and The Sidewalk Gallery Café that these beneficiaries can be given the support that they need to integrate back into society.

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