Igniting innovation, change and hope

Walking past a bakery from which the aroma of freshly made bread wafted, a light bulb went off in the heads of Wee Min and her two friends as they made their way home one day. Food redistribution as part of a service-learning module suddenly seemed like a no-brainer. 

It was, as the three NUS Law students recalled, a “serendipitous” moment. “It was the mooncake festival at the time, so the idea just clicked,” said Wee Min, who graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honours) from NUS, and a Master of Laws from New York University in July. 

That brainwave in 2020 gave rise to Daily Kneads SG, a social initiative that aimed to redistribute excess festive goodies to low-income families for Mid-Autumn Festival that year. 

Giving back to society has become second nature to the 23-year-old, who has been involved in community projects since her secondary school days. NUS reinforced her conviction, giving her a platform to pursue that passion while providing opportunities to hone her leadership and project management skills. 

Law and leadership 

Initially drawn to law by a “vague academic interest”, she entered university not expecting much of herself, given the high-achieving crowd she found herself in. 

But she soon realised that NUS Law valued more than just good grades. Besides caring peers who shared lecture notes, seniors and alumni also spent countless hours giving her feedback or advice to prepare for moots. 

Then in 2018, when a food catering mix-up during a freshman orientation she planned threatened to derail the event, her batchmates offer to deliver the food to resolve the issue. 

“(The) feeling of people coming together to see something through touched me,” she recalled. NUS Law, she said, gave her “the gift of community” and inspired her to take up more leadership roles in school so she could pay it forward. 

As the Law Club President in her second year, she faced an unprecedented problem – COVID-19. To ensure that the student body’s needs were communicated, she initiated discussions with the faculty for a smooth transition to home-based learning. 

Her efforts, complemented with advice from a group of professors, led the school to adapt the curriculum to relieve academic stress. This was in addition to COVID-19 welfare initiatives introduced by the Law Club, such as virtual events to bring the school together in a time of social isolation. 

She also came up with other fresh ideas during her term. 

An advocate for the arts, she founded Law Arts, a space for her peers to immerse in various art forms like theatre and literature. Through workshops, interest groups, and more, students were able to learn beyond their course of study and mingle with like-minded peers. 

These leadership roles have helped her to discover more about herself and her role in the community. “As time passed, I started thinking more critically about whether the projects were really helping the community I served or if they were for my own learning needs.” 

A fresh perspective 

As part of NUS Law’s Exchange Plus Programme, Wee Min chalked up another eye-opening experience while attending a year-long final-year Master’s programme at New York University (NYU), which ended in June. 

The forthright opinions of the diverse mix of international students helped refine her negotiation skills and fuelled her interest in arbitration – the settlement of disputes outside courts. 

While in New York City, she also took up an unpaid internship with a non-governmental organisation, where she was involved in the public benefits appeals process for clients who were struggling to make ends meet. 

Unlike her previous corporate internships, working as a grassroots volunteer showed her a different aspect of the law – one that has inspired her to explore the feminist legal space where she hopes to promote greater gender equality. 

Spreading festive cheer 

Meanwhile, she and her friends are still busy driving Daily Kneads SG. 

As the project neared its end, a conversation with Member of Parliament Louis Ng had given them a better understanding of the beneficiaries’ needs and motivated them to keep the social initiative going after the module ended. 

“A lot of people see food as your everyday meal but we wanted to focus on the festivities. We want low-income families to be a part of the celebrations, especially in Singapore where food is a big part of the holiday cheer,” she explained. 

However, their journey has not been without its challenges. Yang Siqi, Daily Kneads SG co-founder, shared, “While hotels and bakeries were happy to donate their festive goods, we found it difficult to source for transportation to deliver the bakes to the various beneficiaries. We eventually partnered up with food charity Food From The Heart and were able to tap into their network of volunteer drivers, but before that, we employed creative methods, such as asking friends who drove, or even people on Carousell who were offering delivery services, to help us for free!” 

The experience though, was invaluable. Fellow co-founder Tapasya Singh shared, “The most gratifying part about running Daily Kneads has been witnessing just how willing people were to help out, when given the opportunity to do so. Our pilot run was successful through the support of many kind strangers...The vast majority of donating organisations that we have liaised with have been very accommodating, and we have had organisations who were unable to participate in a particular run of the programme reach out to us for future runs.” 

Since 2020, Daily Kneads has worked with more than 20 bakeries and hotels to hand out surplus goodies over seven festive holidays, including Chinese New Year and Christmas. In 2021, for instance, it redistributed 10,000 mooncakes during Mid-Autumn Festival. 

Wee Min’s time in NUS has given her the perfect springboard to drive meaningful change. She leaves the campus armed with many assets, including legal expertise, to continue serving the community. 

This story is part of NUS News’ coverage of Commencement 2022, which celebrates the achievements of our 13,975 graduates through 28 in-person ceremonies. For more on Commencement, read our story on the opening ceremony, check out the official Commencement website, or look up (and tag) #NUS2022 on our social media channels!