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Including the Excluded: Everyone Plays a Part
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Including the Excluded: Everyone Plays a Part

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Through working and volunteering in the non-profit sector, I often meet people living in dire circumstances. I vividly remember one incident while distributing breakfast to families living in public rental units. Speaking in simple English, the mother thanked us profusely for the warm porridge and noodles – generously contributed by a donor – so the money saved could go towards their monthly transport.

Giving goes a long way. But recognising and acknowledging the realities of those in need may be just as important.

Speaking after the association’s annual general meeting at Kallang Netball Centre on Friday, Liang-Lin, a fund manager for a US$7 billion (S$9.5 billion) firm focused on green real estate investments in Asia, hopes to bring her expertise to the table and increase the amount of financial support for Singapore netball during her four-year term.

Look around the world and it is not hard to see how the unmet needs of marginalised groups can lead to tension and ruptures in the social fabric. In Singapore, social exclusion and by default, inclusion, has become a hot subject – not the least because of our incredibly diverse society, aging population and the widening inequality.

Responding to these challenges require us to think more deeply and tangibly about the ways we respond to the disenfranchised. I believe developing empathy and simply taking time to understand the challenges of others, will play a critical first step.

I was encouraged to see in a 2016 study of Singaporeans’ attitudes towards social inclusion, that many saw the importance of ‘celebrating diversity’ and making a greater effort to understand vulnerable groups; be it the disabled, the mentally ill, migrant workers or disadvantaged households. The message is clear: we all play a part in making Singapore more inclusive.

At the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), it is our mission to identify underserved needs – and then empower donors to give meaningfully to meet them. In this issue of Change Matters, I’m happy to share several developments that will enable you to contribute to a wide range of social causes.

You might have seen the recent news about the launch of the LIFT (Learning Initiatives for Employment) Community Impact Fund. LIFT supports programmes that provide vocational training, social support and suitable job placements in the open market for disadvantaged persons.  Through LIFT, you’ll be able to help people with disabilities, persons recovering from mental illnesses, disadvantaged women and youth-at-risk to make a better life.

We also highlight the incredible dedication of HOME (or the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics). Amidst the challenges, HOME has steadfastly championed the well-being of migrant workers in Singapore over the last decade. Learn about how your support to CFS’s Migrants Emergency Assistance and Support (MEANS) Fund helps HOME provide vital financial assistance in a migrant worker’s time of crisis.

With your continued support, I believe we can help to foster a sense of belonging and empathy towards those who have less, enabling them greater opportunities to participate meaningfully in our society.

Joseph Lua

Assistant Director

Community Foundation of Singapore

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Opinion

Where there’s a will, there’s a way … to give a legacy

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John Doe
people of different races and ages socializing and catching up at a local cafe.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way … to give a legacy.
(Adapted from opening remarks at a Community Foundation of Singapore-LSPBS “Legacy Giving” Webinar on 1 September 2020.)

Legacy giving is one of the best kept secrets in town. For many years now, I’ve often wondered why more charities had not jumped on the bandwagon of legacy
giving. Why aren’t charities proactive in encouraging individual donors to give legacies whether via wills, CPF nominations, or even insurance policies? Examples
abound overseas. I saw firsthand one such stellar example of a pro bono law firm utilizing this modality of legacy giving during our Law Society “Lawyers Go
Global” mission trip to Sydney in 2018.

We went to Sydney as a team to learn from cutting edge innovative Sydney based law firms on law firm models harnessing technology and niche services in order to consider adopting or adapting them in Singapore. The law firm that left a deep impression on several of us in the team was Salvos Legal, affiliated with the Salvation Army. They offer humanitarian legal services and have an outstanding history and genesis you can research on. They combine the best of both worlds in fee earning lawyers sitting side by side and working hand in hand with pro bono legal practitioners. Fee earners cross-subsidise the provision of pro bono legal services. It was a joy to see both pro bono practitioners and fee earners working harmoniously in a single setting and committed to doing good (directly or indirectly) as a firm.

