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Members of the public will soon be able to purchase antigen rapid test (ART) self-test kits at Guardian, Unity, and Watsons retail pharmacies in Singapore from June 16, 2021.The Ministry of Health (Singapore) announced on Thursday, June 10 that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has granted interim authorisation for four ART self-test kits to be sold to the general public via retail pharmacies.These tests can be self-administered and can produce results in less than 20 minutes.#covidtesting
https://mothership.sg/2021/06/self-test-kits-antigen-rapid-testts-pharmacies/
mothership-sg
Members of the public will soon be able to purchase antigen rapid test (ART) self-test kits at pharmacies in Singapore from June 16, 2021. The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced today (June 10) that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has granted interim authorisation for four ART self-test kits to be sold to the general public via retail pharmacies. They are: Abbott PanBio Covid-19 Antigen Self-test QuickVue At-Home OTC Covid-19 Test SD Biosensor SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Self-Test Nasal SD Biosensor Standard Q Covid-19 Ag Home Test These tests can be self-administered and can produce results in less than 20 minutes. Available at Guardian, Unity, and Watsons retail pharmacies from June 16 They will available at Guardian, Unity, and Watsons retail pharmacies from June 16, and subsequently at more retail locations progressively. More information on the kits, including how to use them and interpret the results, will be made available via various media channels, and on the MOH website from June 16 as well. To ensure that there are adequate supplies for all, each person can only purchase up to 10 ART kits initially. The ministry said that these self-test kits will allow it to detect cases more quickly, particularly among individuals who do not have acute respiratory infection (ARI) symptoms but are concerned that they may have been exposed to Covid-19. Those who attain a positive result from their ART self-test should approach a Swab and Send Home Public Health Preparedness Clinic (SASH PHPC) immediately to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the diagnosis. They must self-isolate until they receive a negative PCR test result. Unlike the ART test, a PCR test is more sensitive and delivers a more accurate result. Corresponding, a PCR test result takes longer to return — around two days. The ministry also advises individuals with acute respiratory infection symptoms to visit a doctor for a full diagnosis and PCR test instead of relying on an ART self-test kit. Top images via Quidel Corporation and Abbott.
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Singapore residents should continue working from home whenever possible, even as the country transitions out of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), the Multi-ministry Taskforce (MTF) announced on June 10, 2021.Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and co-chair of the MTF said that working from home will remain the default for the next few weeks.Employers should also continue to stagger start times of employees who need to return to the workplace, and implement flexible working hours, with no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites.#covid #workingfromhome
https://mothership.sg/2021/06/work-from-home-default-after-phase-2-heightened-alert/
mothership-sg
Singapore residents should continue working from home whenever possible, even as the country transitions out of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), the Multi-ministry Taskforce (MTF) announced on June 10, 2021. Speaking in the press conference, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and co-chair of the MTF said that working from home will remain the default for the next few weeks. The measure is "essential" to keep transmission risks in check, as it reduces overall footfall and interactions at common spaces at or near the workplace, and in public places, including public transport. Employers should continue to stagger start times of employees who need to return to the workplace, and implement flexible working hours. There should continue to be no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites. Singapore moved out of work-from-home as default on Apr. 5, 2021, but reimplemented it on May 16 in light of rising community cases. In May this year, 11 companies were issued fines for failing to ensure that employees who could work from home did so. Top photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
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Singapore Press Holdings announced several days ago that it is restructuring its media business into a CLG, a not-for-profit entity.We explain what led to this decision, what a CLG is, and who might possibly fund SPH media in future.#MSExplains #media
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/sph-restructuring-clg-explainer/
mothership-sg
The Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) took the spotlight on May 6 and it wasn't just because of the umbrage that its CEO, Ng Yat Chung, took. While the public and local memelords are having a field day with Ng's comment, the bigger piece of news is that SPH is restructuring its media business into a not-for-profit entity — big enough for media academic Cherian George to call it the "biggest shake-up of Singapore’s news media industry in decades". Why does SPH want to turn its media business into a non-profit? In short, like any publicly listed company, SPH faces pressure to provide its shareholders with dividends. But the dividends have been shrinking over the years in tandem with the shrinking profits from its media operations. Why is that so? Because of advertising dollars, specifically the lack of it. The decline of print advertising SPH said that its operating revenue has dropped by half in the past five years, due "largely to a decline in print advertising and print subscription revenue". Print advertising, referring to advertisements in newspapers and magazines, have indeed been decreasing thanks to the rise of Google and Facebook who provide platforms for online advertising. Those who remember reading newspapers 20 years back would recall that the papers used to be bulging with pages and pages of advertisements. Think full-page advertisements and a thick Classifieds section. Selling advertisement space is how newspapers make money, apart from their subscription revenue. But for years now, advertisers have been flocking to digital advertising — like the ones you see on this page — because readers are spending an increasing amount of time online. The switch to digital advertising affects all media companies, but the impact on SPH is disproportionately large because it owns (and publishes) all the newspapers in Singapore (the Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Berita Harian etc.) SPH recorded first-ever loss in 2020 That said, SPH has been making some profits over the years. But last year, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, SPH went into the red. The company said in its May 6 announcement: "[SPH] recorded its first-ever loss of S$11.4 million for the financial year ended 31 August 2020. If not for the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), the loss would have been a deeper S$39.5 million." SPH added that its media business incurred a pre-tax loss of S$9.7 million (not including JSS grant) for the six months which ended on February 28, 2021. While SPH has other businesses (property, student hostel accommodation, and nursing home facilities) which are performing relatively well, the conglomerate's shareholders (who invested in SPH and expect regular dividends in return) aren't likely to be happy about the business subsidising its loss-making media operations. SPH said as much — that being subject to "expectations from shareholders of profitability and regular dividends" is no longer a sustainable model for its media business. While SPH's media operations had still been turning a profit prior to Covid-19, revenue has been declining over the years. George underscored this point when he said: "In many cases, editorial capacity [in corporate media] has been shrunk not because companies are making losses, but because they are not profitable enough." Turning the company into a CLG SPH proposes to spin off its media business into SPH Media Holdings Pte Ltd, a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG), injecting S$80 million in cash as well as S$30 million in SPH shares and SPH Reit units into the new entity. Such a model is usually used by non-profit organisations, which need corporate status to perform certain functions, like borrowing credit and buying or selling property. Examples of local CLGs include the National University of Singapore, The Esplanade, Temasek Foundation and The Arts House. Examples of overseas media companies that operate as non-profits include The Guardian which is controlled by the Scott Trust, German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, which is owned by the Lenfest Institute. Removing shareholder pressure One of the immediate benefits of the new arrangement is that SPH Media won't face shareholder pressure. Unlike the listed company that SPH is, a CLG cannot raise funds by issuing shares, so it has no shareholders to answer to (and correspondingly, no dividends to pay out). Instead, it has members who act as guarantors. These guarantors will agree to pay a nominal sum (it can be as low as S$1) if the CLG folds. Hence the liability for members is limited to the guarantee. SPH said that moving to a CLG structure will allow its media business to focus on "transformation efforts and quality journalism, as well as to invest in talent and new technology to strengthen its digital capabilities". Open to a range of public and private funding The next benefit is that the new structure will open SPH Media to "a range of public and private sources with a shared interest in supporting quality journalism and credible information", said the conglomerate. It won't shield SPH from the same decline in print advertising that has decimated its media revenue, but funding can help to plug the gaps left by advertising dollars — if SPH Media can find people and organisations to support it financially. Would you consider donating to keep @official_sph media ventures alive? — Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee (@miyagi) May 7, 2021 Private funding can come from foundations, philanthropic groups and wealthy individuals, though one does wonder how many of them here in Singapore are able (and willing) to fund the costly business of printing the news in the long run. Funding can also come from the Singapore government, who is likely to be the party with the deepest pockets and the motivation to do so. Former SPH editor Bertha Henson surmised that the proposal to restructure into a CLG was mainly to allow funding from the government. George, in his piece for the South China Morning Post opined that the government will become a "major patron of the press". And indeed, shortly after SPH made its announcement, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said that it supports the restructuring, subject to shareholder approval, and is willing to provide financial support: "Our goal is to help the local news media and our journalists adapt and thrive in the digital era while maintaining the high professional standards we expect and value." Former editor of Today and The New Paper, PN Balji told Mothership that from a commercial point of view, spinning the media arm off is "the right decision": "From the editorial point of view, honestly it cannot get worse than it is now, right? So no big deal. The bigger question really.....is can it attract talent?" Mothership Explains is a series where we dig deep into the important, interesting, and confusing going-ons in our world and try to, well, explain them. This series aims to provide in-depth, easy-to-understand explanations to keep our readers up to date on not just what is going on in the world, but also the "why's". Top image adapted from SPH papers, screengrab from Straits Times YouTube video.
