From Stories to Service


2013 is the year which 22-year-old Nicholas Ow celebrates a ten-year milestone with Halogen. Nicholas attended the inaugural National Young Leaders’ Day (NYLD) held at the Singapore Expo as a participant in October 2003. This year, Nicholas, who is pursuing his master’s degree in Chemistry at University College, London, returned to volunteer with Halogen, helping out in the same event he once attended when he was a Primary 6 student in Gongshang Primary School.

“I was really inspired and encouraged by the sharing from the speakers. I remembered Singapore adventurer David Lim and Founder and CEO of 77th Street, Elim Chew, and it was a great privilege to be part of such a large gathering of young leaders,” says Nicholas.

“I gleaned plenty of lessons in life and leadership. Though it was only later that I actually had a chance to apply what I learnt, they were valuable bits of wisdom and advice from those who had gone before me. I left the event with a sense of anticipation as to what could actually happen if each of us contributed and played our part in the larger issues that we face on a daily basis.”

“I was really inspired and encouraged by the sharing from the speakers. I gleaned plenty of lessons in life and leadership.” – Nicholas Ow, Halogen volunteer

Over the years, Halogen has shared its message of how young people can have a ripple effect on the things they are inspired to do and how they can practically change the world in issues they believe in.

“We saw National Young Leaders’ Day as an opportunity where we could impact young people and young leaders. If we can invest in youth leadership, we felt that there was a whole lot more that could be done by them as a generation,” says Halogen’s co- founder and executive director Martin Tan. “We did not want our efforts to be focused on just one thing such as working only with one school or starting a single children’s home. Instead we wanted to focus our energy on young people and invest in their development, their DNA and their vision. We want to open their horizons and minds, and develop their character so that they can multiply the effect of the good work they do.”

National Young Leaders' Day

Today, NYLD events, comprising the Primary and Women’s editions, have reached out to over 18,000 students from 226 schools from the ages of 9 to 19. Each student, regardless of their positions in school, come and hear from inspiring speakers who are leaders of their fields. They include, among many other speakers, Mr Nick Vujicic, international motivational speaker, Mr Budi Soehardi, CNN Hero of 2009 and Founder of Roslin Orphanage in West Timor and Miss Yip Pin Xiu, Singapore’s first-ever Paralympic gold medallist.

Another participant of NYLD last year, Miss Shermaine Ng, 16, from Raffles Girls’ School shared that she was inspired by one of the speakers, National Co-Director of World Vision’s Youth Movement, Chris Varney. “He shared his experience about how he saw the third world countries in poverty while we were very much living privileged lives,” says Shermaine.

His words got her to think about the inequality in the world in terms of development and the opportunities that were provided for all and she decided to make a difference in her school community by initiating a Sponsor-a-Child project with Watoto Organisation where the class is now sponsoring a 14-year-old child in Uganda. “I guess speaker Chris Varney showed me that age is not a boundary to making a difference so at the start of 2013, I brought the idea up to my form teacher and my class.” She adds, “That is really the first step to think of someone across the world who is being left behind while we are progressing everyday.”

Shermaine is one of five finalists of the inaugural National Young Leader Award launched by Halogen this year that seeks out young individuals aged 15 to 19 who are making a difference in their communities.

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Halogen’s Manager of Events, Ivy Tse shares: “The truth is I can’t engineer batches of inspired youth just by putting them through rounds of NYLDs. For all the hard and heart work that goes into running the NYLDs, it is sometimes easy to forget that. But every now and then, good stories will surface and they remind me that Halogen’s commitment to NYLDs is our way of protecting the youth’s propensity to dream.”

It is this commitment that Halogen aims to preserve for young people as it grows through the years. Nicholas, who returned to help at this year’s NYLD, puts it aptly “Through the sharing of life’s experiences and being part of projects that are helping to make society a better place, as cliché as it might sound, it really does open up our eyes to something that we often take for granted, be it the roof over our heads or the bowl of food we have each day in front of us.

By seeing the need in the community that we live in, we can begin to position ourselves in that need and really be an answer in someone’s situation.”

Article by Daphne Lee

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