1) Other than working full time in a non-profit organization (Ray of Hope) helping people who have fallen through the cracks, you have also dedicated your weekends volunteering. What do you think shaped you to become who you are today?
The best part about volunteering and working in the social service space is getting to see things in a different light. I always feel privileged to be able to meet people from all walks of life and are willing to share their stories with me in and out of work and my personal time. Some started their lives with nothing and learnt how to count their blessings amidst the most challenging times. Some began their race only after losing what had been the world to them. And to some, life is a daily struggle but love keeps them going nonetheless.
Life is not always a struggle because it will only get better if you believe so. When we choose to focus on how much we can give, the size of our worries and fears will naturally shrink too.
2) What does thriving mean to you?
Thriving to me, means to enjoy doing things that drive you and keep you grounded.
I once met a graphic designer who had a stroke while she was transiting to Israel for her mission trip. On our first meeting, she was visibly affected by her inability to work to support herself as her mobility was severely affected then. When I met her again after a few months, she told me that she had worked hard at exercising through her own practice, as her physiotherapy sessions at the hospital had lapsed due to her financial constraints.
Since she got better, she decided to offer her skill sets to help an orphanage in Vietnam with their design work. A decision that she’s happy with as she shares that she has never lost sight of her vision of empowering the underprivileged and helping them be better than they were yesterday. While her recovery journey was daunting, she found strength and emerged stronger to overcome those obstacles. So inspiring!
3) Tell us why you have chosen your current career path in the non-profit sector
My first volunteer work 6 years ago seemed like a mission-impossible at that point – refurbishing a badly-charred home of an elderly granny who has been using charcoal to cook her meals for decades. The cleaning works included scraping off the charcoal-burnt marks on the walls before giving it a fresh coat of paint.
We ended the day with a huge grin on the granny’s face!
After that day, I reflected on how to her, a home was not having a well-furnished space, but being thankful for that empty roof that has sheltered her from rain and shine. We were able to help because someone took the first step forward, but it’s hard to imagine the bigger pool who goes undiscovered behind the closed doors!
4) How different is your life now compared to before?
Honestly, I have never imagined myself stepping out of my comfort zone, like visiting old estates like Marsiling or Woodlands to hunt down a family-in-need. Or having the privilege of sitting with a group of migrant workers to have a meal with them! I have never imagined how a loaf of bread could mean the world to a single mum who struggles to put her children through school, or how a packet of rice could be seen as kindness bestowed upon a family.
My longest cleaning project took the team of 50 volunteers 13 hours on a Sunday to clean up a four-room flat for a mum who was battling end-stage cancer. She had wished for a clean home for her 21-year-old son, but unfortunately, she passed on right before the cleaning. It made me realise that it’s naturally easier to give money, but taking time to understand someone’s challenges can be equally meaningful. The cleaning was physically exhausting, but the smile on the boy’s face made our body aches worthwhile!
5) What have you learnt or gained most from your job/volunteering experience?
I once met an elderly client at work and we were wondering how the SP bills to his home were under his mum’s name instead of his. He explained to us that he had applied for the transfer of account, but received the reply, “Aiyah no need to change since you don’t have many years left anyway”.
And of course, his request was quietly put off. In the course of our 30-minute conversation, he apologised for being unable to top up his prepaid card to remain contactable, for being sick, and most importantly, for being poor. Yet at every meeting with us, the elderly took pride in dressing up well. He inspired me when he said that while one may be born poor, we should always live in dignity.
6) Why do you also choose to spend your rest days volunteering?
My volunteering journey began 6 years ago and the first house cleaning seemed like a mission-impossible at that point – refurbishing a badly-charred home of an elderly granny who could not afford to pay for gas.
The cleaning works included scraping off the charcoal-burnt marks on the walls before giving it a fresh coat of paint. When the granny came back in after we were done at the end of the day, she could barely hide that smile on her face and that touched our hearts.
The cleaning experience showed me how to her, a home was defined as not having anything more than just a few pieces of furniture, yet owning that roof to shelter her from rain and shine made her thankful. It made me want to do more for the people around me, even if it meant sacrificing my weekend worth of sleep for it!
7) If you can do/change anything in Singapore, or in life here, what would you do?
We often read about how the poor can't work due to medical conditions or caregiving duties, so they get poorer by day, so they are constantly struggling to escape from poverty. But it is often forgotten that they used to be healthy individuals who were once able to support themselves financially.
If there is one change that I could bring about in Singapore, it would be to increase awareness for challenges faced behind closed doors by the vulnerable group including migrant workers who are often powerless when it comes to fighting for their rights. After all, these are people living within our community!