THE PROBLEM WITH "VOLUN-TOURISM"
Existing Overseas Community Involvement Programme (OCIP)
are often touted as being:
+ “Better than nothing for communities”
+ “Eye-opening for students”
+ “Improve students’ CVs”
Only 7% of total visitor income generated by all forms of tourism (in Siem Reap) flows back to the local community
Implies that communities are incapable of or uninterested in caring for its own people
Live with consequences of unskilled labor (e.g. toilets that don’t work)
Suffer insidious impacts (e.g. In Cambodia, children in orphanages are often placed there by their parents)
was born from the frustrations of educators who realize that there is a lack of meaningful projects in schools for youths who are capable of so much more. We want to change that and reshape the volunteering landscape of Singapore and beyond – and we aim to do so by educating and empowering our youths and community partners.
A flourishing and healthy social sector ecosystem achieved through combining the potential of youth and the power of purpose
To craft the world’s most impactful experiential learning courses that empower community partners and nurture skilled volunteerism in youth
THE SKILLSEED PHILOSOPHY
was inspired by our founder’s experience as a young graduate student in Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The experience inspired Skillseed’s pedagogy and philosophy that guides the development of our courses – Learn from Experts (Skills training) , Live your Dream (Experiential Learning) and Leave a Legacy (Social Impact).
Learning from Experts
Skillseed’s roots can be traced to what was once an empty, light-filled space at Kroon Hall of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. On her first day in the United States, a starving young Singaporean female graduate student searched desperately for a canteen or a café in her graduate school in Yale - only to find a vending machine.
Annoyed, she wrote a proposal for an environmentally and socially conscious café at a beautiful spot at Kroon Hall. However, the Dean of the school very kindly reviewed it but pointed out that– 1) She had no prior experience running a café 2) She was an international student and this was her first time in the States and 3) She had no background in business at all!
Not giving up, she rewrote the proposal and approached the dean again. He told her that he would approve the proposal if she could find other students to join her and an expert advisor from the Yale School of Management (SOM) to guide her. At that time, she knew no one, yet at the end of two weeks, she managed to gather a team of 6 Masters students and the lecturer in Entrepreneurship from Yale SOM to embark on this crazy endeavor. With the guidance from these experts and peers, she proceeded to live her dream through real-world learning.
Live your Dream through Experiential Learning
They soon found themselves simulating a café from scratch to prove that the model worked – the group composted the coffee grounds, sold only locally sourced goods and fair trade coffee, and even learned to be baristas! The café was also used as a platform to showcase the wonderful social and environmental initiatives that their peers were doing (fair trade chocolate, an environmental film festival etc.). This was in addition to their full-time studies and the founder’s part-time job at the financial aid office. But it was an incredible, hands-on experience and gave the founder many real-world skills that still serve her well today.
Leave a Legacy
5 years later, the once empty space is now better known as BYO café, run by students passionate about good coffee, great food, and most of all, making a social impact, as it sustains itself as a small institution that supports social and environmental initiatives while providing for needy students.
This experience is proof that a single person with a good idea, the help of others, role models, courage and humility, can help to transform a community, one project at a time.
Skillseed was born out of the power of this experience and learning framework. Craving out a safe space generating opportunities, providing exposure to dare individuals to dream big and empower them with the necessary tools to make the changes they want to see, regardless of where in the world they find themselves, and how daunting the environment may be.