WCA Words: Summer Clean, success!

We came, we sorted and we made like Mary Poppins!  

THANK YOU to all #WorldChangeAgents who dropped by to lend a helping hand for a phenomenal day of 'summer cleaning' and Marie-Kondo-like magic making! We've sorted out our headquarters + learning space along with tons of donations that were dropped off by generous members of the public and this would not have been possible without your help. Your efforts are definitely going to make a meaningful difference through our Beyond Awesome program.

Take a look at some of the photos + videos below to see the action!

Our WCA Leader + Community Captain, Yi Han, giving a warm welcome and briefing some of our first-time #WorldChangeAgents with the task they're about to get stuck into!

Our WCA Leader + Community Captain, Yi Han, giving a warm welcome and briefing some of our first-time #WorldChangeAgents with the task they're about to get stuck into!

The Dream Team!

The Dream Team!

Snowed under in our #BeyondAwesome play area!

Snowed under in our #BeyondAwesome play area!

We also hosted plenty of visitors - from other social organizations in Singapore and ASEAN to big-hearted givers who responded to our call for donations-in-kind!  

We were visited by #WorldChangeAgent, Sera, and her friends who will be bringing excess supplies we had in our space to communities in Batam, Vietnam and other communities in the ASEAN region.

We were visited by #WorldChangeAgent, Sera, and her friends who will be bringing excess supplies we had in our space to communities in Batam, Vietnam and other communities in the ASEAN region.

We were visited by a PSLE student, Alex, and his mother who dropped by with some awesome donations-in-kind that he had collected as part of his scouts program.  

We were visited by a PSLE student, Alex, and his mother who dropped by with some awesome donations-in-kind that he had collected as part of his scouts program.  

HealthServe (a Singapore based organization that provides support for migrant workers) reps dropped in to take some board games that will be used during community activities as well as provide something meaningful for injured workers who are on the mend. 

HealthServe (a Singapore based organization that provides support for migrant workers) reps dropped in to take some board games that will be used during community activities as well as provide something meaningful for injured workers who are on the mend. 

And this is the final result of all the hard work + effort provided by everyone who came to pitch in!

And that's a wrap and we're incredibly excited to welcome our #BeyondAwesome students next week.   

We would love to invite you to join our #WCA community on Facebook - a wonderful group of people who change the world through volunteerism, spreading awesome and engaging in radical acts of kindness.  Should you be interested in continuing to #ServeWithJoy with us on an ad-hoc basis, we regularly post up opportunities on social media, or on our giving.sg page.

We can't wait to welcome you!

 

With love and awesomeness,

Yi Han + Emily.

Chief of Awesome, Emily Teng, represents Singapore in April 2017!

Just when we thought that the year couldn't get any better than Emily being selected to represent the work that we do every single week, we can now share that she will represent our cause + our nation for the second time this year in San Francisco with the UNSCHOOL Emerging Leaders Fellowship!

Our very own 'Chief of Awesome' has been selected as one of only 20 social entrepreneurs from the entire world (!!!) and is the first and only Singaporean representative for the entire program! 

The San Francisco Fellowship Program will take a cohort of 20 change agents and purpose-driven creative rebels on a week-long brain-activating adventure that explores social change, systems thinking, creative interventions and all things sustainability. With a curated lineup of mentors for this program, including one who works underwater, one who works in outer space, and one who was just named Champion of the Earth!

 

For this program, we've had to crowd-fund to support Emily's way over to attending!  If you'd like to support, please head over to our GIVE ASIA crowd-funding page.  Any surplus from the campaign will go towards our Beyond Awesome program!  The best part is that any amount you give, will be matched by a local business in Singapore.

 

 

Chief of Awesome, Emily Teng, heads down under!

We're excited to announce that our Chief of Awesome, Emily, will be heading down under as one of the final 15 social entrepreneurs selected for The Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program.  We are incredibly grateful for the circle of support Emily has personally received from family, friends + movers & shakers across the region since the beginning.  We are thankful to each and every one of YOU who have supported the purpose + vision that Emily drives forward each and every day, through all of the ups and downs.  