Article
30-year-old Nur Ashikin binte Seman has been a foodpanda delivery rider since March 2018.Formerly a stay-at-home-mother for three years, Ashikin told us that after her family was hit with unfortunate "personal problems," she was forced to take on the mantle as the sole breadwinner of the family.Although she had prior job experiences in the service industry, doing food delivery was an ideal job given the flexibility it provides, especially as a mother to a young child.Additionally, Ashikin owns a TikTok account where she shares snippets of her day as a delivery rider in Singapore, with a growing fanbase of over 25,000 followers.
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/foodpanda-single-mother-tiktok/
mothership-sg
Those living in the west may have seen a foodpanda delivery rider with a pink Honda ADV 150 motorcycle, wearing a black helmet fitted with cat ears and braids. Or perhaps she may have appeared on your For You page on TikTok, clad in her foodpanda uniform doing the latest dance trends. She is 30-year-old Nur Ashikin binte Seman, also known as the "Lady foodpanda Rider". Over 25,000 TikTok followers Ashikin owns a TikTok account where she shares snippets of her day as a delivery rider in Singapore, with a growing fanbase of over 25,000 followers. When asked how she rose to fame on the popular video-sharing platform, even she didn't really know how it happened. "It was so random, really. One fine day, I had a shift starting in half an hour so I was scrolling through TikTok. And since I was so bored, so let's try this TikTok thing and find out what the hype is about." So she posted a video of herself and promptly started her shift: Before she knew it, her phone was buzzing continuously with likes and comments on the video. She said: "While I was working, my battery almost died twice because of that video!" Since then, she shared that people have approached her while she is working, recognising her iconic helmet and pink ride. "I talk to people all the time, so I treat them like my friends." Working since March 2018 While her account has recently begun to gain traction, Ashikin has been a delivery rider since March 2018. It was a job that she had taken up out of necessity. Formerly a stay-at-home-mother for three years, Ashikin told us that after her family was hit with unfortunate "personal problems," she was forced to take on the mantle as the sole breadwinner of the family. Although she had prior job experiences in the service industry, doing food delivery was an ideal job given the flexibility it provides, especially as a mother to a young child. Full-time mother While Ashikin typically takes afternoon shifts that last between four and six hours, she starts off her day very early. Her daily routine starts at 5am, by preparing her six-year-old son's schoolbag before getting him ready for school. The working mother savours every moment she can spend with her son before walking him to preschool, where he'd be till the afternoon. Although it is important for her to work and make a living, it is equally as important for her to be a present parent in her son's life. "I try to be around as soon as possible. When he's in school, that's when I go out to work," she said. Like most food delivery riders, she began her career by commuting with a personal mobility device (PMD). Got motorcycle license in two months Unfortunately, she had to give that up following the ban of e-scooters on Nov. 5, 2019. Although this was a big hurdle for a lot of food delivery riders in Singapore, Ashikin saw it as an opportune time to upgrade her skills. She said: "The very next day [after the ban], I enrolled to get a [motorcycle] license at 7am and from 8am onwards, I attended the lessons." She passed her theory and practical lessons and got herself a motorcycle in less than two months. She stressed, however, that getting a motorcycle was necessary for her to carry out her job efficiently in order to provide for her family. While one would imagine riding around Singapore to deliver food no matter rain or shine to be especially trying during the fasting month, Ashikin shrugged it off and said that it feels like "any normal day". "It's not really a challenge, except for the sun. You'd get thirsty and it's really hot." The biggest challenge she's faced in her career so far, however, also happens to be the most memorable customer she has ever encountered. Only S$50 in bank Ashikin recalled a bitter-sweet incident where she only had S$50 in her bank account. The sum was barely enough to fill up her motorcycle with petrol and buy two meals for her ex-husband and her son. "My petrol was running out and I have to buy food for my family. Obviously, I have to use the petrol to go to work and with the balance, I spent it for my ex-husband's and my son's food... excluding myself." Almost at her wits' end, she took on one more delivery for the day so that she could cash out her profits for the day. She remembered telling herself: "Dear God, please give me some rezeki (sustenance) today." And it seems like God works in mysterious ways. Upon making the delivery to a customer's house, he told her to wait while he headed in to get something for her. "When I knocked the door, the uncle just looked at me, paused for a while and told me to wait for him. I was confused, did I do something wrong? But when he came back, he took out S$50 [from his wallet] and gave it to me." Son keeps her going While thoughtful customers like this who brighten her day, it is her son who gives her the strength to keep going on. In fact, if not for her son, she never would have thought that she would end up having a career in food delivery. "I have worked in F&B and hotels, but [being in the] delivery line is very unexpected. I never even imagined myself owning a bike! If I didn't have a son, I don't know where I'd be. Every mother would say that [our] children is the light at the end of the tunnel. He guides me." And apart from providing for her family, the job also gives her a better understanding as to why her fellow food delivery riders are doing this as well. "Everybody has their own story on why they do food delivery. If you think your problem is big, there are others who have bigger problems. We're all just doing this to survive." Top image courtesy of Ashikin binte Seman.
