Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thank You, God

... for Your loving affirmations yesterday.

I didn't want to go for the Feast of Tabernacles at my church yesterday... I wasn't feeling well with asthma and coughing, and also... I felt really sad about M.

But after a two-hour journey through the rain, I made it anyway!

Oh it was so nice to be welcomed back! I'm always amazed at how much love I receive from people around me - that they really miss me and show me how glad they are to see me. I am just so so blessed to be surrounded by beautiful friends.

When it came to the time of altar call, I went up, and the speaker, Barbara Lanzdorf, prayed over me. At first she said, "You're a fanatic" and I was like, "grooooooaaannnnn... not again!" because she said that the last time - that I would be a fanatic for God. (in a good sense! *lols*)

But then she said, "You will take God's light where there is no light... Because many people will come up to you who have problems and God will give you wisdom to speak to them... There are people who will come to you who don't know their destiny and God will give you wisdom to tell them their destiny."

That was E-XACT-LY the words that I so needed to hear, God. I need Your wisdom with the people whom I meet in the work that I do. Thank You so much!

And that loving affirmation from You - nobody else can replace that. Nobody else can affirm me... because God, nobody else but You, knows me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

EA: Camp!!

Camp was amazing! Wow!! It was a real kickstart to our journey on Expedition Agape 2010.

Camp officially started at 8p.m. on Friday the 17th of Sept. David Lee checked in first and held the fort for us.

Shufen was next to arrive after me - so glad to see her again xx!! Serene and Calvin, and Thomas with his car loaded full of Things-To-Bring, arrived next.

Then the youths, who had been piling up at the HarbourFront MRT waiting for each other, came in a big bunch - Xiao Yang, Azhari, Razanoor and Donovan.

Wendy came along with Bellah and Nina - the cousins!

Phi Fern hopped in, and had a miniature crisis of sorts when she couldn't find her wallet! She dashed out again in obliging Thomas' car and Shufen tagged along so she could get her laptop from the office to complete more work for Expedition Agape (the team is seriously hardworking, wei! Camp also we still work!)

Farhan and Nuraini were the last two youths we waited for - and kudos to Nuraini, she came even though she was still ill with the flu, sniffling and with a slight temperature.

David showed us the rest of the humongous Labrador Adventure Campsite... the canteen had to be seen to be believed! We loved the bunk rooms - clean and spacious. The boys eyed the basketball court immediately!

Our last pitstop was the huge hall upstairs where we started with icebreakers. First we had to memorise each others' names (of course!) and then we played a game where we were divided into two groups for Russian cum Singaporean roulette. We span round in circles, and when David tapped anyone on the soulder, the two persons he tapped had to quickly turn and shout out one's name before the other.

My group was so gung-ho mahnz... we were down to the very last chance....and we pulled back the game and WON!!! Mua-ha-ah-ahahaha-ha!!! *pats self on back and the whole group too!*

Then we sat on the ground and talked about what made a successful team - what were the positive attributes. Cards were distributed and we were asked to choose three attributes in ourselves that we felt were our contribution to a team. When we'd finished, David, asked us to find 1) 2/3 others 2) with different genders (yeah, there are only two genders.. fine!!) and 3) with different attributes from yours.

Everyone scrambled to find people with differing attributes on their cards, and by the time the dust settled... four new groups were born - Happy, E.A., Same-Same-But-Different, and Bandito!!

In my group was Farhan, Zhan Yang, Phi Fern and myself and of course, this was one of the best groups ever... *koff koff*....

Err... so moving on. We set our Vision - the reasons why we were in Expedition Agape. And we wrote our Brick Walls - the things that stopped us from achieving our vision.

And we decided on our Agreements - the things we promised to do and not do during our Expedition Agape journey. David set our Punishment too - 10 squats/ pushups/ or situps with an additional 10 more for every 'failure'. Zhan Yang suggested an extra punishment - expulsion after the third failure! Thomas, our soft-hearted team-mie, came up with another suggestion - if any member failed, ALL of us in the whole EA team would do the punishments!

