Emily Teng selected for Global Facebook Community Leadership Program

Our founder and ‘Chief of Awesome’, Emily Teng, was selected in 2018 to be one of just 115 global leaders as part of Facebook’s Community Leadership Program. One of her fellows, Roy Munin, shares about the program and what it means to Community Leaders, like Emily, around the world . He shares:

“In June of 2017, Facebook updated its core mission to: “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”. In February 2018, it announced its Community Leadership Program (FCLP), a program to provide grants, training and support to people with a track record of using Facebook for good.

6000 community leaders from around the world submitted ideas for a chance to gain Facebook mentorship and support. They went through a selection process which included video interviews, background checks, and written surveys. Over 30 senior VPs, hundreds of Facebook staff members, and external advisors, were involved.

This September, winners were announced, and in October — 115 fellows from over 46 countries came together, at Facebook’s HQ in Menlo Park. As someone who has had the immense privilege of being one of those 115, I feel an obligation to share a bit about who was there, what we did, and what we learned. And while a lot can be discussed about the outstanding visions of each of the other 114 fellows, I want to take a moment to talk about Facebook’s FCLP itself.

I was surprised to learn that Facebook has bigger plans for this program than I had expected going into it. This post is a summary of what I learned during first meetup of the program, of what I think Facebook has in mind for the future of FCLP, and why I think it matters.


The Future of Leadership In An “Open And Connected” Society

Before social media, if you ran into a problem and wanted to bring people together to solve it, you had to either be quite wealthy, or be close to the elite who had access to media and advertising. For most of human history, very few people had a voice, and it is why most of us, to this day, think of ourselves as small and insignificant, unable to drive change.

The democratization of media means that a powerful message, well crafted, by anyone — can now reach and mobilize millions. And like any technology, that power, in the wrong hands, can be abused. But in the right hands, it can be leveraged to solve social problems at an unprecedented pace.

Since the rise of Social Media, around the world, leaders are popping up and using tools like Facebook to bring people together and make a difference.

These initiatives usually start with a personal problem. Leaders connect a few people who have that problem and want to do something about it, and then people invite friends and it gets pretty big. Sometimes, very big. (In the early days of Facebook Groups, one of the first and most popular groups formed exactly around such a problem. It was “students against Facebook News Feed”). Groups of people have the power not only to “engage” about issues or “create content”, but also solve problems and create real life change.

Groups often manage to solve issues never solved before, faster and at a fraction of resources than former attempts.

What is the cost of becoming a Group Leader?

To run groups, leaders make personal sacrifices. Many work 7 days a week, full-hour days. They handle inboxes with hundreds of messages an hour, and thousands of notifications a day. Many of them end up managing teams of dozens of volunteers to help them keep things running. They are mostly individuals, not organized as an entities such as NGOs. Their families and friends don’t understand why they’re putting so much time into their hobbies “instead of work”, and while their impact sometimes lends them an audience, and a desk, with the most powerful people on the planet, they are more often than not volunteers, doing their work for free — without a business model, and without official support from philanthropists, governments or other establishments responsible for the problem spaces they are solving.

There is comedic contrast in the world of community leadership today between the the influence you have and the resources you don’t.

The experience of meeting a president in the morning and working a night shift at McDonald’s in the evening is not foreign to any of us.

… Enter Facebook

With FCLP, Facebook is among the first in the world to officially recognize community builders as leaders worth supporting.

The main message behind FCLP is a statement that the impact we as community and group leaders achieve has more value than most appreciate.

FCLP is an invitation for community leaders to consider the question if their “side roles” could become their full time careers. It’s a question to those with resources for impact about why they aren’t more involved in this space— and a statement that Facebook is going in head first, and inviting others to join.

$10M in grants in the first year of this program alone, together with company resources, and a staff the size of a fast-growing startup, is what Facebook is investing in getting this message out. 5 Residents will get grants up to $1,000,000 and 110 fellows will receive support of up to $50,000.

Why?

To understand why Facebook wants to invest millions into a community leadership program, we first need to ask: what does Community Leadership mean to Facebook?

I have 3 answers for this question in mind:

  1. Community leaders are the best ambassadors for Facebook tools — an investment in them is an investment in Facebook’s image.

  2. Community leaders are engines for growth and engagement on Facebook platforms — an investment in them is an investment’s in Facebook’s growth.

  3. FCLP sees Community Leaders as a new brand of leaders. An investment in them is an investment in impact on society.

The New Leadership?

A big part of how Facebook explains FCLP has to do with the discovery of a new kind of leadership in the form of Community Leaders. Facebook explains that apart from being underfunded, this leadership type is also under-studied. There isn’t an MBA for community leadership. So leaders don’t yet have the toolbox and resourced to succeed like other, more traditional types of leaders, and need to “make it up as they go”.

A significant portion of the first meetup was focused on defining what this type of leadership looks like, and how it’s different from existing forms of leadership, and I think it’s interesting to discuss. (If you just want to keep hearing about FCLP, feel free to skip ahead to the next section.)

Definition

Community leaders solve problems by bringing people together, and building community. They are an overlooked part of “hacker culture” — but where startups use code and design to solve problems, community leaders use social networks. While community and tribe leaders have always existed, these new leaders leverage fairly recent technological revolutions like the internet, and mobile devices, to create impact at an unprecedented scale.

