This article was written by Sharlyz Ng and Bryan Darmawan who spent a month with A Good Space as content marketing interns. This was part of Crater’s METEOR! programme, which prepares students aged 14-17 to be future-ready by bringing them out of their classrooms to learn relevant real world skills.
I am an extremely logical person.
I find our society resistant to accepting change, often to the point of selfishness. There are more than 5 million people in Singapore – surely the changemaking organisations scattered all around the country would not be able to substantially create that change that they envision for our rigid society.
Guiltily, this was a thought that lingered at the back of my mind when I first joined A Good Space (AGS) in December. However, during my internship, I was tasked to interview and write an article about 3 of the 6 newly elected Committee of Management (COM) members, who oversee the growth of the co-operative.
And while this task had seemed somewhat mundane at the start, as I approach the end of my time here, the conversations I have had have given me a different perspective and a sliver of hope on changemaking in Singapore.
I hope that this article will leave you with the same insights as the interviews did for me, and allow for you to get to know AGS’ new COM members a little better.
Jennifer — Secretary
The most memorable thing that came out of my conversation with Jennifer was the Starfish Story.
As she pointed to her poster of the exact story behind her in her office, Jennifer told me that it aptly summarised her belief in changemaking and even led her to embark on her changemaking journey.
For those who are unfamiliar, the story goes something like this: A man came across a little boy by the seaside, picking up starfish that were washed up on the beach and throwing them back to the sea.
The man went up to the little boy and said, “There are so many starfish on the beach, you could not possibly make much of a difference by doing that.”
The little boy then proceeded to pick up a starfish, and threw it back to the sea. Grinning, he pointed out into the sea, and turned to the man and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
Wanting to make a change, even if it was minute, had always come naturally to Jennifer.
At 21 years old, Jennifer started mentoring youths at risk with Beautiful People, an organisation dedicated to fostering mentoring relationships that change lives. In her own youth, she had struggled due to a lack of support and guidance, which led her to believe that every youth of today deserves a mentor to nudge them in the right direction.
Fast forward a decade, she remains impressively active in the changemaking scene. On top of the volunteer work she continues to do with Beautiful People, she wrote a book, started her own company called Thy Dreams Matter and is currently working towards her 5th diploma!
When Jennifer first heard of A Good Space, she was intrigued by the idea of a co-operative for a diverse range of changemakers to come together, so she decided to join as a co-owner in May 2021.
Though relatively new, she stepped up to join the committee as the secretary because she believed she could do her bit more to help A Good Space flourish.
Inspired by her previous experiences in mentoring and coaching, she hopes to cultivate a coaching culture in AGS through asking questions, collaboration, and sharing resources so that members can create more change together as a stronger co-operative.
My conversation with Jennifer was really refreshing, as she was a really positive and open person to talk to, and was willing to share her authentic and genuine stories with me.
Christine — Treasurer
Due to unforeseen circumstances, my experience with Christine was a rather unique one. Unlike my other interviews, which happened over Zoom and lasted for at least 30 minutes, my chat with Christine ended up being a brief chat over the phone.
Yet, I was able to gather some meaningful insight as to what A Good Space and changemaking mean to her.
Christine comes from humble beginnings, and was raised in a traditional family environment where girls were moulded to become good wives and mothers.
In spite of this upbringing, she was able to make a professional name for herself. She currently stands as the CEO, senior partner and board member for multiple organisations and companies. To her, success is within our reach, only if we dare take charge and overcome our limiting beliefs.
One of the biggest things she credits her success to is mentorship. Her mentors were the ones who instilled belief in her potential, allowing her to flourish into the person she is today.
She carries on that legacy by mentoring a wide range of people, from young entrepreneurs to senior executives. In the same way her mentors pushed her to grow, she seeks to empower more individuals to unlock their full potential and achieve a mission of social entrepreneurship.
Her favourite symbol, the butterfly, represents positive change to her. The Butterfly Effect is a phenomenon which suggests that even the smallest changes can lead to larger effects, and is a key guiding principle for her work as a changemaker. She believes that when you help others, you will receive help in return, which is what circular changemaking is all about.
This links back to her affiliation with A Good Space. She joined AGS in July 2021 in support of Anthea and Vincent. As the newly elected treasurer, she hopes to contribute well to the growth of A Good Space, guiding it to become a leading co-operative helmed by excellent stewards.
As a female student myself, learning about Christine’s story was really inspiring. Being able to break away from the patriarchal norm of a woman’s purpose of merely being a housewife is definitely no easy feat, and to me is something really admirable.
Ashokan — Chairperson
While conversing with Ashokan, more fondly known as Ash by other members, one thing that I could immediately pick up was the overwhelming love that he had for his family.
His daughter was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and the direct effect it had on his family led Ash to do more to understand the condition.
In doing so, Ash came to realise that there was great misunderstanding surrounding the issue that was plaguing our society and this was what drove him to do more in spreading awareness on the issue of ADHD, correct misconceptions surrounding the condition, as well as support other families that face the same struggles.