And then it was beddy-bed time.... much to our delight, the campsite even provided free 3-in-1 coffees, teas and milos, so everyone had a good snack before hitting the sack.

And to the BOYS' delight, Thomas' friends came to surprise him with a birthday cake and a huge box of doughnuts for everyone to share! It took quite a while to herd them up to bed after that...

The next morning, bright and early, we had... YOGA! Courtesy of master of ceremonies of CampVision - Paul Goh! I think my fave part was at the very end when we got to lie on our backs and relax every single muscle.... *snoooooorrreeeeee*. It was also cool to see the youths take the initiative to do the counting for each exercise, and hilarious to see how some of the youths dashed through the counting when they couldn't hold the position anymore! Paul gave plenty of positive affirmations and feedback, which set the tone for the rest of the glorious day...

Breakfast first, of course! Bread and buns and jam. I think we had the generous allowance of half an hour for breakkie *grin*.

David drew the lessons for the day on three principles:-

1) Be proactive, not reactive
2) Begin with the end in mind
3) Put 1st things 1st

David started us of by giving us little round coloured mats and telling us, "The game starts.... NOW"

Total silence. We stared at him, he grinned back at us. Cool. Err.... Calvin finally expressed what we were all thinking, "How to play the game?!"

David called him to the front and whispered in his ear for some minutes. Calvin nodded, nodded and then, "OKay everyone, THIS is how we play this game!" We had to step on our little round coloured mats and together, figure out how to flip our mats over whilst still standing on them.

Bandito finished first, followed by SSBD... last was Happy, who laughed a lot, so yeap, they totally lived up to their name!

David then debriefed us - what had we thought when he told us to start the game without giving us any instructions? Why had none of us, except Calvin, asked him how to play the game? Are we proactive, or reactive?

We discussed the difference between the two and how we ourselves were in our daily lives. We then talked within our group about the different areas where we were more reactive than proactive and came up with ideas of how we can be more proactive in those areas.

David set us on this rad game called Move Turn Change Rotate and Crash... In little choo-choo train lines of four, we had to move (go forward) change (everyone in your train turns to the back) rotate (the last person from the back comes to the front to lead the train) and crash (everyone jumps in the air and rushes to make a new train!).

We trotted around the hall going choo-choo (David's rule of the game- must make train sound!) and running faster and faster and faster as the game sped on until... end of the game! There were THREE trains of FIVE people, and one lost soul. Guess who was the lost soul? =.=

Snack break and then down to the low rope course where David instructed us through Bellah, who gamely stepped up to the challenge, how to play the next game. We were to cross the rope course group by group ie. the whole group grappling the ropes like monkeys, and the rest of the groups would stand in front and behind the group to support them.

A few false whilst we worked out what we were supposed to do, and Happy was on their way! They did real well for the first rope, and were mid-way through their second rope when they tried an aerial 180 degree turn (I swear that's what it seemed like!) and fell heavily on their tooshies! Err... yeah, the rest of us supporters were supposed to catch them, but I think we were just too fascinated with their complicated turn to remember!

They gamely went on again and got through right to the end! *applause! applause!* Group after group went on after them and got through really well since we'd all learnt from the pioneering first group. And special kudos to Bellah who did an awesome job of instructing - animated and clear!

David then led us to the middle quadrangle - our supposedly fire drill spot (did anyone catch the fact that the fire drill which we were supposed to conduct, somehow....never mind!) There was a 'world map' mural painted in the middle of the quadrangle. Zhan Yang and Phi Fern volunteered to be the Game Masters for this game. Cones and mats were set in the middle of the world map. Zhan Yang and Phi Fern would direct us through the world map whilst we were blindfolded.

We sorted ourselves into two groups. Zhan Yang, who was leading my group, agreed a 'secret code' with us - if he said "L L L" that meant we were winning, if he said "W W W" that meant we were losing!

And ... start! Step step step... darn! I knocked a cone. Walk three paces back. Step step step... and Zhan Yang started yelling, "L L L! L L L!" Well, we continued walking, whilst he shouted instructions with intermittent, "L L L"s and... crossed the finishing line first! Wheeeeeeee!

