WhatsApp Image 2018-10-25 at 10.26.54 AM.jpeg

October 24th 2018 - Connected India *Click here*

“Emily Teng (winner of Kampong Spirit Category) and founder of Blessings in a Bag, 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.”

Emily with some kids in community in the Philippines.jpg

October 24th 2018 - TODAY Newspaper *CLICK HERE*

SINGAPORE — The memory of seeing less privileged street children in Jakarta, Indonesia while riding the school bus as a seven year-old international school student led Ms Emily Teng to channel blessings others’ way.

“I used to ask my mum, why is there such a huge disparity between us and the young children on the street?” said Ms Teng, 31, a former radio deejay.

Guided by her goal to “close the gap between the haves and have-nots”, Ms Teng kick-started an initiative at the age of 20 to provide less privileged children in Singapore and the region with daily essential items such as toothbrushes, shoes and small household products.

A student at the Management Development Institute of Singapore at the time, Ms Teng named her initiative Blessings in a Bag, after the bags of clothes and other items that were donated.

What was meant as a “one-time” donation drive soon grew into a regional project.

“(At one point,) we collected eight tonnes worth of items,” said Ms Teng, one of eight winners of the President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Awards on Wednesday (Oct 24). Blessings in a Bag won in the Kampong Spirit category.

Her organisation would receive more than 150,000 donation bags every year. After collecting the items in Singapore, Ms Teng and some 50 regular volunteers would then pack and send them to other social organisations in Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia.

Between 2005 and 2013, Ms Teng juggled her non-profit work with her day job.

After eight years on the airwaves, she decided to quit to focus on running her social organisation.

Wanting to do something that was longer lasting, meaningful and more engaging for youths, Ms Teng came up with education programmes for children here. This led to the creation of Beyond Awesome for youths between the age of six and 16. 

The programme takes children and young people with fewer opportunities on educational tours to tech companies such as Microsoft, and conducts "mindfulness" courses to teach compassion.

“We want to take them to places that they would have been less likely to go to because of their circumstances,” said Ms Teng.

Once, on a tour of the Microsoft office, a teenager told her that she wanted to work at a similar company in future, only to be told by her brother that “people like us will never work at a place like (that)”, recounted Ms Teng.

Such experiences give her more reason to push on. “We want to help youths to dare to dream, and live out their full potential.”

Ms Teng, who is running the organisation without receiving a salary, bolsters her income by taking on hosting gigs and doing freelance fitness training.

“Honestly, there are a lot of times I’ve asked myself if I should leave and quit,” she said.

Ms Teng was recently selected to be one of 100 participants of the Facebook Community Leadership Programme, which offers funding for community initiatives. While funding details have yet to be confirmed, she said it is an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals.

What she would also like to do is to encourage more professionals to work for social causes.

“We are seeing many talented people choosing to work for corporations rather than social, non-profit organisations. I wish it could be an easier choice between earning a living and making a difference, but I don’t have all the answers. I hope (working for social causes) can be an easier option in the future.”

Other winners of this year’s President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Awards include Mr Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad, founder of the youth-led interfaith initiative Roses of Peace, as well as the Assisi Hospice and volunteers from its No One Dies Alone programme.

WhatsApp Image 2018-10-25 at 12.49.53 AM.jpeg


“The kampung spirit category for informal groups was won by Blessings in a Bag.

It was founded by former radio DJ Emily Teng, 31, in 2007 to collect items like clothes and toys for needy children in the region.

It now runs a programme called Beyond Awesome where volunteers befriend children from poor families to empower them by giving them experiences they may not have otherwise, like visiting companies such as Facebook, or attending drama or art workshops.

Ms Teng, who now works as a marketing director, always had a heart for the underdog. Her family struggled for a few years when she was in primary school after her father lost his job. Her mother worked as a secretary to feed the family of four, including a younger sister.

Ms Teng said of the Beyond Awesome programme: "We are here to cheer them on, to listen to them and love them."