Ivy Tse was working in a large multinational corporation in Singapore when she felt a gradual disconnect between her life goals and her profession. “I felt more and more that the daily strive at work sometimes didn’t really satiate my desire to want to make a contribution of value,” she says.
Through an introduction to Halogen Foundation Singapore co-founder Martin Tan over coffee, Tse found herself drawn to the organisation’s objectives. “I suppose it struck a chord in me in the immense potential of investing in young people and journeying with them as they embark on that process of self-discovery,” she says.
That was the start of Tse’s serendipitous journey into the nonprofit arena. And though she is now the CEO of Halogen (a position she has held since this February) it was only a few years ago that she “started to contemplate that volunteering and giving back didn’t need to be a [co-curricular activity] or for when I have free time — it could be a vocation,” she says. Despite having been active in community involvement groups in secondary school, junior college and university, and even going on two volunteering trips during her schooling days, she had never considered a job in nonprofit.
Since joining Halogen as an events executive in May 2012, Tse now oversees strategic development, training operations, partnerships and fundraising — “technically everything under the sun,” she says. The foundation offers leadership and entrepreneurial training to Normal (Technical) students who are on Financial Assistance Scheme to equip them with life skills, boost their confidence and reduce school dropout rates, and has worked with more than 109,000 youths to date.
The impact of Halogen’s programmes on youths is evident. “Increasingly we hear of teachers saying their students who return to school after attending Halogen training are more enthusiastic about school,” Tse says.
Last June, Halogen brought the US-based Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE, read “nifty”) to Singapore to impart business principles to underprivileged students and motivate them to enroll in and complete higher education. Since its inception, 141 local students have graduated from the programme. Halogen also runs other events, including The Leadership Challenge, Habitudes and the National Young Leaders’ Day.
As part of its annual fundraising initiative, Halogen Foundation Singapore will be hosting a charity golf challenge on August 21 to support programmes for the youths under its NFTE track.
“It’s one thing to do training for skill sets — that’s tangible — but we also look to shift mindsets,” Tse says. “A positive mindset is an important catalyst. If [youths] are motivated, even if you don’t give them resources, many will surprise us.”
How would you describe Halogen’s work in one sentence?
Halogen is an (Institution of a Public Character) Charity with a focus on transforming youth through leadership and entrepreneurship education.
What’s the impact you’ve witnessed of Halogen and NFTE training on youths?
What I think really drives the team is to be able to witness youth change — from shy, timid individuals who may not believe that they have value to give to ones who develop a greater sense of worth and confidence and want to contribute and make a positive difference in their communities. It’s extremely empowering to have a student come up to you to say, “Thank you for believing in me,” and, “I feel more confident to strive for my goals,” knowing that their perspective has changed because of the interactions.
What keeps you going at work?
The team. I think it’s very valuable to find an environment where people have so much passion and heart. It’s gratifying to know I can work alongside people who have the same vision, yet at the same time able to play a part in this organisation in areas that interest me.
What do you hope Halogen will have achieved by the time its twentieth anniversary comes round in 2023?
We will have worked hard to impact almost a generation by then and I think it will be very gratifying to see the youth we’ve impacted start working and then contributing back to the ecosystem through their talents and interests. We do see these stories every now and then and it reminds us of the importance of the work that we are doing.
Youth transformation will still be core of our work and I do look forward to the years ahead that will allow us to grow deep partnerships with corporate and public sector partners to establish a strong ecosystem that will continue to invest in youth. By 20 years I’ll be really happy if the conversations move to no longer just about what Halogen can do but what the Halogen and our Partners can do.
What are the objectives of the charity golf challenge on 21 August?
We run our annual fundraisers to raise funds and awareness for the cause. It is a great platform to reach out to potential partners with a heart for youth, and showcase the stories that we have encountered as well as pay tribute to our supporters who have journeyed with us and invested in our cause.
This year, we are also launching a book project — Vantage Views III, the final collection of thoughts on contemporary issues by our chairman Mr Lim Soon Hock to raise about $250K for the organisation.
What are Halogen’s goals for this charity event?
We are recipients of the Care and Share II grant and all donations raised from now until March 2016 will be matched by Community Chest one for one. We hope to raise a total of $150,000 though this golf event, which effectively translates to $300,000 of funds.
The donations will be used to fund programmes for the needy and disadvantaged youth in the NFTE programme. These students mostly come from Financial Assistance Scheme backgrounds and we hope to utilise the funds to provide programmes for these young people who are very much deserving of these developmental programmes.
The Halogen Charity Golf Challenge will be held on August 21 at Jurong Country Club