We watched whilst Phi Fern's group continued the game. After a little bit, David empowered Zhan Yang by giving him the chance to lead Phi Fern's group and they zoomed through to the finishing line.

No doubt about it, Zhan Yang really proved his mettle as a leader in this game. We acknowledged and affirmed his leadership and clear directions, and then turned to Phi Fern to debrief.

And... mini crisis. The toll of the game was pretty heavy by then, I think. What really touched me though is that, not just the volunteer ladies rallied around to give Phi Fern big hugs and listen to her, but the youths - Bellah and Nina and Nuraini - also came round to be with her and comfort her. It was such an awesome 'moment'.

And Zhan Yang gave his best comfort too! "Ok, first joke... A man and his gorilla went hunting through the woods..." Groooaannnnn!!! Guys! But it was so sweet of him lah!

After a while we all dried our tears (and Phi Fern, can I just say to you a big THANK YOU for being so real... you restored my self-respect because otherwise... I would have been the only doob who cried at camp!) and went on to the spider-web.

David explained that from that moment on, there was to be no sound from any of us. We had to get the team through the spider web without talking, with no discussion, no arrangements, no nothing. And... no 'hole' in the web could be used twice.

Sounds easy right? Done before right? Okay, here's the problem - the spider web was meant for primary school sized kids =.= Hoo boy. But the youths rose to the occassion, Farhan especially shining in this activity as he directed (with much finger pointing and some really vivid expressions) how we were to get each other through the web. I also must acknowledge Azhari for trying and trying again - it was not easy for him and it was a riot to see everyone directing him how to go through with the most frantic gestures and eyeball-popping facial expressions.

The last one to come thru was Zhan Yang who was left alone on the other side with very few holes to choose from and about 45 seconds left to go! He poked through one, and he poked through another one, and he ... finally got through JUST in the nick of time! We all cheered!!!

Debrief was seriously funny after that because, after so long of not talking, everyone forgot they could go ahead and talk again!

But lunch was arriving and everyone was famished, so we dashed off to 'everyone, wash your hands' instructions from Serene.

After lunch, we went back up to the hall, but moved to the back which was much cooler. David came up with these curious klonky plastic tubes... we knocked them on the ground, and instead of going 'plack' like you'd expect from a plastic tube, a clear 'plonk' sound rang out. Of course nobody could resist whacking them on the floor then, so there was a perfect cacophony of plink plonk plunk going on in the room!

After we'd had a chance to try out the tubes, David explained that each was a musical note. Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Doh! He got us to play a rhythm according to our musical notes, and a melody rang out! Nina then organized into groups and got us to play the musical scale. She kept us going at it too, until we got it right! Thomas kept getting it WRONG, so finally, penalty! He had to dance in the centre whilst we played the 'music' for him to dance his tribal dance to!

Then we tried rolling two balls around in a group the fastest way we could. Here the youths proved ingenious as they directed us on how we could best get the balls around passing through everyone's hands.

Readers, guess what - we achieved doing this in ONE second, with a group of 16 people. I dare you to break our record! Mua-hahahahaha!

Then we took time out to talk about our goals in life - what did we want to achieve and do during Expedition Agape? What were our goals in these six months? Out came the faithful cards, and we drew pictures and shared about what we hoped to achieve before the 6 months were up.

We shared out magazines that we'd brought to camp and lay them on the floor. Each of us took a piece of artblock paper and clipped out pictures and words from the magazines to stamp onto our paper to make a vision collage!

Zhan Yang zoomed through this activity with a huge poster of F4. The rest of us took quite a while, especially Shufen and Sophia who gamely used up every square inch of their posters! Mine was only half-full by the time time was up (with gaping holes in the half-full part!) so I folded it in half and pasted it to the wall anyway!

There were dreams of travelling around the world, there were dreams of performing, there were dreams of setting up a sports centre... lots and lots of dreams. Dreams that we hoped through the lessons we'd learnt to never give up, to always pursue, we would achieve.

