Extending Textbook Skills To Benefit The Community

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Zulayqah sharing the basics of bonsai planting

As a second year student in the Institute of Technical Education, Zulayqah Zulkifli had acquired skills necessary for her future career. When she heard about the STEP-ITE Sunburst Outreach Network, Zulayqah jumped at the opportunity to make use of her knowledge to improve the lives of the less fortunate.

The STEP-ITE Sunburst Outreach Network is a three-year programme launched in April 2012 to allow ITE students to make use of their course knowledge to contribute to the community. STEP has committed $180,000 to the programme in its first year. In partnership with various welfare organisations, student volunteers formulate and carry out various projects that aim to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged elderly and youth. Some of the projects include equipping one-room flats with fall prevention and home safety gadgets, as well as organising basic IT and culinary lessons for the elderly.

In collaboration with the Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore, Zulayqah and her team used their knowledge of horticulture to design a bonsai planting project which would help students aged 18 to 25 with cerebral palsy to improve their motor skills. These individuals not only gain self-esteem when the bonsai grows well, they may also be able to sell the plants for some additional income.

Reflecting on her experience, Zulaqah said working with the beneficiaries is akin to working with plants. “You need patience, but seeing the improvement gives you a sense of accomplishment. I am happy that I am able to put a smile on their faces and help them do something that they like.”