Leap of Faith: How Luzerne Cheng found his purpose in a social welfare career

Starting a non-profit organisation in Singapore may not be a common goal for many graduates, but when Luzerne Cheng returned home, he knew that he needed to continue the good work he was doing in Australia. In his own words, he shares more about his experience bringing non-profit organisation Red Frogs to Singapore.

11 December 2019 / By Luzerne Cheng

Hi! I am Luzerne, and I currently lead the Red Frogs team here in Singapore! This is my first job straight out of University. Before this, I spent two years studying my Bachelor’s degree in Perth while I volunteered with the Red Frogs.

ImageLuzerne and his family at his graduation from UWA in 2018.

Red Frogs is an Australian organisation that started in Gold Coast back in 1997 to take care of high school kids during Schoolies Week. Schoolies Week is an annual affair where high school graduates (also known as Year 12 school leavers) between the ages of 17 to 18 celebrate their graduation by partying for an entire week! Red Frogs was then born from the vision to serve and safeguard these young people by providing a positive peer presence in partying environments.

In 2018, I took up the position of a Red Frogs team leader in my hall of residence. During Orientation Week, we helped freshmen settle into their residential colleges. For some, this meant helping them settle into a whole new country! We would help them with moving into their rooms and we even organise events such as a café crawls to introduce them to the best coffee and ice cream places in Perth.

During organised residential parties, we provided a hydration station, so students don’t suffer bad hangovers the next day. We organised walk-homes to ensure that everyone gets home safely after parties and even provided pancake cook-ups for morning check-ins.

ImageLuzerne and other Red Frogs volunteers in Australia cooking pancakes during Schoolies

One incident really showed me the value of Red Frogs, and it happened during my first month of volunteering with them.

We were packing up after a party and making our way out when we noticed a young man crying alone in the corner. We decided to check in on him and found out he had just ended a relationship and wanted to take his own life that night.

What started off as a simple check-in, turned into an hour-long conversation about the value of life! We were at the right place, at the right time. For me, this experience reinforced the need for Red Frogs because they showed me the value of putting others first.

Bringing Red Frogs to Singapore

Growing up in Singapore, I see many young people facing a significant amount of pressure placed by parents, friends, school and even themselves. While some work well under this pressure, there are many who don’t know how to deal with the weight of it.

Admittedly, I was one of those who would place too much pressure on myself and ended up hospitalised during my Final Year Project! With welfare at the heart of Red Frogs Singapore, I want to bring a positive change to the needs of the students here in Singapore by not just investing in programs, but in people too.

ImageRepresenting the “Red Frogs Crew”: Luzerne, mentor Hayden Glass, and other volunteers.

Coming out of University with the zeal of a fresh graduate, coupled with the dreams that I have for Red Frogs Singapore, I was a little too idealistic. I made mistakes along the way, but this has been a tremendous learning journey for my personal growth. Right now, I am taking my time to come up with the right philosophy and strategy.

The plan is to set up Red Frogs as a non-profit organisation. While we are young and learning the ropes, a lot is learnt is on the job, researching and networking in order to better understand the non-profit scene in Singapore.

Networking is biggest lesson I’ve learnt. It is so valuable because you get to hear different perspectives, learn from the mistakes of others and find opportunities for collaboration with other like-minded people!

We are currently partnering Lowercase, a café in LASALLE to bring welfare to the students there. We had daily giveaways during Orientation Week to welcome the freshmen and going forward, we are planning to do the same for other tertiary campuses around Singapore.

ImageLuzerne’s team outside Lowercase in LASALLE

If you’re interested in partnering the Red Frogs Singapore team, or if you would like to bring Red Frogs into your campus, drop me an email at luzerne.cheng@volunteer.redfrogs.com.au I would love to have a chat with you. And if you are interested to find out more about Red Frogs, check out our website here or watch the ‘True Story’ of Red Frogs video here.