During the circuit breaker period between April and June, Jaslyn Pang and Amanda Bambby Cheuk Yuet Ga, both 23, were kept busy as they organised online workout and storytelling sessions for children from Lakeside Family Services.
The sessions, held over Zoom, were conducted as part of Bambby and Jaslyn's Santa in Summer initiative, meant to keep the primary school students entertained and meaningfully engaged as they stayed home.
Volunteers and children during a Zoom workout session.
The fresh graduates previously started their non-profit initiative, Project Yay Santa, back in late 2015.
Jaslyn, then a junior college student, was scrolling through e-commerce site Taobao when the idea to buy the cute stationery she was looking at as gifts for children in need struck her.
"She thought it would be a good idea to pool together some money from friends to buy these gifts for children," Bambby told Youth.SG.
"After all, Christmas was right around the corner and she thought that some of them might not be receiving gifts, or do not [get the chance to] celebrate Christmas at all."
After Jaslyn shared her idea with Bambby, the two students approached two voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) who supported their initiative. In their first year, Project Yay Santa gave out 400 presents, each customised with the children's names and a handwritten Christmas card.
Since then, Project Yay Santa has worked with various VWOs, including Jamiyah Singapore and Singapore Children's Society, making presents and organising events and outings for children during the Christmas time. They've also had over 100 volunteers organising these events throughout the years.
Last December, Yay Santa volunteers painted a mural on the wall outside of Clementi Student Care Centre.
Jaslyn, currently an intern at the National Youth Council, handles Project Yay Santa's logistics and finance while Bambby, a video producer, liaises and coordinates with VWOs, sponsors and partners and secures grants for the project.
In junior college, both Bambby (left) and Jaslyn (right) were under the CITI-YMCA Youth for Causes programme which promoted championing a social cause.
As their name suggests, Project Yay Santa is typically active during the Christmas season.
However, after seeing some families struggle to keep up with the changes brought by the circuit breaker, Bambby and Jaslyn sprung into action to contribute.
"While we usually engage our various beneficiaries during the Christmas season only, the VWOs we work with tend to include families with a wide range of issues including financial or family instability and having a disabled family member," explained Bambby.
"As a result, we knew they could be hit harder by COVID-19 as they may not be as versatile in adapting to all the new changes. This prompted us to reach out to our beneficiaries urgently."
Although the VWO suggested for them to conduct the online exercise sessions, Bambby and Jaslyn went the extra mile and organised storytelling sessions for the children aged 7 to 12 as well.
With help from other volunteers, including those from their previous Christmas events, Bambby and Jaslyn held the online sessions every week throughout the circuit breaker.
Bambby, who graduated from Nanyang Technological University recently, shared the benefits of these sessions. She said: "It helped to relieve some stress from parents stuck in work from home situations, and entertain children who were growing restless or left unstimulated by the routine home environment."
Besides volunteering remotely, Bambby and Jaslyn also mobilised the community and organised a donation drive to help their beneficiaries from Jamiyah Singapore's Clementi Student Care Centre.
Project Yay Santa called for the community to donate through their Instagram page.
Through the drive, which closed on Jul 15, Project Yay Santa managed to raise close to $6,000. Part of that amount includes a grant from the oscar@sg fund by Temasek Trust to purchase laptops, computer accessories and printers for the children.
The founders hope the donation will provide relief for families who are struggling.
Bambby said: "Although it's not much, we really hope that providing laptops, printers and other digital tools can help create a more well-equipped and conducive environment for students and parents who now have to shift to studying and working more at home."
Project Yay Santa has received many comments and messages, praising the founders for their Santa in Summer initiative.
While it feels nice to receive recognition, Jaslyn, who recently graduated from the National University of Singapore, said they are merely doing what they can to help the community: "Project Yay Santa made me realise that there are so many people who want to help but they just need a push.
"I always receive kind messages praising us for doing this, but I'm just thinking 'It's not that hard!' I wouldn't call our contributions mind blowing. Just do small things with great love!"
Bambby added: "Every year, we simply do what we can and offer this avenue to volunteer to our friends. As two regular youths, we hope to encourage our peers to commit whatever we can to contribute back to society."
PHOTO CREDITS: PROJECT YAY SANTA
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