Muhammad Habib attended Outram Secondary School from 2007 to 2011 and in his educational journey, encountered a myriad of experiences that spurred him to be an outstanding Youth Corps Leader that he is today.
An exemplar to troubled teens and senile seniors he might be now, straight-talking Habib is unabashed to admit that it took a while before he found his path to voluntary work, heightened social awareness and the keen desire to contribute back to society.
In the interview, he was one of the founding members of the Activists Club in Millennia Institute (MI). At first, he wanted to “socialise, have a good experience, make friends and do some good work.” He ended up with far more than just that. They adopted a nursing home in Bukit Gombak and his team would later have a strong presence in the Good Life Senior Centre in Telok Ayer. His MI teacher encouraged him to reach out to other Residents’ Committees and Community Clubs in 2013.
Habib also went overseas for his voluntary work. One could feel the strength of conviction, passion and commitment in his voice, as he narrated about his experiences of agricultural farmland in Chiangmai and school-building projects in Batam. He found meaning and relevance in teaching English to non-native speakers and doing hard manual labor in creating basic infrastructure for the villages.
As he sought out more avenues for voluntary work, he came across the Youth Corps and signed up for the Volunteer Leadership Programme. He was part of a team of like-minded young adults who were committed to social leadership through actionable and structured activities.
In August 2019, Habib was invited to the Istana in his capacity as a youth leader during which President Halimah Yacob graced the Youth Corps Leaders Commencement Ceremony (Istana Speeches, August 2019). Habib was part of a team of young adults, who collaborated on the project “Wonders with Nature”, during which the group worked with Lakeside Family Services and forged bonds with disadvantaged children in Jurong. He admits that this was a great learning point for both adults and children, where the Youth Corps Leaders empathised with the children, who had several challenges that inhibited their educational paths.
Habib comes across as a very unassuming, articulate and passionate young man during his phone interview. As he had added in a recent Straits Times article, (ST – Jeremy Thereisa, 25 Sept 2020), he recognises the disadvantaged are no different from others in that they “have their own set of personal problems and challenges”, and Habib is only too glad to “lend a listening ear and focus on forging strong relationships with them.”
It was also heartening to have chatted with Habib and touching base with this modest yet ambitious young man. When asked how he saw his voluntary work at “Food from the Heart” and “Willling Hearts” organisations; benefit the elderly, minorities and needy etc; he responded with candour:
“I really wanted to actively shape what was going on … I have a vested interest in helping residents or neighbours. For example, the plight of the elderly – it might be trivial to many but not to them. Fixing their lights, pressing the lift buttons etc are all taken for granted I really like the active role.”
The interview team also wanted to find out more about how Habib’s leadership role, which was recognised in his Istana award, had been cultivated and nurtured over the years.
Habib was also part of the Youth Corps Leaders Programme in which he helped to mentor younger adults. He was also recently appointed to be the new Chairperson of the Youth Network of Tanjong Pagar Community Club in 2020. He is an active member of the Malay Activities Executive Council (MAEC) Committee, where he is well-placed to help out in minorities involvement, concerns etc.
We also updated Habib on the recent changes to his alma mater, not just the physical additions and renovations, but the recent SPIRIT update, where “I” stood for “Innovate”, in the 2020s. Habib uniquely offered his take on how he would like to “innovate” his own efforts at civic and voluntary work:
“Don’t judge! No stigma! Break the image.”
Habib proffered this advice to the current crop of youngsters who want to explore voluntarism.
“Always show that voluntary work is fun too! It is at one’s own convenience and one can choose what cause to champion for. It is up to you to be passionate about what you want. It can be about the environment, animals etc. Never neglect a thought; look out for ways to achieve it and ask yourselves – Can I do that?”
Habib wanted to debunk the image that voluntarism is not a “door-to-door” stereotype. Think of voluntarism as a way to make new friends, get together and share ideas. There are always many avenues for young people to find their causes to commit to. He suggested that youngsters seek a centralised platform online like Volunteer.SG which would list out places and the nature of activities that people could choose from. In this day and age, with social media being pervasive, one could easily decide what, when, why and how one could volunteer.
Even as we concluded our interview, it was highly inspiring to realise that Habib had just gotten off an internship work day – and he already expressed his interest in the related field of… corporate social responsibility! But that would be another story. And there we have it, ex-Outramian, Habib, ever willing to contribute back to society – “Labour Conquers All!”