left: How Jun Yao, Jonathan, is a recipient of the SNCF Co-operative Scholarship. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Nanyang Technological University. Right: Denise Ong Li Jie is a recipient of the SNCF Co-operative Scholarship. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the National University of Singapore.
Co-operatives have played a huge part in our society. They are business entities which are established by members who share a common social or economic interest. The Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) was formed in 1980 as the apex body of the co-operative moment.
We met with two gems from the cooperative – 24-year-old Jonathan How Jun Yao, and 19-year-old Denise Ong Li Jie – who share what fuels their passion and conviction to take SNCF to greater heights.
A Digital Mind
Community service fuels the soul, and in Jonathan’s case, it also motivated him into embarking on a rewarding career.
He explains: “When I was younger, I was pretty much a happy-go-lucky person but at the end of my National Service, I became more enterprise-focused. At the same time, I did some community work, and that egged me to source for scholarships on the BrightSparks website. I looked into NTUC (National Trades Union Congress) and it led me to ‘Scholars with A Heart’. It was then that I discovered SNCF.”
In particular, Jonathan resonated with SNCF’s ethos of cooperation and care for community. He went on to accept the SNCF Cooperative Scholarship and he is now pursuing a Degree in Business Administration at Nanyang Technological University.
In addition to taking in skills and theories related to his degree, Jonathan is actively looking at to how he can contribute to SNCF as well as co-operatives in Singapore in the near future. He hopes to transform traditional businesses with the aid of digital services.
For one, he is keen to work with GP Plus - a co-operative formed by various doctors and healthcare services. Jonathan wants to streamline the business via modern-day technologies such as machine learning, AI or blockchain.
His interest lies in technology start-ups and how to create value for an organisation. He plans to learn front and back-end work in software development. The affable scholar also wants to pursue digital marketing to help promote SNCF to a wider audience.
“I want to spread the awareness online and I look forward to embarking on this project in the near future,” he enthuses.
He shared his idea on getting cleaners onto co-operative assistance and creating a platform that allows cleaners to connect with would-be hirers.
“A dream of mine is to create a co-operative that benefits a community at large such as low-income families.”
In order to realise his passion and contribute to the co-operative scene in Singapore, he believes that passion, as well as support from family and friends is vital. Lastly, he believes that if you are applying for this scholarship, do not apply it for the sake of it.
“Aspiring SNCF scholars should have the heart to do greater good for the community.”
A Changing Mind
It is hard to believe that Denise was a rebellious teenager. She is respectful and speaks in an understated, yet arresting tone. Not too long ago, she went through a transformation after she received some much-needed support from her parents and teachers. Her grades got a lot better and she got motivated to help people. As they say, everybody just needs a little tender loving care.
“My parents told me that they wanted me to be on the right path, and they would do whatever they could to help. They hope that I would grow to be someone who is kind and compassionate. I realised that if I wanted to effect changes, I would have to start with myself,” emphasises the effusive scholar.
After steering her proverbial ship in the right way, she spent her secondary school days doing volunteer work, which she thoroughly enjoyed. The tasks included cleaning the elderly homes and washing their vegetables for Willing Hearts, a charity organisation. When she progressed to Junior College (JC), Denise was volunteering at HortPark and helping out wherever she could.
Speaking of which, Denise first got introduced to SNCF at a career fair organised by her JC. That, as well as the articles within BrightSparks magazine, motivated her to explore scholarship opportunities within the social sector. She made an application, went through the process and eventually accepted the SNCF Co-operative Scholarship.
The Business Administration undergraduate continues to enrich her volunteering journey by spending her time organising activities for fellow school mates as a member of the NUS Students’ Union. Unsurprisingly, she found it most gratifying when putting together events to help raise funds for needy students.
She hopes to gain more experience working for the co-operative in order to gain better insights to help people in need.
“Future scholars who pursue this path must genuinely want to help people - whether for society’s cause or mutual benefit,” she says.
Denise is looking forward to beginning work proper with SNCF, and continuing to make a difference.