In a press release issued by Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP shares:

"Today I announce the selection of 15 social entrepreneurs from across our region for the Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program (A2ELP), to be held in Melbourne and Sydney in March.  

These young innovators are founders of enterprises that address poverty, health, education, technology and environmental degradation"

We are incredibly proud to be selected as one of the 15 candidates within the region and the only Singaporean representative.  In the words of Hon Julie Bishop MP, we look forward to "forge new partnerships with businesses and other organisations, and further enhance Australia’s relationships with the countries of South East Asia."

We thank the following for making this a reality:

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Watch this space!

 

A Celebration of Joyful Service

It's been an incredible year.  5 words to sum up the year?  I'm not too sure they would do the whole journey and process any justice.  But here's a little round-up video for one of our final #WCAHangouts for the year 2016.  #WCAHangouts are an opportunity for our community to gather together, connect and inspire each other as we do not always get the time or opportunity to really get to know who we're serving alongside with during our programs (hard to with kids below 12 running around you)!

Thanks to our partners, 88.3JIA FM for coming on board or should we say....for roping us in on their sneaky surprise plan!  We are so touched that their team went above and beyond to think of ways to surprise and thank our passionate and selfless community of #WorldChangeAgents.  It's incredibly meaningful for us when we're able to thank a team who has been with us pretty much since the very beginning of our pilot for 'Beyond Awesome'.  

Plenty of Smiles and prizes thanks to 88.3JIA FM!

Plenty of Smiles and prizes thanks to 88.3JIA FM!

Our Chief of Awesome, Emily, with 88.3JIA FM's Ben!  

Our Chief of Awesome, Emily, with 88.3JIA FM's Ben!  

Click that play button below to watch the wrap video of a really fun arvo!

Thank you to everyone who came that day to celebrate joyful service, Christmas and especially, to celebrate one another :)

Here's to an exciting and BEYOND AWESOME (Sorry, just had to!) 2017!

Meet WorldChangeAgent, Samuel.

We want to tell stories of our inspiring people behind 'Beyond Awesome.  They are often working tirelessly behind the scenes or are inspiring students to develop a love of learning and to reach their full potential.  

We catch up with Samuel who is one of our WorldChangeAgents and regularly serves in our program in the hopes that he will inspire you to begin your volunteer journey with us!

1.  Why do you volunteer with our program?  "I have always been interested in working with children, especially those from low income families. I was looking for a place where I can volunteer on a long term basis after volunteering ad-hoc for a long period of time. That was when I found Blessings in A Bag!"

2. What has been your favourite moment so far?  "My favourite moment so far was to be able to spend the day at the Singapore zoo with the children. Instead of the usual 2-3 hours, we got to spend a full day at the zoo. It was heart-warming to see one of the children I was attached to falling asleep soundly on the bus ride home. It shows that he really enjoyed his day."

3. What would you say to someone who's contemplating signing up to serve?  Don't wait! Sign up now! It’s never too early to make a tiny difference in someone else’s life.

4. What has been challenging about serving with us? Has this been counter-balanced by any moment or interaction you've had with our students?  The most challenging part is trying to build a good rapport with the children, especially when you are still new. However, you will definitely begin to feel good when the children start to recognize and exhibit little actions of appreciation towards you.

Interested to serve?  We are looking for committed (minimum two sessions a month for at least 3-6 months) and passionate (shares our vision) WorldChangeAgents.  Click here to fill up a form in under 30 seconds and we will get back to you!

 

 

 

Bootcamp for Books, a thank you.

It's been about a week since we partnered with Kitted and the Guavapass teams to invite you to Shop, Sweat and Be Merry this Christmas season.  We saw some of the best studios and trainers in Singapore come together, united by one good cause:  Our Beyond Awesome Program!

Our very own #ChiefofAwesome was there leading one of the sessions and to answer all your questions about the cause! Did you spot her? :) 

Our very own #ChiefofAwesome was there leading one of the sessions and to answer all your questions about the cause! Did you spot her? :) 

Every single ticket that was sold was given to our program to purchase the necessary books and resources needed for our 2017 line up of programs, outreaching to Singaporean youth-at-risk.