Facebook has partnered with external experts to study this new kind of leadership and define its characteristics. They describe a leadership style based on collaboration and empowerment, instead of authority and hierarchy. Community leaders prefer non-zero-sum games and seek out mutual growth over competition and dominance. It is estimated more than 70% of the world’s leaders are not defined by this “flexible” leadership style. Meaning the leaders in most positions of power today do not have the skills to build communities, and often misunderstand those who do.

The impact of community leaders, like startups, is exponential, because community leaders create networks, which have network effects. Like in startups, “investors”, founders and early team members who join the ride and support these initiatives at the right time, stand to benefit significantly more from this growth, than counterparts who missed the boat and joined much later.

So like investors, impact seekers could have much to gain from seeking out the best community leaders and supporting them in building out communities. But in order to do that at scale, they will need something both the startup ecosystem and the traditional leadership ecosystem already have, which is industry knowlesge. Startups, for example, have developed over the past years a wealth of available role models, success stories, and best practices based on real world data on what works and what doesn’t.

So, in order to grow more community leaders and solve more problems at scale, there is a strong need to develop guidelines, training, a strong support network, and better tools in order to grow a new generation of leaders. There is also need for better business models to allow community leaders to keep doing what they do, and maybe even ways to capture value, and capitalize on growth.

And like in the startup world, organizations that do this first and best (like YCombinator and Andreessen Horowitz at the time), have potential to capture the most value, and have the most impact.

More Than Money

Through its 6000 applications, Facebook has gained some insight into what kind of help community leaders could use, that they can offer. And it chose to focus on 3 areas:

First, to help community leaders be seen. Although community leaders have all reached outstanding achievements within their communities, these stories too often do not break through to mainstream news or get widely recognized. Even communities of millions are small bubbles compared to the media’s and Facebook’s reach to billions. Most community leaders, while having some level of natural talent (to have brought them this far), have not had any formal background or training with media. Facebook plans to help, with a curriculum of storytelling skills and techniques, media teams available to support leaders in every speaking opportunity, and Facebook’s brand and reach to create new media opportunities.

Facebook has mutual interest in having FCLP stories heard both within the company and out — At a time when people are questioning whether the tools Facebook is building have a good impact on humanity, FCLP fellows (and applicants) are an obvious answer, that yes — Facebook can be used to change lives for the better, and give people the power to do wonderful things. These are the kinds of stories we all need to get better at telling.

Second, to build better tools for community leaders. As some of Facebook’s top power users, leaders will be in touch with some of Facebook’s product staff and have priority access to features and product improvements — so Facebook can hear feedback and what matters to their communities, and build better tools to aid their missions.

During the first meetup at Facebook we got to meet with product leaders like Chris Cox(Chief Product Officer), Marne Levine (Instagram), Jennifer Dulski (Groups), Chris Daniels(Whatsapp), Ime Archibong(Product Partnerships), and Sheryl Sandberg (COO), as well as have dinner with the developers and product managers working on the teams of the products we love.

Third, to provide mentorship, training and support. The financial support leaders are getting will be used to start projects (of $50k or $1M budgets). Projects will run January through September, and Facebook wants to be as supportive as possible in helping leaders tailor their projects to their level of comfort and skills. Facebook realizes that many of the participants have not run projects with these kinds of budgets before. It sees the best use of funding as a way to unlock barriers to unleash a big idea that seemed impossible before, and it will help with planning and mentorship throughout the projects to make sure they are impactful, successful, sustainable and visible — and that the personal blocks for breaking personal barriers are being addresses.

There is a possibility that some Facebook staff will get involved with projects and make a time and skills “donation”, as hundreds of employees who went over applications asked to be personally involved, including senior staff.

It’s almost a given that FCLP is a community by itself as well, meaning the FCLP team is creating platforms, structures and opportunities for leaders to help each other with projects and goals, and to leverage the network of top community leaders to collaborate and come up with new ideas that may not have been possible before.

What’s Next?

Facebook’s FCLP could have easily been exciting enough as a simple grant program. But the team behind it is thinking ahead.

To make a real difference, you have to take a look at the ecosystem — What happens the day our grant funding runs out?

In group discussions about fundraising and business models, it was astounding to see how almost none of us have had this figured out. According to Facebook, over 95% of applicants are underfunded, and mentioned funding as their top need.

95% of leaders who participated in FCLP are underfunded.

If a few smart people have a hard time finding a business model and raising funding, that’s okay. But when it turns out it’s all of them — something systematic is going on that’s probably stopping them, or making it really hard, to do this professionally. And that’s the space Facebook is going for.

Sometimes, it’s not enough to “give people fish” or “give them fishing rods”. Facebook is building the pond.

“Building The Pond”

And here it’s important to remind that this is still all new. Using social networks to solve real life problems is a new skill. Using the internet to bring people together is fairly new. And while exciting and effective, the work that community leaders do is still very much misunderstood — by parents, philanthropists, by cities and governments.

This category of social impact is so new and underfunded, that Facebook now has a team of lawyers and accountants brainstorming ways to grant money to individuals who aren’t incorporated as NGOs or freelancers across 46 countries and tax jurisdictions.

There aren’t many systems in place for this use case — because apparently almost nobody’s tried this before.

