Kopi with MP: Nadia Samdin and Eric Chua on S’pore’s youth creating change July 21, 2023 What made you you when you were 18? Wanted to fit in with the rest of your squad? Strove for your parents’ happiness and approval but yet felt the temptation to go off the beaten track — and that exploring these paths would be worthwhile? Or was it realising that life’s bigger than just you, and that you could make a difference on those burning Big Issues? Tough times, those, when you experience — and care for — so many changes and causes. Singapore’s youngest MP Nadia Samdin (Ang Mo Kio GRC) was called “the Arts girl”. And this left her wondering what if she had ventured beyond and explore domains outside the humanities and arts. MP Eric Chua (Tanjong Pagar GRC) was “reserved”, he recalls. So, long before he ended up in his current role advocating sports and social inclusivity, he went about finding new activities which stretched his threshold of comfort — “malu or not” also never mind. It was a rainy morning in Queenstown when they pulled up a couple of chairs and talked about those days for this edition of Kopi with MP about what it’s like being young in Singapore. @thunderbolt.sg How were Members of Parliament, Eric Chua and Nadia Samdin like when they were 18 years old? They took a trip down memory lane to share more. #fypsg #fypシ #singapore #sgpolitics #politicstiktok ♬ original sound – love&lightning – love&lightning Soon, the talk turned to how they reckon Singapore fares for youth support and mental health help for youth. It was an appropriate turn: just as others had sowed into their lives when they were younger, MPs Nadia and Chua want to pay it forward. Now, they go about sharing their experiences with Singapore’s youth today — and about how they are optimistic about the paths available for youths to build a more socially-engaged future Singapore. DMs and new recipes for success One of MP Chua’s most recent experiences to show how Singapore fares when it comes to supporting youths? DMing Matthew Leong, the 28-year-old Singaporean executive head chef of Norway’s finest restaurant, the two-star Michelin-rated restaurant RE-NAA where booking need making three months in advance. “And he represents Singapore in the world culinary Olympics,” adds MP Chua about Leong serving up gourmet food at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or . “I just DMed him all of a sudden,” says MP Chua about when he contacted Matthew. “Slid into his DMs!” laughs MP Nadia. “I asked him ‘Can you share with me your story?’,” says MP Chua. “About how he came to where he is today.” @thunderbolt.sg Is Singapore society becoming more accepting of different models of success for our youths? #fypsg #fypシ #singapore #politicstiktok ♬ original sound – love&lightning – love&lightning Matthew is living proof that Singapore’s youths are getting more ways to make their own major mark. “Success today is not just about having a bachelor’s degree. Or landing yourself in a white- collar job. Or landing yourself in a PMET [Professional, Managerial, Executive and Technical] role,” says MP Chua. “Society’s slowly beginning to be more accepting of these models of success,” he adds about real-life examplars like Matthew and others. MP Nadia agrees that Singapore does provide those options and opportunities, but she also sees how this acceptance can accelerate. It is a viewpoint which comes from her almost 20 years in the community sector, and from her legal and project leader role at the social enterprise Tri-Sector Associates. “But I think where we can do better is in encouraging people to take those opportunities. You need the headspace and the heartspace to be able to know: This is what I really want to do.” Mental health and positive parenting Another opportunity for change which MPs Nadia and Chua see? Mental health help; especially for youth. “One of the things I fear is that a lot of the efforts are very upstream,” says MP Nadia on mental health help today. “To be honest, I feel it’s more about mental well-being than really tackling some of the core mental health issues that we see on the ground.” “I think a lot of reaching-in is important, and which is where people need to be more aware about what depression really means. What anxiety really means,” she adds. MP Chua pointed out that difficult conversations about one’s mental health state needs to happen within the family, but he laments about the real challenges to enable candid sharing between a parent and a child. “But sometimes it’s just the lack of language, the lack of a toolkit, in order for them to know how to broach this issue with the young ones.” His Ministry’s Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) — MP Chua is also the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development — is in particular a way to have these talks. MP Chua has also built a mental wellness community for his Queenstown residents, Safe Pod. It supports mental wellness journeys through education, intervention, counselling and trains people into Wellness Befrienders. Over in Cheng San-Seletar, MP Nadia launched Care Network-Living Well two Decembers ago. There, young community volunteers get training in psychological first aid and counselling; it is difference-making from the ground up. Opportunities for thriving and action The duo are optimistic for the paths available for Singapore’s up-and-coming generation of youth activists. Not least because the duo actively builds cultures and places which welcome youths into the fold. There, questions are asked safely, without judgement. “Everything that I’ve been able to do is because someone else has had the grace to give me space, to give me a chance to allow me to participate in something,” says MP Nadia. “Even if I didn’t yet feel ready, or even if I didn’t feel worthy at that point in time. So it really is on us to give opportunities to young people to come into the space, to sit at the table, to debate, to have them be able to pose questions,” she details. @thunderbolt.sg Very often, here in Singapore, we get so caught-up in the day-to-day that people think more about surviving before we can think about “What would it take to really thrive?” Do you agree? #fypシ #fypsg #singapore #politicstiktok ♬ original sound – love&lightning – love&lightning The duo knows too that Singapore’s youths act fast and will grab the bull by its horns. “People volunteer just by sending a DM on Instagram; someone saying ‘Oh, that looks really cool, can I join you?’,” MP Nadia notices. “They’re not gonna wait for filling in forms, wait for months in order for something to be processed. They’re just gonna go out and do it.” So, initiatives like MP Chua’s community walks which look out for rough sleepers and MP Nadia’s Care Network-Living Well are up and running, nurturing Singapore’s youth of today to make their own mark and together create change on those Big Issues. Why not, afterall, have youth and support networks link up for everyone’s benefit? To take steps along those untrodden paths, nurturing that passion which can do wonders, lightning-quick.