#WCAWords: Things I've learned as an Emily-Intern

#WCAWords is a written series created by #WorldChangeAgents about their experiences, thoughts and ideas.  In this post, we hear from #WCAIntern, Jia Yi, who writes about her first week with us and joining our Chief of Awesome, Emily Teng:  

- Day 1 -

Our office (Photo Credit via  Tusitala! )

Our office (Photo Credit via Tusitala!)

Day 1 was an introduction meeting at the office where we’d be working at, which was a really creative space and in retrospect, it does fit the overall feel of this internship that we’re embarking on – innovative, an abundant of creative freedom, and a lot of fun! The brief tour around the whole building got me really excited, overriding the worries I had prior to the meeting. In all honesty, I was feeling jittery and worried because of all the uncertainties because I’ve been used to having all information I want and need. I usually always strive to be on top of things and have all the information I need, but this time round prior to the meeting, I had a lot of doubts and a lot of uncertainties as to what to expect.

Consequently, all those uncertainties had me wondering if I will regret signing up for this journey. The positive vibes I’ve gotten from the first meeting told me that I shouldn’t worry, but to just believe and put my best foot forward in all that I do. I guess it’s also time that I learn to embrace the uncertainties and unpredictability of things, because life can be like that – we often find ourselves thrown into situations new and crazy and we just have to find a way not only to survive, but strive against all odds. Instead of always expecting things to be laid out in order like how most things have been for me usually, I have to learn to be more flexible and adaptive.

Even though school had no requirements for internships, I always believe in being proactive in looking for opportunities of growth and learning that the textbooks can never impart to us. I’m really glad to have chanced upon that volunteering opportunity with Blessings in a Bag which was shared by the Singapore Kindness Movement on Facebook years ago, which has led me to where I am today – doing an internship with BIAB directly.  This is another reminder to myself, that social networking IS very important. For that, I’m really thankful to you, Emily, for your thoughtful intention for us to meet as many people as possible. I’m quite a soft-spoken girl by nature, but have gotten better over the years.  A personal trauma I experienced 2 years ago had me returning to square one, back to the quiet, inhibited and reserved girl that I was before and perhaps even worse than I was initially - always silently battling anxiety attacks and self-defeating thoughts. I’ve since bounced back quite a bit from that trauma, but I still find myself awkwardly tongue-tied in many situations. I’ve been working on this aspect of myself, to be louder and more outspoken. This opportunity to meet and socialise with many individuals throughout this internship will definitely better me.

From Left to Right:  Khee Hoon, Jia Yi (me!) and Emily.

From Left to Right:  Khee Hoon, Jia Yi (me!) and Emily.

- Day 2 -

I had the opportunity to see a video-shoot take place!  The behind-the-scenes experience was truly amazing! Witnessing the videographer at work, makeup artist/stylist running here and there for touch-ups, the lights and props and equipment all up and running was something so fresh and exciting! On the night before the video shoot I did my research on the guest of the day – Dr Jamie Chiu. All that reading up about her got me really excited and inspired because she’s a clinical psychologist + counsellor, which are things I dream of doing someday. It is just really encouraging to see that technology can be used in such a way to make a positive impact. Her vision, passion and mission for all that she do was so wonderful to hear about. Dr Jamie Chiu’s sharing during the interview had some impact on me as well. For example, her definition of success got me reflecting on mine, as well as how we should not be afraid of failing. Had the chance to have a conversation with her – short and sweet with all the questions I had for her answered!

- Day 3 - 

We were invited to join a round-table discussion with the guest, Dr Jamie Chiu, and her co-founder, Mark. I came prepared with a few questions to ask during the meet-up, and I’ve gotten most of them answered! It was just a chill night of mingling and networking with interesting people such as Dr William Wan, someone whom I’ve met many times during events but never had the opportunity to hold long conversations with. I had a pleasant time talking to the many different people that night.

I’ve learnt a lot from the awesome people I spoke to and through those deep conversations and interesting perspectives shared, I realised there is so much more to life. What is my purpose in life, what is important to me, what scares me most at this age, these are all questions posed by the Dr William Wan and Dr Jamie Chiu that got me really reflecting.