Philanthropy 2.0

As one example, some of FCLP’s team come from a background in big philanthropy. If you build a hospital or a school, you check a box. There is no box to check for community building — or bringing people together to solve a problem. Facebook wants to create that box.

And to do that we as community leaders have to be better at showing ROI. We have to get better at creating standards for how much community building costs, and how much money it can save. We have to understand how to measure impact so it tells a compelling story for donors and investors.

And that, for me, is why FCLP’s impact is going to go far beyond those 115 people in the room, and far beyond one-time $50k investments — we are just the seed group, helping to set the stage for a much bigger change, that will bring in resources, and a lot more impact — to a new generation of leaders.

…For Leadership 2.0

Community Leadership is our generation’s kind of leadership. It is internet-native, and doesn’t differentiate between online and offline. It breaks down barriers. And it brings people together. What is happening is the start of a larger process to solve a problem for the world — to make projects like ours, leaders like us, legitimate, and well funded. It will not start and end with this workshop, and it may take years to accomplish. But Facebook is on board.

It is now my belief that Facebook’s support of group leaders is not just a grant program, but the start of a movement to turn Community Leadership from an immersive side hobby to one of the most positively influential 21st century careers.

And that big, revolutionary vision is what makes me proud to kick off this year as a fellow at FCLP, along with the 115 other fellows, inculding the 116th fellow — FCLP itself.


You can follow Emily’s Community Leadership adventures by CLICKING HERE.

Why I #BelieveinBlessings: Siang Choo

Siang Choo first came to know about our organisation and work with children and youth in Singapore through a service visit with Salesforce and since then, she and 2 colleagues dedicate one day every 2 months to share their skill-sets and strengths (like her love for upcycling!) with our community. Here’s what Siang Choo had to share about her experience with us and how it connects with her own childhood:

“I really like your mission of inculcating values in the kids…instead of just focusing on academic excellence. During your introduction when I first visited, I could connect with your mission and your approach. Because when I was a kid growing up around York Hill/Jalan Minyak area, I wished that there was a community and an organisation like ‘Blessings in a Bag’ and it’s Beyond Awesome program to expose me to the world of possibilities.

When we wrote essays in school and had to answer what we wanted to be when we grew up, the answer is always teacher, nurse, doctor. These are the ‘professionals’ whom we meet.

My parents, who never went through formal education weren’t able to tell me that there are sectors like technology, investment banking, finance or other career paths.

It was completely by accident, by chance that I ended up studying in an overseas university. After getting pretty good grades for my GCE A Levels, a group of us neighbourhood kids were filling in forms for scholarships to local universities outside our principal’s office. A classmate, who had better educated parents and was more “well informed” than we were, happened to walk past. He looked over our shoulders to take a peek at what we were filling out and he shared nonchalantly, “You all got pretty good grades, you should try to apply for an overseas scholarship.”

He knew more about the world and the possibilities that existed. My friends and I didn’t. But because of his personal insight and comment, we applied.

I was offered a scholarship to major in economics in an overseas university. And I accepted it …. not knowing at all what I could do or could be with an economics degree. During the course, I “played safe” and double majored in accounting because at that time I vaguely remember my parents were rather proud of an uncle who was an accountant in a warehouse.

So, all this to say, I am completely aligned and supportive of this community and the meaningful work you do with these kids. You’re linking them to values, to a moral compass and to the wider world - beyond their neighbourhoods.”


If you believe in the work we do alongside community, if you #BelieveinBlessings, consider giving a gift today and help us reach our goal! Anything more than our goal amount will go to much needed resources such as fresh food, meaningful classroom experiences and support to keep the lights on.

#BelieveinBlessings: Lucky Draw

As the ‘finish line’ of our #BelieveinBlessings campaign draws closer, we thought we’d compile a list of the lucky draw prizes you can stand a chance to win* (Scroll below for Terms and Conditions) by simply contributing any amount towards our crowd-funding campaign.

If you haven’t already given with generosity, here’s the link to our campaign: CLICK HERE TO GIVE

We’re so thankful for the following partners and our incredible volunteer community who have rallied their own friends and networks to make this possible.


5 F45 Memberships

5 winners will gain access to a studio of their choice: F45 Training Orchard, F45 Training Novena and F45 Training Holland Village.

“F45 Training is the new training technique leaving competition and clients gasping for air. F45 is the most innovative, challenging and systemised team training workout in the world. Come and train like the stars at F45 Training.”

F45 is one of the few fitness studios that answered our call for support when we could not find any sport, movement and outdoor experiences willing to dedicate time to share this with our kids. Melinda from F45 was such a generous soul and mobilised and rallied her F45 community to spend the time sharing their love for movement and physical activity with our kids - and their impact? Our kids our thriving, eagerly awaiting their next time with F45 and love all the coaches who really train with heart!

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5 Therapeutic Facial Experience Gift Cards from SOLOMON HOLISTIC

5 winners will each win a gift card to use for a self-care day or gift to a friend in need of one. Each gift card is worth $125 and includes a custom therapeutic facial using only natural oils and products, leaving your skin fresh and glowing - ready to take on the world again! Their treatments combine natural therapy facial and aromatherapy to treat hypersensitive skin, most irritated skin, dehydration, clog pores, acne, scars and hyper-pigmentation, puffiness, and the concerns of matured skin. Set in the heart of Orchard Road, these therapeutic facials will give you some peace and quiet in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s city life.

