Youth Expedition Project set to expand in region

Youth Expedition Project set to expand in region
Students with a metal dish used to transport raw materials for construction as part of the Youth Expedition Project, or YEP. TODAY file photo.

Youth Expedition Project set to expand in region

6,000 young people will get to volunteer around Asia as of next year, up from 4,000 now

SINGAPORE — Young people looking to serve the regional community in specialised areas — such as technology, entrepreneurship and the environment — will have a wider platform to do so next year under the National Youth Council’s enhanced Youth Expedition Project (YEP).

Some 6,000 people aged 15 to 35 will get to volunteer in and engage with communities in Asia each year under the YEP, up from 4,000 now.

Its reach in non-rural areas will also be expanded.

The NYC’s flagship volunteering programme, inaugurated in 2000 to nurture resilient youths through overseas volunteering experiences, will offer trips that go beyond the typical notion of “community service” to equip participants with a broader global outlook, according to NYC chief executive officer David Chua, 42.

The revamped YEP could take the form of conducting an IT boot camp for students in another country or helping to kick off a start-up in an industry the YEP participant is familiar with, he explained.

It aims to encourage a larger group of youths with various strengths and interests to come on board.

Some of these experiences will also involve partnerships with young people in South-east Asian cities.

“We’ve been seeing a growth of dynamic, hungry young people around the region and we want our young people here to learn the spirit of enterprise and push forward, like their neighbours ... so we hope to build more of these youth-to-youth linkages,” said Mr Chua.“With that, youths here can better benchmark themselves and spur themselves.”

With the socio-economic developments in Asia — such as China’s One Belt, One Road initiative — there are good opportunities for young people on offer, Mr Chua added.

Participants who embark on the YEP must go with a mindset to learn.

“Are you going there to be a saviour or to be a hero? Or are you going to listen and learn the ground truths, then see how you can help make a difference?” he said.

Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung was guest of honour at the launch of an exhibition of photographs taken by YEP participants, which was held at the National Museum yesterday. He urged YEP organisers and participants to keep their objectives “pure”.

“Keep the learning natural, make sure (going on a YEP) does not earn students credits ... Not all things we do have to be for tangible results. Sometimes it’s for our own learning,” he said, addressing representatives from institutes of higher learning.

About 30,000 youths have participated in the YEP since it was launched in 2000, and this is its most significant enhancement. Ms Eng Yiwen, 29, who went on one trip as a participant before leading two other trips, urged prospective participants to keep their minds open and not be “fixated with wanting to change the world”.

“YEPs help us learn more about ourselves, which is also important for us to take home and see how we can contribute to our society here. After all, volunteering starts at our very doorstep,” she said.

Ms Eng said her YEP experiences have nurtured her passion to advocate mental wellness in a “stressed-out” society like Singapore. This culminated last year in Uninhibited Space, a social enterprise that uses art to engage the community and promote mental wellness.