Salvos Legal turned legacy giving to charities into art form. They use radio announcements and organise Community Wills Days (where generous local solicitors
prepare simple wills in return for a donation to the Salvos). They have built up a fair amount of expertise and essentially encourage the public to donate via legacy
giving.

In Singapore today, death is still a taboo topic in some quarters. As an aging society with a silver tsunami, we need to speak about this elephant in the room. We need more discourse about prudent asset stewardship, legacy giving and planned and sustained giving long after we have left the earth. From the charity’s point of view, this could represent a creative fundraising modality. Indeed, local charities such as the Kidney Dialysis Foundation and the Singapore Children’s Society have started using donation via legacy giving. Closer to home, recently, to commemorate the life of CLAS founder, visionary and architect, the late Harry Elias SC, the Law Society Pro
Bono Services in collaboration with Harry Elias Partnership have set up the Harry Elias SC CLAS Fellowship Fund. This Fund is a continuing and cherished memorial to Harry that will fund expenses arising from the CLAS Fellowship such as their remuneration and practice-related costs to ensure that young lawyers have a glorious
opportunity to follow in the footsteps of legal legends and trailblazers like Harry E.

For the gift-giver, legacy giving has four distinct, discernible advantages. First, it allows the donor to give their own voice to their unique personality, values and beliefs
for pet causes. Second, it creates a meaningful memorial of legacies that will perpetuate. Third, it positively impacts subsequent generations through a sustained
giving. Fourth, it deepens the connection between the charity and the donor.

Where appropriate, probate, wills and administration specialists, private wealth law experts and general practitioners in client advisories could suggest legacy giving to clients.

There are nuanced issues to consider for the donor and the attending lawyer. The form of the giving, whether it’s memorial giving, legacy giving and so on, and the
attendant risks involved. I shall not gloss over this aspect. Questions that need examining include: (1) how do you communicate to the testator or testatrix (person
making the will)? (2) are the template clauses appropriate to express the donor’s wishes? (3) what about the testator’s/testatrix’s mental capacity; or more precisely,
testamentary capacity? (4) from the donee charity’s point of view, what are the risks in accepting such gifts? These issues are fact-sensitive, complex in some cases and need careful analysis to avoid something going wrong (including misexpression of the testator’s/testator’s wishes).

The old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. But the new saying I have for you is where there’s a will, there’s a way …. to give a legacy. You can have the nous and the know-how, to find that way for your donors. Legacy giving leaves a legacy for life.

Source:Law Gazette

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Opinion

Accessing Quality Education: Three Areas Where Donors Can Make A Difference

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John Doe
Smiling children wearing orange shirts sitting at a table with notebooks

Students without means often do not enjoy the same opportunities as their well-to-do peers. Some are forced to give up their studies to support themselves and their families. Others struggle throughout school without realising they have a learning disability. Some younger children are less school-ready, leading them to fall behind academically. With grants from CFS donors, at-risk students can get the right support to access quality education, one of five focal outcome-centred causes that CFS champions.  

We firmly believe education can boost a person’s employability, and promote inclusivity and integration within society. However, we recognise that not every child has an equal shot at obtaining the education they need. With targeted philanthropy, we bridge critical gaps and improve social mobility for our most vulnerable young.

CFS curates evidence-backed programmes that stretch from pre-school to tertiary level. In this article, we focus on three essential areas where, together with our donors, we continue to make a tangible impact. These are financial assistance for living expenses, helping children with learning differences and building skills for primary-level pupils. 

Letting Students Focus on Learning Through Financial Assistance

At the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), students gain diplomas and valuable skills in a variety of industries, from food science to nursing to IT.  The majority of ITE students, however, come from challenging backgrounds: 46% are from families with a per capita income of under $1,000, more than twice the national average. Many then have to work part-time, leaving less time for their studies.

ITE lends a helping hand to these youths through the Monthly Financial Assistance Scheme (MFAS). Beneficiaries receive $150 per month for six months to help with their food and transport costs. 

ITE is only able to help some of their students with MFAS and relies on donor support to ensure greater coverage. This would help even more students on their quest to graduate and find gainful employment. 

Similar financial assistance schemes are also offered by AMKFSC Community Services Ltd, Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic. Numerous students with limited family support stand to benefit from your generosity.