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Two years ago, the Ministry of Health (Singapore) announced that Singapore will be banning the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in all foods sold in Singapore from June 2021.In a Facebook post on Tuesday, June 1, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary announced that the ban has officially kicked in, which means that PHOs should no longer be included as an ingredient in food products in supermarkets.This measure is in addition to the two per cent limit on trans fat content in fats and oils sold in Singapore, introduced in 2013, to help reduce the average daily trans fat intake among Singaporeans.#food #health #singapore
https://mothership.sg/2021/06/phos-ban-2021/
mothership-sg
Two years ago, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that Singapore will be banning the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in all foods sold in Singapore from June 2021. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, June 1, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary announced that the ban has officially kicked in, which means that PHOs should no longer be included as an ingredient in food products in supermarkets. In his post, Janil says the PHO ban is a "significant step" towards creating a healthier environment for Singaporeans. This measure is in addition to the two per cent limit on trans fat content in fats and oils sold in Singapore, introduced in 2013, to help reduce the average daily trans fat intake among Singaporeans. Wait, what are PHOs? PHOs are a key source of artificial trans fat, commonly found in pre-packaged foods such as oils, frozen baked goods, and snacks such as potato chips. They can lead to an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol. An increase in bad cholesterol has in turn been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, which remains a leading cause of death in Singapore. No sign of PHOs in supermarkets When Mothership visited some supermarkets on June 1, we found that the oil section remained well-stocked, and indeed PHO-free. Staff employees told Mothership that they were not aware of the PHO-ban though, which suggests the changes to products might have been implemented a while before the official ban. When the announcement first came out, six companies pledged to comply with the ban by June 2020. They are Gardenia Foods, Nestle Singapore, NTUC FairPrice, Prime Supermarket, Sheng Siong Group and Sunshine Bakeries. Images via Syahindah Ishak and Jinghui Lean
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With work from home as a default, taxi drivers and private hire drivers (PHVs) have seen a reduction in ridership.Thankfully, Because We Care and Share and Serve Our City Singapore, together with the Whampoa Community Development & Welfare Fund Committee have come up with a joint initiative – The Drive-Thru Lunch Treats – to help alleviate some of these burdens.From now till June 11, taxi drivers and private hire drivers can collect a free pack of lunch and a care pack between 10:15am to 11:15am on Mondays to Fridays. 100 packs will be given out a day.#privatehiredrivers #taxidrivers #community #singapore
https://mothership.sg/2021/06/free-lunch-taxi-private-hire-drivers/
mothership-sg
With work from home as a default, taxi drivers and private hire drivers (PHVs) have seen a reduction in ridership. Thankfully, Because We Care and Share and Serve Our City Singapore, together with the Whampoa Community Development & Welfare Fund Committee have come up with a joint initiative – The Drive-Thru Lunch Treats – to help alleviate some of these burdens. 100 lunch packs Drive-Thru Lunch Treats was launched on May 31. Volunteers will be distributing 100 packets of lunch to the drivers. Taxi drivers and PHVs can collect a free pack of lunch and a care pack from them at Kallang Community Club (CC) between the time of 10:15am to 11:15am every weekday, from May 31 to Jun. 11. A makeshift drive through point has been set up for the food distribution and collection. The food, along with a care pack containing wet wipes, hand soap and a travel sized hand sanitiser, will be handed over to the drivers with a tray to prevent contact. PHVs should have their PHV decals ready and visible to collect the meal, said Because We Care and Share in their Facebook post. Helping both drivers and hawkers Volunteers from Serve Our City Singapore bought and packaged lunch for the drivers. According to their Facebook post, the community organisers and volunteers have prepared halal, non-halal and vegetarian options. Food including chicken rice, nasi goreng, xinzhou beehoon, charsiew and roast pork rice were bought from Berseh Food Centre and Bendemeer Market and Food Centre for the drivers to enjoy. This not only benefits drivers but hawkers as well; another group hard hit by the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures. This initiative was designed with the intention to support both groups during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). Lunch collection and distribution details Kallang CC Address: 45 Boon Keng Rd, Singapore 339771 Dates: Weekdays till 11 Jun Timing: 10.15am-11.15am You can read the post here. Related stories: Top image from Because We Care and Share/FB
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The biggest penthouse unit at Park Nova, a new luxury freehold condo located at 18 Tomlinson Road, has been sold for a staggering S$34.4 million.Park Nova boasts three penthouses, all located on the top-most floors. There are also 2- to 3-bedroom units with study, and 4-bedroom units.It was reported that sales for Park Nova began at 2pm on May 7 for the duplex penthouses, while bookings for typical units started from 7pm.By the end of the evening, five units had been sold: two 5-room penthouses as well as three other 4-bedroom units.All the 4-bedroom units were sold above S$14 million. The smallest penthouse of 3,229 sq ft was sold for over S$17 million.According to the head of luxury at PropNex International Pte Ltd, Dominic Lee, all the buyers of the five units are ultra-high net worth individuals, who are foreigners.#realestate #luxury
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/5-bedroom-penthouse-park-nova/
mothership-sg
The biggest penthouse unit at Park Nova, a new luxury freehold condo located at 18 Tomlinson Road, has been sold for a staggering S$34.4 million. Park Nova boasts three penthouses, all located on the top-most floors. There are also 2- to 3-bedroom units with study, and 4-bedroom units. On the 14th floor is a sky garden, hot spa, an outdoor deck, lap pool and jacuzzi. Duplex penthouse sold for S$34.4m Sales for Park Nova began at 2pm on May 7 for the duplex penthouses, Edgeprop reported. Bookings for typical units started from 7pm. By the end of the evening, five units had been sold: two 5-room penthouses as well as three other 4-bedroom units. All the 4-bedroom units were sold above S$14 million. The smallest penthouse of 3,229 sq ft was sold for over S$17 million. The biggest 5-bedroom penthouse, at 5,899 sq ft, had garnered interest from more than one party, Head of luxury at PropNex, Dominic Lee told Mothership. Lee explained that the sale will be decided via balloting if there is a contest for a unit. However, in the end, only one buyer prevailed as one of the interested buyers decided to go for another penthouse instead. Lee shared that all the buyers of the five units are ultra-high net worth individuals, who are foreigners. He was also quoted by Edgeprop saying that price was "no object" for these buyers, who zoomed in on the best units (i.e. the largest units on the topmost floors) of the property. Top photo via Shun Tak Holdings.
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ComfortDelGro Taxi is providing a 50 per cent daily rental waiver to cabbies from now till June 13, 2021.This comes after announcements by the government that Singapore would be entering Phase 2 (heightened alert) from May 16 till June 13, 2021.On top of this, ComfortDelGro will also not be increasing fares for customers.As ComfortDelGro does not have any platform fees, the financial burden of these extra costs will be borne entirely by them - not by cabbies or customers.#transportation #singapore #covid
https://mothership.sg/2021/06/comfortdelgro-waiving-daily-rental/
mothership-sg
ComfortDelGro is providing a 50 per cent daily rental waiver to cabbies from May 18 till June 13, 2021. This comes after announcements by the government that Singapore would be entering Phase 2 (heightened alert) from May 16 till June 13, 2021. In Phase 2 (HA), several measures have been implemented such as a limit to the number of social gatherings and interactions, a ban on dining out and work-from-home as the default. Since the new restrictions kicked in, earnings of cabbies have been affected, with customer demand expected to continue falling during this period of heightened alert. This is why ComfortDelGro Taxi has decided to raise its daily rental waiver for cabbies to 50 per cent per taxi, which comes on top of: The government’s Covid-19 Relief Fund (CDRF) of S$25 per day per taxi Road Tax Rebate Performance Incentives Medisave Contributions Daily Hybrid Rebate According to Cabby Lee Yong Hock, “Taxis depend on passengers who need rides to go to work and to go out. With the latest measures, the demand for such trips has dropped.” He added that “had the company not stepped in to help us with the 50 per cent rental waiver, I’d have to shoulder a higher rental. But the company reacted quickly enough, and the rental waiver has helped to relieve that burden by half." Despite the current situation, Cabby Lee is hopeful that when the restrictions lift, more people will be needing taxis again. “I understand that the company is already doing what it can. Cabbies and the company have to work hand in hand to overcome this,” he said. Company bearing the costs for cabbies and customers On top of this, ComfortDelGro will also not be increasing fares for customers. As ComfortDelGro does not have any platform fees, the financial burden of these extra costs will be borne entirely by them - not by cabbies or customers. Here are some other promotions ComfortDelGro Taxi customers can also enjoy at the moment: Download the ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking app and sign up now for S$5* off your first street hail taxi ride Zero admin fee when you pay for a street hail taxi with any credit/debit card in their booking app Get S$2 + S$2 off when you pay for a street hail taxi with Mastercard This sponsored article by ComfortDelGro Taxi made this writer appreciate the goodwill of companies during these tough times. Top image via ComfortDelGro Taxi
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From May 17 to June 14, 2021, 18 home bakers will be participating in a charity bake sale for people with disabilities.Each baker will donate at least 20 per cent of their sales proceeds from the bake sale to SPD, a local charity that helps people with physical, sensory, and learning disabilities.Here are five interesting bakes available in this bake sale that caught our eye.#charity #community
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/home-bakers-bake-sale-spd/
mothership-sg
With the onset of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) from May 16 to June 13, some of us may need a pick-me-up in such times when dining in at F&B establishments is no longer allowed and social gatherings are limited to two. Treat yourself and your friends and family by ordering some baked goods from the SPD June 2021 bake sale and help people with disabilities at the same time. Bake sale 18 home bakers are participating in this charity bake sale which runs from May 17 to June 14, 2021. Each baker will donate at least 20 per cent of their sales proceeds from the bake sale to SPD, a local charity that helps people with disabilities. You may place your order via their respective Google form pages. Here are five interesting bakes available in this bake sale that caught our eye. 1. Babka loaves For the uninitiated, babka is a sweet braided bread or cake that originated in the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine. Price: S$20 Varieties: Nutella Hazelnut Biscoff Cookie Butter Dark Chocolate Ganache Cinnamon Chocolate Chips Baker: The Batter Room Click here to make your order. 2. Jellycakes Price: S$68 for 1.3kg six-inch round lychee and coconut milk tulips jelly cake S$72 for a set of four 350g mini heart-shaped lychee and coconut milk tulips jelly cake Baker: Fleur Memories Click here to make your order. 3. Nasi Lemak Cookies Price: S$22 for 220g Baker: AdibeeCookies Click here to make your order. 4. Ondeh Ondeh Cupcakes Price: S$18.50 for box of six S$35 for box of 12 Baker: MiniMiney Click here to make your order. 5. Orh Nee Burnt Cheesecake Price: S$48 for a six-inch cake Baker: C Mixing Bowl Click here to make your order. Other bakes available Other bakes available in this bake sale include chiffon cake, macarons, brownies, cookies, sourdough muffins, mille crepe cakes, cake rolls, tiramisu, and icing cookies. For more information on the full list of home bakers and their products, visit the SPD June 2021 Bake Sale page. If you don't have much of a sweet tooth and prefer to just make a donation, you may also do so here. For enquiries on the bake sale, you may contact Calvin Lee at 6579 0780 or e-mail [email protected] What is SPD? Founded in 1964, SPD serves people with physical, sensory, and learning disabilities through programmes that encompass early intervention, therapy, vocational training, assistive technology, day care, as well as educational, employment and social service support. Together with their order, customers will also receive a simplified communication board with instructions on how to use it. Provided by SPD to create awareness of people who are differently-abled, this board is used by people with speech impairment. Top images by C Mixing Bowl, The Batter Room, and AdibeeCookies.
