Groundup Features: Singapore Youth for Climate Action
In this edition of Groundup Features: we hear from Rachel, an ardent volunteer of Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA). The groundup was formed in 2015, by a group of youths who are passionate about making positive changes to the climate landscape. SYCA aims to educate youths in Singapore on climate change, provide a safe space for youths to express their opinions on climate policies and to encourage youths to act.
Hey Rachel, thanks for joining us today! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello, I am really happy to be here today! My name is Rachel, and I am currently an undergraduate student. I have been volunteering with Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) since March 2020.
Tell us more about what SYCA does!
SYCA is a community of youths based in Singapore and we have a common goal of taking climate action. Our aim is to empower youths in Singapore to engage in or lead climate action, be it through policy advocacy, community-based initiatives/initiatives involving the community or school projects.
At SYCA, we recognise that climate change is a daunting topic that may seem difficult to approach, especially for young people. So, we hope to make learning about climate change and taking climate action more accessible and interesting to youths based in Singapore.
We started off in 2015 as a group of youths who were keen to represent Singapore youths’ voices at the Conference of Parties (COP), a decision-making body responsible for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
SYCA has been involved in these conference meetings ever since. Furthermore, we have been engaging in several activities that were held domestically and have collaborated with multiple countries on an international level.
Fast-forward to present time, the recent activities we were involved in include our Singapore Local Conference of Youth (SCOY), which we organised at the start of this year. Through SCOY, we hope to introduce youths in Singapore to climate policies, specifically relating to three focus areas, namely international climate policies, education and the economy. We wanted to provide a platform for youths to discuss with one another about how we can contribute to stronger and more effective climate commitments here in Singapore.
In short, we want to reach out to all individuals no matter how much or how little environmental knowledge they currently have. This is because we strongly believe that there is always more to learn, especially from one another.
Exciting stuff, with so many things going on! Could you share a little about your role in SYCA?
We do not have an official Executive Committee or an official core team in SYCA. Instead, we take on different roles when needed, on a project basis.
I have supported the organisation of events and I currently assist in daily operations, and volunteer management. It really depends on the roles needed at the point in time, so volunteers at SYCA tend to be flexible and are able to wear different hats.
Recently, we had a few Temasek Polytechnic student volunteer groups who collaborated with us on their climate change projects. We worked with and supported them for 3 months. The topics we covered include climate adaption such as combatting Dengue fever and adopting more energy efficient practices.
Who and what inspired you to join SYCA?
It is difficult to pin it down to a specific event or person. Perhaps it started during Geography lessons in Junior College when I learnt more about how humans contributed to climate change. I was motivated to do something when I found out about the extent of the negative impacts of climate change, and how it impacted some people more severely than others. Hence, I was keen to join a youth-led volunteer group to meet like-minded people who were fervent in making concrete changes too.
In terms of people who inspired me to join SYCA: I first met SYCA volunteers back in 2018 through a series of Public-Action activities which were held at The Red Box in Somerset. They were passionate about environmental issues, well-versed in our local environmental policies and had a clear vision of what they wanted a future greener Singapore to look like.
I was also inspired by environmental activists such as Qi Yun who goes by @theweirdandwild, and Kate who goes by @byobottlesg on Instagram. They are amazing at creating informative content about the environment which makes it easier to understand and digest.
What has kept you going as a SYCA volunteer in the past year?
At the events that I have attended, I often meet someone with a different perspective or drive. I find that after volunteering for some time, I face burn out at times and will question if what I am doing is making an impact.
However, when I meet new people or learn about new perspectives, I become motivated and energised once again so that keeps me going!
Did you face any challenges while volunteering with SYCA, and how did you resolve them?
Thankfully, SYCA is still able to carry out virtual-based volunteering, allowing us to reach out to people by hosting online activities and discussions during this pandemic. However, some challenges we faced were Zoom fatigue and maintaining audience engagement.
Furthermore, I think the biggest challenge about virtual-based volunteering is its restrictive nature. It is harder to reach out to youths who may not use social media or if they do not have access to necessary tech resources to use the internet
Thankfully, we have had opportunities to reach out to students through school-based talks and events or teachers sharing about our events with their students We are grateful for the support teachers give us — they are playing an important role in helping their students learn more about topics like climate change, and are receptive to groundups spreading awareness in schools.
Do you have any advice for those who may be afraid to take the first step into volunteerism?
If you are reading this and you are hesitating to start, this is a sign for you to give it a try! Find a cause that you care about, support existing groups and start volunteering. You will not regret taking the first step to make positive changes in our community.
We heard that SYCA, with the support of Conjunct Consulting, recently developed a new strategy for the initiative. Tell us more about that!
For our strategy, SYCA is clear that we want to focus on youths and climate action. Because climate change is a huge and complex issue, we want to keep our manpower focused on making impactful changes to specific aspects of climate change. Through multiple discussions with our advisors from Conjunct Consulting, we came up with a more targeted mission based on 3 main pillars:
1. Policy Research and Advocacy – Getting youths to learn about climate policies and support in making the learning of such policies more accessible to the public.
2. Community Action – Getting youths to be engaged and to take action within their own community.
3. Volunteer Engagement and Development – Building up capacity among youth volunteers in terms of environmental knowledge, soft skills, and social & emotional learning.
How were the brainstorming sessions with Conjunct Consulting like?
The brainstorming sessions were very helpful as it forced us to sit down and think carefully about our goals, current strengths, and opportunities in the environmental landscape in Singapore. We also had to contemplate how we wanted to position ourselves as a groundup group and where to focus our efforts to achieve those goals.
In recent years, multiple environmental groundup groups have sprung up to reach their respective target audience and achieve their various goals. There are inevitably overlaps in what these groups and ours do, hence we try our best to find out how we can collaborate and synergise with them while reducing duplicated efforts.
Thank you for sharing about your experience as a SYCA volunteer! For our readers who would like to support SYCA, how can they do so?
You can follow us on our social media accounts and our website to learn about both past and upcoming activities. If you are keen to learn about or discuss environmental policies and issues, you are more than welcome to join us, regardless of your current level of environmental knowledge. We hope to host more sessions where like-minded youths can come together to research on environmental policies and issues.
If you are a youth, we welcome you to join us at our events or as a volunteer!
If you are a youth at heart, we also value your support. Feel free to share your knowledge and expertise with SYCA or youths in general, help SYCA in reaching out to more youths, and you may also consider joining other amazing environmental groups based in Singapore!
Finally, how do you hope SYCA helps Singapore become the City of Good?
For SYCA, we are a group that advocates for climate action which is under the huge environmental umbrella. We hope that youths who join us, be it volunteers or participants of our activities, gain a greater understanding of how climate issues are related to other social issues we face today.
Our aim is for youths to develop empathy for others from different communities or backgrounds. We hope we can motivate and inspire others to take steps to contribute to environmental sustainability, and to help Singapore to become more empathetic as a country.
Fun-fact question! What is an environmentally friendly item that you would recommend?
Bar soaps! Not just for the body but also shampoo or conditioner bar soaps for the hair. Bar soaps can be more environmentally friendly because they are compact, which translates into requiring less space to transport, and often use less packaging. Moreover, it may help you to save money if your bar soap is used and stored with care because you tend to use less product as compared to liquid soap. I highly recommend you try them for yourselves!
* This feature has been edited for clarity
About the authors:
Alexis is a volunteer writer from Skills For Good, and a lover of all things chocolate. She currently serves in the Red Cross Youth Chapter of her school.
Jannelle is Content Producer at Groundup Central. Armed with her camera, she looks forward to meeting & documenting the everyday heroes of our lives.