Support for Dyslexia Assessments

Children with learning differences often have difficulties keeping up in school. This can severely impact their academic life and hurt their career opportunities. Some have dyslexia without knowing it: global incidence rates suggest that up to 10% of the school-going population may suffer from dyslexia.

In Singapore, the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) conducts close to 1,000 psycho-educational assessments each year, based on referrals by teachers and parents. These assessments are important in identifying the needs of struggling learners to make appropriate recommendations for learning support. However, about 35% of these children come from low-income families, who will not be able to afford the costly assessment fees.

Donor support from CFS directly funds psycho-educational assessments by trained psychologists at DAS. Once diagnosed, the children will be able to receive support tailored to their learning abilities. Through early intervention, donors are helping disadvantaged children overcome their learning differences, allowing them to fulfil their potential.

After-School Enrichment Builds Skills and Confidence

Each child starts at a different point in primary school based on their socio-economic background. Those from families facing challenges may have weaker literacy or numeracy skills and thus be less prepared for school.  Being placed into lower-performing classes may demoralise and frustrate these children, leading to disinterest and reduced academic motivation.

KidsExcel works closely with primary schools to reach out to students from families with a gross household income below $2,750 or per capita income below $690. It runs regular enrichment sessions which address learning gaps as well as activities centred on sports and life skills. This includes drama, public speaking and robotics. The programme boosts resilience and character-building while helping the kids academically. It also empowers parents to participate in their children’s educational journey.

In 2022, KidsExcel served 350 primary school children across 11 centres. An encouraging number of children were able to improve their grades, while 87% of Primary 6 pupils passed their PSLE. Through KidsExcel, donors are helping to level the playing field for underprivileged children in primary schools. 

We could spark change with far-reaching effects by funding a programme that improves access to quality education. Drawing on our experience working with charities and partners over the years, CFS is here to offer advisory and administrative support so that you can focus on the transformative power of your giving to educational causes.  

Learn how CFS can help you support access to quality education at https://www.cf.org.sg/giving/ways-to-give/.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

News

The Business Times: New fund to help Singapore’s marginalised groups land jobs

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A professional man in a suit holds a newspaper displaying the Business Times, providing current business news.

By Rachel Mui

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), which is a non-profit organisation, on Thursday said it has launched a new fund to raise the participation of marginalised groups in Singapore’s workforce.

Among other things, the Lift (Learning Initiatives for Employment) Community Impact Fund will support programmes that provide vocational training for marginalised individuals, and place them in jobs in the open market, CFS said.

These programmes are targeted at four marginalised groups – persons with disabilities, persons recovering from mental illnesses, disadvantaged women, as well as youths-at-risk – with a focus on helping them navigate and overcome barriers to securing sustained employment.

This will be done via equipping them with both hard and soft skills for obtaining jobs in the food and beverage industry, with the possibility of including more sectors in the future, CFS added.

Said Joyce Teo, deputy chief executive officer at CFS: “Marginalised groups have largely been excluded from the labour market because of various stereotypes, stigmas and prejudices. This often leads to economic and social vulnerability that follows them for life. We hope to pilot new pathways to help the vulnerable make a living, improve their self-esteem and become more involved in society.

“Lift meets this need in a holistic manner by concurrently providing participants with technical training, social support and job coaching to help them manage socio-emotional and financial stressors while they learn and work. Ultimately, the aim is to help them get and stay employed with the help of the community.”

The fund aims to support an initial 90 participants with a total of 12,600 hours of WSQ-certified (workforce skills qualifications) vocational training, as well as 5,400 hours of job matching, job placement and on-the-job coaching support.

This works out to an average of 140 hours of vocational training, and 60 hours of post-training support for each participant. During the training phase, participants will also receive social support from charity partners to minimise or resolve family and/or other issues that may otherwise derail their learning, CFS noted.

Potential participants will first be identified and referred by the Institute of a Public Character charities, and then assessed in terms of attitude, aptitude as well as potential for employment.

Successful candidates will then be trained by one of two social enterprises working alongside CFS as programme providers – Project Dignity will train participants for kitchen and service jobs, while Bettr Barista will train participants to be baristas.

