Ladies and Gentlemen
The Youth Expedition Project (YEP) has been a flagship national youth volunteer programme since its inauguration 10 years ago by then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It had a simple aim - to nurture an adventurous and resilient spirit in our Singaporean youth through an overseas volunteering experience in an environment that would be both physically and mentally challenging. It was spearheaded by the National Youth Council (NYC) and administered by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF).
2 More than 20,000 young volunteers have been sent to ASEAN, China and India to implement over 900 community based service-learning projects
3 It has been an effective vehicle for idealistic, confident and caring young people to identify community needs and implement practical solutions on the ground. In a sense, these are really journeys of self discovery. I am sure all of you have gained a deeper understanding of the societies around us. In the process, you would also have gained a greater appreciation of our own challenges here in Singapore. You would also have discovered the power of teamwork and networking. I am pleased to note that over 90% of participants have found the YEP experience a transformational one, and many have indicated that it has sparked a desire in you to contribute and participate in community work.
4 In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, many of our young people stepped forward to offer their help to the affected countries. YEP was therefore reconfigured to focus on helping those countries in the post-tsunami reconstruction efforts. Within a short span of six months, over 500 youth set off to complete various projects in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Thailand. This episode not only cemented YEP’s place in the international volunteerism scene, but more importantly, it showed the tenacity and resilience of our Singaporean youth, and their sincerity in helping our neighbours and the global community.
5 Shortly after the reconstruction efforts were successfully completed, NYC took over the administration of YEP to provide a holistic approach over the life-cycle of a youth volunteer and to engage returnees. This included adopting an issues-based approach and incorporating local engagement projects into the YEP journey.
6 The issues-based approach that YEP adopts encourages youth to explore how similar social issues are addressed differently in different countries and societal contexts. With this approach, participants are able to explore the needs of different communities in multiple dimensions, including education, technology transfer, healthcare, environment, arts, culture and heritage. This is a vital part of equipping and empowering our youth to champion social causes and be a part of the solution to social needs, both locally and globally.
7 Beyond encouraging volunteerism overseas, the strong emphasis that YEP has placed on local community involvement has also helped participants develop a better appreciation for the policies, systems and ways of life here in Singapore; and be more sensitive to the needs of the less privileged within Singapore. Through local Service-Learning community projects both before and after their trips, participants were challenged to apply their learning experience in both local and overseas setting. This is what we wish to see in more young Singaporeans. Our youths, who will be our future leaders, should not just be smart and successful, but they should also be idealistic, compassionate and practical.
Developing the International Volunteerism Sector
8 The YEP has to evolve in order to maintain its relevance. YEP has recently partnered the International Volunteerism Association (IVA) to jointly develop resources for the international volunteerism sector and to mentor new YEP partners who may lack the experience in organising overseas volunteering expeditions. This partnership can serve to enhance long-term bilateral partnerships and strengthen people to people relationships with our neighbours.
9 The volunteerism sector has benefited from YEP funding schemes that provide specific support for key stakeholders and partners. The Programme Funding to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and Mercy Relief in the past two years allowed them to have greater autonomy to develop meaningful and sustainable engagements with selected host partners. These initiatives are important for the continual growth of our volunteerism sector and the development of greater capabilities among our young Singaporeans to participate in and to lead volunteer projects. At the same time, we are better able to address the needs of our host community.
10 I look forward to seeing more strategic partnerships develop within the youth international volunteerism sector, and more initiatives to nurture the growth of agencies that send Singaporean youth overseas. This would help bring about a more vibrant and connected youth volunteerism sector.
11 Today’s celebration marks YEP’s achievements in encouraging active youth volunteerism in Singapore. It is remarkable that since its launch, so many of you have stepped out of your comfort zones, ventured overseas to serve a cause, and made a difference in the lives of others.
12 I would like to take this opportunity to thank and recognise the efforts of all our partners, past and present, who have worked with the National Youth Council and the YEP team to develop active and passionate youth volunteers through your expeditions.
13 I know that YEP will not rest on its laurels. The team is looking at furthering development in the volunteering sector through implementing new training frameworks and programmes for YEP leaders. There will be a strategic focus to identify, connect and support sustainable initiatives, and this includes funding and working with organisations that have the capacity to develop sustainable partnerships and projects.
14 As YEP also expands its outreach through more initiatives to engage and re-engage youth, I am confident that it will continue to ignite the passion for volunteerism in new communities of youth and organisations, and to encourage the alumni to pass on the legacy of YEP.
15 I wish the Youth Expedition Project a happy 10th Anniversary and great success in the years ahaed. Thank you all very much.