The Ice Bucket Challenge

ALSIf you began reading this blog post knowing, from the title it is related to ALS and the videos of people dumping ice water on themselves; or if you have seen them, better yet played them or spent minutes of your time researching about this disease or the cause these videos serve, indeed the outreach of the challenge has been successful. The recent wave of people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads in the name of raising awareness and funds for the ALS disease has picked up momentum and will be around our social media news feeds for a while.  And as in every outreach movement, if spread on without purpose and understanding, ultimately loses its meaning and becomes less valuable than it really could have been. The only way to preserve its value in the outreach is if, in every spread and sharing, with every participation, comes a deep sense of purpose and understanding- that is purpose in participating in the challenge and an understanding of what you’re really dumping over your heads.

First to clear the air on what this challenge and ALS is really about:

The Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as motor neurone disorder (MND) which is characterised by muscle spasticity, rapidly progressive weakness and difficulty in speaking or swallowing. It would be giving anyone who participates in the challenge too much credit to say that “the Ice Bucket Challenge allows you to know what it’s like to have the disease” because clearly it doesn’t. (Watch this)

The Ice Bucket Challenge didn’t originate as something directly related to ALS– it began simply, as a challenge that would be completed and passed on to encourage people to donate to their pet charities and nominate others to do the same. In fact, it was only popularised as something associated to the disease because of influential athletes in the United States participated in the challenge to support ALS. And the Ice Bucket Challenge, is not just about nominating each other and dumping ice water over yourself– it’s a challenge that has rules that should be abided if one would truly like to support the movement. By accepting a nomination, you accept that in a time limit you will dump ice water over yourself and donate $10 to the chosen charity, while nominating friends to do the same or suffer a $100 penalty for not fulfilling it. It’s not just about nominating each other and dumping ice water over yourself.  (Read more here)

So here’s my take:

What participating in this challenge in support of ALS patients really does, is evoke awareness in not just the participators but their social circle and rally support that the ALS patients will receive through seeing these videos or through the donations that participators give. And there is definitely value in that, considering the outreach and awareness it has achieved thus far by letting this many people know about ALS. To the skeptics with whom I once strongly related, I encourage those who are not involved in the challenge to adopt a more curious attitude towards this challenge and its participants, questioning the purpose behind those who participate in the challenge and searching for an understanding to how this disease and challenge really works. Let’s give credit to the successful outreach and awareness this challenge has achieved.

However, as all outreach and advocacy movements share the same limitations, the challenge of being ‘slacktivism’-prone remains and there lies a tendency for this to become yet another awareness movement started with good intentions but whose value was abandoned along the way of its publicity and passing on.

And to reduce the possibilities of this well-intentioned Ice Bucket Challenge with respect to supporting ALS, every participant holds the responsibility of preserving its meaning and understanding their purpose in participating. While dumping ice water over themselves, participants have to realise the larger purpose of participating in the challenge and the way it is part of a bigger movement of raising society’s awareness about ALS and saying “Yes, I support ALS and I will donate $10 upon completing this challenge and encourage my friends to do the same because this is a cause I believe in and would like more people to support with me” I commend my friends who participated in the challenge and abided to the rules of the challenge and placed sufficient emphasis in highlighting their purpose and belief in the cause because this is exactly what preserving the movement’s essence is about.

If we are not ready to pass on outreach movements and contribute as an advocate to its cause, I suggest rejecting the nomination in the first place if we are unconfident of ignoring distractions (like the elements of “fun” and “cool”) and resist jumping on the bandwagon mindlessly.

With that, I look forward to being educated on the circumstance of ALS patients or any other less privileged groups from pet charities that the Ice Bucket Challenge has been completed to support; and hope to be inspired by the challenge’s advocates to contribute to the cause. Here’s to standing up for what we believe in in a purposeful way!

Read more interesting perspectives here

Immerse

fully immerseThis is my sister and I stretching with a sculpture standing at one of the entrances of the International Art Fair by Art Stage Singapore at the beginning of this year. My favourite part of weekend getaways or reading on Sunday afternoons, doing handicraft in the middle of the week or walking along the streets of Chinatown on a spontaneous afternoon; is the light-hearted way I get to immerse. 

After an extremely rough period of farewells and bringing closure to numerous experiences and physical companies of some of the best people, this weekend I’ve spent it at home entirely, basking in learning and finding time to think about the experiences I’ve been blessed with this year and the people who’ve been by my side, proving the strength of the friendship we share for yet another year. And once in a while I like to do this (think about my experiences in the months before this) because every moment passes by quickly and if we don’t celebrate them once in a while or make them count, these precious moments go by without getting the enjoyment they deserve, and we tend to give ourselves less credit than we deserve for all these brave or silly things we’ve done. You know, sometimes in the midst of laughing at something I genuinely find funny with a bunch of people I’m so thankful for, I take on a new position in the moment to think to myself “Wow, I’m so lucky to be here and to have them” and it makes the happiness feel so much more real. 

