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Building lives, gently

By January 9, 2015

By: Ivy Tse, Chief Operating Officer, Halogen Foundation Singapore

I want to share a story of a young boy Sam. Sam is 15 this year, he grew up in a low-income family and his dad passed away two years ago. Even so, He is still bullied a lot in school. In a recent entrepreneurship camp, he made a presentation of his business plan that had the whole class cheer for him. This surprised him and he asked the facilitator, ‘Why is everyone clapping?’. We eventually learnt that his classmates would laugh at him each time he was required make a presentation. He was encouraged by the fact that people actually wanted to listen to him and his ideas. This camp made a difference for him. It made him believe in his own worth and significance.

Singapore may be a wealthy developed market economy, yet inequality exists in the social strata of society. As a city with one of the highest per capita Gross Domestic Product in the world, a closer scrutiny reveals a widening gap of social inequality and apathy for those left behind. As we progress and challenge the frontiers of growth, it is stories like that of Sam that urge us to stop and reflect on our desires to achieve. As we grow our affluence as a nation, it is also important to ask ourselves what we can give back to invest in the next generation, a generation that is ours to keep in the decades to come.

Halogen Foundation - BizAcademy_Healthy Communities Grant

When we first stumbled into an engagement with Salesforce in 2009, it was clear that both our organisations had the same pulse for investing in the future. Salesforce offered free licenses to not-for-profit organisations to support their customer resource management work, demonstrating their vision to partner the community in growing their outreach. Halogen was empowered to engage youth influencers in a systemic fashion, in order to fuel our cause of building young leaders and entrepreneurs. We were also able to contribute back to the community through our engagement in the local Non-Profit User Group chapter.

Two years ago, our partnership grew with the establishment of a yearly Salesforce BizAcademy programme in Singapore. We were united by a vision to empower 15 to 17 year olds through coaching on business concepts and applying them to solving community issues. Through a five day programme held at the Salesforce office, the youth learnt sales and marketing concepts, devised a case solution and presented it to a panel with coaching from Salesforce employees. Salesforce employees also serve as mentors, taking the time off their busy schedules to share their personal life stories and give guidance to the youth on navigating life’s challenges.

In 2014, Saleforce Foundation has also increased their support for our work through the Healthy Community Grant. Using the grant, we have been able to provide motivational profiling sessions for youth from challenging family backgrounds, and engage employees to spend time to support them in goal setting and career mapping.

Halogen Foundation - BizAcademy_Healthy Communities Grant

Both initiatives have seen great impact in empowering young people to believe that they are significant, they matter to the community and that they can make a difference. Just like in Sam’s story, when youths realise that people genuinely want to listen to them and value their ideas, it opens their eyes to their own worth and potential. Through this collaboration with Salesforce, we have been truly humbled in learning that investing in our young people’s dreams isn’t just about inspiring and equipping them to work for their futures, but simply in providing intentional support and being willing to just stop – and listen.

Salesforce’s vision of giving back through the 1-1-1 model (i.e. one percent of equity, product and time) has demonstrated how small contributions can indeed make a huge difference. I hope that Sam’s story will be an inspirational reminder that creating meaningful impact does not have to be revolutionary; the magic of transformation can be made through as simply as a touch, a spark, a moment, a belief.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Such, can be the unspeakable potential of one percent.