To give back to the world what it has empowered them to do — that is a vision shared by two fresh graduates from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Class of 2014.
Jonathan Ng is one of 10,000 students who will don their mortar boards and robes over the next two weeks.
But the promising young doctor has little time to celebrate. He leaves Singapore next week for Cambodia, where the volunteer group he founded, The Children of Cambodia, is based.
Together with other Singaporean youths, Jonathan will discuss the establishment of the burns and reconstructive unit at the Angkor Hospital for Children.
Jonathan, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery graduate, said: “I think society has brought us to a point where they’ve empowered us enough such that we can actually start to give back to society, and definitely, I’d love for more of my compatriots to start giving back, and I believe that such community projects are a good way to start.”
Jonathan’s team has funded the implementation of a cardiothoracic programme for open heart surgeries, established the first dedicated neonatal ward in a Cambodian hospital, and raised over S$1.5 million in cash and medical equipment, among other activities.
On top of that, he is balancing those efforts with a housemanship at the Singapore General Hospital.
Jonathan said: “In medicine, I think we never stop learning. Every day I go to work, I learn new things.
“And after housemanship, there is definitely even more learning out there. The more I learn, in general, the more I can give back, because then it empowers myself to be able to share more.”
Compared to Jonathan and many others, fellow graduate Samuel Chong had a rougher start in life.
Losing his left arm to bone cancer at the tender age of seven, Samuel had to miss one and a half years of school to recover from his illness.
Still, the plucky 22-year-old managed to enter the prestigious Global Engineering Programme at NUS.
Despite his disability, Samuel single-handedly plays the trumpet, tried his hand at skiing, and graduated with second upper honours.
Samuel, a Bachelor of Engineering (Engineering Science) graduate, said: “What is important is despite whatever setbacks you have, just try your best, and I think you’ll be surprised with what you can do.
“But what is important is that you try, because you never know unless you try.
“When I decided to do my degree, I thought, ‘well, science is great but I also want to have a practical application of what I learnt.’ Because I believe that whatever knowledge we get, we should in the end benefit society from that knowledge.”
“While I think a degree is important, it’s not a prerequisite to life. It’s not a prerequisite to happiness or success. But we do know that people with a degree tend to do better, maybe because they have better knowledge.”
While both he and Jonathan admit that one doesn’t necessarily need a degree to succeed in life, they both hope that through their learning process, and as they move further in life, they will not stop giving back to those around them.