Photo credit: ESTHER CHUA


Esther Chua, 25, is an account executive who works in an advertising agency. Her passion is to seek to bring hope and restoration to the less privileged and marginalised – one small action at a time. She has started initiatives with different groups, such as Christmas parties for migrant workers. She shares some values that she has learnt along the way:

It's not only about you

The heart of social justice work is service unto others. It’s important to remember that in serving others, we are choosing to lay down our personal desires to serve them well.

However in the process of planning and strategising, sometimes it’s possible to forget and miss this. It’s also crucial that people we serve should never become projects or numbers, that we continue to look at them through eyes of compassion and be constantly reminded that we are a part of something that is bigger than ourselves.

Personally, through every interaction with the homeless, migrant workers, children living in the slums and the like, I’ve come to see that our lives paint a grander story and I’m merely a small part of it. I have been blessed with the opportunity to be able to give a portion of my time, heart and money to pour into their lives, and I’m excited to see how their stories will continue to unfold.

Be courageous

I realised that whenever an idea to bless or give back to the community pops up in my head, it won’t be long before the voice of fear comes creeping in as well. For instance, the fear that the idea would not actually serve its purpose, even when the feedback for such an idea has already been positive. And if you’re someone who’s rather soft spoken, like me, that might mean not speaking up to share these ideas, nor executing them.

However, I’ve learnt to identify and “catch” these voices. When reminded of why we do what we do, which is for the less fortunate and marginalised in the community to meet with hope and restoration, it’s easy to push these fears aside. I’ve also learnt that sometimes it’s alright to take action even when you’re scared because that is what courage is.

Stay teachable and keep learning

When it comes to doing the work of social justice, I recognise that there is still so much that I don’t know. This keeps me teachable and intentional in learning.

Recently, there was a fundraiser idea that I wanted to execute. In my mind, this idea was great and would surely be able to raise funds. However, after asking some trusted peers for their feedback, they honestly highlighted the flaws of the idea while acknowledging its good intentions.

It’s important to surround ourselves with a community that not only encourages you to step out of your comfort zone but also looks out for your blind spots. I’ve also intentionally sought advice from older mentors who have many years of experience in this area.

Do it for the one

One of my favourite quotes would be, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love” by Mother Teresa.

I believe that everyone and anyone can make a difference. It doesn’t always look like getting on a plane and travelling to a third world country to do charity work. It can be living with intention every day in our own spaces – at our school, work and neighbourhood.

Sometimes it might look like helping your neighbour carry their groceries, or being a listening ear to the auntie that misses her family that’s overseas and can’t fly back to visit because of COVID-19. We never know the impact that we can bring to the people around us, and perhaps it’s time that we tap into that potential.

Set boundaries, stay tender and love well

I’ve learnt to set boundaries for myself when it comes to reading the news. This is because with social media, we are constantly being updated on news or stories of injustice. I’ve found that reading such things throughout the day results in me absorbing such news without much thought or consideration. As such, my heart may start to “harden” and instead of responding, I would be reacting.

Thus, I’ve actually unfollowed some news accounts and only let myself visit them once in a while, when I’ve prepared my heart and mind in advance.

To me, it’s really important that my heart stays tender and soft even when it comes to news of injustice. If we’re not careful, we can stand in the gap for injustice but with a lot of bitterness. In order to love the people involved and do the work of social justice well, I’m careful not to allow bitterness to creep into my heart.

Rest, don't quit

As someone that is working full-time whilst studying for a part-time degree, I juggle between being a daughter, employee, student and friend. To add on, also being involved in initiatives to give back to the community through different projects or organisations that I volunteer at means it’s fairly easy to have my calendar packed. On many occasions, if I’ve not been careful, I have found myself worn out.

Along the way, I’ve learnt to intentionally make time for myself to rest and recalibrate. Whilst this also means saying “no” to certain things, I’ve learnt that the wisest thing that I can do is to take care of myself so that I can take care of others with longevity.

This article was published on Aug 26, 2021

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