Give and Take

In 2 weeks from publishing this piece, 35 friends and family came together to pool 1326SGD (approximately 930USD) to be contributed to the Room to Read Girls’ Education Program. This sum can support at least 3 girls in the next year.

magic microphone

The International Day of Giving is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the United States and widely recognized by shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Also known as #GivingTuesday, the annual affair rides on the holiday sales to encourage individuals, organisations and communities to give generously to a cause of their belief. Every year, #GivingTuesday has served as an important reminder for me to be thankful for privilege and of noblesse oblige (that privilege entails responsibility). Then, compelled by my belief in the power of influence, I share the #GivingTuesday stint with those around me whom I care about dearly in hopes that a spark will start a fire. This piece is for Giving Tuesday 2016.

#GivingTuesday (2013-2015)

My first initiative began in 2013 at Year 4, bringing #TreatsOnGivingTuesday out on the streets – this involved handing out goodies to strangers on public transport or on the streets as I went about the day, in advocacy for kindness that (contrary to popular belief) takes little time out of our days to practice. 2 years of #TreatsOnGivingTuesday saw almost a hundred Kindness Advocates join me on board; amongst whom, closest of friends to acquaintances. We actively practiced kindness and in return, forged friendships and rediscovered hope.

Last year in 2015, Giving Tuesday was a time for reflection on my Watoto Journey – in conclusion of the 3 years for which I had been rallying classmates to give monthly contributions to Sponsor a Child with Watoto Organisation. A holistic care programme initiated as a response to the overwhelming number of orphaned children and vulnerable women in Uganda. The Watoto model involves medical care, trauma counselling, education and spiritual discipleship; pursuing the dream of rebuilding Uganda by investing in the next generation of children and women.

The #GivingTuesday 2016 Cause – Education

One year exactly since my exit from formal education to the ocean of uncertainty, I hope to dedicate this Giving Week to celebrating education. What has been the most critical investment, instrumental to the individual that I am today, is completely inaccessible to at least 50 million children in the world. The quality education made compulsory and then heavily subsidized for all Singaporeans at the primary school level is only the tip of our iceberg of privilege. Then, the sturdy desks, reflective whiteboards, stationery and stationery shops, food stalls in spacious canteens, well-trained teachers and driven peers; all icing on the cake. It astounds, if not frightens, me that today, more than 72 million children of primary education age are not in school. The generation that is to take over and bring forth entire communities (even countries) further into the 21st century, large proportions of whom, illiterate. Imagine that.

Yet, the dollars and cents are enough to go around and the statistics above can change, one individual at a time. This year, my #GivingTuesday is dedicated to Room to Read Global Organisation – a global charity that believes that World Change Starts with Educated Children. Investing in education from improving infrastructure, training professionals to the keeping-children-in-school part, the organization has had an incredible track record of accountability and transparency in the past decade. The Girls’ Education Program places girls in school throughout secondary school education and keeps them there for $300/year sponsoring school fees, uniforms, textbooks and personal allowances for food and transport.

On Giving

We are too often skeptical rather than curious about donating to global charities; too often acting in silo rather than as the global citizens that we truly are; more frequently comfortable with status quo than we are willing to seek out harsh realities. The price of our inaction and oblivion is paid by fellow human beings. The paradox lies in that our fortune does not find our nation necessarily happier nor more fulfilled; we make sense of our resources against the backdrop of scarcity rather than abundance and think of our fortunes as zero-sum (if we give so another can prosper, we irrationally believe we will suffer as a result).

A teacher who attempted to teach a class about privilege had the students sit in neat rows and columns (desks in exam style seating) and placed a waste paper bin at the front of the classroom. Each student, given a crushed paper ball, was told to throw it into the waste paper bin. The students at the front of the classroom had a significantly easier time accomplishing the given task. Those at the back of the classroom though, failed in spite of committing an incredible amount of effort into the given task. Trying over and over, some students began to express unhappiness towards the “unfair disadvantage” that the students at the front enjoyed. To which, the teacher replied, “you are in the same classroom, given the same task and instructions; if there are students who can accomplish then why can’t you?” Some students at the front of the classroom, who had accomplished it almost effortlessly nodded in agreement. Soon, at the back of the classroom, infuriation and dejection emerged.

The trouble with sitting at the front row and taking merit for the seating arrangement set by chance is that we forget to turn our heads around and listen closely to those who are not us.

Get Involved

It is in my deepest hopes that by 12 December 2016 (Monday), I can rally pledges (from friends and family) of any amount and raise at least $300 for the Room to Read Global Organisation Girls’ Education Program – contributing an amount enough to keep one girl in school for the next year. Any donation counts, the value lies in our acknowledgement of privilege and the moments (albeit brief) that we dedicate to compassion. Compassion, in essence, refers to the way we choose to make someone else’s problem our own and take personal agency in the affair.

You may donate on an individual basis directly to the organization here.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that “it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

This is an invitation to be in the arena, let’s be in touch at shermaineng_1997@yahoo.com.sg. Together, we can change their story.

Photo 24-12-14 7 24 22 pm

In celebration of the schooling years that have been put on temporary pause

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