Solomon Holistic is located at Midpoint Orchard and operates on a reservation-only basis. You can make bookings directly with the wonderful therapist, Sarah, at +65 90682604

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1 Introduction to Meditation course with The Meditation Teacher

1 winner will walk away with an incredible soul-giving, life lifting ‘Introduction to Meditation’ course with Dani Van De Velde of The Mediation Teacher - worth $280. Use for yourself or gift the experience to a friend in need of mindfulness and mediation. Dani has been a long-time supporter of Blessings in a Bag, who has touched the lives of so many in our community as she dedicates one day a month to share her love for mindfulness and all things heart & soul with our kids and volunteers.

3 Mindful Company Reminder Cuffs

We’re so in love with this company and what they stand for. And now, we’re even more in love with them because there will be 3 Reminder Cuffs to reward 3 individuals who contribute to our campaign - make sure you get on the giving now!


5 One-time Passes to Orange Theory Fitness

One-time passes to 5 winners, valid for 3 months and can be used at 2 locations in Singapore: Robertson Quay and Tanjong Pagar.

“Orangetheory is a science-backed, technology-tracked, coach-inspired group workout designed to produce results from the inside out. The hardest part of our workouts is showing up - we make it simple for you to push yourself, be your personal best and give you more. MORE results. MORE confidence. MORE Life. More than a gym. Because you shouldn’t live to exercise. You should exercise to live.”

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4 Coffee Travel Kits

4 winners will each win a Coffee Travel Kit. Each kit includes single drip coffees, a gooseneck drip kettle and 6oz KeepCup so you'll never have to compromise on great coffee while you're on the road. Flamingo floatie not included!

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2 Pairs of Nike Womens Shoes

2 winners will win a pair of Nike Womens Shoes.

*Terms and Conditions Apply.
Eligibility is for individuals who give directly to our campaign, currently reside in Singapore and is physically present on June 29th for our Celebration of Blessings event.








"You are a cheerleader" - Emily Teng shares at the President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards Press Conference


Founder of Blessings in a Bag, Emily Teng, shared her personal experiences and stories at the recent Press and Media conference for the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards.

Below is a transcript of her sharing:

Photo Credit: NVPC

Photo Credit: NVPC

“I have spent most of my life second-guessing myself and what I could share with the world.

In 1997, I was growing up in Serangoon gardens, being raised by both parents with a younger sister.  I recall a time where we had to line up late in the evening just to buy bread that was being marked down for sale or being excited to earn some money when the karang-guni* uncle honked his horn in our street.  

In 1998, I learned what it was like to be looked at as ‘different’ or as an ‘other’; I was one of the few Asian faces in an all-girls school in Australia - I knew how it felt to be sidelined and silenced through bullying and name calling, and what It felt like to only afford hand-me downs or shop at a thrift store, buying clothing that was two to three sizes larger so that we wouldn’t have to worry when I outgrew them and because I knew I could never afford what my peers had.  

In 2002, I remember experiencing the consequences of what happens when people intentionally choose to be unkind - if I was the same girl now that was I was back then, I would not be sitting here with you this morning because I suffered from anxiety, could not make eye contact when in conversation and didn’t really see the value in who I was.  


But in 2005, there was a turning point in my life.  Someone believed in me and they reminded me of what they saw, even when I couldn’t see it for myself.  From this shy, anxious, supposedly ‘worthless’ young girl - I was encouraged by the likes of media veterans, Mark Richmond and Daniel Ong who gave me an opportunity, and took a chance on me to discover my own voice and be able to use that influence for good.  

And that is why I know for sure that: everyone needs someone to believe in them.  And that we need more people seeing the value in others.  

Everyone in this room, sitting here this morning, regardless of your background or upbringing, has had someone cheer them on in some shape or form - your parent, your teacher, a friend.  And it could happen at any time; perhaps years ago, days ago. 

I had a recent experience, just in the last month of being championed and cheered on when the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook teams personally told me that they believed in me and announced to the world, their commitment to journeying with me and 114 other community leaders from 46 countries.  What it does to the human spirit to be believed in.

And, it’s the same with our youth. 

We’ve had children attend every week without missing a beat since 2015 - and we know they keep coming back because of the friendships and relationships they have with each other and our volunteers.

Almost every day, I’m reminded of all the stories of impact that have taken place through our community.  One of them happened when I recently took a group to a global tech company.


One of the girls excitedly called me over and I walked across the room and asked if everything was okay and she was like ‘Yes, Cher*…  would love to work here one day! I think I can see myself working here when I'm older!’… and before I could respond with a high-five and a you-can-dream-big-things pep talk… her sibling responded and said “Don't be silly. Nobody like us ends up here. You think so easy one meh?”

That's when I stepped in and shared that anything is possible in life and the fact that we're physically able to be here in the offices means she is (literally) closer to getting to where she sees herself one day.

This same girl, who’s starting a work placement opportunity this week is the same girl who told me that she skipped school on a regular basis because she believed she did not have a future to be excited about.

