Conversations with Wan Yan Tan

Wan Yan Tan is part of the programme architect team in Youth Corp Singapore (YCS), a department under National Youth Council (NYC). As part of her job scope, she coordinates training and mentors youth volunteer leaders who have their own volunteering projects. Tan’s mission is to champion youth volunteerism in Singapore by providing these youths the opportunity to turn their volunteer projects into reality by offering them advice and providing them the resources to do so.

WY: Our mission is to champion youth volunteerism in Singapore and to build a caring community in Singapore. So in YCS our target group is 16 to 24. We want to encourage youth to volunteer beyond their school life. These youths will be able to interact with people in all walks of life. We have students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Junior Colleges, Polytechnics and universities. Working adults volunteer with us too. We hope that our volunteers will find friends in a diverse group of people through volunteering.

In YCS, we have 4 programmes. First, there is the volunteering programme. It’s a one off ad hoc event, so we hope this will spark their initial interest. Then there is a regular volunteering in a weekly commitment for 6 months. We also have the Youth Expedition Programme (YEP), with a focus on overseas learning and volunteerism . It is currently under the purview of Youth Corps. There is also the Red Box program which is inspired by our late Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew. They have different events that focuses on different social issues.

So for Youth Corps Leaders Programme – we call our participants “aspirants”. They are volunteer leaders in training. We try to empower them and help them actualize their envisioned service learning projects. It’s a six months project and we hope they will gain insight on national issues and encourage other youths to join the cause.

WY: We base our selection on recommendation from institutions – they will send their students or we have a public run. In the public run, any individual can sign up. So in their journey, we will support them in terms of funding and mentors and we also have community partners who will be able to guide them through service learning after they have been with us for 6 months.

WY: When I was a polytechnic student, I was involved in the service and volunteering CCAs and they focused on youth development. I benefited a lot through the CCAs and I wanted to give back. This inspired me to pursue this career. I majored in chemistry in university and this was very different from what I was doing now. I didn’t enjoy studying chemistry and it’s not something I wanted. I wanted to do something I was passionate and interested in.

WY: It’s seeing the growth of youths and venturing out of their comfort zone. The smiles of the beneficiaries and the opportunity to work with the community are also rewarding.

WY: A group that I mentored last year had a project on empowering mothers from a particular community, and had aimed to encourage the mothers to step out of their comfort zone to initiate events. There was this girl who used to be very shy and didn’t know how to interact with the children and the mothers – she’s very young and only in JC. So she had difficulty in communicating. So seeing her step out of her comfort zone and and being physically present at events was an impactful experience for me. She grew a lot. Her mom was very shy and reserved – she would only speak in Malay and was dependent on her friend to translate. After time, she grew more confident and even led certain events.

WY: We are quite open about things and we are very encouraging. Hierarchy is quite big. There is great teamwork. For example, different teams from different events will come together to support each other.

WY: It’s a 9 to 6 job but we also have to work during the weekends to coordinate with volunteers.

WY: We work with different stakeholders and community partners and work with institutions and youth volunteers as well. It’s the managing of expectations and their own goals that they need to meet. We also have to compromise between all these stakeholders, and negotiate to find the middle ground.  Another challenge is the commitment because I still volunteer in poly and I have to make some compromises.

WY: I think when I was younger as a student in polytechnic, our mentor would often tell us what to do and we would just follow. Now, the youth would want to have their voice and be empowered to make their own decisions. They are also very capable in getting things done. It’s about finding their passion and acting upon it for their own personal development.

WY: First, you must like to work with youth and work on the weekends as commitment is high. Secondly, it’s a bonus if you like to plan and organize.

WY: You must enjoy coaching and encouraging youth and the next one is communication of stakeholders. You also should have a flair towards planning and organising and conceptualizing events.