Thank you to everyone's collective efforts, we not only were able to say we were a sold-out event but we were able to successfully raise $1800!  That's going to equal a lot of much-needed, quality books for our programming.

We would like to thank the following community for making all of this awesome-ness happen!

  • KITTED for making all this possible and for having such generous hearts for our work.
  • GuavaPass for the venue and being so accommodating for the whole event.

The best studios and trainers who prove that Singapore has a vibrant fitness scene with passionate trainers who lead with love:

Thank you to everyone who were part of this amazing event!

Thank you to everyone who were part of this amazing event!

The amazing vendors who had everyone fuelled up and feeling incredibly spoilt!  You prove that our local brands are creative, exciting and care about making a difference.

And to everyone who spread the word, came along, asked questions, sweated it out and got in with doing good in Singapore, we love you!  

A selection of books that one of our passionate teachers has already run out to provide for our #BeyondAwesome students!

A selection of books that one of our passionate teachers has already run out to provide for our #BeyondAwesome students!

Kirti // Beyond Awesome Volunteering

Kirti has been serving with our #BeyondAwesome program since the very beginning.  Pretty much almost one year ago.  We started our program at the bottom floor of a housing estate in the Henderson community of Singapore.  When it rained, our students had to make do with soggy artwork and dirty flooring.  When we were setting up, our team had to disinfect tables and chairs as it was a communal space - cigarettes, trash and odds and ends were a common sight.  At the midway point of our session, the garbage men would come like clockwork and empty out the community bins leaving many of our students (and team) having to pinch their noses while attempting to read a book.  When we glanced around us we spotted an uncle (respectful local term for older man) drinking beer, a group of senior citizens getting their hair cut right next to us and various kids and youth running around screaming at the top of their lungs.

Kirti stuck around.

 

We then relocated to a new facility - indoors, a place to call our own.  It wasn't much - white walls and flooring, an old photography studio.  It was dusty and plan but it would do.   We had no furniture, no inspiring artwork on the walls, no shelving and no 'life' in our space.

Kirti stuck around.

 

We then set about creating a space for our students.  Shelving sponsored by another WCA in the community, Sandra - we bought bits and bobs from IKEA and had it set up.  We got donated tables and chairs from an Italian restaurant looking to undergo their own makeover.  We got colorful rugs, put up artwork created by our students, set up a library.  We were inspired and motivated by another member of our team, Lexie, a teacher with over 25 years of experience from Australia - who felt like Mary Poppins to us.  Oh how we transformed our space.

Kirti stuck around.

 

So looking back at the one year mark, we wanted to spend some time to hear the stories of our support community.  Kirti shares,

I signed up to serve with Blessings in a Bag’s ‘Beyond Awesome’ program. It is nearly a year now that I have been working and serving.

I now have the privilege of not only working as a #WCA Community Champ (Volunteer Co-ordinator for the program) but I also have worked actively on the leadership and planning team which has also involved me in a variety of opportunities. I am incredibly grateful for the rewarding insight ‘Beyond Awesome’ has given me and the great networking (and friendships!) that occurs organically.

The team works super-duper hard behind the scenes and we work as one to bring about awesome transformations within our students. Every time I volunteer, I know that I will meet at least one child who will either touch my heart, make me smile or give me something to reflect upon.

I look forward to making a difference, no matter how small of a contribution it is. I know that at the end of every day, I have made a significant impact on the students we outreach to and have contributed to building a strong, sustainable Country.

This experience has been the most rewarding experiences of my life. I would highly recommend volunteering to anyone with an interest in making a difference.

Before my time at Beyond Awesome, I was a stay at home mother. I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to get back out there. But I took this opportunity and I haven’t looked back since - everything and every single day is full of adventure and excitement. To all the mums who are on the fence about serving with our program, I would highly encourage you to join. Not only will you get to meet other mums, you will also be able to bring your own kids to serve together with you. It is also important for you to carve a bit of time out for yourself, to do something fulfilling and to also walk away knowing that you have made a difference to the kids and youths we reach out to.

