Deputy CEO
Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS)
CFS, Funding Partner since 2016


As a catalyst for community impact and change, Community Foundation of Singapore leverages the givers’ resources to invest in innovative ways to level the playing field for the underserved. “We believe that every person deserves to be their fullest best self,” explains Joyce Teo, Deputy Chief Executive Officer. “Reaching disadvantaged youth is important as these young people are the ones who will start and lead new young families. If empowered, they have a chance to break out of the poverty cycle and become active members of the community.”

She argues that investing in developmental programmes is more essential than focusing on financial alleviation. “It opens up their worldviews to something that they would have never been able to see in their current situation. Young people’s minds are malleable. Once they are able to see that potential, hope, and opportunity – they can turn things around. We have seen the change in attitudes of young people who realise I can be more than who I am and where I am, despite all the challenges that I am facing” Such is the power of sowing a seed that can positively influence young minds.

Joyce is convinced that the words and actions from encouragers are not to be underestimated. Her experience in her youth has planted a deep conviction to pay forward the support she had received. “A very large part of who I am today is made up of all the chances others have given me, people who believed in me when I thought I couldn’t. That changed my mind about who I am and my own abilities. That even if I thought I was not great, I could still move forward.”

The small steps to encourage, affirm, or even shift perspectives, can bring a huge pay-off to youth in their development journey. “Our young people have a negative perception of failure. I think as adults we need to assure them that it is okay. If they don’t have this affirmation, this fear of failure will either prevent them from wanting to even try; or when they fail, they see failure as a big thing they cannot pick themselves up from.” This is why  impacting young people first starts with transforming the beliefs others have of them. “We cannot be jaded ourselves. You need to have that faith, and sometimes that faith can carry a young person quite far.”

In the longer haul, Joyce poses a challenge to redefine the label of disadvantaged youth to also include youth with self-efficacy needs. “We have been getting many requests to support youth from middle-income families who are facing challenges such as low self-esteem, bullying, and depression. This is the next level of intangible social issues faced by young people – it’s much more complex.” adds Joyce. Support needs to expand beyond bursaries to offering scholarships, imparting socio-emotive and leadership skills and providing coaching and mentorship to develop resilient young people.

There’s much more to be done, and that’s why everyone should be that spark in lifting up another, to bring voice to social issues and rally support, to share our experiences that changes mindsets. We all have a part to play.