BUBBLY, fast-talking Farah Jamalludin is the oldest among a batch of 24 young Singaporeans who graduated from a youth community leaders programme in Marine Parade yesterday.
At 35, she brought several years of working and volunteering experience to the NextGen Leadership Programme in Marine Parade GRC and Mountbatten, which aims to get more youth involved in community work and nurture them for leadership roles.
But until recently, Ms Farah, who works in aviation security, would not have been allowed to join the scheme.
Launched in 2009 by then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, the programme opened its doors for the first time last year to working adults and those aged above 25, in an attempt to attract a larger and more diverse group of future community leaders.
About five of the graduates in the latest batch, including Ms Farah, are older than 25.
The previous cohort had 23 youth, all between the ages of 16 and 25. In all, 129 people have gone through the programme since it started.
Programme chairman Seah Kian Peng, who is also an MP for Marine Parade GRC, said the age range was expanded last year to allow more participant diversity.
"It allows (participants) to remember there are different perspectives," he told reporters at the event yesterday.
"This way, we can build greater understanding of what is needed from all of us as a society, how we can come together and make a better Singapore."
Mr Goh, who is now Emeritus Senior Minister and was guest of honour at yesterday's event, also encouraged the young participants to view all their fellow citizens as part of an "extended family" headed by the Government.
Sharing his own experience of being helped through school by government bursaries and his own extended family after his father died when he was in Primary 4, Mr Goh said it was necessary for the "strong and able" to share their resources and ability to build a strong community.
"You may be standing on the shoulders of others now but the day will come when others will stand on your shoulder," he added.
The participants underwent more than 1,000 hours of training and led projects to help vulnerable groups.
Ms Farah organised a trip to the zoo for children with cancer, while her fellow participant Leonard Ho, 29, helped clean the homes of seniors living alone.
Said Ms Farah: "I'm a big sister figure, so I help (the younger participants) with the technical things, like approaching sponsors and writing out drafts, but they have so many ideas to share."
Mr Seah said youth, who are pressed for time, find it hard to step up and get involved in community work.
"We recognise this, but, at the same time, I'm optimistic because I can see that young people have the heart and, sometimes, you just need to create the opportunities for them," he said.