We've come a long way in just under a year and we've got so many awesome things in store for 2017!

I don't really care much for grades

People always ask me why it is I do what I do.  I guess, for someone to want to reach out and help others in a society where everything is so focused on self - it can easily be seen that I am an anomaly.  Perhaps I am.  But I hope that not to be the case.  

People always ask me why it is I do what I do and I instinctively see all the faces of youth I have had the honour and pleasure of getting to know and serve side by side with.  I remember when someone first walks into our space, wide-eyed and a little unsure about why it is they even showed up to begin with.  I remember the emotions that overwhelm me when I see a leader step up and reach out to guide a new face in our programs.  I remember being taught how to play an XBOX game and miserably failing at it but deriving so much joy from that moment because it was something they - the youth - decided I needed coaching on.  I remember the sadness I felt when a few have skipped on off to college and yet feeling so much pride at witnessing their growth and seeing them step into their limitless potential and, more importantly, owning who they are.

So when I get a message from a #WorldChangeAgent that has come through our doors, stayed for the adventure and left for the bigger World, I always do my best to make myself available. 

Karin first came to us by way of email and in little to no time at all, she was handling our entire social media accounts.  She coached me on Facebook tools and tricks.  She led the way with building up our newsletters and she encouraged others to work together with her on social media campaigns that would not only inspire her peers but would drive a call-to-action response from the general public.  She reminded me of upcoming events and notified me on outstanding emails that endlessly flowed through our inboxes. 

Karin planned 'Blessings on the Streets' among other team members, she referred her friends to sign up and serve and she always had an amazing attitude that always looked for where she could serve. 

When Karin flew into town for a week, I was excited to see her.  The instant we met up she quickly pointed out that I had been using my earphones the wrong way.  Silly me, how was I supposed to know that there was an in-built microphone and volume control in my headphones?!!? That's what I love about working with youth - they have so much to teach me.  They have so much to teach us.  And it's not always as mundane as a pair of earphones.  

We talked about school, amazing photography skills (I forgot to mention she takes incredible photos) and her hopes and dreams for the future.  At one point during our meal, Karin touched on something that we stand for here at 'Blessings in a Bag':

I don’t care much for my grades. They don’t really say anything. What matters the most is what I can learn and that I can keep on learning

Dear Karin, we're so incredibly proud of you for reppin' who you are at U.C Berkeley and having just completed an internship with Salesforce.  We can't wait to see what you'll go onto do but more importantly, we can't wait to see what you'll teach us next!

If you're interested to serve as a #WorldChangeAgent, fill up the form by *clicking this link*

Ready for Take-off in 3,2,1!

We get it.  There is so much to do, yet so little time.  From the time you hit the snooze button on your phone alarm clock, you're pretty much in a frenzy with calls to make, emails to push 'send' on and let's not get started on how many meetings and people you've over-committed yourself to.  And if you're still in school, how can we forget how much homework teachers pile you up with, extra-curricular activities and the confusing maze with which you have to navigate yourselves through when you're 'growing up'.

So when we come across people who take time - scratch that - make time, to help out in whatever ways they can, we are so grateful.  We know that for some, you take time out to travel out to wherever you're most needed whether it's the pick-up crew teams, #BeyondAwesome session teams or simply pitching in where we need it most.  For others, you spend time to work behind-the-scenes, planning sessions, co-ordinating #WorldChangeAgents, reaching out to kids and families and more!  If you're one of them, Thank you.

This week, we welcomed Lexie (she ran her first session two weeks back) into our HQ along with her two friends, Angela and Marcella.  Lexie has joined our team of committed #WCALeaders and will be leading the expansion of our program to see Beyond Awesome Nights being added to our roster of activities.  Apart from this, she helps out with our Saturday sessions, works with the team to curate ideas and shares her knowledge.  