Both companies will also provide job attachment opportunities during the training phase.

CFS aims for around 65 per cent of its participants to complete the training, and for about 60 per cent of graduates to be successfully placed into employment for at least three months. To track the efficacy of these initiatives, programme providers will also, where possible, keep in touch with participants for up to two years, CFS said.

While an anchor donor has been secured to seed the Lift Community Impact Fund, CFS is now looking to raise additional funds to cover the estimated S$528,000 required to support the programmes for these marginalised groups.

Potential donors who wish to contribute to Lift may visit Giving.sg, or write to CFS at contactus@cf.org.sg for more information. Read more.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

Stories Of Impact

Heart Of Goodness: The Vocal Prowess Of Stefanie Yuen Thio

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John Doe
a person standing on a boardwalk in front of a glass dome building

She stands out for her irreverence. Her saucy humour. Her no-holds-barred views on a gamut of issues from cryptocurrencies to shady KTV business owners. However, right now, flanked by vibrant Pop Art in her living room and two energetic dogs, Stefanie Yuen Thio is in “pensive mode”. In fact, she is downright disturbed.

As part of the Singapore Together Alliance for Action (AfA) to tackle types of online harm, the corporate lawyer has just come from a discussion about the growing harassment women face. “It’s not just sexual grooming and revenge porn,” she says. “Women, more than men, face a higher incidence of gender-based abuse on the internet such as cyberstalking, trolling and violent threats, and teenage girls are even more vulnerable. 

“We need to take a stand. It’s time the community took control,” she says. AfA is a government-led initiative, tapping youths, tech companies and academics, as well as corporate figures such as Yuen Thio, to come up with ways to make the online world a safer space. Foremost is to raise public awareness of the need for it, as victims typically have little idea what to do. 

Other goals are to create a code of best practice, to offer assistance and to scrutinise how social media is shaping online behaviour as well as mental wellness. A recent study from Nanyang Technological University, for example, found that the more time we spend on Facebook, the greater our risk of suffering from depression. 

A Voice For The Underprivileged

Yuen Thio knows well how social media can define us. Her voice is regularly heard on LinkedIn, where she has over 13,000 followers and was ranked one of Singapore’s top voices in 2020. She can also be heard on the BBC, where she is a guest commentator. Her tongue-in-cheek posts can be uninhibited, sometimes raising eyebrows and drawing flak. But this is not distracting Yuen Thio, who is clearly comfortable marching to the beat of her own drum, from championing the causes she believes in and sparking conversations that could galvanise change.

The online harms alliance, launched in July, is the latest of Yuen Thio’s advocacy work outside of her day job as joint managing partner at TSMP Law Corporation, a boutique corporate-law practice. She is also bringing her energy and savvy to the pandemic’s exigencies: as Singapore battled Covid-19, she has been driving efforts to help frontline workers and those hard hit by the cratering of the economy. 

“I read a story about an ambulance driver who was turned away from a chicken rice stall and about nurses who could not get a taxi home,” she says. It dredged up memories of SARS, when hospital staff were shunned during the 2003 outbreak for fear of them somehow carrying the virus. “I thought f— that! We’re not doing that again,” she says.

Empowering Others To Help

So, early on in the crisis, she helped put in motion the Sayang Sayang Fund with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), a nonprofit that promotes philanthropy. Yuen Thio, who sits on the board of CFS, seeded the fund with a $20,000 gift. Managed by CFS, the Sayang Sayang Fund has since ballooned to over $9.6 million and supported more than 359,302 people in the Republic. 

Her law firm, too, has stepped up. With many of its staff working remotely via laptops, TSMP is donating unused desktops to the needy. The firm, which sets aside 10 per cent of annual profits for charitable giving, has been sponsoring meals and care packs for hospital workers. And, in Cheng San-Seletar constituency — its MP is Nadia Ahmad Samdin, a former TSMP lawyer — its staff have befriended and accompanied seniors to get vaccinations. 