And that’s the power of believing in someone, of human connection and of strong relationships.  We play cheerleaders to youth who may not have the experience of being cheered on at home, or at school or in the neighbourhood. And whether people are contributing their time with us, their skill sets, their financial gifts, we tell them: YOU ARE A CHEERLEADER.


I’m grateful to be cheered on by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, PVPA and the giving community this morning and we’re so honoured and elated to receive this years award for Kampung Spirit - because I’m sincerely hoping that this will not only inspire but transform hearts of people to live out our community’s motto of:  “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”…and most importantly, to do it with love. And I’m really hoping that this will start greater conversations as to how we can support young people with bold ideas for the Singapore of their dreams and how we can make it an easier choice so that people don’t have to choose between making a living and making a difference in the lives of others.  

Thank you.

Photo Credit: NVPC

Photo Credit: NVPC

Photo Credit: NVPC

Photo Credit: NVPC

Photo Credit: NVPC

Photo Credit: NVPC


*Karang-Guni: The practice of Karang guni is common in Singapore. Its practitioners are a modern form of rag and bone men that visit residences door-to-door. Read more

*Cher: Local term used by students, shortened of the word, Teacher.

*Meh: A Singlish sentence often ends with words like "lah", "leh", "meh" or "lor". These utterances are included at the end of a sentence to add emotions or feelings to the sentence. For instance, "Come with us leh" (with a long and draggy "leh") is persuading. "Come with us lah" (with a short emphatic "lah") is encouraging. "Come with us lor" is almost like pleading. "You don't want to come meh?" is simply "Don't you want to come along?" Read more

*Kampung Spirit: A sense of social cohesion in a community where there is understanding and compromise among neighbours, even as preferences differ from household to household. Read more


Blessings in a Bag: Winner of President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards 2018

The National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) announced the eight distinguished winners of the 2018 President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Awards (PVPA). President Halimah Yacob presented the PVPA to this year’s winners at an awards ceremony this evening, honouring individuals, companies, ground-up movements, non-profit organisations and educational institutions that have achieved excellence in giving. Several of this year’s awardees have embraced issues pertinent to society today, such as the fostering of social inclusion and religious harmony in Singapore.

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Their stories and contributions act as a platform to connect communities and serve causes that are often overlooked. President Halimah Yacob, said, “I’m heartened that this year's winners include firms that made giving an integral part of their corporate culture, as well as individuals who are passionate in helping those around them. Through their selfless acts, they have shown that volunteerism can be a part of all our lives. When all of us pitch in to help those around us, we can make a greater and longer lasting impact on society.”

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Blessings in a Bag founder, Emily Teng, turned the challenges she faced growing up into a force for good, providing disadvantaged youth in Singapore with opportunities to discover their passions and interests through mentorship programmes, after-school care, field trips, and classroom activities.

Through their efforts, these PVPA 2018 winners have the potential to create a multiplier effect for doing good, and their contributions encourage others to bridge divides and build communities. Their actions exemplify how giving can take many forms, from philanthropy, skills-based volunteering to advocacy, each moving Singapore towards a City of Good in their own unique way.

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“As we come together as a community to celebrate Singapore’s Giving Heroes, we reaffirm the values that hold us together as a society in the midst of many forces that always threaten to divide us. Giving unites people and reminds us that we share a great deal in our common humanity,” said Melissa Kwee, CEO, NVPC. “The winners remind us that each of us can choose to use our power and influence in private and public arenas to uplift, comfort, create and expand our imagination of what it means to do good and do well. Together they represent a microcosm of what is best and beautiful about our society. May we start to put our hands to the plough to give towards the future we collectively envision.”

For media queries and interviews, please contact:

Jessica Chai Pei Shan

NVPC

DID: 6550 9393

HP: 9823 8554

Email: peishanchai@nvpc.org.sg

Interested to volunteer but can only commit on an ad-hoc basis? https://www.giving.sg/manage-volunteers?orgId=3179208

Interested to volunteer on a regular basis and have direct interaction with youth? Sign up for an upcoming information evening and volunteer orientation. https://www.beyondawesomesea.com/workshops/

Join our community of WorldChangeAgents serving through our Beyond Awesome program *click* 

Interested to give financially from anywhere in the world?  *click*

Follow us on Facebook: *click*

Follow us on Instagram: *click*

Meet your WorldChangeAgent, Charmaine!

Our community of #WorldChangeAgents (volunteers) journey through so many adventures through our Beyond Awesome program.  We wanted to take some time to introduce you to some of our favourite faces - well loved by youth in our program as well as those who serve alongside!  Scroll to the very bottom to see how you can get involved/contribute!

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When I’m not volunteering at Beyond Awesome I…:  am a full-time video producer - and have been doing this for the past 7-8 years. In my free time, I enjoy travelling, reading, going for hikes... And I really love sunsets/sunrises. :) Also I can't say no to a good cup of coffee or wine :p

Three words I would use to describe myself:  Empathetic. Organised. Assertive

One fun-fact that you may not know about me:  I can drift a car! Couple of years back I did a full day defence driving course, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I like driving and the need for speed. Shh :p

Where was the last place you travelled to and what did you do?  I went to The Philippines for work - but 'work' doesn't sound very exciting, does it? The last place I travelled to for a holiday was Bali - I basically lazed by the beach, went paddle boarding in crystal blue waters, saw sunrise at Mount Batur, got a nice golden tan, went to a hot spring, went dancing... Hey I couldn't say no when the DJ played 80s and 90s music all night!

