Their projects are changing the world
When Miss Kathy Xu started diving with sharks, she was still a history and English teacher at a secondary school.
But during her dives, she found she had developed an emotional bond with the sharks, which prompted the 32-year-old to quit teaching.
"I realised that they were being fished and eaten at a rate that was unsustainable," she says.
Her dream was to enable the future generation to enjoy diving with sharks. So she set up The Dorsal Effect, an eco-tourism company which aims to provide an alternative - and more lucrative - livelihood to Indonesian shark fishermen.
"The fishermen in Lombok go on shark fishing trips that stretch up to 10 to 20 days each... they make only between US$50 (S$63) and US$100 per trip," says Miss Xu.
"Many of them go into debt because they need to buy bait and other supplies.
"By using their boats to take tourists out to sightsee and snorkel instead, they are killing fewer sharks and they also make a little more money."
With the help of a local photographer, who doubles as her translator, she organised the first boat trip in September last year.
Tourists pay US$120 for a one-day excursion. The fishermen, who also double as tour guides, can each make about US$150 per trip.
Miss Xu, who has never regretted her decision to quit teaching, is candid about the challenges she faces.
Her parents found it difficult at first to understand why she would leave her job for something that yields little financial returns.
"It's been a struggle to scale this business, as there are not enough visitors taking up the tours," says Miss Xu, adding that only four to eight people take up the tours each month.
She pumped most of her savings into the business but it's still in the red. She currently employs only one fisherman on a full-time basis.
She also teaches part-time in Singapore to take care of her personal and business expenses.
"There have been many times I've broken down and cried because money is so tight," she says.
"Maybe I'm stubborn, but I've not thought about giving up or setting a timeline for it to work."
Miss Xu is grateful for the help that has come her way, such as support from non-profit organisation, the Singapore International Foundation (SIF).
Last year, Miss Xu came up tops in the Young Social Entrepreneurs programme organised by SIF, which awarded her $10,000 in funding. So far, about $7,000 has been disbursed.
Aside from eco-tourism, Miss Xu also gives talks at schools on sharks and marine conservation.
"When I return to the schools, the children will tell me they remember the things I've spoken about and how they have told their parents that it's not good to each shark's fin. That keeps me going," she says.
Her dream is for The Dorsal Effect to expand to a point where people pay fishermen to tag sharks with tracking devices and to take care of them, instead of hunting the creatures.
In the meantime, she is looking forward to a group of 20 secondary school students who will be going on her eco-tourism trips during the November school holidays.
Teaching English over the phone
TEAM: Mr Pramodh Rai (second from left) at a Mumbai workshop organised by the Singapore International Foundation. - PICTURE: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION
- TNP PICTURE: ARIFFIN JAMAR
His dream is to help Indian students master the English language so that they can get jobs in international companies.
So Mr Pramohd Rai, 27, created a mobile application with his five friends. The app allows users to listen to English stories and answer a series of comprehension-like questions.
Mr Rai, a Singaporean whose ancestral roots trace back to Uttar Pradesh in northern India, says: "I have been privileged to have great English teachers who taught me the language well from a young age. But not every student in India enjoys this.
"Many are not eligible for jobs in global companies which set up shop in India because they have not mastered the English language."
He believes this is because these kids do not communicate, listen to or read enough English outside of the classroom.
Instead, they tend to use their native language, Hindi.
Mr Rai's app gives children access to an automated system, which targets families in the lower middle class.
"Many of these families have access to feature phones - a step down from smartphones but with Internet access - but not computers," he says.
Three evenings a week, the children will receive calls made from an automated system in Singapore, which narrates stories resembling fables aligned with school curricula.
The system will ask questions based on these stories and the children provide the answers by punching buttons on the phone.
A progress report is churned out based on the three- to five-minute calls and handed to teachers, who can then gauge the child's progress more accurately.
The application, named Jugnuu, which means "firefly" in Hindi, came about during a dinner conversation among Mr Rai and his friends in July last year.
Currently, half of the team behind the app is based in Singapore, while the other half works out of India.
They have also tied up with Teach For India, a non-profit movement led by college graduates and young professionals who teach in under-resourced Indian schools, to implement the programme.
So far, about 60 Delhi-based students have used the application.
Before embarking on this venture, the Nanyang Technological University graduate, who has a double degree in business and computer science, worked as an analyst in an investment bank.
Like Miss Kathy Xu, it was challenging at first for his parents to understand why he would ditch his well-paying job to be a social entrepreneur.
But they have since come around and now support the business, which he kickstarted with a few hundred dollars out of his own savings.
While Indian students receive the call for free, Mr Pramodh's team bears the costs for the calls, which he declines to reveal.
"Hopefully, in time to come, we can get some funding or investment to scale this to the next level and acquire more users," he says.
"The technical part of setting up the system wasn't the most difficult.
"But sometimes, getting executives in the education field to listen to my idea, and to give feedback or guidance on how to improve what we are doing, can be tough."
Despite that, this articulate and feisty lad takes the criticism in his stride.
"The questions keep me going," he says.
"When people cast doubt on the feasibility of the app or other parts of my team's strategy and plan, I get motivated to seek answers and solve problems."