This hands-on volunteering is in addition to the pro bono work the firm does. All its lawyers are encouraged to do 25 hours per year, to improve access to justice for the under-served. The firm takes a special interest in cases where migrant workers are treated badly and works with groundup initiatives such as Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, Transient Workers Count Too and It’s Raining Raincoats

Yuen Thio, who was an advisory board member for the NUS Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education from 2018 to 2020, recalls a tea that TSMP organised for foreign domestic workers. “We talked about their rights. And so many of them cried because nobody had ever looked at them with much humanity,” she says.

The Law Firm That Gives

The firm has also established the TSMP Law Foundation to allow more structured giving, something Yuen Thio is hoping to prod more wealthy Singaporeans into doing. With husband Thio Shen Yi, who co-founded TSMP with his mother, the couple has created a #GivingBack Foundation through CFS, which helps individuals set up and manage funds and grants. The foundation also works with over 400 charity partners in Singapore. 

Through these plans, she hopes philanthropy will be less ad hoc and will become more a part of the Singaporean DNA. As part of their legacy gifting outreach, for instance, CFS is encouraging everyone to leave something in their wills to charity, be it properties, equities, art or wine. But beyond that, she wants Singaporeans to start on their philanthropic path earlier in life. 

“Charity should start early and not only after you die,” says Yuen Thio. CFS can help set up foundations within as little as 24 hours and is reaching out to the well-off through private bankers and family offices. 

She also advocates getting the next generation involved to further institutionalise giving. “The tragedy of this generation is a sense of purposelessness. There are too many safety nets,” reckons Yuen Thio, who has a son studying in London. 

However, she notes that the youth of today also have an altruistic streak and can be swayed by causes such as climate change and social inclusion. Their motivations, compared to “my generation whose goal was to make money first”, will undoubtedly shape the future of philanthropy.

What is also firing her up at the moment is how women are reshaping philanthropy. She describes the no-strings attached, big-ticket giving by MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, as inspiring. In her opinion, “…Women are more concerned about impact, not control. We look at needs and, in my experience, are much more ready to open our wallets when a cause resonates with us. We tend to give from the heart, men from the head. Men are less emotional, they think of data and longevity of legacy,” she says.

Another generous giver is Melinda French, the ex-wife of billionaire Bill Gates. Both Scott and French are donating to causes that empower women and boost education — things that Yuen Thio believes could turn the tide for gender equality. Reflecting further on how these women have come into their own after their divorces, she says, “Sometimes, when the wife has lived in the shadow of her husband, you need a marriage to break down for a woman to really shine.” 

Strength in Solitude

For herself, she has found solo travel to be empowering. Yuen Thio embarked on her first one three years ago and chose Beirut. “I had never lived by myself or had my own space. I wanted to feel how it was to be my own person in the world, out of my comfort zone,” she says.

Armed with her telephoto lens, the photography enthusiast made her way to the Lebanese capital and was thoroughly struck by the city’s contrasts. A memory of the bombed-out Holiday Inn rubbing battered shoulders with the palatial Intercontinental Phoenicia stands out for her, attestation to the resilience and durability of the human spirit.

Women, more than men, face a higher incidence of gender-based abuse on the internet such as cyberstalking, trolling and violent threats, and teenage girls are even more vulnerable. We need to take a stand. It’s time the community took control.

When she turned 50, she packed her bags for a solo trip to Bordeaux and then to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She chose the wine region in the southwest of France because she speaks French, and the concentration camps in Poland to try and comprehend the past. “I wanted to understand human history,” she says, adding that we shouldn’t run away from confronting terrible things. Walking through the extermination chambers, she was shaken by the banality of evil. “I remember thinking, ‘This is what evil feels like. It creeps up on us.’” 

Covid-19 has halted her travels, both for work and for leisure, but it has also given her time to slow down, connect more, write more. 

“I’ve always liked writing,” says Yuen Thio, who spent one holiday during her university days as a cub reporter for The Straits Times Life!. Whether advocating for clients, the under-served, or simply musing on an issue that moves her, Yuen Thio makes an impact with her inimitable, eloquent voice.

If you would like to begin your journey of giving back, get in touch with us.

This article was originally published in A Magazine here. Permission required for reproduction.

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