How did you find out about the program?  Through a fellow volunteer, Kate. I was looking for a place to volunteer at - specifically with children, somewhere not on an ad-hoc basis. So she told me about Beyond Awesome, I signed up, went for an orientation (check out the upcoming ones - Beyond Awesome 101 - here), and here I am, (exactly) one year later!

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How often do you volunteer with the program?  Because of my irregular work schedule, I started out volunteering twice a month - but since becoming a captain, I spend more time at the space, around three or four times a month. Sometimes heading in for packing/cleaning! 

What do you love about the program/WCA community?  I love how different all the WCAs are - different personalities, different races, ages, occupations (we have scientists, pilots and producers?!) and backgrounds... But yet we all share one thing in common, and that is to want to make Beyond Awesome a great place for the children to spend time at, learn, and grow into amazing young adults.
 

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How do you add value to the program? How are you contributing?  Bringing along my experience and skillsets of a producer - I am able to help manage and coordinate bigger events. 
 

What have your experiences been like with the program?  It has been... BEYOND AWESOME! (Am I the only one who made this lame pun?!) That said, I won't deny that on some days, it gets overwhelming. It takes a lot of energy and patience to handle the children whenever they're a little harder to handle than normal. But, with the support from the other volunteers and Captains, things are always made easier. You feel less alone. You help each other get through the most dramatic of situations! We also have WCA Hangouts every month, and it's really fun to just get to know the others better and bond.
 

Why did you want to/do you volunteer with the program? I like children! I am actually ok with crying babies on the plane. It's fine, babies cry, it's normal. But I won't tolerate naughty behaviour!
 

What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with Beyond Awesome? The most rewarding aspect of being involved is seeing children grow - intellectually, emotionally, socially. The change is gradual, but it gets so prominent over time. I've seen how some of the children who were once really rebellious/hard to handle last year - now step up, and lead examples to the new/younger children. It makes my heart so full.
 

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Can you share your favourite session or moment that has stayed with you from being with our program?  I have so many moments that I remember and love throughout the past year. Some are sad but mostly heartwarming and funny! The most memorable session would be the session that one of the other volunteers, Aruno, led on Bullying. I thought that the children wouldn't be as interested or might even talk back - but turns out that they were super engaged during the session. I think the boys look up to the male volunteers and the girls look up to the female volunteers. We all have been there before - we look at an adult and think to ourselves, "I want to be him/her when I grow up". So having people like Aruno and Adam share their stories from when they were in school, made it very relatable and real to the children. 
 

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Beyond Awesome does not primarily focus on academic success but other measures of success which are largely intangible such as compassion, emotional intelligence, resilience, creativity, etc - what does success mean to you, personally?  You are absolutely right, that intelligence/success isn't all about education and academics. It's all that you mentioned above, and even being able to tell a witty joke or having a high EQ are signs of intellect! To me, success is something that doesn't always immediately come at the first try. It is when we put our minds to something and see a change, even a very slight one - is still success. 
 

Think back on all your time journeying with the students…can you think of one specific interaction you’ve had with a child that has just stayed with you? 
Wow.. There are so many! If I had to pick one... It would be seeing one of the youths, E, growing into this intelligent, witty, kind-hearted girl the past year. We were working on an art and craft project - she did pretty much 3/4 of it while I helped. When another volunteer praised her on the end product, she said, "Thanks! It was team work." It made me feel so happy knowing that she had that sort of mature mindset. Other children offer to share their prizes with each other, holding the lift door for strangers... It's the kind of thing I love seeing in the children, because they not only become better human beings but also set examples to the younger ones.

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 What tips do you have for new volunteers?  You are not alone. There are WCAs and Captains who are with you. So don't be afraid to ask questions. Things may not always have a structure, so come with an open mind and take initiative as much as possible. Treat the children like adults, respect them like a friend, but also be firm when necessary. Remember that you're working with children, so our actions and words really help set examples. Most of all, have fun!
 

What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering with Beyond Awesome?

I think the answer above would be the same for this one here!


What do you love most about being able to give back to communities in Singapore?

Knowing that it creates meaningful change and improvements to the children's lives, one way or another. 

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Interested to volunteer but can only commit on an ad-hoc basis? https://www.giving.sg/manage-volunteers?orgId=3179208

Interested to volunteer on a regular basis and have direct interaction with youth? Sign up for an upcoming information evening and volunteer orientation. https://www.beyondawesomesea.com/workshops/

Join our community of WorldChangeAgents serving through our Beyond Awesome program *click* 

Interested to give financially from anywhere in the world?  *click*

Shop for Good - October 27th 2018

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We're excited to present our 'Jumble Sale' which curates all of the items that are either unsuitable or surplus goods that we would normally present to communities we work with locally. 

This is our way of preventing more waste ending up in landfills or the incinerator.  In a world that thrives off fast fashion, constant 'season sales' and the dopamine-like-high we can get when we shop online, we're here to prevent more items from ending up down the chute.  

We're not talking about grubby items either.  In fact, a lot of the items we receive are un-used and/or brand new in original packaging and some with price tag in tact!  

