Tireless community worker empowers youth through arts
Community worker Izzaty Ishak (above) is an applied theatre practitioner who uses art to empower youth. (Photo: M1 Singapore Fringe Festival)

Tireless community worker empowers youth through arts

Singaporean applied theatre practitioner Izzaty Ishak had a dream. She wanted to make the arts more accessible to children and youth from less privileged backgrounds. The catch – she didn’t know how. 

Not one to give up though, she joined voluntary welfare organisation Beyond Social Services as a community worker in 2013 after graduating from Singapore Polytechnic’s applied drama and psychology course, to gain experience in community development. 

Today, she leads The Community Theatre programme at the organisation, which helps youth from different housing communities find their voice through theatre and address social issues such as poverty and discrimination together.

She says: “Theatre is a beautiful, complex language that is also universal, and I love that it has the ability to connect diverse people together through sound, movement and images.”

She adds that when personal stories are performed on stage, it allows the community to see an issue from a new perspective, reflect on it together, and possibly create a new narrative around the issue. 

One example, she recalls, is a sharing session on power dynamics and harassment in parent-child and teacher-student relationships. She was heartened when a young female participant spoke about how the stories others shared helped her realise that she shouldn’t make excuses for those in authority if their actions made her feel uncomfortable.  

Izzaty has also found it rewarding to see how the community theatre programme has helped youth become more mature and confident individuals despite their less privileged backgrounds.

Given her work in empowering youth through the arts, it is fitting that she is part of the panel discussion Quiet Riot: Agitating For Change From Within at this year’s M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. The free, 90-minute online conversation will be held over Zoom on 30 Jan, and facilitated by former NMP Kuik Shiao-Yin. Together with two other panellists – founder and strategic advisor of charity organisation Daughters Of Tomorrow Carrie Tan and president of Cat Welfare Society Thenuga Vijakumar, Izzaty will speak about how individuals can work within existing systems of power to bring about positive change.

On what keeps her going and creating social change through the arts, Izzaty says: “The young people I work with, who are always full of energy and reaching to achieve more despite their circumstances.”

Learn more about Quiet Riot: Agitating For Change From Within here.

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