For Angela and Marcella, it was their first time stepping into our space and learning more about our program.  They lent a helping hand, together with Lexie, to oversee new furniture pieces being put in place, sorted out piles of donations-in-kind and re-arranged our space to make it awesome for our kids.  Welcome, Angela and Marcella!  We're excited to see more of you in the coming weeks as you decide how best you can help us out.  

Our current needs are:

  • #WorldChangeAgents for our pick-up crews for Thursdays and Saturdays.  
  • #WorldChangeAgents for our sessions on Thursdays and Saturdays
  • #WCALeaders to help ideate, plan and oversee our program together with our team (like Lexie)!
  • Sponsors for food,  specific items we need for our space - like quality children's picture books, etc, bus rides (we hire out a private bus to ensure kids are safely transported from home and back).

If you're reading this and you feel compelled even in the slightest way to help us out, please click here and we'll get you started!  The first step is always the part that feels the most challenging.  We encourage you to take that leap of faith and join us - and our kids - you won't ever look back!

We can't wait to meet you and serve alongside you! :)

 

Dear Shahirah, you are not a waste of time.

Over the weekend, we welcomed our #BeyondAwesome kids to our space.  We were running short on #WorldChangeAgents (if you can commit to serving at least two weekends a week either on the pick up crew or at our sessions, please click here) so we were off to a shaky start.  It takes at least 8 to 10 helping hands to make the sessions run from stationing ourselves at various void decks, lift landings and resident’s corners.  

But we made it work.  Just as we always do thanks to the passion and commitment of our #WorldChangeAgents.  The kids streamed in, some on sugar highs others a little intimidated since they are still relatively new to our program.  We all settle down on the big carpets and rugs - kindly donated by our community of supporters - and prepare to introduce the kids to a new face to our team, Lexie.  Lexie relocated to Singapore about 8 months ago from Australia and brings with her over 25 years of teaching experience with a specialty in children’s literacy.  In a nutshell, she was an answer to our prayers!  

Our story-telling session kicks off and we move the kids over to tables where they can spend the afternoon engrossed in a craft activity related to the story they had just heard.  I personally walk around to interact with kids on each table and Shahirah’s artwork catches my eye.  I head over to her and notice how much concentration and effort she’s putting into drawing her characters.  I make a mental note to circle round and check back on her progress.

A little while later, I loop round Shahirah and ask her to show me her work.  She proudly beams up at me and confidently explains how each character was drawn after Lexie and her family (husband, David and daughter, Charlotte) who were helping out with the session that day.  I ask her to read out the note and I struggle to hold back my emotions and quickly praise her for her thoughtful note.  I encourage her to share it with Lexie, David and Charlotte and watch her run to each to share.

It moves me when a child Shahirah’s age is bursting with gratitude for something as simple as spending quality time at our sessions.  But what shakes me to my core is her line, “You wasted your time coming here to read to us!”

What makes a child feel that she is a waste of anyone’s time?  What could she possibly be going through on the days we don’t see little Shahirah?  

So I do what I always do when faced with something like this.  I create a mental letter to them that also drives me - and our team - to do, act and love better:

Dear Shahirah,

Please do not feel that we wasted our time and that spending time with you is anything to feel bad for.  You are incredibly bright, talented, confident and….awesome!  You have so much potential ahead of you and we can’t wait to see what adventures lay ahead of you in life.  All of us on our team are cheering you on.  You don’t see it but we talk about you and we SEE you.  We talk about your siblings.  We talk about your peers.  We know of the heartache that must be evident when you go home after you shared that a baby sibling passed away recently.  We know that you just want to try your best at all the activities we have planned for you on any given day you are with us. We know you love to read and want so badly for one of our team members to just sit by you and open a book of adventures together. So hold your head up high and shoot for the stars because all of us know what an exceptional human being you are growing into!

Dear Shahirah, you are not a waste of time.

With Love, Emily and the #WorldChangeAgent Team.

If you would like to volunteer at our sessions, *please click here*.

If you would like to support our program or collaborate in some way, *please click here*.