Then we gave the youths a challenge. We gave them a budget of SGD$10 per pax. With that money, they were to plan, budget and prepare a BBQ for the whole team, volunteers plus youths! We volunteers lazed as the youths went into heavy discussion of what they wanted to buy, what they wanted to prepare, and here Bellah really shone - clearly and concisely, Bellah came up with the prices and quantities per pack for every single item on the list and totalled up the whole grocery list for the rest of the group! Wow!!

The youths changed and then went off to market, whilst we volunteers took a quick nap (not lah! Where got time!), had a meeting (more like it, right?) and prepared the BBQ pit.

7:30 p.m. and the youths came back and poured the change into my hands - SGD$0.85. "Err... hello... you guys spent SGD$149.15 ah?!" "Uh-huh" ... and they held up their shopping bags. Hoo boy!!!

We ate.... and we ate... and we ate.... and the time for the next activity came and went, and we were still eating... Wah lau eh, we were like stuffed potatoes by the time we finished that whole lot! And we still had enough left over for many activites! Thomas and Nuraini patiently stood by the grill roasting and roasting chicken wings until the TWO HUGE PACKETS were finished!

But, we learnt something new - did you all know that cheddar cheese melted on anything - mushrooms, crab sticks, sausages, whatever - is seriously mm-mmm delicious?! Ooooohhhhhhh!!! Thanks David for the tip!

Of course AFTER the BBQ, we were too full and sleepy to do anything else but blink sleepily as David debriefed us. There were quite a few nodding heads and 'blur' eyes by then... and soon we KO'ed... literally.

How literally? I was awake at 6a.m. I knew the boys were planning a b'ball game at 6a.m. Nobody woke up. Kekekkkeke....

So the next morning, the youths led the yoga, and that was fun too, as the youths pulled out their fave bits from the yoga session the day before to torture us with! Nuraini by her turn just put us through some stretching exercises that she had learnt as a dancer that made us yelp!

Trotted back upstairs ... and my mind is so blur by now, I can't remember what we did.. sorry!

I do remember that last of all, we had to clear up the dorms and canteen and toilets... thanks to Nuraini especially, who had really taken up the challenge of keeping the places clean, none of the areas were terribly dirty. The girls were awesome as they scrubbed and scrubbed the girls toilet - I don't think it's ever sparkled quite so much!

Then last session... photo-taking by Shufen who had to rush off straight after that (thanks babe for the beautiful piccies!) ... and then David asked us to close our eyes... and we remembered... what had happened throughout camp, what we had learnt, the things we had done, and the goals we had set, the visions we had for EA and the brick walls, and the whole journey ahead.

Then it was time to give farewell hugs, and waves goodbye, as the youths pulled on their backpacks and left the campsite...

The youths were an awesome bunch, that is the strongest point in my memory. Farhan, Razanoor, Azhari, Zhan Yang, Bellah, Nina, Nuraini... each of you were beautiful, inspirational, had unique talents, and gave your all to the 2night-2day camp. Looking so much forward to the journey ahead with all of you. Agape!

And not forgetting, David, thanks for an amazing camp programme and for running it all by yourself! You RAWK!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meeting up with Lucy

So glad to meet up with Lucy last night... I don't think we've ever really had a chance to sit down and talk... She's always been just this lady who is THE leading person for sign language interpretation in Malaysia.

She asked me to help her borrow some books from my ex-sign language teacher who is now staying in Singapore, and she offered to treat me for dinner too! So, so sweet!

She really was a God-sent to me, as Lucy told me about the course that she is on right now for children with special needs. I thought that was disabled children and therefore unrelated to my dream, but she clarified that it included children who've been abused and neglected etc. which is PERFECT! The hours are flexible and not too demanding, and it's about what I expected to pay and have budgeted to pay.

I'm really happy.

Best of all, we got to share about work with sexually abused children. Lucy is Vice-President in the National Coalition Against Child Sexual Abuse in Malaysia and we talked and talked and TALKED about her experiences and what we wanted to do etc. I was so so so so happy, because I normally can't talk to ANYONE about my dreams... people are uncomfortable when you bring up child sexual abuse, and often they get a little too shocked. So I keep quiet so as not to 'spoil the mood' when I'm with my friends.

