An Unexpected Journey of Growth

An Unexpected Journey of Growth

Muhammad Rizki was 9 years old when he first joined TOUCH Young Arrows (TYA) in 2007. As one of the first five children enrolled at TYA Marine Parade, he was mischievous and often pulled pranks on the club volunteers along with his two best friends. Growing up years in TYA brought Rizki many fond memories – from the intensive tutoring sessions with his mentor to the annual TYA Survival Camp. Wishing to give back to this close-knit TYA community, Rizki continued volunteering as a Teen Volunteer after graduating from TYA.  

Today, 26-year-old Rizki is a Club Leader at TYA Macpherson, which has 20 children within two years of Rizki’s leadership. His confident approach to leading a TYA club is something unexpected as he was unsure about assuming additional responsibilities in his teenage years.  

Rizki briefing volunteers before TYA
Caption: Rizki briefing volunteers before the start of TYA club time.

Rizki attributes his growth and passion to mentor the young to his TYA mentor – Thomas Tan, 38, who played an instrumental role in shaping his life in his TYA days.  

“I did not enjoy studying and I struggled with Mathematics. Thomas would often encourage me to work hard so that I can make my parents proud. At that time, I was failing my examinations badly and was discouraged. However, Thomas' constant support and belief in me motivated me to press on,” shares Rizki, who later performed well in all his subjects during the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). 

Thomas recalls, “Rizki was one of the first few children I had to mentor. I remember that he used to run around a lot and caused problems for the club volunteers. However, Rizki was a cheerful child, and I could see that he had the potential to be a leader one day.” 

Role Modeling for the Next Generation

After Rizki graduated from TYA in 2010, Thomas challenged him to give back as a mentor and be a role model to the younger generation. Befriending new children and interacting with them was not easy for Rizki, who was new to his mentor role. He shares, “While Thomas was a strict mentor, I wanted to be a mentor and friend whom the children could reach out to whenever they had problems. Initially, it was tough building that rapport with the children because I was shy, and I was not sure where to begin.”  

Thomas and Rizki discussing a programme together
Caption: Thomas and Rizki discussing a programme together.

10 years on, the close bonds forged between Rizki and his mentees are still going strong. He makes sure to stop for a quick catch up whenever he bumps into any of them in the neighbourhood.  

Beginning a New Chapter of Giving Back

Rizki took a break from volunteering at TYA when he was in ITE and when serving National Service due to the additional commitment and responsibilities. The thought of giving back was ignited only in 2021, when Rizki reconnected with a friend who was volunteering at TYA. He was reminded of how dedicated mentors like Thomas made a difference in his life.  “I saw many young children mixing with bad company and thought about how Thomas guided me during my younger days. I wanted to play my part and give back to the community by becoming a role model to other children, just like how Thomas was to me. TYA was where I received a lot, and I knew I wanted to return and help.”  

Thomas and Rizki enjoying a game with TYA children
Caption: Thomas and Rizki enjoying a game together with the TYA children.

Thomas shares, “I was happy and excited to hear that Rizki came back. Each child in TYA is like a precious seed. Their journey of growth continues even after they graduate. As club volunteers and mentors, we want to nurture this passion in our children and see it flower and bear fruit. Seeing children like Rizki return to volunteer affirms my mantra, and I hope that this legacy of volunteering at TYA continues with the next generation.” 

Till this day, Thomas, who is now the supervisor of TYA Macpherson, Marine Parade and Mountbatten, continues to uncover the hidden potential that Rizki never knew he had. He appointed Rizki as the Club Leader of TYA Macpherson in 2022. “We were undergoing transitions for the Macpherson Club, and Rizki was the perfect candidate to helm it. As the leader of a relatively new club with less than five children, he could start his own culture among the children and club volunteers.”  

Building a Home Away from Home

Rizki guiding TYA children on an activity-1
Rizki guiding TYA children on an activity-2
Caption: Rizki guiding TYA children on an activity together during club time.


“While I was initially apprehensive about stepping into such big shoes, I knew I always wanted to build a home away from home for children who need support or a listening ear. With this new club, I could slowly shape the culture that I envisioned and create a strong foundation where the bonds between children and volunteers are strong and unshakeable,” recounts Rizki.  

Today, TYA Macpherson has 20 children and 12 volunteers.  

TYA volunteers befriending children-1
TYA volunteers befriending children-2
Caption: TYA volunteers befriending the children and mentoring them in their schoolwork.

Thomas shares, “I always believe that the impact created by TYA is two-way. The volunteers mentor the children and watch them grow. At the same time, the children are unknowingly helping to develop the soft skills of the volunteers and encouraging them to become better versions of themselves. Rizki is the perfect example of how this circle has come one round.”  

TOUCH Young Arrows (TYA) believes that every child has the potential to be nurtured and sharpened like arrows to make a positive impact and be future leaders in the community. TYA conducts weekly Saturday programmes for some 500 children at 25 clubs including Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Merah, Clementi, Geylang Bahru, Hougang, Marine Parade, Mountbatten, Queenstown, Serangoon, Tampines, Woodlands and Yishun to meet children's social, emotional and educational needs to bring out the best of their potential.  

Story published in 2024.