So expect to find brand new or like-new children's goods (toys, books, games, puzzles, etc), homeware, decorative items, gifts, bath & body, kitchen-goods and more!  100% of the proceeds will go directly towards our work with children and youth in Singapore.

Everyone's welcome and if you are coming with kids they're more than welcome to hang out in our child's play area - stocked full with games, dolls, LEGOs, etc.

Click here to visit our Official Event Page

Date:  27th October 2018, Saturday

Time:  2PM to 5PM

Venue:  315 Outram Road, #08-06A Tan Boon Liat Building



Meet your WorldChangeAgent, Dani!

Our community of #WorldChangeAgents (volunteers) are off on so many adventures through our Beyond Awesome program.  We wanted to take some time to introduce you to some of our favourite faces - well loved by youth in our program as well as those who serve alongside!  Scroll to the very bottom to see how you can get involved/contribute!

INTRODUCING...DANI!

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When I’m not volunteering at Beyond Awesome...: I am a mother of two beautiful children who I feel very blessed to guide and raise. I also run a meditation business called The Meditation Teacher based here in Singapore. I hold private courses, corporate and high school courses and well as retreats to Java Indonesia. I was born in Sydney Australia, and have lived in London and New York with my earlier career. I have a legal and financial background and had a wonderful career in strategic planning, capital raising and corporate communications, before I decided to focus on serving the community.

I have always volunteered my time to community-based programs like Blessings in a Bag and I also donate generously to charities each month from the proceeds of my meditation courses. I believe this is everyone's responsibility to help in whichever way they can those in the community who need help and support. In the two years before I left Australia to live in Singapore I started a community-based program in Sydney called GIFT. It enabled the gifting of un-used family items like clothes, books and furniture to families in the same neighbourhood who were struggle without. It also enabled cook-offs of nutritional family meals that were given for free to hungry families in the local area via a local food bank along with ingredients, recipes and nutritional information to the families could recreate better meals at home. GIFT continues today and I think it's one of the reasons that I connect so deeply with BiaB which has similar focus on helping children find belonging and enrichment.

Three words I would use to describe myself:  These change nearly every day...but today my three words are: Happy, fulfilled, spirited

One fun-fact that you may not know about me:  I surf and play guitar!

Where was the last place you travelled to and what did you do?  I love travelling and make a point to travel both with family, but also on my own each year if possible. This year I have travelled to Utah to spend time with Naive American elders, the French Alps for some hiking with the kids and in a few weeks I am off with a girlfriend to visit the ancient sites of England and Ireland. 

How did you find out about the program?  My friend Lexie (who has since moved to NY) introduced me to the program too years ago which I am very grateful for.


How often do you volunteer with the program? Once a month 

What do you do in the program? I hold mindfulness and meditation sessions with the kids. The emphasis is two-fold. To teach them more about their human design and how it remains healthy and balance when we dwell in present awareness; and to nurture states of gratitude and awe and wonder in life and in themselves.

What have your experiences been like with the program?  Its a pleasure and privileged for me to be involved. Despite most of these kids having a tough start in life, I am always blown-away by their curiosity and enthusiastic engagement with what I can show them. The program itself is beautifully run, very progressive in it's thinking and willing to try new things always - this is what keeps it dynamic and growing.

Why did you want to/do you volunteer with the program?  It's a major aspect of my purpose in life and I tend to focus volunteering effort on programs that support children, families and women.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with Beyond Awesome?  The insightful an often very funny and cheeky feedback discussion we have after the mindfulness practices. The program also has a very welcoming and energetic culture which I love.

Can you share your favourite session or moment that has stayed with you from being with our program?  I have been so happy with all the sessions, but one of my favourites has to be this recent July session:  We explored the wonder of the senses. We talked about how hearing, sight, touch and taste really work and how we can so easily take these dazzling powers for granted.

We also talked about gut feel, the intelligence of the digestive track and shared examples of when our tummies and bodies told us something that our thinking mind wasn't aware of. One very tuned-in boy shared that he could sense his teacher coming when he was eating a sweet he shouldn't have been in class. He popped it into his pocket just in time. (An excellent use of gut-feel I say!)

We then experienced a practice of mindful eating which is based on a much older one called 'Raisin Contemplation'. The kids each took a small piece of fresh fruit and entered into stillness. Then step by step they engaged with the fruit with all the senses and feelings. 

What followed was a very animated and beautiful discussion about how just through the fingertips, in one touch, we can sense temperature, texture, size, moisture; or how our mouth responds in an explosion of senses when we place a small piece of orange on the tongue; and how the tongue and jaw move in a dance to chew and how the tummy starts to grumble and almost reach up to receive when it senses yummy fruit on the way. So fun!

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Think back on all your time journeying with the students…can you think of one specific interaction you’ve had with a child that has just stayed with you? There's one little girl who was new to the program when I came in. She was very quiet and had large beautiful eyes. They held so much - sadness, questions and also curiosity. I was very drawn to her and sat with her during the craft exercise after the meditation which was focussing on finding different perspectives on what we see in life and with our friends. She slowly opened and created some beautiful expressions in her craft. Later I learnt that she had experienced violence at home. I didn't see her again for some time and then in the new year when I returned for my session, one of the volunteers gave me a card that the children had made for me. She had written a beautiful message of thanks and said 'I was the best'. It reminded me that sometimes just sitting with someone and feeling what they are feeling is enough.