I wouldn’t say that these 8 months of 2014 have been the kindest to me, but with the diversity of people and opportunities I’ve come to be blessed with and be able to immerse myself with or in, I can’t help but feel that I have grown that bit more thanks to all this. 

And at the end of the year, when I possibly come back to this post to celebrate these moments I wouldn’t want to forget, ever, I hope I’ll still remember, as vividly as possible

In chronlogical order: Volunteering for the arts scene yet again (with Art Stage Singapore), leading my first Art Gallery tour with the best company, having the luxury of starting an advocacy of my passion with the most driven people I’ve met besides the OM family, entering JC with an orientation group that has blessed me with some of the most memorable memories, standing on stage again thanks to Dramafeste 2014, growing from my commitment to weekly tutoring as a volunteer, the privilege of being in Runway and Interact, the numerous service opportunities, the first self-run fashion show, and of course the passionate people that came with the experience, having the opportunity to lead an initiative with a 50-member strong volunteer base and mentoring the most kid-like but lovable Community Problem Solving team, then the courage for shaving after years of consideration, entering volunteer youth corps and the opportunity to do oversease service learning with truly kind people in Cambodia. With all these moments, were constants. People who looked out for me without me realising, and people who loved me more than I ever gave them love. 

Today, reliving these moments in my head, I feel blessed. I feel fortunate for my constants- weekly gymming and running with my sister, my ever-supportive OM team that continues to be an emotional support, the classmates and orientation groupmates who’ve proven to be here for the long haul and the family that continues to love me despite my flaws and silly tantrums. 

Just as how we took every moment in the art gallery to immerse ourselves in every artpiece and the story that it told, I’d like for the rest of my year to also be taken slowing down and savouring the moments very consciously.

 

Too many farewells

farewellThis week has been a terrible week, and I never knew I was this bad at managing farewells. In a short span of a day, I found myself back in the airport within 12 hours to send two of my favourite people in the world off. And each farewell, kept me crying for a long while. I haven’t cried this much in months, and it really hurts.

There is a fine line between a goodbye and a farewell, the latter makes it sound a little longer and it also sounds a bit more meaningful and heavy-hearted. At the same time, we overuse ‘goodbye’: everyday I say ‘goodbye’ to many people and it feels short-term, temporary. Casual. But saying farewell is a little more difficult because when we organise a farewell or when we say farewell to someone, it’s like we’re sending them off to a faraway place for a time longer than a couple of weeks, maybe months or in this case years.

Saying farewell to my sister is difficult. More than that, it’s painful. Because the pillar of support she is to me and the kind of listening ear or company she provides is irreplaceable. Her physical presence, her touch, her letting me hold hands and talk non-stop or treating me to food when she senses that I’m down, her taking me out to places that we both love or her sharing of opinions that bring me infinite insight; where shall I find a constant, everyday supply of these that I have grown so fond of? I’m so used to calling her to report my every small feeling, from someone being mean at school or something really nice happening in the day. I’m too used to knowing I can come home to a house she’s in to sit down over late night dinners talking about our day, or catching up on our weekend plans while doing house work together. There are too many memories, and so many things that I’m thankful for. This farewell is painful, but I’m thankful to have someone I love so fully and completely, someone that makes saying farewell so hard.

farewell4And here’s to the buddy that has watched me grow up day by day in the most important years of my life (thus far), that has truly shaped who I’ve become. I’m pretty sure my love for being around juniors and loving them so deeply, was something inspired from the friendship we have managed to forge in the five years. Somehow, buddy leaving, though temporarily, feels like a very deep loss that makes me immensely upset. It’s not just a loss for me, it’s a loss for all of us who’ve known her in one way or another, and I dare say, for everyone in the vicinity of where buddy would have been if she wasn’t on her way to Dubai/Boston now. The way she has taught me to smile at strangers and be nice to people, especially those I don’t know, or the way she has loved me back to completely and deeply makes this farewell very, very hard.

With two farewells of such important people concentrated into the span of 12 hours, I am overwhelmed with fear. While I was crying profusely at random spans of the day, the tears streamed with my mind completely confused and unsure of what this uncomfortable and painful feeling was. And finally, now, I think I’ve decided that it’s a bit of fear and a lot of love.

