Alumni Voice


“Lull after the storm”

Ong Wei Yi, Nikita

High School student

COVID-19 swept the world off its course without warning, and would (almost unimaginably yet surely) pass, as silently as it had come, save for the millions of lives it had taken and billions it has ravaged. In its wake, what is left would be a permanent shift in the way the world is run for generations to come, for better or for worse.

The pandemic has exposed both the good and the ugly of society. In Singapore’s context, it had brought to the foreground underlying contentions we as a society have swept under the rug. Parallels could be seen as with other countries where disadvantaged groups were disproportionately affected by the virus. Existing socio-economic circumstances rendered these groups more vulnerable. In this case, migrant workers are subjected to overcrowded living conditions and poor healthcare coverage, among other severe issues, stemming from their deportability and thus scathing lack of political leverage.

As the pandemic struck, this materialised in the severe dormitory outbreaks in Singapore. In response, my school had given out care packages containing hand sanitizers, wet tissue and other hygiene products to students which were not for personal use. Instead, the intention was for students to give them to people who are usually “invisible”, including cleaning staff and security guards. Alternatively, students could pass it to the collection point where the care packages would be received by migrant workers. Students could write a note to be included in the package as a means of showing appreciation. The significance of the contributions of workers often go underappreciated and yet are equally essential to the functioning of the country. I thought it was an encouraging initiative to prompt students to actively think about and thus become more conscious about the people whom they would otherwise overlook in their daily lives.

Cliched as it may be, these students would then go on to be the leaders of the future and by recognising the need to instil outward looking mindsets, such civic education and initiatives are the stepping stones to shaping a more cohesive society. We had also seen many kind Singaporeans from all walks of life come forward to provide meals to frontline healthcare workers and donate items to and befriend migrant workers. From here on, society would ideally wake up to the pressing need to progress in a more inclusive fashion. Taking measures to promote inclusive growth may be perceived to hinder rapid economic growth but it ultimately protects collective interests, mitigating a repeat of such systemic failures. To simply exist in the same physical space does not represent integration.

On a more macroscopic level, the central theme around which TYCA surrounded – international cooperation – stood out particularly as we saw the attempts and failings of leaders in handling the pandemic. Both COVID-19 and the climate crisis, which we had learnt extensively about during TYCA, are global crises which affect countries regardless of borders, with developing countries having it worse more often than not. Therefore, global cohesiveness is ever so essential to facilitate recovery post-pandemic. This is especially so in view of the lasting social and economic ramifications of the pandemic that would take considerable time and resources to repair.

As countries focus on revitalising their economies to restore the standard of living of citizens, ideally in a sustainable and inclusive manner, the lessons from COVID-19 will hopefully remain in our collective psyche. These include consideration, caution and appreciation. Consideration: with heightened social responsibility, the mindfulness of how our actions affect our surroundings would foster a more harmonious community. Caution: as the situation improves, we have to avoid complacency which does not end well as seen with countries that had adopted overly lax regulations in hindsight. Appreciation: it took a pandemic to teach us to be more grateful for the people around us and occurrences which we took for granted such as gathering with friends. Furthermore, the digitised systems in across all domains, including commercial and educational, are likely to remain to differing extents, effort has to be put into ensuring all have the technical and financial ability to access these infrastructure. 

Personally, as a graduating student, COVID-19 strengthened my conviction in becoming a social worker. With both time for rumination as well as the situation unfolding, making the stark difference between the haves and the have-nots ever so pronounced, it became clear to me as well what I want to pursue. Most prevalently, this line of work hopes to reduce inequality, one of the Sustainable Development Goals we had explored during the course of TYCA. Through stop gap measures in the short term and guiding clients towards long-term solutions, the goal is to empower clients to better fulfil their potential, reducing structural obstacles due to socio-economic circumstances. 

Just as the world falls into pace with the order of the new normal, it too would be turned on its own head when the remnants of the disease wither.







個人的には、卒業を控えた学生として、COVID-19 は、ソーシャルワーカーになるという確信を強めてくれました。考えるための時間はあったものの、状況がはっきりとしない中、これまでは表に出なかった、持っている人と持っていない人の格差を目の当たりにし、自分が何を追求したいのかが明確になりました。最も重要なのは、TYCAで探求した持続可能な開発目標の一つである不平等の削減です。短期的には応急処置的な対策を行い、長期的な解決策へと導くことで、社会経済的状況のための障害を減らし、依頼人がひめている力を最大限に発揮できるようにサポートしていきたいです。


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