18-year-old pitches his way to $50,000 in funding for Interfaith.sg8 min read
They say it takes a village to raise a child. But what about raising a leader?
In Heart of God Church, it takes an entire team, many opportunities, countless hours of exposure, mixed with love, belief and respect.
One example is a young leader named Alex. Together with a team from Heart of God Church and Khalid Mosque, they won $50,000 in grant funding to develop an online playbook for interfaith projects.
The playbook, Interfaith.sg, contains strategies, best practices and a step-by-step guide on running interfaith events to build religious harmony.
It was launched at a food distribution drive for Food From The Heart, with guest of honour Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman, Mayor of South East District.
Alex pitched their winning idea at MCCY’s (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) Mission:Unite hackathon, where he received the prize from President Halimah Yacob.
You’d think he’s some start-up hotshot with years of coding experience under his belt. But Alex was 18 – the youngest among the top 10 hackathon finalists. And already, he’s fired up with idealism and ideas of how to make a difference in the community.
What’s the special sauce that this young man grew on? Let’s hear it straight from Alex himself!
What shaped you as a leader?
Alex: When I came to Heart of God Church at 13, I was like any other ordinary teenager.
Entrusted to plan a camp for 400 at the age of 15
But I remember at 15, a team of us were entrusted with planning our church youth camp for 400 excited 13–16-year-olds! I never expected to make such big decisions in my life. But my pastors and leaders believed we could handle the responsibility. Through the camp, so many young people encountered God! It opened my eyes to what being a leader means – it’s to serve others.
Opportunity to lead a worship team band and play to thousands
I’ve always had this dream to be an electric guitarist too. Pastor Lia, our Senior Pastor… She always remembers the dreams of young people! She let me serve on the worship team, where I grew in both character and craft (I learnt to play the guitar from scratch in church!). So at 16, I played to a main service of thousands of people!
But it didn’t stop there. A few years after serving as a guitarist, I began to serve as worship team leader. I made sure all the musicians were playing together and sounding great. That required a totally different skill set and stretched me as a leader because now I had to look out for everyone in the band! My first outing as a worship team leader was nerve-wracking. But thankfully it went well! 😅
World-class training by guitarist to Grammy winners
In church we are given world-class training to help us grow even more. During one year, Mike Kopulos came to our church. He’s the guitarist for Grammy winner Matt Redman and for Camila Cabello! He gave the musicians in the worship team a personal masterclass.
It’s such a huge privilege for young people like me to be exposed to such courses. Mike Kopulos’ class normally costs hundreds of dollars!
How did you get into community work?
Alex: I am currently studying law and management.
Pastors are constantly finding places for youth to flourish
So one time I casually shared with Pastor Lynette about my interest in current affairs. She kept that in mind, and thought I would really enjoy helping out in the IRCC (Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle). Our church is an active member there. And she was right! That’s how I became a part of all our community work!
I really love contributing to our community and working with different faiths to make a difference. You’ve probably seen me many times at our blood donation drives. I am a loyal customer haha.
Congratulations on winning the hackathon and launching Interfaith.sg! Tell us how the idea came about!
Alex: We were SO surprised that we won because there were so many great ideas from the finalists. They thought of everything from virtual tours of places of worship to creative games.
We called our team CS.iO, which stands for CohesiveSociety.iO. We are a team of members from Heart of God Church and Khalid Mosque.
Sharing years of interfaith experience with others
Since we’ve successfully run interfaith events with our Geylang Serai neighbours before, why not share that knowledge with other religious organisations? Interfaith.sg enables years of experience from planning such events to be used for future collaborations between religious organisations.
Love the idea! Any final thoughts?
Alex: I was super nervous presenting our idea, but we did it! I gotta thank our pastors and the team who helped us to prepare for the pitch.
Empowerment and belief of church pastors
Knowing we were gonna present to a panel of MPs and sector leaders, I was understandably anxious. Pastor Garrett gave great tips that helped us refine our delivery (Who better to learn from than a world-class preacher right!?)
After the hackathon, Pastor Lia and Pastor How hand-wrote a long heartfelt message that filled many cards and gave me a personalised gift to celebrate our win. It made me look back on my journey the last five years. In church, I’m believed in, given many chances to serve and lead, developed the skills and confidence that empowered me to make a difference in our community. I’m very grateful! Here’s an excerpt from their letter:
My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
Alex, we are so proud to see you flourishing at the IRCC event! You were so confident, articulate and anointed.
We celebrate you finding your place on the Dream Team today! You are a man with a gift and strength. Use it fully to bring glory to Jesus.
Thanks for sharing about your journey, Alex! Once again, congratulations to the team!
Visit Interfaith.sg to check out the playbook by CS.iO.
Mission:Unite Hackathon follows the inaugural International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS). The conference was initiated by Singapore President Halimah Yacob and graced by King Abdullah II of Jordan. In the session, Pastor How spoke on “The Practitioner’s Perspective on Building Social Cohesion Among the Youth”. The speech was included in a compilation of talks from ICCS 2019 in the book, Faith, Identity, Cohesion: Building A Better Future.