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Making good of a tough past

Nurfaizah Faizuwan
Nurfaizah Faizuwan

Published: 24 December 2015, 6:11 PM

She had a rough childhood, when her father went to jail and her mother fell ill. But those experiences made Ee Min who she is today.

Growing up was tough for Lau Ee Min. Her family was poor and her father was a habitual gambler who went to jail twice for fund embezzlement and working with loan sharks. Her mother fell ill and had to be hospitalised for several months when she was in secondary four.

Yet, it is her rough childhood that taught her to empathise with the underprivileged.

“Thankfully, my father turned over a new leaf and found a job as a driver, and sometimes he would offer to pick my team up when we have to carry lots of stuff to events,” said Ee Min.

As her family was not well to do, she and her sisters could barely afford to buy new books and shoes. Ee Min started working at 14 to help her mother cope with the family’s expenses.

When her mother was admitted to hospital for gall bladder problems, Ee Min’s grades dropped drastically and she slipped into depression and anxiety, causing her to skip school.

However, her teachers and peers helped her get back on her feet, by staying with her after school to revise. Ee Min eventually graduated and earned nine points for her GCE ‘O’ Levels examinations and went on to junior college.

 

“All my teachers simply wanted me to pay the kindness forward and that’s when I realised the true power of collective help,” said the 21-year-old.

After graduating from Anglo-Chinese Junior College, the avid reader started working at the Singapore Children’s Society as a fundraising assistant. She also gave free tuition lessons to the underprivileged children at the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

“THAT’S HOW I FOUND OUT I REALLY WANTED TO WORK IN THE SOCIAL SERVICE SECTOR. IT’S BEEN ALMOST TWO YEARS SINCE I STARTED WORKING FULL-TIME AND VOLUNTEERING PART-TIME, EVEN THOUGH IT IS AN UNCONVENTIONAL PATH TO TAKE,” SAID EE MIN. 
In March last year, Ee Min and three friends joined the Citi-YMCA Youth for Causes 2014, a competition to start a fund-raising initiative.

They started Project Ubuntu, which is a platform where charities and beneficiaries can establish corporate partnerships and collaborate with various art groups in Singapore. Project Ubuntu also provides art skills training programs and job opportunities to budding artists.

LAST YEAR, PROJECT UBUNTU WORKED WITH TIMBUK2, A BAND OF DOODLERS AND VERY SPECIAL ARTS (VSA) SINGAPORE. 

 

Ubuntu is a South African term that roughly means ‘human kindness’. It also means ‘I am because of you.’ And it is this value that pushes Ee Min to keep doing what she is doing.

Over seven months, her team raised over $3,450, mobilised 171 volunteers and reached out to almost 8,000 people.
Their effort clinched them the Most Promising Entrepreneur Award by the Singapore International Foundation.

However, things got harder when two of the co-founders left Project Ubuntu, due to a disagreement that arose, as well as one of them leaving for overseas studies.

“WHEN MY CO-FOUNDERS LEFT ME, I FELT LIKE DOING THE SAME BUT AS CLICHÉ AS IT SOUNDS, GIVING UP WAS JUST NOT IN MY DICTIONARY,” SAID EE MIN.  PHOTO CREDIT: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION

Her family was also not supportive of her work, as they were cynical about the social service sector, due to their experience.

“It’s funny how in Singapore, there are tons of charities that help the needy but all the charities my mum reached out to never gave us any financial assistance,” said Ee Min.
Despite the challenges, Ee Min, who is now running Project Ubuntu with a small team of four people, trudged on.

“Anyone on the same unconventional path should always remember to look within themselves and not allow the voices of others affect the goal they are trying to achieve, I concluded that my family loves me a lot but I should not let their voices affect what I’m doing,” said the psychology undergraduate at uniSIM.

Project Ubuntu will soon be starting a training programme in illustrative graphic design, and they hope to groom a group of artists to produce quality illustrative artworks by June 2016.

Ee Min hopes that the initiative will grow and attract people to build a network of creative individuals and professionals whose talents can be tapped into for brand awareness.

She said: “I hope to instill ubuntu, a combination of compassion and humanity, as a value that everyone has in their hearts.”

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