University students start initiative to use their Skills For Good and help those in need
With a pool of over 800 students, this organisation has partnered over 30 social organisations in Singapore to help those in need.
When Singapore went into the circuit breaker last April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellie Lew realised that most volunteering organisations were not prepared for it.
Usual simple activities like befriending the elderly proved to be a challenge as it had to be done online and some companies did not have a presence on social media platforms. At the same time, students could not find internships and working remotely was the new norm.
Ellie, a regular volunteer at various social organisations for the past eight years, was also trying to find new opportunities for her CCA members to volunteer at, decided to piece two and two together.
The 21-year-old, who studies accounting & business, is also the chairperson of the Volunteer Movement co-curricular activity (CCA) in NTU.
“Noticing such a gap, I decided to start something where youth can volunteer based on their skill sets since they are free and stuck at home and at the same time, social organisations benefit from their help,” Ellie told Youthopia.
She spoke to two of her friends – Isaac Phua and Chow Kai Jin – who agreed to help. They then roped in three of their own friends – Clarita Chua, Ruyan Zhao and Peilin Wu – to join them.
Together, the sextet – all aged between 21 and 24 – formed Skills For Good (SFG), a skills-based volunteering organisation.
Currently, SFG has a pool of about 800 volunteers, of which 100 are actively engaged in projects. They have also partnered with over 30 social organisations, including Lakeside Family Services and the Breast Cancer Foundation.
While a significant number of their volunteers are volunteering to fulfil CIP requirements, the majority are still doing it out of interest.
“Even though it is part of their school curriculum, the volunteers are very passionate,” said Isaac, SFG’s the head of projects. He added that the SFG team does not want to limit volunteers to students only.
Echoing a similar tune, Zhao said: “We hope to have some professionals act as mentors for our student volunteers so that we can establish a community and promote the spirit of volunteerism.”
SFG managed to build up the pool of volunteers through working with the various universities. The schools will blast recruitment emails to students, who will be directed to SFG’s website.
There, a list of the currently available projects will be displayed and volunteers can read up on the project specifics such as duration, commitment level and skill sets required. These skill sets include social media marketing, collateral creations and market research.
Volunteers then need to fill up an application form and will subsequently go through a selection process where they will be matched according to their passion to serve as well as past experiences.
Heart of volunteering
More often than not, volunteering can be a very rewarding experience as it helps one to be more aware of themselves and the world around them. At times, it may open their eyes to a part of the world that they never knew existed.
“I see volunteering as a learning journey. It has helped me to develop new skills and gain new insights about myself,” said Tan Xiang Wei, a 24-year-old NTU student volunteer.
Xiang Wei volunteered for a collateral design project with Lakeside Family Services in 2020. He helped to design slides for their volunteers e-orientation and planned orientation activities conducted over Zoom.
“While the impact through skills-based volunteering may not be as clearly evident as compared to face-to-face volunteering, the fulfilment that comes with being able to help someone is still great,” shared Xiang Wei, who is now also part of SFG’s account management team.
Similarly, 23-year-old Li Zhuang Jing, shared: “The most rewarding thing about volunteering is to be able to contribute and help others during COVID.”
As a marketing major from SMU, Li was able to apply the skills and knowledge she learnt from school when she volunteered for a 10-week digital marketing project with Lions Befrienders, a social service agency that cares for seniors in the community.
And while SFG is enjoying relative success now, it wasn’t always a bed of roses.
Initially, they had to fork out money out of their own pockets to fund their website. The six founders also had to cope with their own workload in school, as they were in the midst of their finals.
Kai Jin, who heads SFG’s business development (corporate) team, shared: “We see the value of what we are doing and we were willing to spend time on this and sink in a couple of hundred dollars each.”
Thankfully for the team, they received a $3000 fund on reimbursement basis from Youth Changemakers’ YCM grant, which helped them out financially.
COVID-19 also proved to be a blessing in disguise for them.
“Social organisations needed a lot of help with digitisation and it was quite a bit of a springboard for us to start to land projects and get everything started,” added Chow.
Moving forward, SFG hopes to offer more technology-based services such as UI/UX web design to engage with more social organisations.
“The biggest lesson we learnt is to never be afraid to try something,” Isaac shared.
“When we first started out, we never thought that SFG would become so big. We were so afraid that we couldn’t even get volunteers.”
Ellie added: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. But we have to take the first step forward and have the courage.”
If you are interested in volunteering with SFG, you can apply to do so here.