Passionate about serving: Why SMU students look forward to giving back

By the SMU Social Media Team 

Every few months, another news or magazine article decries today’s young adults as apathetic and wilfully ignorant about social issues. At SMU, we respectfully disagree.

Each undergraduate at SMU has to complete a minimum of 80 hours of community service before he or she can graduate. For those who’re new to our culture of social responsibility, that may sound like a lot. But consider this: on average, students in the 2014 graduating batch completed more than double the number of compulsory hours. In total, SMU students have served more than 1.8 million community service hours since the university’s inception in 2000.

Project Inspirar promotes active ageing, and gives our students opportunities to engage with the elderly and give them due attention and assistance.

Why is service such a huge part of our university culture? In the words of SMU Chairman Mr Ho Kwon Ping: “Our mission is to produce bold, articulate students, visionary leaders with a fine sense of ethics and social responsibility, for the good of the community.” Our graduates enter the workforce not just with an excellent academic record, but also a keen sense of humility and empathy that can’t be learnt in seminars alone.

Although we think of Singapore as a relatively affluent nation, there are still many who are in need of a helping hand. There are many opportunities to work with beneficiaries and non-profit organisations – children from low-income families, the disabled, migrant workers, environmental agencies. Once you get started and begin to see the impact of your contributions, the ability to make a difference compels you to continue.

Through Project XingFu, which helps to improve living standards in Yang Zhai (a rural village in Kun Ming, China), SMU students are able to literally contribute to the building of a better world.

Your journey of community service at SMU begins with a briefing by the Centre for Social Responsibility during your freshmen orientation period. Unlike the community service activities you may have taken part in during secondary school and JC, there are no teachers to plan and organise the activity for you. Instead, you get to choose your own projects, and carry them out with guidance from the Centre.

Depending on the needs of your community service beneficiaries, your project can take on many forms. For instance, an overseas community project such as Project Gazaab leverages participants’ business knowledge to drive student entrepreneurship in rural areas in Nepal and India. If you feel passionately about a societal need that isn’t being addressed by an existing community service project, you can also propose new projects to the Centre for Social Responsibility.

Since 2006, SMU students involved in Project Namaste have contributed to the education of youth in Nepal, in the hope of improving their opportunities for the future.

Although you can do your community service involvement at any point in your course of study at SMU, your seniors will tell you to start as early as possible. Not only does this mean that you’ll complete the minimum 80-hour requirement faster, but you’ll also have more time to explore different opportunities to serve.

Community service is a great opportunity to give back to society – but in return, you receive so much more. Our graduates have found that community service projects have helped them to develop empathy, to acquire new skills and perspectives, and to find creative ways to address needs in the local or global community.

Undergraduate applications are open — visit to learn how you too can Transform into a Different U.