#StrongerThanEver: Former youth-at-risk now spends free time volunteering

Zaheer is now a Youth Corps Leader.

Amanda Tan

Skills include buying the same jeans in different colours.

Published: 1 September 2022, 12:46 PM

Not everyone starts off on the right foot.

Late nights out with the wrong crowd, fights with classmates and suspension letters from school – a parent’s worst nightmare, Zaheer Malik spent the bulk of his teenage days causing nothing but grief to his loved ones.

My parents were so worried at one point they had to call the police to find me,” he recalls.

However, despite that, the then troubled student had no qualms about his poor behaviour.

His lack of regard persisted until he reached secondary four, when he received shocking news that his father had fallen gravely ill and needed to be hospitalised.

Realising that things were getting tough for his family, Zaheer knew he could no longer afford to let anyone down.

With the help of his school teachers and counsellors, along with the constant support from his mother, Zaheer began to change for the better.


Zaheer is thankful to his teachers who saw hope in him and gave him second chances to prove himself. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


While his family wasn’t well off, his mother was always one to help others in need through little ways like donating food to the needy. Seeing such acts of kindness greatly inspired him to do good himself and that was how he began doing volunteer work.

He gave tuition to underprivileged families through New Hope & Beyond Social Services and during his poly days, he took it upon himself to reach out to other youths-at-risk in hopes that they would get back on the right track. 

During his final year in poly, he decided to join the Youth Corps Leaders Programme as a way to enhance his skills whilst giving back to the community. He also interned with New Hope Community Services, where he helped rough sleepers in Singapore by packing food for them as well as raising awareness on their condition.

Even after enlisting in the army, he participated in ad-hoc volunteering opportunities, most of which were mental health-related initiatives.

Unfortunately, Zaheer lost his father during the pandemic after doctors advised his family not to prolong his condition any further. Shortly after, upon enlisting in the army, he also lost his grandfather and uncle.

He took awhile to come to terms with their passing and felt lost trying to figure things out. However, seeing how strong his mother was and how supportive his friends were, he was able to pull through such a difficult time.

Looking back on his rebellious teenage days, the current 23-year-old National University of Singapore (NUS) student shares, “You never know what someone is going through. Treat people with kindness and love.”

As for the youths-at-risk, here’s some advice from him: “There is someone in your life who believes in you. You may not realise it now, but eventually the pieces will come together and you’ll see the full picture.”

This article was published alongside a series of videos produced as part of National Youth Council’s #StrongerThanEver campaign. It features remarkable stories of youths that displayed resilience and tenacity even despite the challenges thrown at them by the pandemic.

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