Photo credit: Chan Yun Xuan

IMPACT 0102: IT DOESN’T TAKE A LOT TO SHOW LOVE

Chan Yun Xuan is a 25-year-old undergraduate student finishing her part-time degree in Sociology while working full-time in a social enterprise.

Though based in Singapore, she currently runs initiatives in Batam, Indonesia for underprivileged and at-risk youth. She hopes to break the poverty cycle for the children there by equipping them with valuable life skills and giving them tools which might help them break this cycle.

Her passion is that more children in developing nations will have access to education.

Could you tell us more about what you do?

For about five years now, I have been working with children in the villages of Batam, Indonesia. Besides group initiatives, I also spent extended time there in October 2017 and July 2019.

For almost a month each time, I stayed with an organisation that runs an orphanage and taught English to the children in the orphanage as well as in the villages.

What got you started on these efforts?

In 2017, two friends and I came together to do a private fundraiser called “The Good Hours”. It was a month-long fundraising event to raise enough money for the education of over 50 children in Batam.

Having just graduated with a Baking and Culinary Science diploma, I helped curate a three-course dessert dining experience for our friends and family, where they were invited to give any sum of money they would like to the cause. We managed to almost double our initial fundraising goal.

How has your work with the children in Batam progressed since then?

Since “The Good Hours” project, my friends and I have worked with an organisation in Batam, which has made it easier to understand the needs of the children. Our main goal is to help these children get educated, as they are often not interested in attending school and their parents would rather have them working and earning a living for the family.

Our work focuses on shifting these perspectives of education to break the poverty cycle in the villages. So from 2018 to 2019, we went to Batam monthly to hold a carnival for the children in different villages. We conducted educational games and skits for the kids and also invited their parents, in hopes of showing them that education is valuable and their children should be going to school.

Currently, with the COVID-19 situation, we have tried to pivot online with an online programme that teaches English to the village children. We are currently testing this programme with a group of teachers who go to the different villages daily to conduct classes to the village kids.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge so far?

I would say it was a challenge to believe that my skill and time could be used for good. Commonly, giving back has always looked like giving money. Yet, I have learnt that giving of yourself is worth as much.

Stepping out of my comfort zone has probably been one of the hardest aspects of this work. I am someone who likes to stay “behind the scenes”. But being part of these initiatives meant that I had to constantly be in front of a crowd to teach or lead the children. I also had to learn to be more expressive to engage a young audience, which was and still is uncomfortable for me – but I am growing in it!

What keeps you going?

I think the first motivation that keeps me going is knowing that I have been given a lot, and that means I have a lot to give others. Whether it’s a good education, resources, or even time, I have the desire to constantly give to different communities.

Another motivating factor would be seeing the impact of the work grow. And I’ve seen how every person is needed for that impact on society – and that includes me.

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