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A Product Design student in LASALLE College of the Arts sought to promote greater empathy towards stray cats and designed a void deck installation that allows cats to eat, rest and play, as part of his final year project.Evan Tan hopes that the designs, if they are installed, will not only create a safe space for cats to roam around, but also encourage peaceful interactions between people and stray cats in common spaces.This will create an avenue for residents to talk about community cats. #community #people #empathy #productdesign #youthpower
https://mothership.sg/2021/06/student-void-deck-fixtures-stray-cats/
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A Product Design student in Lasalle College of the Arts sought to promote greater empathy towards community cats and designed a void deck installation that allows cats to eat, rest and play, as part of his final year project. The student, Evan Tan, felt that the presence of community cats is not always welcomed, and that there is a lack of understanding and awareness of their struggles. He titled his project, "Just Let Us Live Lah!" The project includes three installations for three main components of a cat's daily life — eating, resting and playing. The three designs are named "Habits of Eating", "Habits of Resting" and "Habits of Curiosity", and each highlights an aspect of a community cat's daily habits in community spaces. The first, "Habits of Eating", was designed to provide a safe space for community cats to eat. The opaque panels in this installation help to "hide" the cat when it is having its meal, so that it can eat without having to constantly watch its sides for potential danger. The second design, "Habits of resting", is designed to provide a safe space for community cats to rest, and to show residents that community cats can cohabitate with humans within community spaces. The third design is "Habits of curiosity", designed to highlight the curious nature of community cats and how they are able to adapt to the surroundings of community spaces. The designs are made out of aluminium sheet metal finished with powder coating, says Tan. Tan also added cork sheets to the design for their texture, which he believes the cats will like. There is also a ratchet strap that secures each design in place, while being easy to remove. Inspired by community spirit towards community cats Tan was inspired by the community spirit among those who cared for community cats. He witnessed this first hand when he adopted a community cat called Blackie during the Circuit Breaker period last year. Blackie had suffered from cancer for a long time, and when its condition deteriorated, it had to be put down to not prolong its suffering. He brought Blackie to other community feeders to pay their final respects, but to his surprise, other residents also came to say their goodbyes. He realised that many in the community had an unspoken bond with community cats, and that sparked his idea for the project. Future plans Tan hopes that the designs, if they are installed, will not only create a safe space for cats to roam around, but also encourage peaceful interactions between people and community cats in common spaces. This will create an avenue for residents to talk about community cats. Although Tan has plans to discuss his project ideas with the relevant government agencies, he has yet to do so as he does not want to rush out the idea. He hopes that even if the designs are not installed, the project will "raise public awareness on the plight of community cats." Tan's intentions for the project, he shared, were "to give light to community cats and the dedicated people who work so hard and fight for the rights just to care for them". You can see the designs showcased in a video by Tan here: Related stories Top images via Evan Tan.
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Akihiko Hoshide is an engineer and astronaut with JAXA: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.On April 25, it was reported that Hoshide and three other astronauts went up to the International Space Station (ISS) on a commercial SpaceX ship, successfully docking.On May 11, the Japanese astronaut gave a shout-out to Singapore and the school he once attended from all the way up in space.In his tweet, Hoshide included the hashtag #UWCSEA, which refers to the United World College South East Asia located on Dover Road.#astronaut #space
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/japanese-astronaut-singapore/
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A Japanese astronaut gave a shout-out to Singapore, and the school he once attended, from all the way up in space. Singapore, where I spent 2 yrs in high school. Can you spot my school? #UWCSEA pic.twitter.com/JN0Q9oIPLT — 星出 彰彦 (JAXA宇宙飛行士) (@Aki_Hoshide) May 10, 2021 Commander Hoshide Akihiko Hoshide is an engineer and astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). On April 25, The Japan Times reported that Hoshide and three other astronauts went up to the International Space Station (ISS) on a commercial SpaceX ship, successfully docking. Hoshide will serve as commander of the ISS and a mission specialist. The previous ISS crew were up in space for six months. Singaporean connection Hoshide has a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Keio University, a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Houston, Cullen College of Engineering. However, he apparently also studied in Singapore. Hoshide included the hashtag #UWCSEA, which refers to the United World Colleges South East Asia located on Dover Road. Top image from ISS website and Akihiko Hoshide's Twitter page.
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Fully vaccinated people in the Unites States can forego wearing a face mask and do not have to stay 2m away from others in most settings, whether outdoors or indoors.The White House shared the new public health guidance on social media to relief, anger, and amusement, amongst a mix of emotions from the people.However, this is not a blanket rule as there are settings where masks still have to be worn.These include having to wear masks on airplanes, buses, trains and other public transportation, as well as in a health-care setting or at a business that requires face masks.#health #masks
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/united-states-fully-vaccinated-no-mask-cdc/
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Fully vaccinated people in the Unites States can forego wearing a face mask and do not have to stay 2m away from others in most settings, whether outdoors or indoors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday, May 13 in updated public health guidance. The White House shared the new public health guidance on social media to relief, anger, and amusement, amongst a mix of emotions from the people. No need masks or social distancing “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC director and doctor, Rochelle Walensky, told reporters at a press briefing. She added: “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.” Some exceptions However, this is not a blanket rule as there are settings where masks still have to be worn. These include having to wear masks on airplanes, buses, trains and other public transportation, as well as in a health-care setting or at a business that requires face masks, Walensky also said. However, unvaccinated people should still continue to wear masks, she added. She said these individuals remain at risk of mild or severe illness, death, and risk of spreading the disease to others. People with compromised immune systems should speak with their doctor before giving up their masks, she also said. She added there is always a chance the CDC could change its guidance again if the Covid-19 pandemic worsens or additional variants emerge. White House announces plan ahead of July 4th celebrations The announcement from the CDC comes just ahead of the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parade season. President Joe Biden has said he hopes to see enough Americans vaccinated by Independence Day to safely hold outdoor gatherings. The goal was to get 70 per cent of U.S. adults to receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and having 160 million adults fully vaccinated by July 4. As of May 12, more than 151 million Americans age 18 and older, or 58.7 per cent of the U.S. adult population, have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Top photo via The White House
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"I think this is a trust and bond that can't be built up with any other helper."When we talk about mothers, we often talk about biological mothers, who give birth to their children and raise them.But there are many mother figures in Singapore who don't share biological ties with the children they care for — our domestic helpers.In this article, we speak to a family who is so close to their helper, they see her as both a mother and grandmother.
