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12 May 2022

APU’s Software Engineering Student Wins Pandemic Leadership Award for Excellent Volunteering Work

Asia Pacific University (APU) has shown that quality academics aren’t the only thing that’s prioritised at the institution and it’s proven once again when Tan Wei Siang was awarded the Pandemic Leadership Award for his efforts and contributions to youth work and society on Penang Island during the 2020 – 2021 Movement Control Order (MCO).

The Pandemic Leadership Award aims to honour volunteer leaders who demonstrated exceptional leadership commitment and contribution for the good of Penang’s community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In conjunction with the Young Excellence Award (YEA) 2021, which was jointly organised by the Penang State EXCO for Youth and Sports, Penang Youth Development Corporation (PYDC) and the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur Section (PCCCYES), the prestigious recognition was presented by Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

The Penang Chief Minister emphasised the importance of having entrepreneurs who think outside of the box as they play critical roles in economic productivity especially during the pandemic period.

This year’s YEA 2021 received nearly 300 submissions, with 68 of them emerging as winners across 15 award categories, including the Business Performance Award, Pandemic Business Growth Award, Technology Entrepreneur Award, Green Initiative Award, Brand Award, Social Media & Influencer Award, Woman Entrepreneur Award, Rookie Million Achievement Award, E-commerce Award, E-sports Award, Pandemic Volunteer Award, Pandemic Leadership Award, Pandemic Professional Award, University Leadership Award, and University Athlete Award.

Empowered youth 

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Being the epitome of an empowered youth, Wei Siang took matters into his own hands and launched a youth-led initiative called ‘Care For All’ and provided food baskets to the needy after witnessing the plight of families living in the low-cost flats at Taman Free School — Penang’s third poorest area.

In fact, Wei Siang is no stranger to the simple life. His father works at Lorong Kulit Flea Market as a food stall worker, and his mother is a housewife. They live in Penang’s heritage district with their aunts and uncles.

Innovative plans to raise money in a pandemic

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Through a series of crowdfunding and eSports tournaments, Wei Siang and his team were able to raise more than RM70,000 which allowed them to purchase 800 food baskets. The items were distributed to old folk’s homes and B40 families at Taman Free School, Penang.

Each food basket contained bare necessities for families to survive such as 5kg of rice, cooking oil, sugar, flour, salt, rice noodles, sardines, baked beans, coffee, and crackers. However, Wei Siang and his team had to shift their focus when the MCO was reinstated in January 2021. The “Care For All” initiative has assisted 993 families in the Taman Free School district alone.

Wei Siang gathered data by visiting homes to inquire about their conditions and what they required. Though, he couldn’t help but to feel for their living conditions after encountering a 65-year old lady who had to sell her jewellery to pay her electric bills. In addition, he learned that many residents in the Taman Free School area were single mothers, the elderly, and the disabled who have lost their source of income as a result of the pandemic.

“It’s no surprise that those with low incomes have been hit the hardest by lockdowns, unemployment, job loss, pay cuts, and movement restrictions that make it difficult for them to find work. Furthermore, having little to begin with, low-income groups have few or no assets or savings, and those working in informal jobs (e.g., cleaners, odd jobs) do not have social security safety nets to fall back on,” he said.

Despite his best efforts, Wei Siang admits that the food basket donations are only a temporary measure to assist the needy. Moving forward, he hopes to empower Taman Free School hawkers to earn a sustainable living and support their families through the “Care For All” initiative.

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