Tell us what a typical day at work looks like for you.
I’m a youth worker, and I work with Majulah Community, an organisation that works primarily with youths that are in school or outside in the communities. We drop by these places and conduct activities and programmes for these kids, as well as some level of mentoring with them.
As for my specific role, it’s making sure the programmes we conduct are impactful for these kids, and that the mentors we have and everybody on the team are trained and ready to handle these kids well.
When did this love for youth work start?
When I was younger, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Boy’s Home, or Boy’s Hostel as it was then called. I was 16 years old then, and I met kids who were my age, but were living totally different lives from me, and I would always wonder how they got there, and what happened in their lives.
One of the persons that brought me there to volunteer mentioned that the reason why these boys were in the home was because society neglected them. So that really changed my perception of who they were.
Initially, when I thought about youths at risk, I always assumed they do the things that they do by choice. But actually, a lot of it is influenced by what happens around them, and how society and their living environment affects them and the way that they grow. Since then, I’ve wanted to be that change for them, which is why I’m doing what I’m doing.
What are some things you’ve learnt through your time as a youth worker?
I learnt that I am more patient than I thought I would be (laughs). And I guess another thing is the importance of listening, and then relating and adapting well to different kids. It’s not easy at the start, because you know, my life is completely different from what they’ve lived, but being able to just listen and be present makes them feel like “Eh, they care about me as well”.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?
I rock climb! I love rock climbing, and I make coffee on the side as well for fun (laughs). But yeah, rock climbing is something that I’ve been doing since I was 18, or 19 years old.
What I love about rock climbing is that it’s really just you against the wall. You’re never against anyone, and it’s not a competition against anyone. Also, the community there is always so welcoming and friendly, so you’re always helping each other out.
I’ve also tried natural climbing before, a couple of years ago in Bangkok. It’s a lot more fun and thrilling than bouldering, because there are no holes, and it’s all about muscle memory. So you have to just try the route out once, fall, and then figure out what you did right or wrong, and try again. It’s a different challenge, and it’s riskier as well because there are no padded floors, and you have to bring your own crash pad and what not, but it’s more fun! My wife loves rock climbing too.
Tell us more about your wife.
She’s an allied educator, so she teaches primary school children with autism. Like I mentioned she loves to rock climb as well, and she also plays music. She plays a lot of instruments, all self-taught, but I can’t do any of that, so I just support her.
What’s the biggest thing she’s taught you?
She’s taught me to be more accepting of people. Because the work that she does is very, very tough, and I can see how difficult it is for her every day. I’ll tell her “Why don’t just take a break? Just don’t do this anymore?” But for her it’s like if she’s not there for those kids, then no one else will be, you know? And she puts in a lot of heart and effort for these kids, and just accepts who they are, no matter their condition.
She actually gets punched in the face, kicked, and scratched and all that by her students in school, but she knows that it’s not their fault, and that it’s not on them, and she’s just very accepting of people lah. I look at her everyday I’m like “Oh man, how do you do this?” I’m like, so tired from my own kids, and I look at her, and she just has a whole other level of strength.