What tips do you have for new volunteers?  Just do it! Be clear on what time you are able to commit and try to be consistent - whether that's once a month like me or whatever you can manage. Relationships are formed quickly with the children and they are so excited to see you come in again. The volunteers are like trusted family for these little ones and our presence, smiles and softness is what they are needing most. Don't worry if you don't have a particular skill like meditation for example, it's your presence that is the most powerful thing.

What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering with Beyond Awesome?  Go to an information session, meet the other volunteers and follow your heart. It's not a huge draw on your time but it yields such huge blessings and expansion of your own sense of self and was you are able to achieve through giving.

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Interested to volunteer? https://www.giving.sg/manage-volunteers?orgId=3179208

Join our community of WorldChangeAgents serving through our Beyond Awesome program *click* 

Interested to contribute any amount from anywhere in the world?  *click*

Corporate Giving: Salesforce Transforms our Beyond Awesome homebase!

It wasn't until the recent months that we were contacted by some of the team members of Salesforce Singapore wanting to rally some of their employees to get involved in meaningful, local causes.

We were excited to hear from them.  After all, "giving back is at the heart of Salesforce. Through Salesforce.org, we empower nonprofit and educational organizations with technology, community engagement, and strategic grants. From the beginning, giving back was the best decision we ever made — it created a culture that attracts and retains the best and the brightest, and allows our employees to be change makers in their own communities."

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We launched opportunities to accept group and corporate volunteers to our space earlier in the year - which has been a new addition to how people can contribute meaningfully through our programs.  Before, those who could serve were already part of our #worldchangeagent community.

Our doors open to groups (schools, teams, social circles, etc) and corporates where they can participate in our Sort + Prep sessions.  The activities change day to day and based on needs of the Beyond Awesome Community. 

Some days we sort and prep prize bags for student reward incentives other days we're sanitising the floors, wiping surfaces and checking the food stock in our refrigerator.  There are some days we're channelling our inner creative geniuses through wall decoration and then there's tasks that true neat and tidy folks will appreciate:  colour coding pencils, sorting our stationery supplies, re-organising our library or our art shelves!  The possibilities to serve are endless and we are really thrilled to welcome more corporates and groups of volunteers to spend a few hours with us.

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We're incredibly thankful that the team leaders, Choong Koon Fong and Barbaros Karatas encouraged the #OhanaSpirit amongst their teams to come together for a fun morning.  We had the best time jumping in with the different activities that are often said to feel therapeutic for many who work 9-5 corporate jobs as they were able to let their inner child come out to play while checking out board games, some were able to unleash their inner artists through putting together a wall feature and other were able to give of their skills and time in support of our weekly programming to support children and youth in Singapore.  Check out some of the fun we had below!

Wall (Work) in Progress!  Can you guess what it's about to say?

Wall (Work) in Progress!  Can you guess what it's about to say?

Check out a time lapse of the wall!

One of our favourite walls now!

One of our favourite walls now!

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Team members learning how to create some gorgeous wall art for one of our classroom walls!

Team members learning how to create some gorgeous wall art for one of our classroom walls!

The result (after watching Youtube Tutorials) - How beautiful!

The result (after watching Youtube Tutorials) - How beautiful!

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Sorting out the classroom supplies - always needed!  

Sorting out the classroom supplies - always needed!  

The after!  

The after!  

No task too small, too challenging or too insignificant - everything and everyone matters in this space!

No task too small, too challenging or too insignificant - everything and everyone matters in this space!

Organising our classroom stickers and being able to have meaningful conversation with each other outside of the work space was so enjoyable!

Organising our classroom stickers and being able to have meaningful conversation with each other outside of the work space was so enjoyable!

Our wonderful library was made even more special and inviting thanks to this amazing team!

Our wonderful library was made even more special and inviting thanks to this amazing team!

Thank you, Salesforce!  We hope many other teams are inspired by your acts of service and giving.  

Are you a school, informal group or corporate (any teams, really!), you can learn more through this link:  https://www.beyondawesomesea.com/groups/

Interested to volunteer? https://www.giving.sg/manage-volunteers?orgId=3179208

Join our community of WorldChangeAgents serving through our Beyond Awesome program *click* 

Interested to contribute any amount from anywhere in the world?  *click*

 

 

 

 

Shop for Good - September 15th 2018!

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This is our way of preventing more waste ending up in landfills or the incinerator.  In a world that thrives off fast fashion, constant 'season sales' and the dopamine-like-high we can get when we shop online, we're here to prevent more items from ending up down the chute.  

We're not talking about grubby items either.  In fact, a lot of the items we receive are un-used and/or brand new in original packaging and some with price tag in tact!  

So expect to find brand new or like-new children's goods (toys, books, games, puzzles, etc), homeware, decorative items, gifts, bath & body, kitchen-goods and more!  100% of the proceeds will go directly towards our work with children and youth in Singapore.

Everyone's welcome and if you are coming with kids they're more than welcome to hang out in our child's play area - stocked full with games, dolls, LEGOs, etc.

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Date:  15th September 2018, Saturday

Time:  2PM to 5PM

Venue:  315 Outram Road, #08-06A Tan Boon Liat Building

Click here to visit our Official Event Page