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/domestic-helper-mother-co-parenting/
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In the conversation about mothers, we often talk about biological mothers, who give birth to their children and raise them. But there are many mother figures in Singapore who don't share biological ties with the children they care for — our domestic helpers. One such domestic helper is 61-year-old Perla De Luna Cuison, who lives with her 33-year-old employer Phoon Hui Leng and Phoon's two daughters. Phoon's bond with her helper Cuison goes beyond the conventional employer-helper relationship, to the extent that she thinks of Cuison as a mother and a co-parent/grandmother to her daughters Dorelle and Chervil, who are 10 and 8 respectively. Their relationship is unconventional and we couldn't help but wonder if Phoon feels threatened that her domestic helper is, in some ways, closer to her kids than she is. To this, Phoon remarked, rhetorically: “Like, would you say, eh why my kids so close with my mum? You won't, right?” Growing up together, now parenting together Originally hired by Phoon's parents more than 30 years ago, Cuison has been caring for Phoon since she was five years old. The helper recalled with a chuckle that Phoon was very active as a kid, and would frequently run away from her. But over the years, both Cuison and Phoon developed a close bond, very much like that between a mother and a daughter. Even today, Cuison would make sure that Phoon has eggs to eat in the morning and doesn't let her leave the house without a big water bottle to keep her hydrated through the day. When Phoon was pregnant with her first child, she knew that she would need help and requested Cuison to move in with her. Being a working mum, Phoon said that Cuison gives her "peace of mind" when it comes to her kids' supervision. Both share the responsibility of parenting Dorelle and Chervil. It goes without saying that there's a lot of trust between them, and because of this, Cuison plays a bigger part in the girls' upbringing than most domestic helpers. From school work to doctors' appointments, Cuison works with Phoon to make sure that the girls are well taken care of. If the girls are sick, Cuison would bring them to the doctor, says Phoon. Cuison even talks to the girls' teachers about their school work. The family seemed very close. The girls constantly held on to both ladies' arms during our chat with them. Dorelle eventually settled on Cuison's lap and stayed with us throughout the session. When asked what she loves about her nanang (Tagalog for "mother"), she said shyly, "She always take care of me, she always hug me." The duo take on different parental roles at home The two have designated parental roles in their family. Phoon described herself as the disciplinarian, focusing on her kids' character development. She stressed that the girls must have a good attitude in everything that they do, ranging from giving their all in school to not talking back to Cuison. Cuison, on the other hand, is more indulgent, very much like a doting grandmother. In fact, she is an actual grandmother to three grandchildren in the Philippines, who are around the same age as Dorelle and Chervil. She dotes on her brood in the Philippines as much as she dotes on her "Singapore granddaughters". Each time she goes back to the Philippines, she would keep in touch with Phoon and her daughters over a video call, and even brings back a luggage full of clothes and souvenirs for them. And just like a grandmother, Cuison used to nag at Phoon, who works irregular hours, to spend more time with the girls. If Phoon were to say "no phones for two weeks," Cuison would agree but eventually give in to the girls when their mother isn't home. Dorelle chuckled and said that this was their secret, to which Phoon rolled her eyes and laughed, "There are no secrets in this house!" It's heartwarming to see that instead of getting upset with Cuison for not following through, she understands that Cuison does it out of love. Their different approaches to taking care of the girls have created some tension in the past however, Phoon admitted. When the girls were much younger, Phoon told Cuison that she needed to be stricter on the girls so that they won't be too pampered. Although Cuison understands that she cannot spoil the girls, the idea of disciplining them makes her tear up, as she loves the girls too much to do so. Now, whenever Phoon needs to scold the girls, Cuison goes into the other room to avoid seeing it. Both women have been living together for so long that they even know what makes each other tick. "When she is unhappy, she won't talk lah," Phoon said Having known Cuison for so many years, Phoon has learnt that Cuison expresses her anger by remaining silent — a tell-tale sign for her to leave her helper alone. While some employers might frown upon their domestic helpers expressing anger in front of them, Phoon shrugged it off, pointing out that anger is a natural emotion, adding that domestic helpers are humans too. Close bond is a natural result of spending time together When asked why she continued to stay with the family, Cuison said, "They're very good to me. Treat me as a family [member] also." Phoon is something of a rarity. As an employer, she does not keep her domestic helper at arms length. As a mother, she encourages her daughters to develop a close relationship with Cuison. It is a natural result of spending lots of time together after all, Phoon said, adding that Cuison invests in taking care of the girls and showering them with love, so she has the right to enjoy that bond: "There shouldn't be any jealousy involved." Family made long-term plans for Cuison to stay Cuison has become such an invaluable part of the family that Phoon appealed to the Ministry of Manpower to extend Cuison's permit when she reached 60, the maximum age for a foreign domestic worker in Singapore. The ministry accepted the appeal and now Cuison can stay in Singapore as a foreign domestic worker until she is 80. Phoon's appeal was largely for sentimental reasons. The family can't bear to part with Cuison, but she is getting old and can't work as fast as before. Cuison also suffers from high blood pressure. And so Phoon shared that she intends to get another helper to assist Cuison in more strenuous tasks, and hopes that it will lessen the load for the helper as she gets older. She also has ideas about getting a holiday home in the Philippines when Cuison eventually goes back, so that they can visit her often. When asked how different her life would be without Cuison, Phoon said that she values the bond between them. While it's always possible for Phoon to work with another helper, the family's relationship with Cuison is one that cannot be easily replaced. Phoon added: "I think this is a trust and bond that can't be built up with any other helper." Stories of Us is a series about ordinary people in Singapore and the unique ways they’re living their lives. Be it breaking away from conventions, pursuing an atypical passion, or the struggles they are facing, these stories remind us both of our individual uniqueness and our collective humanity. Top images courtesy of Phoon and by Alfie Kwa.
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The Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, Singapore and the National Environment Agency (NEA) will work on developing an appropriate charging model for disposable carrier bags in supermarkets.Given the possibility that shoppers may need to start paying for plastic bags at local supermarkets, we spoke to several Singaporeans to find out what they think.#sustainability #supermarkets
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/plastic-bag-charge-supermarkets/
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The Ministry of Sustainability & Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) will work on developing an appropriate charging model for disposable carrier bags in supermarkets. This was announced in Apr. 2021 in their response to a Citizens' Workgroup’s recommendations to tackle the excessive consumption of disposables. They also clarified that key stakeholders will be consulted regarding the charging model, fee amount, timeline and potential impact, especially on low-income households. Why is this important? About 200,000 tonnes of waste discarded in Singapore in 2019 were disposables, comprising items such as carrier bags and takeaway containers. That’s enough to fill up about 400 Olympic-size swimming pools. This excessive use of disposables (yes, even those made of paper or degradable materials) has a significant impact on the environment during their production, transportation, and disposal, contributing to carbon emissions and waste generation. In case it isn’t already clear: Our consumption of disposables is unsustainable. In 2020, NEA convened a Citizens’ Workgroup to identify and discuss inclusive recommendations to tackle this issue. The workgroup proposed several solutions under four broad categories of: Education and awareness, legislation, providing alternatives, and financial incentives. Some suggestions include charging from the third plastic bag onwards at supermarkets and incentivising consumers to track their usage of disposables. Would pay for a bag Given the possibility that shoppers may need to start paying for plastic bags at local supermarkets, Mothership spoke to several Singaporeans to find out what they think. Many that we spoke to, whose ages ranged from 20 to 58, mentioned that they would pay for plastic bags at supermarkets as they needed plastic bags at home to throw their trash. They also said that they have paid for disposable bags when they were shopping, mostly because those outlets charged for disposable bags and they did not have a reusable bag on them. Besides, they added the charge was “not expensive”. Nelson Chong, 31, added: “If I happen to bring a reusable bag[s], I will use it. But if I don't, I definitely will not buy fewer items to escape the charge.” Charging from the third bag? According to a 2018 Singapore Environment Council study, 51 per cent of shoppers take only two or fewer bags per supermarket visit. Hence, one of the workgroup’s recommendation is to start charging from the third bag onwards. Abdul Matiin Bin Muhamad Hamim, 20, said this is “reasonable” as it will encourage people to get into the habit of bringing their bags during grocery shopping. A 26-year-old, who wanted to be known as Zhi