Monday, 30 September 2013

Runaway Youth Transformed By Vocational Training When

When Ho Wenjie was just 14, he realised that he had to improve himself to secure a better future. Struggling to survive on the meagre income from working odd jobs, he had left school the previous year and ran away from home.

Upon a recommendation from his ex-school’s counsellor, Wenjie joined the Vocational and Soft Skills Programme (VaSSP) offered by YMCA Project Bridge in October 2011 and found his passion in life – baking.

Following Wenjie’s graduation from the VaSSP in March 2012, YMCA Project Bridge referred him for further baking courses at the Baking Industry Training Centre. He is now working six days a week as a server-cum-pastry maker at the award-winning Italian restaurant, Garibaldi’s.

“I have finally found my goal in life – I want to set up a business selling the pastries I bake,” said Wenjie, the 2nd child of a stockbroker and a homemaker. “My trainers and mentors were friendly and patient with learners. Through their life stories, I was inspired to follow in their footsteps.”

For Chef Roberto Galetti, the owner of Garibaldi’s, this was the first time in which he was approached by a youth organisation to provide job opportunities for out-ofschool youths and youths-at-risk. He believes in giving everyone a chance and helping them to improve their lives.

“I would like to share this quote from Confucius,” expressed Mr Galetti. “Give a man a fish, he feeds for a day. Teach a man to fish, he feeds for a lifetime.”

On Wenjie’s work performance and attitude, Mr Galetti shared that Wenjie is a fast learner with a good working attitude. He also observed that Wenjie voluntarily helped his colleagues whenever he could. Mr Galetti also shared that employers have nothing to fear from hiring youths-at-risk as there was no good reason to, and that everybody deserves a chance.

Today, besides spending his time at work and home, the now 18-year old Wenjie also makes time to share his experience with other youths at YMCA Project Bridge. He said, “Project Bridge gave me a chance to help myself. I should also help others to help themselves.”

YMCA Project Bridge is a direct service arm of YMCA of Singapore that focuses on helping youths-at-risk and out-of-school youths aged 13-21 re-enter the school system and acquire skills for gainful employment through vocational and apprenticeship schemes. In 2012, YMCA Project Bridge reached out to over 500 youths-at-risk and their families through 54 schools and VWOs in Singapore and over 1,300 hours of counselling and intervention sessions were conducted for youths.

The VaSSP was conceived in 2009 to combine youth intervention with vocational training. To date, a total of 72 youths have been engaged through VaSSP with an 82% success rate in helping them to secure employment, work attachments or returning to school for further education.

Mr Shanon Lim, Assistant Manager, YMCA Project Bridge says that youth-at-risk issues will always be present in modern and advanced societies such as Singapore. “The detrimental effect on the nation’s social fabric will be magnified as more nuclear family units become fragmented and family members become less engaged with each other due to the increasing pressures of modern life,” elaborated Mr Lim.

Following a recent study and survey among youths to plan the way forward for the VaSSP, YMCA Project Bridge will be introducing five new courses – western culinary, digital media design, computer skills, pet grooming and tourism alongside the current vocational training programmes, namely baking, hairdressing, makeup and hospitality.

Ms Samantha Seah, Assistant General Secretary (Programmes), YMCA of Singapore, said “As a youth organisation, YMCA of Singapore strives to groom young adults into responsible community champions who can impact and lead the community. A part of this effort includes reaching out to the out-of-school youths and youths-at-risk to transform their lives. Many of them have huge dreams and huge potential just like anyone else, but due to their unfortunate family situations, they fall out and ostracise themselves from the mainstream, often ending up with bad company and landing in trouble. Through YMCA Project Bridge, we are able to reach out to them, befriend them and equip them with life and vocational skills in the hope of integrating them back into the society.”

Wenjie and his peers will be present at the YMCA Appeal Gala Dinner 2013 on
2 October 2013 at the Fullerton Hotel, to help raise funds for YMCA Project Bridge.

1 comment :

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