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Building community: How he’s lifting spirits and living with purpose
Jovi Kuah People's Association scholar
PA scholar Mr Jovi Kuah has been serving the community since young, interning at a special education institution and volunteering as a mentor at youth drop-in centres. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

In Taman Jurong, this PA scholar finds fulfilment in strengthening community ties through distributing digital vouchers and groceries to those in need

The heartwarming sight of more than 2,000 Taman Jurong residents decked out in the colours of the Singapore flag and reciting the pledge in unison at a National Day celebratory event last year is a memory that will stay with Mr Jovi Kuah for a long time. 

“The event took over three months to organise and involved many different grassroots organisations and partners like schools within the constituency,” he says. 

“All the hard work was worth it when people of different races, religions and ages were united as one nation.” 

For Mr Kuah, a scholar with the People’s Association (PA), it was also a timely reminder of why he joined the government agency in the first place.

“The mission of PA is to build and to bridge communities in achieving ‘One People, One Singapore’, and that is something that resonates strongly with me,” says the 27-year-old.

Leading the way for change

From a young age, Mr Kuah has had a heart for people – and in particular, underprivileged groups. 

As a teenager, he interned as a teaching assistant at Eden School, a special education institution. During his university years, he volunteered as a student mentor at youth drop-in centres and conducted door-to-door interviews with families staying in rental blocks for a social service office under the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

While these experiences gave him insights into the types of support available to disadvantaged groups, one particular incident made him realise that there was more that could be done to foster inclusion at the community level.

“While taking the bus home after work one day, I saw a child with special needs experiencing a meltdown,” he says.

“The child’s caretaker was frantically trying to calm him down, a challenging task itself. Despite this, the other commuters were unsympathetic, rudely gesturing for the caretaker to quieten the child down.”

What was missing, he believed, was a strong community spirit. 

“A strong community spirit means that everyone is part of the family and no one is left behind, despite their differences,” he says.

“It means that people will empathise with others and be there for one another in times of need.”

“A strong community spirit means that everyone is part of the family and no one is left behind, despite their differences.”

Mr Jovi Kuah, recipient of the People’s Association Scholarship

Serendipitously, a friend’s casual sharing about PA brought to his attention a career path that would enable him to make an impact on people’s lives.

Inspired by PA’s extensive grassroots network and reach within the local communities, Mr Kuah saw the organisation as an avenue for him to effect change.

“If our society were to embark on a cultural shift in the way people perceive differently-abled individuals, the best way to do it would be to ride on the grassroots movement to lead that shift and change social norms from the ground,” he explains.

Serving the community

Today, Mr Kuah works as a constituency manager at Taman Jurong Community Club (CC). He is primarily in charge of implementing community events, programmes and services as well as leveraging technology to effectively facilitate these activities. 

These events and initiatives, he says, are usually fully conceptualised and run by PA staff – in the true spirit of “by the people, for the people” (as famously said by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address in 1863).

A key initiative Mr Kuah led, for example, was the digitalisation of the application procedure for education bursaries. This simplified the process while speeding up the support for needy students. 

During an earlier internship with PA when he was a university student, he was part of the team that introduced a localised digital voucher distributed to seniors and lower-income families during festive periods, to help defray their daily living expenses as well as encourage them to shop at the neighbourhood mom-and-pop shops.

Despite some early resistance towards the new initiative, residents were ultimately appreciative of its convenience, especially with the support of PA staff who guided residents and vendors through the onboarding process. 

Since joining the organisation in 2021, Mr Kuah says he has observed a stronger community spirit within his constituency, with more residents stepping up to help one another. 

For example, some are volunteering their time to support a bi-weekly grocery pack distribution initiative started by the CC. He is deeply heartened by their dedication. 

“When residents volunteer their time and resources to benefit their neighbours, it is a sure sign of a strong community spirit,” he says.

For anyone excited about serving the community, Mr Kuah says the PA Scholarship is the perfect starting point.

“The work at PA will expose you to grassroots organisations and their inner workings, and help you better appreciate ground-up efforts,” he says. 

“If experiencing first-hand the impact of your initiatives brings you satisfaction, then PA is the place for you.” 

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