Leading one of SMU’s signature events, SMU Challenge, must be, well, challenging! Every year, SMU Challenge seeks to connect the university with the larger community in meaningful, beneficial ways.

This year, the SMU Challenge team, led by law student Kimberly Chia and a freshly graduated Januavi Lee from the School of Social Sciences,  collaborated with The Purple Parade — a movement supported by the Central Singapore Community Development Council that supports the inclusion and celebrates the abilities of persons with special needs — to raise awareness and support for the special needs community in Singapore

Working closely with three organisations, namely the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf), Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore (MDAS), and the Down Syndrome Association, the SMU Challenge team organised a series of outings (called Purple Outings), culminating in a finale walkathon around Marina Bay.

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“Why not end off my four years at SMU with what I started it off with – community service?” Januavi shared that she’s been involved in community service for as long as she can remember, whether local or overseas community projects. “Even after having organised SMU Challenge for many years, learning is still a constant occurrence for me.  Working with new beneficiaries with different kind of needs as well as each batch of juniors bring about fresh perspectives for me.”

“I wanted to immerse myself in something different. I wanted to do something local”, shared Kimberly. She had been dancing in Ardiente for a year, and had gone for an overseas community service project. This time, she wanted to put it all together. Together with Januavi, SMU Challenge 2015 was born and ready to go.

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Spend some time understanding the situation before taking on the challenge. Kimberly and Januavi shared that one of the biggest challenges the team faced was communication. “How would we communicate with the deaf community? Initially, we had thought about writing messages on little whiteboards. In the end, we worked closely with James, the project coordinated from SADeaf, to organise sign language workshops for the volunteers. It was an amazing experience and everyone had a great time. Our basic sign language came in very handy, of course!”

“We were really inspired by his helpfulness and passion. We broke down many stereotypes we may have had, just by interacting and getting to know our beneficiaries better.”
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“Learn to delegate and trust your team. Give them room to make decisions on their own and allow mistakes within a confined space.” For Kimberly and Januavi, this was an important philosophy when it came to leading their team. At the same time, being the leaders responsible for the whole project, they had to step in and steer the project when needed, as there was a lot at stake.

“Be prepared to mould your leadership style according to your team and community.” Kimberly shared that she learned to be much more patient, especially when it comes to understanding people and discussing ideas with the team. “Rather than shooting ideas down immediately, I learned to rework my words and to offer active suggestions.”

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“Have an open mind and be receptive.”

“Choosing between capability and willingness, I would choose someone with willingness first as there is a motivation for him to improve upon himself.” Kimberly and Januavi both agree that attitude comes first. That’s the way we learn, improve and get better at what we do.




Giving back to the community is one thing that keeps Kimberly and Januavi driven. “The interactions with the numerous beneficiaries have been eye-opening, and we’re game to come back and help the juniors along in whatever way we could to continue this meaningful event.”

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SMU Challenge is an SMU Community Service Project, organised by the SMU Special Interest & Community Service Sodality (SICS). Visit their Facebook page for more information and updates.

© 2018 Snapshots by SMU