By Sadia Roohi
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and families around the world are facing challenges like never before. To ease the burden of those most in need, members of the NTU community have come forward by donating gifts, essential items, or volunteering their time.
More recently, NTU staff, students and alumni have been giving back to their local communities through volunteering programmes facilitated by the University Advancement Office (UAO). These programmes promote volunteerism and inclusivity, while fostering a sense of camaraderie among the NTU community as it comes together for the greater good of both the University and Singapore’s wider community.
NTU’s Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving Executive Director, Ms Yap Su-Yin said: “Understanding how members of the NTU community are responding to the needs in their local communities, be it through volunteering or charitable giving, gives us insight on what’s important to them in their lives, and who gets their time and support. There are multiple ways for the NTU community to bond, and creating social impact over time together, is one.”
The volunteering programmes herald the University’s inaugural NTU Service Week, to be held from 4 to 11 September 2021, during which various groups from NTU will work on a range of service projects for the benefit of causes and communities that they care about.
Alumnus Mr Mohamed Abdul Akbar (CEE/1986), Chairperson of the NTU Alumni Council’s Community Engagement Sub-Committee, initiated a laptop donation drive that has since garnered 400 used laptops from NTU Schools and departments. These laptops were then refurbished and donated to the needy in the community.
“I believe technology is a great economic leveller,” said Mr Akbar. “We should champion its use, especially among the less fortunate. I hope to garner more support from our alumni to serve the community in this exciting journey leveraging technology and engineering.”
Since the June school holidays were brought forward in Singapore due to pandemic restrictions, the first phase of the laptop donation drive was accelerated and with UAO’s help, refurbished laptops were distributed in May.
Fifty laptops were donated to the Brickland Constituency of Chua Chu Kang GRC to benefit students from low-income families and enable them to attend programmes organised by the constituency's youth volunteers. Another 20 laptops were donated to charity PPIS (Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura or the Singapore Muslim Women’s Association) Student Care Centres in Jurong and Bedok.
The laptops were presented to Mr Don Wee, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC’s Brickland Constituency (left) by NTU’s Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving Executive Director Ms Yap Su-Yin and alumnus Mr Mohamed Abdul Akbar (right) who led the project.
More laptops and volunteers to teach IT skills now sought
As demand for IT donations has outstripped supply, NTU is making an ongoing appeal for more laptops, laptop bags and mice. NTU will also be helping to distribute laptops to the needy in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and India, facilitated by the NTU Alumni Associations in those countries.
More NTU volunteers are also sought to teach the beneficiaries how to use their laptops effectively and to safely surf for information.
Children from PPIS Jurong and Bedok Student Care Centres attended workshops conducted by UAO staff, NTU students and alumni. They painted recyclable tote bags, prepared wearable costumes made from recycled materials and even made their own spice paste under the guidance of alumnus Mr Leon Lim (SOH/2013), MasterChef Singapore Season 2 runner-up.
During the first two weeks of the school holidays in June, UAO staff ran half-day online workshops for pupils from PPIS Jurong and Bedok student care centres. The workshops drew on a range of professions and skills of NTU staff, alumni and students, from public speaking and creative writing, to environmental conservation.
The first week’s workshops, themed “Love Our Planet” in conjunction with World Environment Day on 5 June, aimed to raise awareness of how children can recycle, reuse and upcycle to protect the environment.
Children painted on recycled tote bags and prepared wearable costumes made from recycled materials. While being taught how to fold an origami butterfly, the children also learnt about the ill-effects of climate change on the monarch butterfly’s habitats.
Workshops in the second week centred around “Healthy Hobbies”. The children were taught hip-hop dancing and public speaking, learnt how to make their own coasters and found out more about the benefits of “ugly foods”.
NTU bursary award recipient Ms Karen Tang (SOH/Year 4), who specialises in Chinese Studies, found a way to pay-it-forward by sharing her knowledge of games and musical instruments that originated from China.
Alumnus Mr Richardo Chua (WKWSCI/2007) conducted the workshops on public speaking. The Founder and Chairman of social enterprise Adrenalin Group said: “I have always wanted to find ways to use my public speaking skills to give back to the community with my alma mater. When the chance came to do both, I was happy to volunteer.”
Ms Yap said that among the volunteers will be members of a new Student Philanthropy Society, a group set up by UAO in June to cultivate philanthropy within NTU.
“Their first task will be to champion initiatives during the NTU Service Week,” said Ms Yap. “This is part of a longer-term plan for them to learn how to connect and rally the various groups at NTU, and to help grow charitable volunteering and philanthropic giving by the NTU community over time.”
“NTU Service Week will be inclusive and community centric,” added Ms Yap. “Each of us can make a difference whether we do it in big or small ways. With COVID-19 affecting all aspects of our lives, now more than ever we want to encourage this exploration of how we can apply our strengths and training from different disciplines. We hope to empower one another in creating positive change.”
Alumni who are keen to contribute their time and expertise in the University’s various volunteering programmes may send an email to the University Advancement Office at email@example.com.