Fourth Year Science student Muhammad Nadjad Bin Abdul Rahim had a memorable experience working with Ren Ci Hospital, where he studied alternatives for patients who overstay due to the lack of caregivers at home. Nadjad is one of the Fellows of the Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme (CTPCLP), which was set up thanks to a gift from Mr Chua Thian Poh, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ho Bee Investment Limited.
The CTPCLP is grooming Singapore’s next generation of community leaders by giving students practical and theoretical information on Singapore’s social and community issues. Professor Albert Teo, Director of the CTPCLP and the former Director of the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP) at the NUS Business School, has adopted a three-pronged approach – theory, work attachment and research – to providing students with a sound and holistic understanding of social and community issues. He says, “Many NUS students are involved in local and overseas community involvement programmes, but prior to this Programme, there was no institutionalised structure to provide them with a better grounding in social issues in Singapore. The CTPCLP attempts to address this gap so that students can add value to the work they do.”
The CTPCLP offers a wide range of modules such as community work practice, social innovation, and leadership in a complex world, to equip students with theoretical perspectives of social issues that they will be confronted with. Speakers from the industry are also invited to share their experiences and inspire students.
Through work attachment with local charities and government agencies such as the Central Singapore Community Development Council and Boys’ Town, students gain exposure and valuable insights from veterans into various social issues and how they are addressed. Some of these issues include youths at risk, people living with physical and intellectual disabilities, and the needy disadvantaged.
Charmian Goh, a Second Year student at NUS’ Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and a Fellow of the CTPCLP, was attached to Beyond Social Services, an organisation that works with low income families and youths at risk. Charmian, who is also enrolled in the University Scholars Programme (USP), an interdisciplinary academic programme, says, “The organisation introduced me to a wonderful blend of research and practical work. In talking to the researchers and community workers, I came to appreciate their strengths-based, positive youth development, community-oriented philosophy as well as the practical concerns in its application.”
Research also encourages NUS students to engage in reflective learning. Prof Teo says, “Research serves as a platform for students to suggest new ideas and strategies to address existing social problems. It challenges students to think out of the box and add value to what is already being done.”
Students are constantly exposed to opportunities to hear from experts and voice their opinions. In October 2012, a symposium on human trafficking and modern day slavery was held. Another symposium is slated for February 2013, where students will share their research.
One year on, the CTPCLP has impacted the lives of the many students who have enrolled and demand for this Programme remains high. Nadjad says, “The programme enabled me to look at various community issues from different perspectives. At an individual level, it has been a humbling experience as I’ve met people from all walks of life and those who have sacrificed much of their lives to help others. I am also heartened to meet many young, enthusiastic and critical CTPCLP fellows who give me hope for a better age.”
Charmian adds, “The programme has connected me with a community that is passionate about effecting change in a diverse range of fields. Interacting with a multidisciplinary community invested in a whole host of causes has also broadened my perspectives and made me question my assumptions about working with the community.”
Prof Teo, who has been actively involved in community service for the past 12 years, also shared that NUS graduates have gone on to establish their own social enterprises. He expresses his hopes for the CTPCLP and its students, saying, “I hope that even after the students have graduated, they will come back as alumni and inspire subsequent cohorts so that in time, we will be able to build a strong community of change makers who are passionate about continually engaging in meaningful community work. It is also my hope that people will start investing in our youth as it is the next generation that will be the change makers and leaders of the future.”