24 April 2020: Solidarity, giving, and mutual aid amidst COVID-19 at Yale-NUS

By Jiang Haolie

Alumni, students, faculty and staff as on 19 February 2019 at the College’s first InBetweeners Network Panel. Image provided by Foong Xiu Ting.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolved at the start of 2020, the Yale-NUS community came together to help students adapt and cope with the rapidly changing situation. From supporting students in obtaining housing or flights home when campus had to be closed, to sharing advice on their finances, capstone deadlines and job opportunities, they have proactively offered help to tackle various matters of concern. Our strong alumni network and their willingness to give back to the community they love have been vital in providing a robust support system for our current students.

The Alumni Council, including Ms Angela Ferguson and Mr Feroz Khan (both from Class of 2018), for instance, were eager to reach out to current students as soon as they heard of the imminent closure of the campus. “[The alumni] knew this would be a difficult and sudden transition for everyone in the College community on top of any hardship they were already facing from COVID-19”, said Ms Ferguson.

The Council, with the help of the Student Government, started to mobilise fellow alumni and consolidate a list of financial and non-financial resources and assistance that alumni members were offering. Almost immediately, 120 alumni – more than a quarter of Yale-NUS’ entire community of graduates – had listed all manner of support for students. Within days, numerous offers of in-kind support along with thousands of dollars of financial support from both alumni and current students had been distributed to those in need.

“The response from alumni has been extraordinary! Within hours, we already had a huge surge of sign-ups from alumni offering what they could”, Mr Khan remarked. “It’s particularly inspiring that alumni who have entered different parts of the workforce are bringing their skills to bear – we had counsellors offering free Zoom sessions, dance instructors offering free classes, consultants offering job interview coaching or internship offers, and so much more. All of these are of course on top of the very material offers of solidarity – a couch to crash on and cash transfers to students for their immediate relief.”

In addition to responding to these ground-up initiatives, alumni also responded generously to a fundraising appeal fronted by the InBetweeners Collective – a campus group that supports low-income and first-generation college students – as part of the College’s Alumni Giving Month. Led by Ng Yi Ming (Class of 2021) and Dodi Wai (Class of 2022), the group worked to increase visibility of available funding to their peers while also partnering the Development Office to raise funds from alumni, students, faculty and staff.

An Ethos of Giving Back

Mr Khan attributed these rapid, ground-up responses to the tight knit sense of community in Yale-NUS as well as its strong culture of civic consciousness. Many alumni also spoke about wanting to give back, having once benefitted from generous financial and non-financial support.

“I was privileged to be exposed to a host of transformative experiences at Yale-NUS, through the help of generous funding, and I’m happy to give to those who need it now”, said alumna Ms Karen Ho (Class of 2017), who responded to the InBetweeners Collective’s appeal by contributing to the College’s President’s Fund. Gifts to the Fund will be channelled towards directly supporting students who have been affected by the COVID-19 situation and who require financial assistance.

Alumna Ms Neo Xiaoyun (Class of 2019), who contributed both monetary support and capstone proof-reading help, was similarly heartened by the kindness and initiative of fellow alumni and wanted to give back. She effused, “the College has given me a lot in my time here. I give so we can all keep giving.”

When asked if this ethos of giving back would continue, alumni also expressed optimism. Ms Ferguson said, “I hope that future generations of alumni will continue to nurture a spirit of community support, recognising that in any crisis, community members should strive to meet one another’s needs. I’m confident we will all continue to see this as a collective responsibility.”

April is Alumni Giving Month at Yale-NUS College. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, your support can make a difference to affected members of our community.

If you would like to join our alumni in supporting affected students through the Yale-NUS College President’s Fund, you may click here to make your gift today!