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People

Which causes are NTU undergraduates passionate about?

They have come up with creative ways to help migrant workers, breastfeeding mums and the elderly with dementia
by Peter Yeo

Migrant workers

  • NTU student Sazzad Hossain standing with his arms crossed
  • NTU student Sazzad Hossain teaching migrant workers
  • NTU student Sazzad Hossain with four of his students
Sazzad started an ed-tech social enterprise in JC. SDI Academy employs 10 full-time staff and enlists 200 volunteers today.

PHOTO: CHRISTY YIP

Who: Sazzad Hossain, 23, engineering freshman.

What: SDI Academy, an ed-tech social enterprise that trains and helps migrant workers settle in Singapore, including teaching them English.

How: Sazzad started the social enterprise when he was still studying at St Andrew’s Junior College, graduating 70 students before getting other volunteers to help him. Today, SDI Academy employs 10 full-time staff and enlists more than 200 volunteers to interact with the migrants, and Sazzad is expanding his reach to impact the 1.4 million migrant workers in Singapore.

Why: The Bangladeshi-born Singaporean understands the difficulties of being a new immigrant. “I came to Singapore in 2005 and found it difficult to adapt as I barely knew English. I started SDI Academy in 2013 after I’d found out a migrant worker seriously injured himself because he couldn’t understand the safety instructions written in English.

Proud moment: Validation came when one of his students, whom he had coached personally, Saiful Islam, gave a TEDx talk. “It is one thing to talk about my own vision but completely different to see my vision talk. When Saiful received a standing ovation from the more than 400 attendees, my heart swelled with pride.”

What’s next? Sazzad wants to make SDI Academy a role model for other social enterprises. “We want to let volunteers discover their passion through service. Learning about the social problems facing new settlers has led to special projects such as The Dr English Show, a YouTube talkshow. Perhaps my fellow NTU communication students can help us produce more of these videos. We are also working with the Ministry of Manpower on a welcome package for migrants that will teach them English and safety regulations, and engage them in cultural integration.”

Breastfeeding mums

NTU student Dayna Yin at the Skydeck in the North Spine PlazaDayna’s compassion for breastfeeding mums came from seeing her sister struggle with her two sons.

Who: Dayna Yin, 23, third-year communication student.

What: Bare It For Baby, which raises awareness of challenges faced by mothers nursing their children in public.

How: Dayna knew part of the solution was to desexualise the female breast. Her fun, catchy video, Breast Meal Ever, uses everyday foods – instantly recognisable to anyone – as an analogy for breasts. The creativity of her project caught the eyes of the media as well.

Why: She started the movement after noticing her sister’s discomfort. “My sister didn’t like to nurse in public without a cover and her son didn’t like to feed under one. Now she has to do it all over again with her second child. I wanted to reduce the stigma faced by breastfeeding mothers so they can have the comfort, confidence and choice to nurse on their own terms.”

Touching moment: Convincing mums to drop their guard was not an easy task, but it gave Dayna the most sense of achievement. “A few of the mothers told me getting photographed for the campaign was the first time they’d nursed without a cover in public. They overcame their discomfort and insecurity through the Bare It For Baby campaign. This gave my work more meaning.”

What’s next? Dayna intends to apply what she’s learnt from her campaign to her upcoming internship at the Singapore Prison Service. Having interned twice with them previously, she was touched by the work done at the correctional facility and wants to use her skills to give ex-convicts a new lease of life.

Seniors with dementia

  • NTU student Cassandra Seah with her Match Link game
  • Close-up view of NTU student Cassandra Seah’s Match Link game
Cassandra was moved to act after seeing her grandfather struggle with memory issues.

PHOTOS: CASSANDRA SEAH

Who: Cassandra Seah, 23, final-year product design student.

What: Games designed to help the dementia-stricken improve their memory and thinking skills.

How: Her Match Link game, currently deployed at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, uses blocks with different colours and textures to help patients with dementia stimulate and enhance their sense of touch and coordination through play.

Why: Cassandra was moved to help people with dementia after seeing her grandfather struggle with memory problems before getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Heartfelt moment: The joy of any innovation is witnessing people’s faces light up when they use it. “I was elated when I saw how the patients’ moods lifted as they used Match Link. Their minds were engaged, which achieved the purpose of the design.”

What’s next? Cassandra has applied for a patent for Match Link, and hopes to mass produce it for commercialisation. Her next project, Connect, is an online game for the elderly, especially those living on their own. It is designed to improve their memory and thinking skills, as well as track their progress, and can trigger an alert if a patient has not logged into the game for a long time.