Hui, carries a reusable bag with her everywhere she goes. She said that charging for bags in general is a good way to encourage people to “think twice” before taking them. However, not everyone was as supportive, citing major inconveniences such as not having sufficient reusable bags on them. 58-year-old Melissa Ong also pointed out another difficulty: “If I'm shopping spontaneously, I may not be carrying reusable bags with me. [Even if I plan the trips], it is very difficult to find enough reusable bags of a decent size, or I have to bring along many smaller reusable bags. It’s just not feasible.” Drawbacks of charging from the third bag: How about charging per transaction or per bag instead? Some of the people we spoke to pointed out that people may try to game the system. For instance, Ong questioned: “What if the person buys some items, gets two free bags for that transaction, and then comes back later or gets a family member to buy more items in order to get another two free bags?” Another issue with charging from the third bag onward is that implementation will be more complex as compared to charging per transaction. This is why Ong prefers a flat-charge model: “If the priority is to be green, you should charge (for the use of any bags)… it will encourage people to not take any bags if possible. Currently, when shopping at some supermarkets, it’s already like this (there’s already a flat-charge for bags) so I think people have somehow gotten used to this.” Charging per transaction “is a good place to start”, said 26-year-old Zhi Hui, who thinks that it could be the first step in implementing charges for plastic bags. Once people get used to the idea of paying for these bags, she said that stores could progressively move towards charging for each bag, from the first bag onwards. Others, like Chong, however, still felt that charging from the third bag is “better” because this gives shoppers “some leeway to not pay for a bag if they are not buying many items”. Will adapt to the circumstances somehow Even though they could point out inconveniences in having to adapt to new ways of shopping, the Singaporeans we spoke to were willing to cut down on their usage. 58-year-old Ong, who wouldn’t consider herself “very environmentally conscious”, said this of her current consumption of disposables: “If possible, I will try to reduce my usage. But I won’t purposely go out of my way to do it.” Others, however, were more willing to put in more effort into changing their behaviour. “Convenience is something we take for granted,” Zhi Hui said. She added that imposing a charge on bags can also help to cultivate “environmentally-friendly habits”. “Most of us use [disposable bags] because they are available. By imposing more charges, we can cultivate environmentally friendly habits (e.g. bringing reusable bags around) and change the norm. Moreover, Zhi Hui also pointed out that Singaporeans are quite “compliant” and just need to get used to the new policies. “Most of us will adapt to the circumstances,” she said. Want to be part of this? To co-deliver some of the recommendations arising from the Citizens' Workgroup on Reducing Excessive Consumption of Disposables, you can register your interest using this form, which will be available until May 31. By registering your interest, you might be asked to give inputs, ideas and feedback on the content or policy. Top photo credit: d3sign, Natalie Board/eEyeEm via Getty Images. This sponsored article by NEA reminded the writer of the number of plastic bags she has accumulated at home.
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In this exclusive interview, we catch up with former Cabinet minister Yaacob Ibrahim to find out what he’s been up to since retiring from two-plus decades of politics.We touch on things he never really said out loud before about being a Malay-Muslim MP and minister, and also find out why he continues to believe in the People's Action Party.#singapore #politics
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/yaacob-ibrahim-interview/
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Professor Yaacob Ibrahim begins his days bright and early at 4:30am in prayer with the Quran. These days, in fact, he structures his days around his prayer time — optional prayers at roughly 4:30am, morning prayers at about 5:45, post-lunchtime prayers, the 4:30pm evening prayer, plus of course the 7pm and 9-plus pm rounds before he turns in for the night by 10pm. He counts the ability to do this as a luxury he certainly did not have just three years ago, when he was still a Cabinet minister — or even up to last July as a backbencher, when he sat out the Singapore General Election for the first time in 23 years. The 65-year-old is one of Singapore's longest-serving Ministers-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, having held the position from 2002 to 2018 — one that for him carries particular significance, challenge and meaning. On the day we meet him, he arrives at our office unaccompanied — no minders, no ministry staff hovering around, the chief reminder to me to avoid calling him "Minister" — and we sit down to chat about what he's been up to, look back on his life and take stock of the sacrifices he made and struggles he faced on the way. The first thing we talk about is family. Friendly competition Despite his protestations and insistence on calling his family "average", Yaacob has to admit that he and his eight siblings are leading immensely accomplished lives. We know that his oldest brother, Mohd Ismail Ibrahim, is Singapore's first Malay President's Scholar, clinching the award in 1968. His younger sister Zuraidah is a noted veteran journalist and editor now at the South China Morning Post, and another sister Hamidah is a State Court judge. All in, the Ibrahim siblings consist of three lawyers, an engineer/academic-turned-(now retired) minister, a senior editor, a court judge, a teacher, a Monetary Authority of Singapore banker and finally a surgeon. Whew. He jokes that Mohd Ismail took all the brilliance while the rest had to share the "remnants", but he believes that after his parents saw him constantly coming in first in class, they encouraged an atmosphere of friendly competition and so everyone worked hard to attain their respective best achievements. Political watchers and general kaypohs (like me, I suppose) would also know that one of Yaacob's brothers-in-law happens to be journalism professor and public intellectual Cherian George, who is married to Zuraidah. Which, when everyone was back in Singapore (George and Zuraidah are based in Hong Kong now), made for fun Sunday family dinners where "nothing is off the table", including politics. The prof admits to having "crossed some swords" with his brother-in-law on occasions, and dodged attempts at extracting insider information from his sister. "All part and parcel of the conversation," he says with a smile. Missed out on his own family Which turns us to his own family — the one he started with his wife. Over the years, there were murmurings online about Yaacob's two children living and studying in the U.S., but he confirms they're back in Singapore now. Yes, his son, who is 26 this year, has served NS; his 24-year-old daughter works part-time here with the National Library. We got round to talking about this when I asked him if his routine makes him happier these days, now he has a lot more time on his hands. "Well, it is (happier these days). But it is also not. It is because you don't have all this exigencies of duty — night calls and all that. It is not because your kids are grown. Those years when they were growing, you were not there. Right? People forget that, you know, yes, I have more time, but your kids will say, why are you at home? They're so used to the fact that you were not at home, right. So I suppose there is a price to be paid. It would be remiss for me to say that it is a walk in the park. And then when you retire... no, your kids have grown, they have gone." It's a sacrifice one makes when entering politics, Yaacob says quite matter-of-factly. No one can run away from it — but that was the reason it was so important that he got his wife's buy-in before saying yes to the call, first from then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong (to whom he initially said no) and subsequently from then-minister Abdullah Tarmugi (when he was eventually ready to say yes). His method of coping was to make it a point to be home for dinner with his family every day. That, followed by his evening prayers at home, and then he's back out for his MP duties at night. He would also take advantage of morning drives to school to catch up with his children as they grew older, and additionally took at least one family trip overseas a year together. Answering the call — and saying no to Goh Chok Tong So why'd Yaacob say no the first time he was called for tea, back in 1990? He explains that the truth is, he didn't want to be parachuted into a place he had no idea about. "So I got a call from the Istana. Goh Chok Tong just took over, and invited me to lunch with him. I was stunned! I remember being there at the lunch table — myself, Zainal (Abidin Rasheed) and at that time was PM Goh. After the lunch PM Goh said, here's a form. So I went back and thought about it, discussed with my wife and I wrote him a letter saying I'm not ready. Because I suppose you know, in one way, I believe that if you want to be an elected representative, you must know the community that you're representing, you must know what's going on. I've been away in the States for seven, eight years. I mean, at that time, there was no internet, you know, newspapers were very slow in coming, and you don't know what's going on. And to come back and plonk yourself here, and become this MP when I don't know what's going on? I felt it wasn't right, basically." He would, of course, eventually dive headfirst into his Kolam Ayer ward, where he was sent to replace senior MP Zulkifli Mohammed, and would continue serving there for many years: By this point, Yaacob had already joined MENDAKI as a volunteer (this being from its founding years), and also had a seat on the MUIS council. What he decided, in this regard, was that he must first understand the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore better, and read up on its history, challenges and issues that were of concern to them. And it would eventually be this enhanced understanding and empathy Yaacob developed from embedding himself in the Malay-Muslim