During my exchange with Mark I felt really encouraged by his simple yet very significant words. He shared about his down times coping with depression etc, how he took u-turns and only finally completed University at a much later age than his peers. He told me what matters most is the things I do and become, not the school I’m from – I’ve always been bothered by the school I’m from because it was never my option until the worst happened to me- i.e. how I’ve secured and then lost my scholarship through a twist of events that changed my game-plan, how I’m in a private university and not a local one like how most of my friends are in. I feel inferior and secondary to most of my peers because they are in the local unis while I’m in a private one – which makes me feel less than them (some irrational thinking here, yes I’m aware of) and through his sharing I realised how the concerns and thoughts that drag me down many times – the thoughts that make me feel so inferior are not that important anymore. What matters are the things I do now and in future, and not the school and prestige I hold. Social comparisons are inevitable, but as long as you have a purpose and vision and remain true to yourself, you’ll be okay. That’s what I need to remind myself more often from now.

Trying out LULIO's app which prevents teen suicide and tackles depression amongst youth!

Trying out LULIO's app which prevents teen suicide and tackles depression amongst youth!

- Day 4 - 

We had a community walk/ door-knocking drive in the Redhill Estate. Yvonne and Dan (WCA Leaders) as well as Ann-Marie from Beyond Social Services were really nice people and I’m glad to have met them. We split up into 3 teams to cover the three blocks of flats, and the task was to go and reach out to families and kids to join the our Beyond Awesome program!  I went with an open mind and was still feeling rather afraid once I stepped into the flat, with dark, narrow walk-ways and confined living areas (one-room flat) often shared by several family members (i.e. families with up to six children but sharing only such a limited living space). We spent quite a while at each house because parents we met generally had low levels of literacy, so we had to be slow and very clear in our delivery and explanations. Thankfully, the families we encountered that day were relatively nice, which is very fortunate compared to the many that Yvonne and Anne-Marie had shared about, families who were hostile, fierce, and in general, unpleasant. I felt scared and nervous during the first few houses that I went to, but it got a lot better with each house covered.

By the end of the walk, I was physically, mentally and emotionally tired because it was a lot to take in. I’m really grateful for this experience because it offered a glimpse into what the life of a social worker comprises of, and I get to see the situation that are often hidden away from the general population, about the fact that there are so many more people in society who have fallen through the gap and are struggling to get by in life. I suddenly feel that all my problems were so little and insignificant compared to what these people go through, their living conditions that I can’t quite imagine going through. I really admire social workers and volunteers, all the work they do in the long run do add up to a lot, which goes a long way in changing the lives of families. I was particularly amazed by how Anne-Marie knows the names and family background of so many on the list, it goes to show her dedication and hard-work. The walk made me realised the significance of the Beyond Awesome program, because such early intervention is really important and apt.

Getting ready for our Community Walk!

Getting ready for our Community Walk!

- Day 5 -

For this whole week, I’ve been researching and curating a list of interesting people that the #LifewithEmily series can potentially feature. I realised there are actually many interesting people in Singapore, who have great inspirational stories of their own to tell. Many of them have their own difficulties, but they have very strong wills and choose to adopt positive attitudes to face their problems. There are many with big hearts that are so ever-willing to help others even when they are the ones with situations that justify the receiving of help from others. There are others who are serve others in simple ways, but so significant in the fact that they bother to do something to make someone’s life a little better. This research work is one that I thoroughly enjoyed doing.

That afternoon, we had a meeting with Cognizant (one of BIAB's corporate partners who encourage their employees to volunteer weekly with the kids we reach out to). It was really nice seeing others stepping forward and giving back to the community. Through the discussion, I’m reminded of how much careful thought and planning is needed in planning each Beyond Awesome session (e.g. bus booking, seeking of parents’ permission, the way to handle children, manpower, etc!). There is so much going on behind-the-scenes – the energy, time, and effort of volunteers and organisers involved.  It was also my first time at the space where Beyond Awesome sessions usually take place. It is a really nice place to be in, despite the 'organised mess'. All the feelings after meeting the kids from the community walk and seeing how significant these sessions are in shaping the lives of the children made me a lot more motivated in all that I do during my short stay here for my internship. While I can’t do big and significant things right now, I know I can do little things (e.g. sorting out the library space for the kids) with great love.

In summary, week 1 feels like an adventure – meeting and going to new places every day this week. It has been quite a lot to take in, and despite it being the first week, I’ve already learnt and felt so much. I’m certainly excited for more to come. Thank you for your care, patience and guidance, Emily! We can see that you are very stretched with so much to attend to; I truly hope that we’re able to help you ease the load on your shoulders.

#WCAIntern, Jia Yi :)