What volunteering as an Istana Ambassador is like

The two youths hope to continue finding ways to contribute to the various communities.

Amanda Tan

Skills include buying the same jeans in different colours.

Published: 11 November 2022, 10:06 AM

Every year, volunteers from Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) engage various communities through organising various festive activities at the Istana, alongside the President’s office and community partners.

This year, 10 volunteers accompanied children from 10 lower-income families, invited by Social Service Office@Bedok, for a Mid-Autumn picnic at the Istana.

Among them were 25-year-old Vincent Thian and 24-year-old Nur Maisyarah, who have been volunteering with YCS since 2019. 

Vincent had taken “a leap of faith” to sign up for the opportunity. Prior to the Mid-Autumn picnic at the Istana, he had only volunteered in activities for the seniors under YCS. 

“It was slightly different from what I did for the past few years,” shares the final year Nanyang Technological University student.

“I was quite anxious because I have relatively much less experience interacting with the children, as it’s also very different from interacting with seniors.” 

He, however, saw it as a chance to challenge himself and serve in a different capacity from what he’s familiar with.


Vincent (second from left) joined YCS as an ad-hoc volunteer while he was still doing his National Service. PHOTO CREDIT: VINCENT THIAN


Part of the group in charge of lantern riddles, Vincent helped by preparing the relevant logistics for the activity as well as hosting the games for the children and their parents.

“For my group, we prepared for the lantern riddles to allow the children to have an experience of what lantern riddles are and also to have that small interaction with their parents as well because if they don’t know the answer, at least they have their parents to ask,” he recounts.

Even for the children who didn’t know the answer, the group prepared small prizes for them as they felt it would be meaningful.

He shares that while interacting with children can seem tiring, he’s appreciative of these little moments he gets with the children for they’re not something he really gets to experience in his daily life.

“I remember that towards the end of the program, each one of us took one lantern and walked down the Japanese Garden in the Istana.

“I guess children being children, they were a lot more lively and ran around and shared about the new things and insights or sceneries that they got to see in the Istana.”

 He also noted how heartwarming it was when the children thanked the volunteers loudly at the end of the walk.


A total of 45 guests were present at the event. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/HALIMAH YACOB


Beyond this, he was also given the privilege to welcome Mdm President and introduce to her the programme and profiles of the volunteers, along with another YCS staff member.

“It’s something that makes me feel very honoured and it was also a chance for me to have small conversations with Mdm President.”

For Nur Maisyarah, helping out with the Mid-Autumn picnic came naturally. A volunteer with the YCS’ Children Youth and Family Cluster (CYF), Mai has always enjoyed playing with kids.


Mai (first row, third from left) first joined YCS’ Leaders Programme in 2019 before venturing into the CYF Cluster. PHOTO CREDIT: NUR MAISYARAH


During the event, she was stationed at the lantern decoration booth where she facilitated the arts and crafts activity. Besides helping them decorate their lanterns, she also accompanied them on a walk through the Japanese Garden, together with Mdm President.

“It’s an honour to be able to visit the Istana and welcome the children for the Mid-Autumn Festival and spend time with them, their parents and siblings because I don’t think that many people have the opportunity to visit the Istana,” she shares.


One of her most memorable moments was the walk through the Japanese Garden. PHOTO CREDIT: NUR MAISYARAH


When asked what was her biggest takeaway from this volunteering experience, she shares that she was heartened to be part of the kids’ learning journey in finding out more about the Mid-Autumn Festival.

“Maybe it’s something they don’t know about or they’ve never really celebrated in school so I guess it’s the cultural exposure that they gain,” she says.

It’s been three years since Mai joined the CYF Cluster. While she does have plans to contribute to other causes such as advocating for mental health and mentoring youths, she continues to serve children and families as she enjoys purely spending time with them and being able to make their day better. 

Volunteering on the whole has also allowed her to be more aware of the social issues different communities face that she’d otherwise be unknown to.

“It’s the kind of exposure I wouldn’t get if I were just studying in school or working…Volunteering has made me feel like maybe there are some things I can do to tackle these social issues.” 

To those looking to volunteer, the two advise that you step out of your comfort zone and be open to talking to strangers.

Vincent adds: “Don’t be afraid of anything. If it’s (a cause) you (care for), I believe it’ll be something you can continue in the long run.”

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