Saturday, June 01, 2013

NACLI Community Leadership Digest Feature

Thanks NACLI for the feature in its biannual magazine to People's Association (PA) grassroots leaders, and to Alicia for penning my story.

Kick away the branches from the pedestrian walkways, so others will not trip on them”

This was one of the many little ways that Mr Fong Yoong Kheong’s late father would impart to him about caring for his community. The elder Mr Fong was a “kampong” community person.  He would greet all the neighbours and know them well, extending gifts of food and thoughtful trinkets from overseas trips.  Yoong Kheong was struck by how his late father was so deeply involved in the community, familiar with neighbours and showed acts of compassion like extending an RC event ticket to a lone old lady at the void deck so she too could join in the fun.

This same community spirit resonates in his son today.

One of the youngest Resident Committee (RC) chairman to be appointed,  Yoong Kheong stepped into community volunteerism when he completed his National Service (NS).  With eight months to spare before entering tertiary education, Yoong Kheong spent a lot of time in his neighbourhood, only to realise that he did not really know his neighbours or fellow residents.  Yoong Kheong did not stop there.  He went to Eunos CC and found that there was a youth club.  He joined, hoping to contribute back to the community and at the same time realise his aim of getting to know his community better.

While volunteering at the Youth Executive Committee (YEC), Yoong Kheong harnessed online media and set up a website, using various social media platforms to better connect them with the youths.  He was also one of People’s Association’s earliest New Media Champion, a title given to grassroots leaders who actively utilise social media to reach out to their community. 

Yoong Kheong is motivated by the knowledge that his effort and time spent goes towards meaningful causes. When he discovered that the Resident Community (RC) is an even better platform in outreaching and interacting with the residents, his late father supported his decision to embark on a bigger scope of grassroots work and even helped out at his events.  Together with his RC team, Yoong Kheong has launched several successful initiatives for the residents; such as Mental Wellness Mahjong, kidsREAD Programme, fund-raising Recycling Programme. The fund-raising Recycling Programme is an initiative that lets residents use recycling as a means to raise funds for the low-income residents within the community.   As a legacy to his late father’s positive influence, the Programme is also a platform for the RC to promote the kampong culture; empowering residents to help one another through their actions.  This kampong culture formed a foundation for subsequent initiatives that the RC would introduce, like the Simply Eunos facebook and website which operates as an online kampong portal, uniting all grassroots committees in Eunos in one place.

To better himself in the service of the community, Yoong Kheong has always actively taken up the grassroots development training offered by National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI), the community leadership development arm of the PA. He sees the value in the training of new grassroots leaders to learn from the best practices of other organisations/committees and be equipped with up-to-date skills and knowledge, so they can contribute more effectively to the community.

But it does not stop there.  Yoong Kheong wants to do more.

He feels that as volunteers, organising and implementing projects is not enough.  And that is why he is today part of the inaugural Master Programme in Community Leadership and Social Development  (MCLSD) jointly offered by the PA and SIM University.  With a full subscription on board, the programme offers its current undergraduates a wide spectrum of knowledge in these fields.  As a chosen student of this programme, Yoong Kheong believes that through the combination of theory (MCLSD) and practice (volunteering), he can discover and share new insights and strategies on how to enhance resident-helping resident culture, providing platforms for forging a closer community.