community that would push him to say yes to his second call, become a politician and later on a minister, to do everything he can to advance and uplift them as a whole. "Anyone who joined the PAP was considered a traitor" When I spoke to Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament Muhamad Faisal Manap back in 2018, one thing that struck me from our conversation was the burden he shouldered as Singapore's sole opposition Malay-Muslim MP. My conversation with Yaacob helped me to realise that it wasn't much easier being on the side of the establishment, sadly. He recalls the sentiment of distrust with the government several Malays had in the late 90s, when he first entered politics. "There are some people who said, Why do you want to join them? You know, they have treated us badly, national service and so on and so forth, right... there's always this view that the party may not have been fair to the (Malay-Muslim) community. That is a backdrop that we cannot sweep under the carpet. So one of the biggest challenges any Malay MP faces now, and even during my time, is to build that trust within the community and the government. I took it upon myself as something that I wanted to do." The great struggle of being Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs And what did "badly" mean? Yaacob doesn't hold back — listing the widely-known but rarely discussed (out loud) phenomenon of young Malay-Muslim men enlisting for national service and then being assigned to the SCDF, or relegated to a vocation as a clerk instead of Officer Cadet School. The latter scenario, incidentally, happened to him. "I was the first in my family to go to full-time NS. But I was relegated to clerk service, you know, when we have aspirations to be army officers and so on. So I think I don't want to gloss over that. I still had residents coming to me, asking why does my son join the army and get thrown into the Civil Defence? Real questions. How do you answer those questions, you tell me? I myself experienced some of those things when I was doing my national service... This is something that you have to deal with, because this is your community... you are part of Singapore; how do you ensure that integration takes place, right? That was one of the things that was also on my mind when I came in because I knew there was also an expectation for me to make sure that I can protect the community and our community interests." And if that's not enough, this is where the party he belongs to complicates matters a bit: "Yet at the same time, I know that I'm not just a Malay MP, I'm also a national MP; how do we ensure that the national agenda is also adopted by the Malay community? And the community was divided, I have to tell you that... So this is something I think people need to recognise; I went through that. And also because I think you grow up recognising that these are some of the challenges that your community face and you cannot ignore it." Yaacob recalls, in fact, that the year 1976 saw a group of Malay students who sought an audience with then-Minister for Defence Goh Keng Swee to ask why Malays were not called up for national service — which, Yaacob says, was a situation that impacted their employability. And so the implications of this unspoken discrimination go beyond NS too, as most would be aware: "You hear stories about Malays not getting a job because they are discriminated. Malays cannot go to the police force or the army because, you know, they're all dumped in civil defence. I got people in MENDAKI telling me this, you know. I don't want to brush this aside. It was a very painful exercise because you just, you know, wake up thinking, why is your community cast that way, right? And yet we have been loyal, we have contributed. It's an area that I want to see things improve." Why Yaacob entered politics: to help uplift his community Now all this being said, Yaacob certainly acknowledges that things have improved. Malay army officers are far more common these days — even his younger brothers had the opportunity of better vocations during their time — perhaps what the community is waiting to see next, he says, is a Malay naval officer or pilot. While Yaacob recognises that Singapore has a Malay President (Halimah Yacob), he mentions the need for leadership representations in more sectors of the society. "We were looking for Malay permanent secretaries, Malay directors, you know, because then you have a complete community." And what is a complete community? Yaacob refers to an example his wife refers to in the Black community in America. "Yes, they are overrepresented in (criminal activities).... But they have expressed the ability in other areas, basically. So that's something which I think we should be thinking about, you know, for, for the community and how we can move forward too. I mean, I'll be honest about it — I also joined politics to find a way to help my community. I will not deny that. I wouldn't want to put it crudely that Singapore doesn't need me because there are brilliant Chinese out there as ministers. But while I know I'm there as a minister to contribute to Singapore, at the same time, I must also do something for my community." The added role Malay MPs have for their community It is here that he, too, touches on the unique responsibility Malay MPs have on behalf of their community, by virtue of the positions they have been elected to. "So whenever I meet young, aspiring MPs, I say don't forget, you have three constituencies — your Malay ground is very important. And if you cannot deal with the Malay ground, frankly speaking I say you are useless to the party. Because the Malay ground is a very important ground, it is part of the landscape — we are 15 per cent. And we must make sure that the 15 per cent don't feel that they are alienated, they are marginalised, that they don't have a place in Singapore. Right? So I saw that as something I wanted to do when I entered politics." Has he succeeded? But here's the big question — has he succeeded in making inroads into greater representation and equal treatment for the Malay-Muslim community in his 16 years as Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs? He explains that because of when he entered office (March 2002), in view of the air of suspicion around the Muslim community here continuing to hang heavy in the wake of the September 2001 terror attacks, his main focus in the early years was to make the Muslim community as much a part of Singapore as possible, instead of a distinct one by virtue of their religion. "I mean, you know, we are distinct in some ways because of our certain beliefs, but we are also still Singaporean. So I wanted to continue to emphasise both for the Malay community to see themselves as Singaporean and for the other members of Singapore, to see the Malays as Singaporeans." He notes that 9/11 was also an opportunity for him, and Muslim authorities here, to start learning to explain the tenets of the Islamic faith to non-believers — something that was never done before. But indeed — Yaacob shares candidly with me that "history will have to judge" whether or not he succeeded in making progress with respect to Malay representation and equal opportunity in our military and other areas of our society. "... the community will always say, you're not doing our bidding, you know, you're not pushing for us... There's so much that you can do, and try your best. I'd like to believe I have done my best, but I know that I have critics out there who feel that I failed them. And I have to live with it. It's a fact of life. I knew when I joined politics and eventually became a minister, that it was not going to be a walk in the park. But I'm a religious person, and I see this as an opportunity that God has thrown my way, for me to try and make use of the opportunity to the best of my ability too. Not just help the community, but to do the best you can to improve Singapore, right. That's what you are also there for." Many matters and allegations of discrimination and deliberate elimination of Malays, especially in the military, are not provable and remain as anecdotal complaints, he notes. While he has on many occasions made representations in many meetings involving the relevant parties over the years, echoing his aspiration for greater representation, what he ultimately says is "it wasn't easy". "I was always looking for opportunities to get more Malay representation in these uniformed services. And, you know, how shall I put it? In a way, you can't force the issue. You hope it happens, you express those desires, candidly, in some of the meetings. Because I'd be honest, I don't believe that the Malays are less capable than the other communities and doing so is wrong. I stand from the belief that Malays are as capable as any other community to do the job. Give them the opportunity, and I think they will rise to the occasion." An experienced leader with more to offer yet It is this passion with which he speaks about what he set out to do to support Malay-Muslims, as well as other initiatives he spearheaded as an MP and minister, that gives one a feeling that he does not want to retire from public service yet. Today, he is director at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)'s Community Leadership and Social Innovation Centre, as well as advisor to SIT's President. In the former role, he raises funds from his vast network to support ground-up projects and initiatives harnessing design thinking from groups of engineering and design students whose teachers send them to the centre for service learning. These projects are done in partnership with specific external organisations to directly help their beneficiaries. He says he cherishes the opportunity to bring his network and ministerial experience to work at SIT, an institution that is unique in its student make-up — 45 per cent of them are on social or financial assistance, and one out of every two graduates is the first in their family to graduate from a university. Yaacob finds so much meaning from this as an engineer and academic that in the years before he bowed out of politics entirely, he found himself implementing short design thinking and tech-skills-based courses for his grassroots in the Kolam Ayer ward at their yearly overseas retreats. At SIT, he also works closely with former Malay-Muslim MP Intan Azura Mokhtar at the centre, whom he says "does all the heavy lifting", while he goes out to find projects and also garner the funds needed for them. So to the