Reel Impact

Singapore-based social enterprise Skillseed’s film-making programme teaches tertiary students how they can make a difference through their films.

BY AUDRINA GAN
 

D

riven by a profound belief in the human potential for doing good, Singaporean Phua Huijia started a social enterprise called Skillseed, in 2012. It works with various partner organisations, such as social enterprises and non-governmental organisations, to provide young people with customised educational programmes so they can learn from experts in different sectors and make a social impact.

Through its wide range of courses – from medical attachments in Central America to volunteering in community-based conservation programmes in Bali – Skillseed equips participants with tangible skills and knowledge, and shows them how they can use what they have learnt to tackle pressing social issues. Says Phua: “Ultimately, we want to benefit the social sector and community through more effective and efficient contributions, like skills-based volunteering.”

One of its earliest courses was Film For Good, a customised film-making programme that was created in partnership with Singaporean filmmaker Jeanine Lim. Lim runs a community self-help group, Project Give Pray Love (PGPL), which she started with her mother in 2013 to help the poor in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. The pair has been helping the poor there in their personal capacity since 1993.
 

“We want youth to get to explore their interests as early as possible, but also to know how to integrate effective social change into their lives and future careers.”


Skillseed founder Phua Huijia

Says Lim: “When Skillseed first approached me, it was with the objective of supporting the initiatives of PGPL using my specific expertise in film-making. We worked together to devise the Film For Good programme, which teaches tertiary students how to make short films with social impact.”


OVERSEAS EXPERIENCE

In the first film-making course, in December 2014, 14 students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the School of the Arts Singapore made a trip to Vietnam. Two NUS exchange students, from the Netherlands’ Leiden University and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, also joined the trip.

NUS student Lim Weijie, who took part in the course, says: “Through my interactions with the villagers, I learnt that giving brings happiness, and it is important to give back to your community by helping those in need.”

Apart from learning about teamwork and communication skills, participants had the opportunity to learn about documentary film-making and work with people from different backgrounds. It led to the making of five documentaries, which were shown at a public screening at the NUS University Hall Auditorium on Dec 20, 2014.

As part of the programme fees were directed to PGPL’s beneficiaries, Jeanine Lim and her team were also able to build a house for a poor family in Vietnam.

To date, Skillseed has taken young people to countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Sweden. It has also channelled more than S$100,000 to its partners between 2014 and 2015. Apart from film-making, Skillseed has spearheaded health-care courses through medical-service learning programmes in the Caribbean. It has also organised trips to Bali for students to learn the importance of environmental protection from conservation scientists working in the field.

Depending on the availability of its partner organisations, some of its programmes run several times a year. It is also on the lookout for interesting partners to work with to expand the range of programmes it has on offer, and can even tailor special programmes to suit the needs of participants.

Phua says: “I see Skillseed at the forefront of driving skilled volunteerism across Asia, planting seeds in both our beneficiaries and our participants.”

TO FIND OUT HOW FILM FOR GOOD REACHES OUT TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY IN THE MEKONG DELTA, VISIT WWW.OURBETTERWORLD.ORG/STORY/SEEING-THROUGH-LENS-GOOD. YOU CAN ALSO VIEW THE FIVE DOCUMENTARIES PRODUCED UNDER FILM FOR GOOD AND A BEHIND- THE-SCENES VIDEO OF THE DECEMBER 2014 TRIP AT WWW.VIMEO.COM/ CHANNELS/FILMFORGOOD.


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