Reading History

While tuning in to my recent jam, today I’d like to talk about a book I’ve recently finished— “First They Killed My Father” by Loung Ung. I got this book months ago while I was at Cambodia for the International Understanding Trip with Interact and this book brought me so much more insight than I had expected. Telling the true story of her life since she was little, struggling through the very horrific Pol Pot Regime under the Khmer Rouge that completely transformed her childhood into a nightmare, I read every page with increasing respect towards her bravery. It takes an incredible amount of courage to be telling a story like hers. The descriptions and expressions so well illustrated the images of her memories in my mind as well– last night, I had a terrifying dream that I was experiencing the transitional phase between constitutional government and Pol Pot’s arrival in Singapore, and the images resembled those described by her in the book. It may sound like a funny dream to have, but during which it felt so real, it was terrifying. And it’s even scarier now, as I think about how that massive fear I thought I felt, was only a small fraction of what the author really experienced. 

The same way I enjoyed reading every page of her book, I enjoy my study of history. In my study of history I am constantly reminded that history is a story of people just like myself who lived through a very different time and did very different things. There is a sense of empathy and connection that I feel towards these stories and words I read off historical records and notes. These are real life recollections. In some ways, it reminds me to make my time count. Someone once said that history is about great people and the things that they did, but like some others, I’d argue that all the ‘small’ people were equally important in that story that is told as a part of history today. And imagining myself living through times like Loung Ung’s for example, also reminds me to respect the people who’ve played their part in the legacy of the human race, and the values or beliefs they have stood by in the difficult times of their lives. 

I wonder, in years down the road as our time period gets included in ‘history’: what part of history would our generation represent.

Youth Corps Singapore: The (beginning of the) Aspirant Journey

youthcorpssg2

Today, as the selection processes have recently begun for the second batch of Youth Corps aspirants, I’d like to share my Youth Corps Journey thus far with you and, in the capacity of a member in the pioneering batch of Youth Corps Singapore, tell you about why I continue to love every moment shared in this journey. 

My Youth Corps journey began way back in May, when I attended my selection interview. Unlike normal interviews with long glass tables and a panel of scary-looking judges sternly trying to peer through your soul in the short 10 minutes, this half-day selection process was done in the form of a half-day camp designed by OBS. In the span of the half-day selection, we were split into teams of about 10 and put to the trials of 3 mind boggling challenges. I say mind boggling because it wasn’t so much about the physical strength (as we’d expect from our memories as Primary 5 students trekking in OBS) but so much more a test of our values, beliefs and the way our mind problem-solves. 

I remember leaving the selection process refreshed by the new friendships forged, the challenges conquered and excited by the spirit in which the selection process was conducted– in a true exploration of each individual’s character. 

And astoundingly, on hindsight, the selection process was a true reflection of what the Youth Corps Journey is about– ever since our induction camp in June, the aspirants have been put to tasks that challenge our boundaries, placed us beyond our comfort zone and constantly encouraged us to bring our heart for service and people-passion, to a level beyond just ‘hoping to make a difference’. The thing about each and every aspirant that has constantly inspired me is the spirit. Here’s where I’ve truly met like-minded individuals. In the way our hands are raised and opinions are bravely voiced in sharing sessions by speakers invited or in the training sessions we’ve had for 2 days every month since June, I am constantly humbled, learning from all these peers and seniors around me whose desires to learn and serve have been the most powerful source of strength for all of us in the pioneering batch. I am fortunate to be in the company of these inspiring individuals, from whom I can constantly be learning new insights.

youthcorpssg3

In the beginning, my worry was commitment. I was worried by how much I would have to put in in order to takeaway as much as possible from being in this huge 90-membered (plus all our helpful and kind mentors and consultants) family. I was worried by how being a 17 year old would be a hindrance more than a motivation for me to be contributing and standing up for my perspectives in teams of this demographic.

But I guess this experience has been the greatest and most authentic proof, of how age really doesn’t matter and you’ll never have ‘enough time’. In my team, we once in a while get into conversations about age– my teammates will remark about how young I am and how old they feel, and we will laugh. But when it comes to problem solving and learning, and in the experience as a team player, we are all equals. Constantly learning, humbled and inquisitve, equals. These adults around me have their own careers, full-time work days or part-time jobs, they are studying in universities or polytechnics or ITEs, or in the midst of their first internships. We each have a heavy plate of commitments. But here’s where we come in as one another’s pillars of support, and together we hold up each other’s plates and share the load of our service project such that in every step of the way, we all manage to take moments to remind one another of our purpose, and this purpose supplies us the strength we need to make time.

youthcorpssgI wouldn’t say this journey has been a breeze and we’ve all been skipping along the way basking in the joys of being the pioneer batch in this prestigious aspirant journey. Instead, I’d like to acknowledge each and every pioneer in this journey for their constant hard work, this journey has been one of determined problem-solving, undying desire to serve and never-ending learning. Every month for two days, we step into a new training venue, stationery before us, thinking caps on and open minds; we learn and we apply. It’s difficult. 