This time I had a licence to talk! And Lucy told me something so promising - I shared my dream of setting up a centre and especially of working with the kids who can't talk about it. She said we can discuss and see - she has a 3 storey building that someone donated and she is going to turn it for helping the Deaf. She pointed out that she works with kids who can't talk, and I'll be wanting to help kids who won't talk, so it's similar, so let's see!

One thing which made me sad... I brought up the issue of the case against the teacher in one of the Deaf Schools who was accused of molesting three of the students. The case was eventually dismissed for lack of evidence. Apparently the most prominent 'defence' girl who was almost raped, became promiscuous after being molested, and that prejudiced the case.

I don't know what to say.... It's so normal. I am so sad for the girl who had the courage to tell but who has now discovered there is no justice anyway, even after her courageous fight. I'm sad because, she has chosen the road to let others use her body after being touched.

I really understand that. I liken it to the wall that all of us have around us. When you are touched, it's like that wall that normally protects you is destroyed and smashed. And after that, I don't know why, you just can't seem to build up that wall anymore. And anyone can come in and touch you and you just can't say 'no'.... And I don't know why either, but somehow people seem to know that it's okay to touch you....

I wish I could talk to that girl... but I know I can't. I just have to focus on the kids who will come along my path when I pursue my dream.Lucy shared that her work has made a difference because the children really TALKED about the abuse. I'm amazed! I just couldn't believe that you could get kids to talk the way it's being conducted right now so openly. But it could.

She also trained the parents to be quick to pick up the signals.... which is great... I wish more parents were trained, because... it's not that kids don't tell; it's that parents don't listen.

:> Sometimes when I write blogposts like these, friends will ask me why my blog so sad. My answer to anyone who thinks so now is - because this is MY blog and I'm going to write about what interests ME and my life. If you don't like the content, there are others interesting blogs to read besides mine... I don't mind if you ignore mine.

But I care about this... and I'm going to write about this... because not many people do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Early Birthday Treat!

Wow.... Debra asked me if I was doing anything this Saturday and I said yes, Expedition Agape orientation camp! And when I asked her what was up, she said "Your birthday".

Awwwsssss... I didn't expect she will remember! That was so so so sweet of her! She took me out to celebrate yesterday instead :).

Debra ... the only photo she'd let me take of her the whole night! We've been fwens since primary skool... she was actually a year ahead of me. She was such a pale, strange, morbid kid in an oversized pinafore and a real gift in art and writing!

Roasted garlic and olive oil with vinegar. Uhm... you dip the bread in the olive oil and vinegar, and Debra says the roasted garlic is nice in between the bread, but personally I ate the garlic like peanuts at a Chinese dinner.

Tiramisu! Debs was craving for it! Very nice and floaty!

Yummy bread.... they bake it fresh in the restaurant and it was a meal by itself!

Gnocchi... I don't normally fancy it, but this was really good... bursting with flavour. Debs and I shared a plate... she knows my appetite all too well. Besides, she was full too by the time we finished!

The whole table spread is so excellently delishious!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

EA: One life changed IS a difference

So I said there were two things that I disagreed with... the second one was when the aforementioned person mentioned that many people were running programs. And to donors' minds, they would think, "How many people are participating in your program - just ten? How can impacting ten lives make any difference?"

Okay, friends who know me well, you know that at this point, Gillian would normally jump up and start a tirade about: how can anyone say such a thing, and don't you know that these kids are as precious and have as much potential as anybody etc. etc., right?

Well, friends, you'll be sooooo proud of me - I exercised wonderful self-restraint and did not even show with a blink of an eye (well, I think I did blink - twice!) how much that statement shocked me.

Oh by the way, this person is just repeating what she feels donors would say - they aren't representative of her own views. She's a valuable and dedicated team member of Expedition Agape!

But... ten lives NOT make a difference?! Excuse me?!!! How could such a thought flash through anyone's mind? Ten lives impacted for life not make a difference? ONE life changed, makes a difference! Ten lives changed can impact the world!

