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All for the spirit of giving

Social causes

These youths bring meaning to the saying “help yourself before helping others”.

Free yourself from inner insecurities by loving your body. That is what Brandon Lee, 26, and Xavier Bay, 25, hope to achieve with their inaugural YOLO Run, a shirtless run that aims to spread the spirit of YOLO (You Only Live Once) in a new way.

You might be surprised with the idea of a "shirtless" run in Singapore, but rest assured, it is all for a good cause.

Besides donating a T-shirt to underprivileged children in developing countries with every runner, the fun run encourages people to liberate themselves of their inner insecurities — by running shirtless.

Help to free yourself with the YOLO Run
ARE YOU READY TO FREE YOURSELVES?
PHOTO CREDIT: YOLO RUN FACEBOOK PAGE 

Xavier came up with the idea of giving shirts to the needy in June this year. Knowing that Brandon, who works as a business development director, is familiar with hosting theme runs, Xavier, who owns a garment and apparel company, decided to collaborate with him to give back to society.

They roped in their friend and fellow entrepreneur Ken Koh, founder of T Foundation, a non-profit organisation that advocates the development of entrepreneurship around the world.

Working with a team of six, they took two to three months to plan the run, which has garnered over 2,000 signups to date.

Brandon and Xavier, co-race directors of the shirtless run
ORGANISERS BRANDON (LEFT) AND XAVIER (RIGHT). 

While planning the run has been smooth sailing so far, the organisers are concerned with the misconceptions towards their "topless" run.

Brandon said: "Since the shirtless concept is new to people, getting the message across (that going shirtless is not compulsory) can be challenging."

 


IF YOU ARE SHY, MALE RUNNERS CAN WEAR THE SINGLET WHILE FEMALE RUNNERS CAN DON THE SPORTS BRA.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOLO RUN FACEBOOK PAGE 

With a month to go, both of them are excited about the run. Xavier said with a laugh: "I was more of an in-the-background person, so it's a good experience planning, conceptualising, and poking my nose into everything."

They hope to make the YOLO Run an annual event and spread it to other countries in the region.

Another group of youths helping the underprivileged is Saltsteps, founded by Singapore Management University (SMU) student, Desiree Yang.

Saltsteps is a social enterprise that liaises with suppliers who are unable to sell food (mostly close to their expiry dates) and disposable goods, and sells these items at lower cost to families with financial difficulties.

Since they started in 2014, they have helped 86 families save grocery money. These staple items include rice, oil, diapers, and baby powder.

Desiree's internship at Beyond Social Services opened her eyes to the sufferings of the needy families in Singapore, inspiring her to start Saltsteps.

The first year economics student, 21, said: "When I heard some of their stories, I could not just stand back and do nothing, so I began doing my research on social supermarket enterprises."

 
"I COULD NOT JUST STAND BACK AND DO NOTHING"  – DESIREE YANG

In the beginning, Desiree's father helped her run Saltsteps. Today, she works with three other youths, each with specific roles to run the organisation like clockwork.

Despite the challenges of managing a social enterprise while juggling her studies, Desiree is thankful for the flexible working hours and the support she gets from her team.

The future looks bright for Saltsteps, with other projects lined up.

Besides selling cheaper staple goods to low-income families, Saltsteps will be partnering with GobblerShop to provide skills workshops and education to the less fortunate.

Founded by Janan Kwek, 25, GobblerShop offers affordable groceries through pop-up carts and an online shop. Desiree and Janan plan to form GobblerFIVE and launch it officially in January 2016.

They both saw a need to come together in order to create a greater social impact that either side could not do alone.


DESIREE NOW COLLABORATES WITH JANAN TO DO MORE FOR THE POOR.

Desiree said: "Both organisations identified synergies and saw great potential to have a stronger impact by joining together. We plan to go beyond offering affordable groceries to needy families."

WRITTEN BY RAPHAEL FRANCISCO AND LAU AI XUAN