SINGAPORE - The first intake of the new volunteer youth corps will start training in June, after recruitment began last month.
Under the one-year programme, called Youth Corps Singapore (YCS), the volunteers will go through a structured residential training programme to equip them with knowledge and leadership skills, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said in Parliament yesterday.
They will also embark on both a local and an overseas volunteering stint, lasting three to six months each.
The youth corps is the first national-level programme of its kind, and also "a first in many steps towards more impactful youth development and engagement", Mr Wong added.
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) is also looking at how it can better engage young people through having more youth-oriented spaces such as *Scape.
More details will be given later.
The first cohort will comprise 200 young people aged 15 to 35 years, mainly nominated by youth organisations and institutes of higher learning. The target is to have 6,000 volunteers each year.
The initiative, first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year's National Day Rally, is meant to spur young Singaporeans to take up community work and continue to do so beyond their school years.
Young adults tend to volunteer less after they start working. Statistics from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre showed that only 28 per cent of those aged between 25 and 34 volunteered in 2012, compared to 43 per cent for those aged 15 to 24.
The YCS will be funded by the $100 million National Youth Fund, created last year to pay for youth-led social initiatives.
The volunteers will receive allowances if they want to take time out from their studies to join the YCS full time.
They will also receive training and mentoring, government funding for projects and networking opportunities.
Working in teams, they will either develop their own projects - to care for the elderly with dementia or fight global warming, for instance - after doing research on the ground, or be matched to projects based on critical local needs.
To enable social mixing, team members will come from different schools and organisations.
"We want our youth to appreciate different perspectives, develop strong social consciousness and the sense that everyone can be of service to society," said a spokesman for MCCY.
At the end of their time in the YCS, participants can also get a "pay-it-forward" grant to use to mentor new volunteers.
Calling for those passionate about the community to apply, Mr Wong said: "There is a rigorous selection process, but we don't want that to be a deterrent to the youth from stepping forward. We are not looking at academic qualifications. We are looking for youth with strong leadership qualities, commitment to serve the community and a desire to learn."
Polytechnic student Samuel Do, 19, who has been nominated for the YCS, used to volunteer on an ad hoc basis, organising a campfire for autistic children, for instance. "I was busy with school and there wasn't quite a platform for longer-term volunteerism," he said. "I hope joining this will make it easier for me to continue serving even after things get hectic when I start work."
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