Efforts to engage at-risk youth in the arts, sports

Efforts to engage at-risk youth in the arts, sports
Muhammad Al Amin Shah Mohamed Alifiyan, a student from Northlight School who is among the participants of 'Saturday Night Lights' football programme. The programme takes underprivileged and at-risk youths off the streets on a Saturday night to give them formal football training and a healthy meal at the end of it without a fee.

We agree with Dr Edmund Lam on the importance of providing young people with meaningful programmes for engagement ("Engage at-risk youth in sports or the arts"; Dec 29).

Results of the 2013 National Youth Survey show that social participation has a positive impact on the development of youth perceptions and attitudes, as well as their ability to cope with life.

The Central Youth Guidance Office (CYGO), an inter-ministry office within the Ministry of Social and Family Development, looks at coordinating efforts and programmes to help at-risk youth.

We recognise that sports and the arts are powerful tools that inspire confidence, expression and self-discovery in young people.

This is why the CYGO set up an inter-agency workgroup to work on a Sports and Arts framework to engage at-risk youth in structured, group-based learning through sports and the arts.

In addition, the framework incorporates social work intervention to address anti-social and at-risk behaviours.

There are many agencies in this whole-of-government effort to engage at-risk youth.

For example, Sport Singapore has set up the SportCares Foundation to reach out to underprivileged and at-risk youth through various sports, including football, running, dragon boating, canoeing, kayaking and tennis.

The National Arts Council (NAC) has facilitated collaborations for youth development between artists, teachers, counsellors, social workers, voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and schools.

In addition, more than 400 VWOs have access to the WeCare Arts Fund, a collaboration between the NAC, People's Association and the five community development councils to support arts projects for their beneficiaries, including at-risk youth.

Another successful initiative is Expedition Agape.

By being involved in service-learning projects with youth from diverse backgrounds, at-risk youth have been able to contribute actively to the community and acquire important life skills.

Collectively, these initiatives allow Singapore's youth, including at-risk youth, to connect with their peers and with the community.

This will help encourage them to make a positive impact on the people around them, by leveraging their interests in sports and the arts.

This article was first published on January 06, 2015.
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