Left: Jovi Kuah is a
recipient of the People’s
(Local mid-term). He
is currently pursuing
a Bachelor of Arts in
Sociology at Nanyang
Right: Deborah Tan is a recipient of the People’s Association Scholarship (Overseas). She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
One people, one nation, one Singapore” - The melodious tune that each of us, as the people of Singapore, have grown up listening to. This simple yet powerful statement is also what the People’s Association (PA), a statutory board, strives to achieve - to promote racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore.
Singing the well-known song with plenty of gusto and verve are Jovi Kuah and Deborah Tan, two individuals with an ardent passion in community development. Jovi and Deborah are PA Scholars pursuing a degree in their respective studies.
Most Singaporeans would associate the PA with Community Clubs, where people pick up new skills and make new friends. In addition to that, PA also has a network of 1,800 grassroots organisations (GROs) that are made up of dedicated volunteers.
From a broader perspective, the PA network includes five Community Development Councils, National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI) where community leaders are nurtured, as well as PAssion WaVe, a specialist community club offering a broad range of waterfront lifestyle programmes to the community. The wide range of programmes aim to cater to Singaporeans from all walks of life.
Upon graduation, Jovi and Deborah will be working on putting together policies and initiatives to bring people from various backgrounds and interests together, so that they can forge closer friendships and bonds.
Towards an Inclusive Society
23-year-old Jovi got his first glimpse into the intricacies of social behaviour during his junior college days. Like most teenagers, he was watching a lot of YouTube videos and he was particularly hooked on themed social experiments.
While the videos were entertaining, they did not impact Jovi until he witnessed some real life scenes. In fact, they left such a deep impression, he decided to embark on a career in community development.
“On my way home from work a couple of years back, there was a mother with an autistic son seated a few seats from me on the bus. Mid-journey, the child had a meltdown, became agitated and started making noises,” explains Jovi.
“The mother was trying her best to calm her boy down, but instead of getting help or comfort from fellow commuters, she received some unpleasant feedback in the form of hand gestures and impatient stares. That was when I realised how people lacked understanding and empathy towards the situation.”
Having served an internship at Eden School under the Autism Association (Singapore), Jovi further recalled his experience as a special needs caregiver.
“Currently, there are various infrastructures, policies and assistance programmes targeted at the underprivileged and special needs population in Singapore, but what is lacking is the cultural factor of how we can help integrate people with special needs. And that’s where the challenge lies.”
Learning of his passion and determination in the field, one of his close friends introduced him to the scholarship offered by PA.
“Out of all the other scholarships I was considering, I decided that my core values aligned best with that of PA.”
He adds: “PA serves all groups within the community and that is important.”
Looking into his career journey ahead, Jovi is keen to take on leadership roles and work with grassroots leaders as well as volunteers to put together community-building projects. Scholars like Jovi will also be posted to strategic units within PA, which will undoubtedly add another dimension to their future careers.
“Growing up was a challenge for me and my family. My parents had their first child, my older brother, when they were 19 and 16 years old. We had bare minimal financial ability for a family of five, and they made just enough to not qualify for any financial aid. Now that I have this scholarship, I want to use this opportunity to help build a resilient and cohesive community.”
Regardless of Race, Language or Religion
20-year-old Deborah is no stranger to community-building activities, as she was introduced to volunteering by her parents at a young age. Her interest grew further while she was schooling. As the leader of her Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) group, Deborah had the opportunity to experience community work from different perspectives. She was inspired to do more for the community.
“I appreciated how things were done on the ground as well as the processes behind community events. It was then when I realised that I wanted a career that would enable me to use my skills to impact society.”
With that in mind, Deborah visited a career fair held at her school, with PA being one of the booths on showcase. For the first time, she discovered an organisation that fit her aspirations and ethos. “I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a scholarship aligned with my interests and experiences,” she raves.
With a three-round interview as part of the scholarship application process, there was already much to learn from.
She explains: “The application process showed me more about what a scholarship with PA entails. “It also provided me with a better understanding of how PA functions and the scope of its activities.” Studying abroad is no doubt the dream of many students. And with such exposure comes an even more fulfilling learning journey.
“At London School of Economics (LSE), I had the opportunity to meet people of different backgrounds from around the world. It enabled me to see things from multiple perspectives and learn to see the needs of individuals better. This is what I will bring back when serving my role with PA.”
And to her juniors looking to pursue a similar career to hers, Deborah reckons that a little passion goes a long way.
“If you are a people-oriented person, passionate about community development and looking for an organisation that will allow you to develop your passions and skills to serve the public, you should definitely consider this scholarship.”
Hear from other PA scholars who have made a meaningful difference in the community. www.pa.gov.sg/careers/scholarships