Listen, I'm not exaggerating...

Well, okay, let's start with just logical thinking. Just the first logical thought that should sweep through a sensible person's head is that these kids are called at-risk because they are at-risk of going either way - being responsible (ahem!) members of society and on the other hand, being influenced by the circumstances surrounding them into becoming... err.. less well-accepted members of society.

If a person becomes a criminal, a prostitute, a drug addict... doesn't that impact their family and community and country for worse? And saddest of all, doesn't it waste a person's life?

See, the kids get mercy because right now, they're still young. But once they grow into adulthood and are no longer 'cute', society reaches the limits of its patience. Then what will happen to these promising lives? Will they choose behavior that will harm and damage the lives of those who, today, can't see how impacting ten lives could ever make a difference?

And then on the other hand... who made you God to say that these ten lives are worth nothing? For isn't that what you are saying when you say that ten lives impacted for a difference means nothing?

You are saying that out of these ten lives, no Marie Curie will come. Out of these ten lives, no Mahatma Gandhi will come. Out of these ten lives, there will be no Mother Theresa. Out of these ten lives, there is no potential Isaac Newton, no Rembrandt, no Nelson Mandela, no Lee Kuan Yew, for that matter! Out of these ten lives, there will come NOTHING... so don't waste your money on them, because it matters not what impact is made on their lives.

Who made you God to decide that? For in every child, there is a seed of GREATNESS. And every person has the potential to create the next DIFFERENCE.

These ten lives mean as much as your life. If you deserve a chance, then so do they! If you deserve opportunity, so do they!

If you, looking at a child, think him worthless, than I feel sorry for you. For you've lost that love of humanity that is WHY we are all part of humanity.

We are here to create opportunities for one another, to love one another, to inspire each other, to give each other a helping hand. When I believe in you enough to invest in you, I see your potential, and I give you a chance to grow and fulfil that potential because you will benefit humankind with your gifts. And we all benefit together.

So think... ONE life changed, IS a worthwhile difference.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

EA: Every kid deserves a chance

There is one thing that one of the members of EA brought up a couple of meetings ago that made me wince. Actually there were a couple of things. This person is one of the most 'frank' members of the team, and I like that about her, that she can be real.

She said that one of her friends had asked, 'Who are the kids that you are bringing on this trip in Expedition Agape? And how do you choose them?'

Ooh... that made me wince. But as she pointed out, it was a valid question from donors who did want to know where their hard-earned money was going to.

Okay, okay.... I guess I'm just too much of an idealist. I like to see it as it doesn't matter who you are, or what you've done, when you come to join EA. That there is no 'criteria' to exclude you or criteria to 'include' you.

I guess there must be some... I don't really know what the criteria are.

And I love the fact that one of the criteria for kids who join is that ideally they should have gone through CV - love that simply because CV is a camp for those kids who aren't 'pretty' in society's sight.

Do you know what I mean by 'pretty'? I mean the big eyed, sad eyed, little tots with their thumbs in their mouth and dirty, torn clothing that pull at your heart when you see them in charity appeal ads.

CV kids... are all kinds. But on the main, they're pretty darn tough. Love that :).

I guess my dream would be that each kid had a chance based on the luck of the draw. That, because you want this (the kids at CV are asked to tick a form if they want to come for EA), you have as much chance as any kid of having it.

You may not be the prettiest, you may not be the smartest, you may not be the nicest, you may not be the bravest, you may not be the best kid to come through our program... all you have to be is just you. Just because you're you, YOU qualify as a candidate.

I guess I'm being unfair because... well, good kids do deserve something more for being good, right? But then, are we just going to let the no-goods fall through the cracks? And who defines who is a 'no-good'?

I was reading Dave Pelzer's book about his teen years in foster care. Everyone knows Dave Pelzer now as the Child Called It.... the little boy who was eventually ranked the third worst case of child abuse recorded in Canada.