But at the same time, it’s the most beautiful part; to see that aspirants want more than anything to be serving the needs of communities who require a helping hand or a platform to be empowered, and to see the aspirants work for it. 

I’ve tried long and hard in this post to be describing to the best of my abilities the joys of my newfound family, and to share with you as true a reflection of an aspirant’s journey as I possibly can. And if this sounds like the sort of thing that would make your heart beat slightly faster, your mind work that much harder and it would be something you’d like to say you’ve spent some part of your life investing in, there’s no better time than now, and I’d be happy to tell you more about the selection process! 

 

Why I Continue to Blog

magic microphoneThis morning I realise it is my 12th month blogging, that makes it almost a year since I’ve opened this WordPress account and constantly updated it with all the things I have to say and share. So I thought I’d take sometime to talk about why I continue to blog

The story starts in a period of my Year 4 life when teachers were asking us to write personal essays, my Odyssey of the Mind programme coaches sat us down for one-to-one reflections and career talks were streaming through the gates of our school. As we reflected and slowly brought closure to our journey in secondary school, we were driven to think also about what was next for us in the future, or who we’ve become over the course of these 4 years. That’s when I thought about what my RGS has taught me about being a kind, compassionate and loving leader, and about being myself. And being sensitive by nature, attempting to untie all these knots I had tied for myself was a painful process. So one reason why I blog is because I needed an emotional outlet for my feelings and thoughts to go, without subjecting anyone to the unnecessary obligation of listening to them. 

And peer pressure had a small part to play– ever since my Facebook album documenting my adventures and happenings (which was actually meant as a photo diary for myself) started to encourage many others to follow my footprints across Singapore, the encouragement from my friends and random strangers to start a blog to talk about these happenings and adventures has given birth to my WordPress. 

But finally, the most important reason why my WordPress continues to exist is because of the potential of the media. Fast backwards to last year, when an inspiring speaker took the stage at the SKM conference I attended, he shared that media is like a magic microphone, where whatever you say can be heard by many more multiplied than if you tried any other form of outreach. And this sort of reach was powerful, if we only shared the right and meaningful things. In addition, at the Singapore Writer’s Festival last year, the literary scene of SIngapore has been scrutinised and examined, the local and international writers ended the last year forums of the festival with suggestions on how the scene should continue to advance from hereon. And that reinforced my belief on the importance of expressing our views with mediums available. So I’ve come to act upon this belief, hat if there’s something you’d like for more people than yourself and your social circle to know, even if they don’t necessarily agree, here’s how you can use media to help you amplify your voice. 

To today, (I think) my reasons still stand and while I’ve opened debate and comments that came along with this medium of my sharing and self expression, I’m not here to convince anyone about anything but I’m glad these are signs of reflection and thought from my readers. And with every visit to my WordPress, it contributes to the numbers that continues to remind me that people are reading and they are listening, and thinking; that makes me rid of all the unnecessary barriers I build for myself about sharing my emotions and thoughts online and click ‘Publish’ anyway.  

The Little Sort of Kind

Here’s a video that truly resonated with me this morning, produced by a friend whom I’ve been fortunate to cross paths with about a year ago. She’s one of the people who constantly inspire me with her unlimited capacity to love and share, and this video truly reflects a very important thing that people like her and our friendship reminds me of— that every little thing counts. It sounds cliche and overused, but it’s exactly because we are too obsessed about tangible takeaways and big, significant, world changing impacts that we spend way too much time pursuing them and forgoing the little things that are equally, if not more, important along the way. These are the things that reflect our values and make us feel deeply.

Weeks since the term started have been a frenetic bustle and it’s been a series of ups and downs; but times like this week, I have been a recipient for these random acts of kindness, and it has brought my spirits up and encouraged me to get by this week more than these kind people around me can imagine. A simple chocolate bar, a small note, a pat on the back or just a hug, these small physical acts of kindness have given me strength over this past half a term. I think these are the people and the things I would remember best about my two years in college and be constantly thankful for these friends, who prove to be here for the long haul time and again. 

So thank you to the friends who constantly show me genuine love and care and thank you to Sabrina for this well-done video! 

On a side note, happy national day SIngapore!

happy national day