Complete

There’s this thing about visiting the homes of distant relatives you only meet about once a year, if not just a little more than once. It’s beyond the festive spirit coupled with the superstitious belief that all must wear smiles throughout these three days for it is only auspicious this way. It is especially the fact that this period ensures that blood-related family, sharing the same culture, history and ancestors, make time to come together and celebrate the family. 

I may only meet these people once a year, some I barely even talk to within the awkward ‘hi-bye’ situations in the big house of a relative; but I’m thankful for this season that brings me with them. One day I will muster the courage to go beyond ‘hi-bye’s with the extended relatives I fear I’ll miss out on as we reunite. 

And for now, I busk in the happiness of feeling so complete. 

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Are you listening?

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Throw back to mp3 experiment last year, that was possibly one of the last few times I whipped out my earpieces to use in public. From the time my phone started to lag like nobody’s business and have its battery die out every few hours, I stopped using my phone unnecessarily in public. It wasn’t that  I wasn’t tempted- besides, social media and connection to everyone else I was comfortable with was just a few buttons away on the device. It was that I really couldn’t, either because I had too little battery left to waste, or I’d be doubly frustrated by the excruciating wait for the change of screen every time I pressed a button. 

Since then I started to discover the joys of not being in my own world while on public transport- for a start, I was listening- as people had their obnoxious conversations from gossips and complaints to deep and meaningful, I found myself listening. And I was looking, with my eyes less distracted by the flashy rectangle of buttons and icons, I was occupied looking at my surroundings instead, what people were wearing, what their expressions were like and then I was guessing. I don’t mean guessing as in judging and creating judgements or criticisms about them but more like, guessing the stories behind them and what had happened just moments ago, or where exactly they were headed.

Since then I’ve felt more attached to this reality we are all a part of, the busy hustle and bustle that’s part and parcel of our Singaporean Culture now. I’m not saying listening to music or using our devices while in public is a bad thing, I’m just saying maybe sometime you can try that change too and you’ll be surprised because it’s refreshing. 

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Emotions Do Count

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I’ve been pretty occupied with the Imagining Possibilities: Cats in Hats initiative and I promise this is my last post about it before the end of our first recruitment season, ending this January. 

To prepare our volunteers well, the team sees the value in having our volunteers understand the importance of our work and why what we are doing even matters. And so to justify our effort put into this initiative, the team has prepared a Guide for Volunteer Leaders on the WHYs of the project (that you only get to see completely if you sign up as a volunteer at bit.ly/CIHvolunteer) This part of the guide mainly revolves around the importance of emotions. 

Emotions play a vital function in our daily life, it’s the counterpart of ‘reason’ that we rely on to make our decisions. Research has also shown that emotions give us another aspect of information because it provides knowledge on how you would feel or the consequences of decisions that you make; they are tools of unity as people who feel the same way may come together with a bond like no other and emotions also play a vital role in fostering strong bonds because they help to decide how well we create rapport based on how aware we are of emotions involved in the communication. 

What I’m trying to say here, I think, is that emotions do count. Being emotional does not make you weak, nor vulnerable, nor irrelevant, there are the plus sides to being emotionally aware as well. Emotional intelligence has proven to give people greater motivation, esteem and self-regulation habits in doing things because of the versatility and social skills that it’s interwoven with. All the more, emotions is definitely not something we should be trying to run away from or prevent- it is only human to experience emotions.

And hence it is relevant to learn about managing them, and so bit.ly/CIHvolunteer, join us today.

The Lost Generation

Today I read something about the generations that have come and past, those that will come and will past; as well as those that exist today (us). It was a sort of compare and contrast in the article, that referred to those that have gone as the ‘lost generation’. Lost as in, confused and puzzled not knowing what to do and lost as in, forgotten and left behind. 

There’s this thing we say, it’s called ‘generation gap’ and when we say it we build a barrier between ourselves and the person from the supposed different generation that blocks out understanding and connection. We do it too often, I’ve once started to think that I couldn’t understand anyone beyond 8 years of difference from me, which really isn’t that long. It’s true that with progression as fast as today’s it’s hard for the ‘older’ generations to keep up with the changes and relate to us. It’s difficult to understand what used to be ‘fun and interesting’ yesterday just as how the ‘older’ generation can’t quite grasp what is ‘hip and cool’ today. 

But the article I read talked about how we aren’t all that different and there shouldn’t be a clear line between generations. Nothing really is lost, the footprints have been left behind, the legacies continued. And as much as we may think that we’re a fresh, new generation, the one that shall innovate and create new things, new ideas and new leaders; let’s not forget that there was a time when Hillary Clinton and Lee Kuan Yew were the ‘new, fresh and young leaders creating some radical change’ in their time, and that time period also saw a fair share of ‘new’ things. The passing time doesn’t compromise the value of these things that have been discovered or created, just as how 20 years down the road, when Apple’s iPhones maybe become something ‘old-fashioned’ we would still respect the innovation that brought technology to a whole new level in ‘our time’. 

Generations may be a fuzzy thing because no clear line can really be drawn. What’s in the past is still as relevant as what will happen in the future, they all come together to form one big picture, to continue one whole story- that of humanity and our many advancements. I suppose 20 years down the road, if I had a kid, I’d want to be holding hands with her walking on our ways home telling her about ‘in mommy’s time, there was no such thing…’ or ‘in mommy’s time, we used to have…’ just like how I listen to my parents today. 

Only when we put aside the age difference, which really is just a number, can we see clearly a person’s experience, knowledge and wisdom; and learn from it. We wouldn’t be the ‘fresh, new energetic’ generation for long, but neither will we become the ‘lost generation’. 