When he was finally rescued... burnt, stabbed, bruised, starved... he went rather wild in foster care. He slammed doors when he was angry, he was accused of starting a fire, he was 'mouthy', he sometimes stole...

But today, he is a motivational speaker reaching tens of thousands of youths at-risk and adults with his own life story and with the message that you can do anything and be anything you wanna be if you work hard enough and hang tough.

My point is.... once upon a time, almost nobody would have picked out this runty, undersized, squinty, sad-eyed, angry and disruptive kid as anyone worth being chosen as "Most Likely to Succeed". They'd have labelled him a 'no-good'. But, they'd be wrong, wouldn't they?

People do wrong things. People make wrong choices. Kids act out. People get angry. But all it sometimes takes is just ONE chance... one person to believe in you enough and to show you that they believe in you, to turn around somebody's life.

I heard that it was hard to see the tangible results after the last EA. But I believe in the seeds sown in their lives. Seeds are small, hardy things that hide underground. But when the time comes, mighty trees grow out of them that can't be shaken. In time to come, the 'trees' of EA will show.

And on that day, I hope every kind of boy and girl will be represented amongst the 'trees'... the good, and the branded 'bad', the attractive and the 'ugly', the high-achievers and the 'hopeless cases'... all on that day standing tall and strong and proud.

I believe in EA. I believe in this as a program that works for every kind of kid. I believe that it will bring changes in every youth who goes through it. So I pray every kind of kid gets to go through it and have that one chance, even if it IS 'unpopular' with the donors.

Perhaps it will take us having more 'success' cases before people come to see that every kid deserves a chance.

Penang - my hometown

Penang in the morning...

Penang in the evening

This is the view from the room I stay in my dad's apartment when I come back to Penang... quite a rare trip for me! I love the peace of my childhood island... the way nobody really 'hurries'... there is a feel in the air that life is moving slowly, so take your time and relax....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Little Dragon

A few years ago, I watched a documentary on Mount Wudang - the centre for Chinese Wushu training. They featured especially three students who were so talented, they were given the honorific title of 'Dragon'.

The littlest student to be given this title was called "Little Dragon". She was a small girl who had been sent to Mount Wudang by her mother. Her mother had remarried, and her stepfather and stepbrothers and sisters ill-treated her. For her own safety, her mother sent her away. I thought it was rather ironic that she chose Mount Wudang, as the severe treatment meted out to the students in beatings and hardships are well-known.

One thing which Little Dragon said stuck in my mind - she said, "I miss my mother very much. I hate my father. When I grow up, I'm going to kill him." She stopped speaking, and turned her face away from the camera. A tear rolled down her cheek... and the interviewer paused the interview.

Little Dragon eventually left Mount Wudang to go home because she missed her mother too much. I wonder what happened to her at home. Did she finally find peace and resilience to bear her environment until she grew up even in the face of open rejection? Or did the hate keep growing in her heart and did she eventually have to leave home because of that hate, and because her mother could not, would not protect her from abuse?

And what is love, if love means you will not protect your own daughter, preferring married life with a man who ill-treats your daughter to a life as a single woman struggling alone but with your daughter at peace and happy?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Pair of Chopsticks

I'm reading a book a friend gave me for my birthday written by the same author of 'The Good Women of China'.

In it was an analogy that I'd never heard of before - A boy is like a roof beam; strong providers who hold up the roof of the household. A girl is like a pair of chopsticks; fragile, workday tools to be used and discarded.

It reminded me that the opportunities that I have as a woman, and a Chinese woman at that, are rare and to be treasured and to be chased and grasped with all my strength.

I wonder what the women who went before us, who did not have the same opportunities, or who fought for their independence and for respect as Chinese women would have to say if they saw us today? Would they be scornful and contemptuous of how we whine and laze? Would they berate us with exasperation for wasting our opportunities? Would they admonish us to make full use of the chances we have to be successful and self-sufficient?

Endurance. If I were to choose a word that exemplifies the Chinese people, it would be our incredible capacity to endure. Our resilience in the face of hardship. Our stoic silence in the face of suffering. It is the distinct mark of a Chinese woman.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Beautiful People

I met such lovely people over the weekend...