Ash is now an advocate for mental health, mainly in the neurodivergent, and is currently serving as the Honorary Secretary of SPARK, the Society for the Promotion of ADHD Research and Knowledge.
When Ash was introduced to the idea of A Good Space, he was drawn to the idea of collaboration to make a greater impact together, as he believed that changemakers trying to work alone was not viable.
A project close to his heart that would exemplify this kind of partnership would be the SG Gratitude Pack initiative that was launched in 2020.
Amidst the national day festivities, a group of changemakers from AGS came together to repurpose NDP funpacks into gratitude packs. With a belief that the resources could have been channelled to something more meaningful, they were replaced with essential items and distributed among the migrant worker community.
It was only through this meaningful collaboration between environmental activists and migrant worker activists that they were able to bring about something refreshingly new that benefitted both their causes.
This is the spirit that Ash wants AGS to embody: one where members are more involved, and work together to create change. He stepped up to become the chairperson because it had become clear to him what A Good Space needed to become, and decided to take charge of veering it into that direction.
This interview left a lasting impression on me, particularly how Ash was able to channel his and his family’s struggles into something more to help the community. In fact, this also made me realise that many changemakers in the community enter the changemaking space because of personal experiences, and their commitment to help others going through the same challenges is truly amazing.
Listening to these changemakers talk about their passion in changemaking has led me to realise that efforts in changemaking are never futile. A common theme I found recurring in all of my interviews with the committee members was that all of them believed even the smallest change would be able to make a difference.
Hence, my biggest takeaway from writing this, and possibly my internship, would be this: making the slightest difference in one person’s life is significant and valid enough on its own, and changemaking need not shake the world.
Hi! I’m Bryan. One of my assignments during my internship was to interview and write an article about 3 out of 6 newly elected members of the Committee of Management (COM).
More specifically, I interviewed Toh Kian Beng, Wan Ting Quek and Daniel Tay, or should I say, the LEGO® specialist, mental health advocate and food waste activist of AGS.
Through the process of interviewing and researching, I learned more about them, changemaking, and the social issues in Singapore.
How well do you really know them? Read on to find out!
Toh Kian Beng – LEGO® specialist
Kian Beng is a former officer in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), where he connected and consoled families of victims, and worked with the management of shopping malls regarding fire safety.
This has shaped him to become a curious and concerned person who cares a lot about connecting with people from all backgrounds.
He is now an active and proud changemaker who uses LEGO® to build collaborative and sustainable communities through his initiative, The Ubuntu Space. LEGO® is commonly thought of as a toy. When I heard about Kian Beng using it for professional work, I jumped at the chance to ask him about it.
He said that LEGO® helps discussions by enhancing conversations. It allows people to voice out their thoughts and emotions comfortably and promotes wellness in a safe space.
Kian Beng’s dream for A Good Space Cooperative is for all members to be connected and supportive of each other, where all members personally know one another, and for this reason, he stepped up to be part of the COM.
His goal is to shape society to be a safe space where anyone has the freedom to speak their mind without being silenced. Instead of people limiting each other, he wants people to learn and grow with each other.
My key takeaway from this interview is, “If you wake up dreading going to work, that job is just not for you.”
Daniel Tay, food waste activist
You have probably seen Daniel on television and on the internet. Did you know that he spent only $5.50 on food in one year?
When I asked him why he is a changemaker, he said, “I see problems in society that people do not bother to help, so I make it my responsibility.”
Through his change-making initiatives, Daniel collects unsellable food from wholesalers, importers and retailers, and gives them to people who want it. He has inspired many others to do the same in order to reduce food waste and reduce food insecurity in Singapore.
Daniel works to shape society into one where rescued food is normalised, and no one will feel embarrassed to collect and eat food that is not sellable.
His dream for A Good Space Cooperative is to have members who are well connected and have strong relationships with each other. He wants to build a cooperative where members feel proud to be a part of, because of the contribution to society that A Good Space members collectively make, and he believes this will also attract people to join us.
During our interview, I found it meaningful when Daniel said that it’s important for young people to spend time exploring new things, to find what you like and values that you stick by. Do not get demoralized and pressured to do things that go against your own morals.
Wan Ting Quek, mental health advocate
Through her life experiences, Wan Ting has come to see the importance of caring and loving oneself while fighting for important causes.
She sees many people who do good work for others, but unfortunately at the cost of themselves and their mental health. She wants to change that. She wants people to be more true to ourselves, to be more present with ourselves, and with each other.
Wan Ting wants to build a society where we can all accept ourselves for who we are, and others for who they are. A society where every shape, form, and colour is celebrated. Where we do not hate or hurt each other, but instead connect and love each other.
She wants to build A Good Space Cooperative into a place where everyone can be themselves, where every thought and emotion is honoured. Where we can all voice out anything that they want, and also to take responsibility for them at the same time.
To her fellow and budding changemakers, Wan Ting has this to share:
Each of these members stepped up to the COM to make A Good Space Cooperative and change-making in Singapore better than what it is now.
Here’s to a great year and to being a more connected and growing cooperative!