At a glance
By Katie Langmore
Not everyone has what it takes to be a good mentor, but most of those who do take to the role with gusto, overseeing the endeavours of their mentees with the considered intervention of a parent or beloved teacher.
Thirty minutes into a chat with Dr Tong Gunn Chew FCPA, and it is perfectly clear which camp she falls into.
Chew’s enthusiasm for mentorship is not surprising – she loves sharing her knowledge with others. The daughter of two academics, Chew lectured in accounting while undertaking her masters and PhD degrees at the University of Tasmania, and she even taught community Chinese classes during her undergraduate days.
Currently working as accounting policy director with Citibank Singapore, Chew is sharing knowledge in different ways, as a mentor with two youth enterprise programs.
She connected with Youth for Causes, a program run by YMCA Singapore that promotes community leadership and social entrepreneurship, in 2017.
“Every year, 100 teams of four from schools around Singapore are selected and given S$1600 (A$1650) of seed funding to raise funds and awareness for a charity,” Chew explains. The teams choose a charity that resonates with them and find innovative ways to raise funds and awareness with their seed funding.
“Last year, my team ‘YOUth Counts’ from the Institute of Technical Education College East, raised a whopping S$86,000 (A$88,640) for their peers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in collaboration with Bethesda Care Services,” says Chew. The team was the top fundraiser in 2020 and received the charity’s Distinction Award.
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While in the past Chew acted as team mentor, this year she helped judge the applications and select winners. The move to the judges panel is not permanent, however. “I did the judging to learn what the judges are looking for, so I can better advise my next team when I get back into mentoring,” she laughs.
Chew’s second mentoring role is with Junior Achievement (JA) Singapore, part of a global program for young people that she first became involved with while at the University of Tasmania.
“My 2020 and 2021 mentee teams from Raffles Institution (Team Ebullience) and ACS (Anglo-Chinese School) Independent (Team ACSsist) respectively, participated in the JA ‘Social Innovation Relay’ competition to develop a new business concept with a positive social impact. Both teams ended up in the top 10 of Singapore teams, which is a great achievement.”
Chew is quite hands on in her mentoring. “I tend to be a bit nosey and get quite involved,” she says. “Having said that, I’m aware they learn from their mistakes, so I try not to give them the answers to all their problems…I let them find out along the way.”
Both programs provide excellent growth and learning opportunities for young people, says Chew, which is why she so enthusiastically provides her pro bono support.
“What they get out of the program is a multitude of skills that they couldn’t obtain through school. Business skills, project management, analytical skills, confidence... skills they can apply when they get to work.”
For those teams lucky enough to be partnered with Chew, they no doubt have a dedicated mentor for life.
YMCA Youth For Causes (YFC) is a community initiative that provides participants aged 15 to 25 with seed funding, training and volunteer mentorship to raise public awareness, funds and mobilise volunteers for social service agencies of their choice.
Junior Achievement (JA) Worldwide is a non-profit organisation that partners schools with local businesses and organisations to deliver experiential learning programs in work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship to students from ages 5 to 25.