When I arrived in Singapore, I had to re-activate a dormant bank account in POSB. Armed with luggage (I said I just arrived!), I trotted into the nearest POSB right next to where the bus stopped (yeap, I'm terrifically blessed always!) and went to the counter I was directed to.

The lady there was so helpful! She took down my details and patiently changed them one by one (and trust me, there were a LOT of details to change... I was half my age now when I opened the bank account!). She would ask, "What about this?" and "What about that?" and never minded having to change yet another detail.

There was a button thingy to press for 'rate my service'... and it had the funniest requirements - it asked whether the officer had smiled and said good morning and thank you and all those sort of things. I pressed "Excellent" even though she was somewhat serious, because her service WAS excellent... who cared whether or not she smiled? She was willing to go the extra mile for me as a customer, and I was so, so grateful.

I left POSB so uplifted after that encounter!

I finally got to meet Jayne whom I had heard the other Expedition Agape members talk about. Jayne works in JetAirways and by the side, she organizes help for people in less fortunate areas like Sikkim. She is a decisive young woman... very much a leader. She shared with so much passion about the people in Sikkim and the changes that she wanted to bring there. The work that she does, persuading JetAirways to give discounts etc. and allow extra luggage for people who are visiting these remote areas to help the people in the community, is above and beyond her jobscope.

She, too, is somewhat serious. But so full of passion for people with a great heart to change the world.

On Sunday, I bought a birthday cake from Secret Recipe for Phi Fern, one of the EA team members. And the uncle who runs the place at first sounded awfully grumpy-ish. But you know what - when I went to collect the cake, he hadn't decorated it with the name yet. And he told me, "Oh, wait ah..." and then he proceeded to not just write the name and the Happy Birthday message, he lovingly put the flowers in gently and sprinkled beautiful sprinkles all round the cake. He did it with so much love and care, it was such a work of art after that. How I appreciated what he had done - making the cake extra-special and beautiful for someone's birthday, when he doesn't know the person! I was so touched!

And you know what else was so, so sweet? I was juggling a laptop bag, a file bag, my handbag and the birthday cake from Secret Recipe on the bus. It was somewhat jiggle-juggly to carry all this AND balance at the same time because there were no seats.

WELL! An elderly couple were sitting near to where I was standing. And the elderly man, with the sweetest smile, offered with outstretched arms to take my cake and carry it for me! Awwssss! Hearts melt!!!! I shook my head 'no' but that SO made my day and made me smile. And he made a difference, because the young lady sitting in front noticed and quickly offered too to put my cake next to her (actually there was an empty seat there but she didn't scootch over so I couldn't sit with all the 'bulk' I was carrying). Kindness truly goes round and round! I shook my head 'no' again, and for the rest of the busride I had the silliest smile on my face! I love beautiful moments of kindness amongst strangers like this!

Oh, and the kindest of blessings? I was really, really late for my flight home. I knew I couldn't change the flight because it was the cheap flight - the kind where there are no refunds, no rebates, no whatever! I was sitting in somewhat abject despair on the MRT as I watched the minutes tick away.

I rushed into the airport, collected my bag from 'left luggage' and hurried to the screen to see 'Gate Closing' next to my flight! I hurried over (somewhat slowly! I'm such a slowcoach!) to the counter and presented my passport and asked if I could board. The gentleman at the counter shook his head 'no' and said that the flight had closed, and I would need to buy a new ticket.

I was quite resigned to that - it was my own fault for dilly-dallying. But the gentleman next to him asked which flight it was, and being told the flight number, he went over to ask someone for permission to let me board the flight! <3 Awwssss.... And yes, they let me through! I hurried all the way and caught the flight without having to pay for an extra ticket!

People are so beautiful, aren't they? Inside their hearts, there is so much of 'sharing' - of you and I in this world, together, so let's all scootch over to make space and lend a helping hand. We're so different, and yet, how beautiful we make the world with our differences. I was truly blessed this entire weekend and I feel so refreshed today. What a wonderful world... truly!