High heels are not a requirement

I just thought this was beautiful, enjoy!

And the same way high heels are not a requirement, and neither a flat stomachs- neither is a clique, nor a guy friend before the end of JIP, nor pre-judgements about all your possible classmates nor the complaints about the lecturers we haven’t had a chance to listen to properly. I think there’s a lot more to this school and this incoming experience than the 6 days and counting we’ve been through.

So I hereby let go the expectations I think I’m supposed to have and fulfill, and I let go of the expectations I impose on this place and the experience that hasn’t begun.

Keep Changing

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It always seems impossible, until it’s done. The things I never knew until I tried are countless, and today I am a stronger person capable for more things. Today as I walked back through the gates of RGS back into the school that has homed me for four years, smiled to the familiar faces and received the warm hugs, I think of how these people have grown from where I first met them. So today I want to talk about how people constantly change while publicising yet again a volunteer opportunity that I started talking about yesterday. 

The different paths we walk along (literally), and the different doors we pass through (also literally), bring us through a new experience everyday and the amount we change from every experience may be subtle and insignificant, but it’s something. Like how I left the Lecture Theatre 1 a student more afraid of JC Chemistry than ever; and like how I left the RGS Gym today feeling slightly better about my fitness. And that slowly cumulates to who we become. The volunteer experiences, all these countless times I have taken part in, have acted as these (now metaphorical) doors that have changed me as I pass through. 

The essence of every volunteer experience for me gives me an avenue to share what I already have and give to others what I have had the chance of experiencing and hoping that they gain as much from it as I have. I have had the privilege to researching and being fascinated by the works of the Room to Read Organisation (roomtoread.org); and today I want to share it with you. What I gained really wasn’t so much about the factual knowledge, the numbers and statistics, but the awareness; and together with the awareness came this now stronger sense of empathy. 

And that’s exactly what this volunteer experience will be about- teaching the local primary school students about this sense of empathy and it’s importance. Starting from the basics of recognising and managing their own emotions, you will be part of the mission to cultivate this sense of empathy that will help them look slightly beyond themselves and understand others a little more. Sign up today a bit.ly/CIHvolunteer, I promise you’ll learn just as much as the kids will yourself, since every experience promises a change.

Larger than Yourself

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Today I want to talk about something that will make some of us feel afraid. It’s about initiatives I’ve brought to RGS upon graduation and have been working on since the start of the year end holidays in 2013. To fully understand what I’m doing you’d have to read the origins of where this all started, because the roots of a creation are practically just as important as what it has become today and HERE is where it all started.

I have now found two teams to embark on this journey with me but today I will just talk about one; please bear with me through the technical bits of the story before I give you some food for thought:

The Community Problem Solving Team Project Cats in Hats has been hard at work since the start of 2013, working at after school care centres in primary schools, creating resources to conduct exciting sessions with the children there, helping them attain a higher command of language and teaching them to express themselves comfortably. You can support them and find out more about their work here: https://www.facebook.com/projectcatsinhats I was particularly impressed by this team when they approached me with great interest after we met once to discuss the possibilities of a collaboration between their team and Room to Read – Singapore Chapter.

The Chapter hopes to, with our Imagining Possibilities Campaign, reach out to local students and cultivate in them a sense of empathy towards others through the understanding of social issues as the ones that Room to Read works on. And upon discussion and much thought, Project Cats in Hats today is working on a collaboration with the chapter to bring sessions that will enrich the local primary 4 students in terms of understanding and managing their emotions while cultivating a sense of empathy in them. The sessions are planned to begin at the end of March till mid May and as we continue to meet up with interested Primary Schools to discuss the programme, the sessions will tentatively be held of 5-6 weeks, once a week requiring commitment of 3 hours each time. Volunteer Leaders play a very important role in making this project a success because they practically execute what the team has planned and dreamed of throughout the holidays- and hence will be required to attend a 4 hour training session on one day of their choice during the March holidays.

The success of project will be defined by the hopefully long term lessons that will stay in the local students as we leave from our last session and consider possibilities of sustaining the programme. What we hope to teach these children is more than giving them exposure to global issues essential to their understanding of how fortunate they are, it is very much about cultivating a sense of empathy in them so they grow up as human beings who know how to feel for others, who understand how to manage their emotions effectively.

The value in that is only seen when we recognise what an unfeeling society we can possibly become if numbers, wealth and fame become increasingly important; the value in that can only be understood if we recognise the potential of the younger generation and the important of cultivating a sense of empathy in them in their growing years.

And here comes the food for thought: I say this is something that would make us afraid because of the number of new things there are involved- for one, the idea of a volunteer experience completely organised by 16-17 year olds is new, the idea of teaching something so abstract instead of just academics is new and the idea of sacrificing time to something that sounds more challenging than rewarding is new too.

But here’s where I tell you that the rewarding part of your participation will come from the spirit in which you sign up for this experience- it’ll take a whole of courage and belief in the cause for you to click the sign up link below and even more later then to commit. I promise you, though, that all he things we felt like the education system was possibly lacking, this is a small step you can start with. And you aren’t too far away from the 16-17 year old age range, and I don’t suppose you think you’re completely incapable and unreliable, so what makes you think the group of us initiating this are. We’ve taken our first steps to being the change we want to see, now we need your help.

Give it some time and thought, all enquiries may come to me or projectcatsinhats@gmail.com

Sign up today to join the mission: bit.ly/CIHvolunteer