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A giving heart

Many young Singaporeans spend their Saturday afternoons hanging out at their favourite coffee joints or simply surfing the Net at home. Such pastimes are not for one South West youth.

For 23-year-old university student Mervyn Sek, Saturday means making his weekly trip to the MINDS Guillemard Gardens School to meet a very special friend – Yi Biao, an
intellectually challenged youth two years his junior. He has been doing this since 1998.

South West’s Mervyn (centre) with his Singapore team mates .... all
set to showcase the vigour and giving sprit of the nation’s youth at
the 5th Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative

Mervyn, a resident of Telok Blangah Heights since young, recently did the South West community proud by being one of four university students selected to represent Singapore at the 5th Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative (HYLI) to be held here from July 29 to August 2.

The event will bring together 24 students and opinion leaders from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. They will discuss various issues under the theme ‘Asia’s Roadmap Forging
Regional Cohesion for Global Advancement’. “I had expected many applicants and was not very confident of winning,” Mervyn told BRIDGE shortly after he was declared a winner. “I felt I did not perform eloquently
during the intense panel interview session that covered a multitude of issues. Thus,I was plesantly surprised when told I had made it. I feel very honoured and encouraged that my hard work and determination have been appreciated.

“The HYLI will be an excellent platform to gain a broader perspective of regional and global issues. I expect the participants will develop a greater understanding of the different cultures of the six countries.”

To prepare for the meeting, each student has to put up papers on three
topics which will be circulated to every participant. Mervyn’s topic is “The Growing Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia”.

“I enjoy interacting with people and organising events for the benefit of others,” Mervyn said. “My passion has always been youth activism and volunteerism for community service. I feel there is more to life than doing things for oneself and accumulating material goods. It would be more satisfying if you could make time to reach out to others who are less
fortunate, to help them enjoy themselves, or develop their potential."

“For instance, I am very happy with the progress that Yi Biao has made. He has slowly learnt to understand the behaviour norms society expects when I bring him on trips around Singapore on public transport, and has responded appropriately.”

Mervyn is majoring in economics at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and is in his honours year. He holds a Local Merit Teaching Scholarship from the Public Service Commission and will embark on a
one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Education upon graduation.

His leisure pursuits include photography and going to the movies. He loves to attend self-development seminars and workshops to learn something different. Thus, when he saw an email circulated within NUS inviting undergraduates to apply for the 5th HYLI, he decided to give it a shot.

Mervyn’s community projects have so far stemmed from opportunities within NUS and the National Volunteer Council. He has recently responded online to the South West CDC’s call for volunteers and hopes to do
more for his neighbourhood community, even while he completes his studies.

For more information on volunteering in the South West, please phone Surin Kaur on 6470 2878 or email Surin_KAUR@pa.gov.sg.

Mervyn has served in more than 40 positions in the National University of
Singapore’s student organisations and other volunteer programmes. Some of these include:

  • Project Director, 1999/2000 of the Freshmen Volunteer Camp. He was also the initiator of the inaugural camp.
  • Chairperson, Volunteer Action Committee of the NUS Students’ Union, 2000/2001
  • ‘Life Smart’ Trainer, National Volunteer Centre and Integrative Learning Corporation – ‘Life Keys for Life Smart Teens’ Programme, 2002
  • Committee Member (Fund Raising Task Force), Singapore Red Cross Society – ‘Young Leaders Club’ Programme, 2002