[Featured image: A family of ‘SMOO Challengers’ preparing for a run]
By Yeo Bao Shin, Undergraduate, SMU School of Accountancy
SMU Challenge is SMU’s yearly signature community engagement event that comprises a series of donation drives, Purple Outings (where student volunteers interact with and impart new skills to beneficiaries), and a finale activity where hundreds from the SMU community, public and beneficiaries come together to take part in a day-long, fun-filled fundraising event.
When I signed up to be a part of the SMU Challenge 2020 organising committee, I never imagined that I would end up leading the production of a virtual event. The planning of the event was filled with ups and downs brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The SMU Challenge 2020 Organising Committee. Bao Shin is the committee’s Vice-President.
Our team initially had big plans for the finale of SMU Challenge 2020. However, developments of the Covid-19 situation quickly quashed those ideas as we could not hold any physical events. We found ourselves in a dilemma: should we scrap the finale totally or come up with alternative ideas to raise awareness and support for our beneficiaries despite the many physical constraints?
At that crucial moment, SMU’s Office of Advancement (OA) approached us and suggested that we help co-organise SMU’s inaugural virtual run, the SMOO Challenge. The event was meant to celebrate SMU’s 20th Anniversary, as well as to raise money for the SMU Bursary Fund which supports students with financial needs, especially during this difficult time.
As the message behind SMU Challenge has always been to bring the SMU community together to do good, we knew almost straightway that SMOO Challenge was the answer we were looking for to complete SMU Challenge 2020!
We then had to decide how to conduct our Purple Outings since we could not continue with physical engagements. We explored many possibilities, including the organising of online enrichment and tuition classes, and even entertained the idea of postponing the physical outings to a more feasible time. In the end, we decided to challenge ourselves with the online option, even though we had no experience conducting virtual workshops at all. It helped that we received assurance from one of our beneficiaries, the Mountbatten Vocational School, whose Vice Principal, Ms Yammy, welcomed and supported our idea.
We began to curate online programmes like terrarium building, brush lettering, financial literacy, and technology workshops. We wanted these workshops to impart practical skills to our beneficiaries and allow them to have some fun at the same time.
Next came the process of conducting the workshops. Inevitably, we faced hiccups along the way such as unstable internet connection, numerous technical issues, and limited interaction with the beneficiaries, among others. But our team remained calm and we learnt to adapt and improvise during the live online sessions. After each session, we reflected on the processes so that we could learn from the shortfalls and improve on them the next time.
A Technology and Resume Workshop organised for beneficiaries from Mountbatten Vocational School
Concurrently, we also had to plan for SMOO Challenge. With help from OA and the Office of Student Life (OSL), we brainstormed potential activities, and the exact mechanics to carry out such an event. After many rounds of going back and forth in our planning, we settled with three main prize categories—Community, Photogenic and Extreme. The categories targeted different participant demographics and this made the virtual run more inclusive and entertaining for everyone.
We then had to source for sponsors, ambassadors and donors, and think of creative ways to not just increase the number of participants but also keep them engaged throughout the duration of the 20-day event. This meant first raising awareness of the event and its purpose to the SMU community.
SMOO Challenge’s virtual launch comprised a series of health and fitness workshops by SMU students and alumni
In the end, our hard work paid off. With the combined efforts from OA, OSL and our student team, we managed to get 1,218 local and overseas sign-ups from students, alumni, staff and faculty, friends, family, as well as members of the public.
Collectively, we accomplished nearly 57,350 kilometres—well above the initial goal of 20,000 kilometres. In fact, with this achievement, we had set a new record for the ‘Longest Distance Covered Online by Runners in 20 Days’ in the Singapore Book of Records! Participants too were incredibly enthusiastic and sporting; dozens got creative with their running routes, and many far exceeded their pledged distances. With the support of various donors, such as the Central Singapore Community Development Council, City Developments Limited, and Tote Board (which provided a 1-for-1 matching grant), we raised over S$330,000—way beyond our original target of S$240,000!
I am immensely grateful to have worked alongside my very talented and amazing team. We pulled off a great feat and its success went beyond anyone’s expectations!
[All images courtesy of the SMU Challenge 2020 Organising Committee.]