The 24-year-old Singaporean nurse at Alexandra Hospital talks about her ground-up initiative that reflects her compassion for those in need of a leg up.

“My grandmother worked as a nurse her whole life. She’s the kindest and most caring person I know. Growing up, she would always tell me, ‘If somebody needs help and I can provide that help, I will.’ I’ve always wanted to be just like her.

Today, I am a Senior Staff Nurse at Alexandra Hospital. My clinical experience includes palliative care, geriatric care, general medicine and community nursing. But beyond nursing, my grandmother also inspired me to volunteer and give back to the community.

I found my passion for helping others at the height of the pandemic in 2020. This was a time when the risk assessment was raised to DORSCON Orange, and many Singaporeans rushed to the supermarkets and emptied the shelves.

As I worried for the safety of my grandmother – who would go marketing amidst the crowds and long queues – I couldn’t help but wonder how needy families secured their groceries; how they might be even worse off.

That’s when I started Dunearn Youth. I founded this ground-up initiative because I cared for the vulnerable in the community. I wanted to help the elderly and needy families, and I wanted them to know that they were not alone.

Feeling like I had to do something, I applied for the Young Changemakers Grant by the National Youth Council. With the funding, I gathered a few friends and started delivering groceries to the elderly and lower-income families.

The warmth I felt in my heart upon seeing how happy they were to receive their groceries was honestly amazing. That inspired me to continue doing more charity work, even while I was still an undergraduate pursuing a degree in nursing.

I subsequently applied for the Oscar Fund by the Temasek Foundation. With the funding, Dunearn Youth delivered grocery care packs to many more needy beneficiaries. It was very fulfilling, fostering an environment of care in our community.

I believe that if you do something with your whole heart, opportunities will naturally come your way. For example, during my community outreach programmes, I saw that many of the elderly were not digitally engaged. I wanted to promote digital literacy and readiness to them.

This was the catalyst to launch Bukit Timah Digital. In partnership with IMDA, Digital for Life and People’s Association, we conducted training sessions to help seniors navigate daily-use mobile apps. We also did cybersecurity tutorials to protect them from online scams.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong actually commended Dunearn Youth in his 2023 Budget Speech. I was truly humbled by his words, and I continue to be grateful to have a great team behind me and many organisations and mentors who support our cause.

He said, ‘This is what the Singapore spirit is about. We have seen it in action, and experienced it in abundance over the last three years – how we are responsible for one another, keep an eye out for our fellow citizens, and always band together as a team.

However, some people have commented that I am very young, and that I am not a rich person donating millions to charity, so why even bother? To which, I can only quote Winston Church: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’

I believe anyone can be a changemaker. We can each play a part in citizen philanthropy and help the vulnerable in our community. Do all the good you can, because even the smallest act of kindness may mean the world to someone else.

I share my story today to inspire others, and to hopefully garner awareness of our cause and those whom we serve. As the wise saying goes: ‘As long as you have a kind heart with love, you will give a thousand hands out to help others. Vice versa, there will be a thousand hands to help you.’“ – Emily Yap, 24

  • More info on Dunearn Youth here
  • Story submission by Emily Yap
  • Edited by Arman Shah