“A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s mountaintop experiences. Only in losing himself does he find himself. Only then does he discover all the latent strengths he never knew he had and which otherwise would have remained dormant.”
– Richard M. Nixon
This quote about serving a cause by Richard Nixon hits home on multiple grounds. I had stumbled on service (or volunteering) when I was serving my National Service (no pun intended) in 2006 and it arose purely out of one sole intention – to know more girls for the sake of expanding my ‘female-deficient’ social circle.
This search led me to serving at REACH Family Service Centre (FSC) where I made friends that have lasted till today.
REACH FSC (2006 – 2008)
My stint at REACH FSC started me out on community service. It made me learn that there is so much suffering in the world and all it took me was just to look out of my well. I visited the poorest barangays in Philippines and assisted in the construction of toilet cubicles and the laying of water pipes.
My first year of service was extremely tough especially since I was working with youths-at-risk. I was brash and straightforward to the point, most of them needed space and a big enough heart to contain, empathize and forgive. Working with these youths was one of the most humbling experiences as I saw in them (and in their eyes) – so much hope and life, despite the odds they faced in the families, society and their world!
Later in 2007 and 2008, my friends from NS (Jia Cheng and Darren) caught on the serving bandwagon and we went to Phnom Penh in Cambodia to serve yet again. The last two service trips overseas had me thinking even more… specifically about the serving dilemma – are we as “volunteer tourists” doing more good or harm to the local people? How much of the “real work” are we really doing?
Are we really making a difference?
Project Creative Home (2007/2008)
Creative Home was my first foray into social cause events management. Over at Creative Home, I would say I learnt a wee bit about the “real world” – negotiation, engagement with the 3Ps stakeholders (People, Public, Private) and also management of youth volunteers.
Taking on the role as a Project Director in Project Creative Home, attending the numerous late night meetings and sleeping over in the familiar red bus @ *Scape… Those were part of the process to see 88 dustbins being painted with social messages for different causes.
Not being the most aesthetically inclined as an individual, getting my hands dirty with painting dustbins was sure a bucket full of fun :p What’s more, it’s for good causes!
Youth Advolution for Health (YAH) (2008 – 2010)
I used to be severely obese and I recall fondly my trips to Health Promotion Board (HPB) at Outram with my Dad. The walk along the sterile surroundings of the centre all the way to the Dietician’s. The yearly routine – took my height, weight, BP (Yes, I had High Blood Pressure when I was much younger) and the “mini-lecture” involving the Food Pyramid.
Now that I’m back as a youth, I brought along my own stories and that of my Dad’s – who survived a heart bypass because he had suffered a stroke from years of smoking. I joined the Youth Advolution for Health (YAH) and served in the first year as the Vice President, managing the internal matters of YAH.
In the second year of my involvement, I stepped up once again to lead the youth organization as the President. Hitting the streets and getting youths to trade their packets of cigarettes with sporting vouchers was among the many on-the-street activism activities that we did. Together with the youths from YAH, we celebrated YAH’s 5th Birthday Bash, helped managed the WNTD Booth at PS hosting Minister Khaw and also established a partnership with the United Nations Association of Singapore (UNAS).
Project Bare Your Sole (2009)
Bare Your Sole (BYS), a national mass bare foot walk first ever held in Singapore in 2009, sprung out of a seed that was planted in my friend, Edmond, and myself when we were both serving in Cambodia in 2006. We visited the Stung Mean Chey Village, a garbage dump village in Phnom Penh and was left in awe – we saw a mountain full of garbage and children running up and down the hill to collect scrap metal for their daily keep of 1 USD.
When I met up with Edmond then, as a staff from Habitat for Humanity Singapore (HfH), he asked me if I had wanted to lead this bare-foot walk campaign with my folks at SMU. I thought for a while and I asked myself, “why not?”
With about 14 other SMU students, we put together Project Bare Your Sole 2009 with Habitat for Humanity Singapore and Victioria JC. BYS made me realize that I couldn’t and shouldn’t bite off more than I could chew. Midway into it, I couldn’t be on top of things and the progress was hindered. Thankfully, the team bonded together and with the strong support of our two other partners, we managed to make the walk happen for over 600 participants!
Along the way, I was thankfully to receive the following accolades and awards in recognition of my efforts in volunteering and service,
– YMCA Youth For Causes 2009 – Best Team (Above 21), Best Public Outreach Award
– Ikeda Peace Award, Singapore Soka Association (SSA)
– Stars of SHINE 2010/2011, National Youth Council (NYC) Singapore
– Youth Endeavor Award (YEA!), Mendaki Club Singapore
– Global Changemaker / Delegate (Singapore), Asia Youth Summit 2011
– Asia Social Innovation Award 2011, Social Ventures Hong Kong (SVHK)
From the experience I’ve gained on the ground and in teams and project management, I’m looking forward to set up a social enterprise that will promote youth development, critical thinking and public speaking.
Plans, are in the pipeline