This 26-year-old volunteers in non-profit organisations to raise awareness on societal issues
Shukul Raaj Kumar hopes to encourage deeper, more nuanced discussions about various faiths.
While most adults already find it challenging to manage the demands of both work and family, Shukul Raaj Kumar juggles school, internship and leadership commitments as a volunteer valiantly.
His purpose of volunteering? To drive youths to come together to serve the community.
A full-time postgraduate at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Raaj is the chairperson of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Youth Committee, vice-chairperson and interfaith programmes coordinator at Hindu Youth Network and an exco member of Hash.peace.
His interest to serve the community was sparked by his early love for reading History and Literature books. These books introduced him to issues surrounding religions and cultures around the world.
“I realised how religion and faith was deep and primordial through which people could connect, invoke solidarity and also enmity with each other, and essentially also utilise it to truly do good with the right contextualised guidance,” he says.
Feeling inspired, he began his first stint as a volunteer with the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) and various eldercare centres through school. Thereafter, Raaj also sourced for organisations to volunteer at on his own and chanced upon Happy People Helping People Community (HPHP).
He shared that understanding the living conditions and the plight of the elderly whom he had served in HPHP propelled him to continue serving the cause.
Over the years as a volunteer, witnessing instances of individuals who prioritised their own interests above the interests of those they serve further fuelled him to speak about pressing issues. He would endeavour to do so through taking on leadership roles at the various volunteer organisations.
However, his road to preparing himself for the numerous leadership positions was no walk in the park. Raaj actively sought mentorships and learnt as much as he could from those who were happy to offer guidance.
Unsure on what he wanted to do in his teenage years, he revealed that he entrusted his teachers who advised him to hone his skills and talents accordingly. Raaj’s mentors include various entrepreneurs as well as his teachers who taught him in primary and secondary school, junior college, and university.
Wanting to expand his knowledge on various religions and how they relate to different facets of society, Raaj signed up as a member at the IRO in December 2017.
At IRO, he hosts monthly catch-up sessions and learning opportunities and is currently curating new programmes and initiatives.
Raaj says that he is driven by human empowerment and witnessing the slightest shift in the perspective of individuals spurs him to continue devoting his time to such causes.
He also mentions that his current roles equipped him to combat misconceptions, prejudices and conditioned beliefs that continue to keep individuals apprehensive of others.
“As a volunteer in Hash.peace, I participated in an inter-belief dialogue that addressed faith-based and secular views, organised a day-trip to the Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman Temple and got members to learn about the heritage of the Jewish community in Singapore,” Raaj adds.
Through these leadership positions, he aims to “seek meaningful, contextualised approaches and answers to emerging contemporary challenges”.
Raaj was recently invited to be involved with INSPIRIT by the National Youth Council (NYC). An initiative by NYC, it develops a network of young adult learners who can be called upon to rally others for unity and national causes.
He shared that he felt humbled to know that he had an opportunity to connect with youths who work in various spheres of the society while gaining candid and clear insights from esteemed ministers and panellists.
Earlier in 2022, he got to be part of the community of young Singaporean leaders through the Our Singapore Leadership Programme (OSLP).
Launched in 2017, OSLP is held annually for select youth leaders to harness their enthusiasm for national issues and understand the challenges that lie ahead for Singapore.
Raaj states that he was humbled to engage with like-minded individuals who in return, helped enhance his understanding of societal issues.
He shares with Youthopia that OSLP also granted him the platform to highlight the concerns faced by the communities he had served and learn about issues faced by the other demographics of society.
“I want youths to find a cause they are passionate about, learn deeply and connect wholeheartedly with the people,” he says.
He also hopes youths will learn the issues, structure and contextualise the significance of their work within the realm of Singapore’s society.
For more information about other programmes and opportunities by the National Youth Council, click here.