big question: Why stay on with the PAP? So why stay on with the party after stepping down from its leadership — Yaacob last held the post of vice-chairman — and retiring from politics? Yaacob says if he were to leave the party after stepping down, it would have made his presence in it "transactional". "Should it be that I join it because it's convenient; when I'm out, I resign? No. I believe in the party. I think the party has done a lot of good for Singapore. I may disagree with some of the policies like anyone else. But by and large, I think it's a party that's worth supporting. So why should I want to resign?" He explains also that despite not having a formal role in the party, as a member he is also consulted over various policy issues and matters, and participates in these discussions and feedback sessions actively. As a former minister who was part of the party's leadership, he also appreciates the opportunity to reach out to members of current leadership with his feedback or concerns directly, with the knowledge that his feedback will be heard. "I think you have to hold true to what you believe, basically. But at the same time, you're part of the party. Unless the party is doing something that egregious that's a different matter, then you say, no, you have crossed my value system, then I have to do something about it. But I think the PAP is not doing that. And I hope we'll never do that. And you know, they are a party that is trying to be as progressive as possible, because you want to plan for the next phase of Singapore's development. I think that's the right thing to do." And ultimately, perhaps, the conclusion of our conversation probably sheds the clearest light on why he's still sticking around and voicing his opinions: "I retired from parliamentary politics, but I'm not retired from politics. I have a stake in the future of Singapore because of my children. Right? I mean, where else are they going to go — they are Singaporeans, they carry the red passport — if this country goes down, where can they go? So we have to make it succeed." Top photo by Hor Teng Teng
Article
"If Ashraf and I, who are not each other's flesh and blood, could love each other, why couldn't we love a child whom we are going to care for and raise as our own?"Nursyazanna Syaira Suhimi & Ashraf Alami were only a month into their marriage when Ashraf was diagnosed with a tumour in his brain.After some rigorous treatments, he eventually got better and won the battle.Unfortunately, it came at a cost.As the tumour was found at the part of the brain which controls one’s hormones, this also meant that it affected the couple’s fertility.After years of trying, they finally found their forever family by adopting a two-day-old baby boy.#familyandrelationships
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/singaporean-adoptive-mother/
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When we met Nursyazanna Syaira Suhimi for coffee on an otherwise uneventful afternoon, we could tell that it was going to be a breeze talking to her. With a parenting book in hand, Syaira entered the cafe and warmly greeted not just us, but the cafe workers who know her as a regular patron as well (which got us a plate of tater tots, on the house). For those who are not familiar with 34-year-old Syaira, she is the co-owner and head baker of popular dessert shop Fluff Bakery. Her husband, Ashraf Alami, is the other co-owner. Together, the couple is raising two-year-old Noah Ashraf. While she may seem like she’s got her life in order, her life hasn’t always been as charmed. Diagnosed with tumour a month into marriage You see, a month after the couple got married in 2012, Ashraf was diagnosed with a tumour in his brain. After some rigorous treatments, he eventually got better and won the battle. Unfortunately, it came at a cost. As the tumour was found at the part of the brain which controls one’s hormones, this also meant that it affected the couple’s fertility. While she was glad that her husband was given a clean bill of health, Syaira couldn’t help but feel sad occasionally, especially at a time when they were trying to start a family. “It would be easy to say that I was happy that he’s ok. I was happy because, after the whole tumour thing, you see life from a new perspective. It really doesn’t matter as long as he’s still alive. But in that light, I was sad, and it comes and goes in waves. Sometimes, I just feel it more than on other days like when I got my period and we’ve been trying.” Eager to start a family, Ashraf sought treatment that required him to go through injections five times a week solely in an attempt to produce sperm. Alas, after a couple of years, the couple found out that the treatment was unsuccessful. "Do I not deserve to be a mother?" At that point, having her own bundle of joy seemed almost impossible. “After two years, we went for a check-up and there were still zero sperms. We couldn’t even do in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and being Muslims, surrogacy isn’t an option,” Syaira said. She recalled keeping a blue journal where she would pen her journey in trying to conceive, in hopes of gifting it to her future child. However, at the cusp of abandoning all hope after numerous failed attempts at trying for a baby, she wrote one last heart-wrenching entry before chucking the book away for good: “I don’t know if you are ever going to come true for me, and I don’t know if I’m ever going to be your mother so this is goodbye.” She also sought solace in a group of friends who were also struggling to conceive: “[On bad days], I would message my friends [who are going through the same thing] and ask why me? What the heck did I do? Do I not deserve to be a mother?” At rock bottom, she was especially bitter and resentful towards her husband, even though it wasn't anybody's fault. "He was the easy person to blame, right? I mean, it's common sense that it is not his fault. But as a human being, you just want to blame someone because it helps to get some pressure off your chest. For a long time, I resented him because I thought he didn't try hard enough, he wasn't open to trying hard enough or wasn't committed to the treatments. It was a bad time for our marriage." Despite this rather dark period in their lives, they didn’t lose the determination to have a child. Even if it meant that the child wasn't going to be their own flesh and blood. Considering adoption In 2017, the couple seriously considered adoption after it was initially suggested by Syaira’s mother. “At the start, my husband was quite nonchalant about it and just wanted to entertain [my thoughts]. But after a while, we spoke about it everyday and planted it into our heads, and he got [0n] the bandwagon as well.” In an Instagram post from July 2019, Syaira penned: "If Ashraf and I, who are not each other's flesh and blood, could love each other, why couldn't we love a child whom we are going to care for and raise as our own?" Eventually, after weeks of research and contemplation, they decided to adopt a child through the Ministry of Social and Family Services (MSF). Long and thorough journey Unlike adopting independently (where an adoptive parent would have already found a child to adopt) or adopting via a commercial adoption agency (typically, international adoptions can cost over S$20,000), the MSF route can take longer due to the thorough administrative and legal processes. One of these steps includes a compulsory pre-adoption briefing (PAB), which Syaira was initially “very excited” to go to. A PAB is a one-off 2.5-hour session conducted by accredited agencies appointed by MSF, where potential adoptive parents can: Learn about the adoption process and whether one is eligible to adopt Understand one’s rights and responsibilities as an adoptive parent Understand the needs of an adoptive child Find out where one can get support in their parenting journey Yet, Syaira and her husband ended the briefing feeling disheartened, as it didn’t meet their expectations and they were trying very hard not to doze off in class. She explained, “I wanted to know more about the process, like where and when I should apply for it and what are the proper ways to go through, but I think more than half the class was telling you how to parent… But that [depends on] individual parenting styles, you cannot dictate how our parenting styles are going to be like.” And then there’s the Home Study Report (HSR), which is a comprehensive investigation that helps the ministry to assess whether they are eligible and ready to adopt a child. The HSR currently costs S$1,750 and is valid for two years for a single adoption. Syaira remembered doing the HSR interview separately from her husband, where they were asked a variety of personal questions, including how she was parented, if there’s any history of drug abuse in the family, and what’s the state of their marriage. And then there were the numerous character references and the multiple forms to fill and scan to submit via the MSF portal. It took the couple slightly more than a month before they completed and passed their HSR. While the process may seem draining for some, she thought that the HSR helped them to reassess their marriage and gave them the opportunity to really think about what kind of parents they wanted to become. “It gave us the time and space to be more prepared, I would say, than normal couples. They asked really tough questions and we were forced to discuss it, there was no trying to hide or deal with it when it comes.” After these processes were sorted, all they could do was wait. A pleasant surprise And it seems to be true when they say good things happen when you least expect it. Syaira distinctly recalled that it was around 2pm in June 2019 when they were called to the social services organisation’s office, thinking that they had to tie some loose ends to complete the adoption application process. Some answered questions and signed forms later, the social worker asked the question that would eventually change their lives forever: “We have a baby for discharge at 5pm today. Do you want to pick it up from the hospital?” While Syaira — who had openly expressed her longing to be a mother for the longest time — was ready to say yes, it was a picture of the serene two-day-old newborn baby boy that sealed the deal for the couple. But there was a little hiccup: They weren’t prepared for the baby at all. Their house wasn’t baby proofed and they didn’t have anything for the baby, not even a bottle. With only three hours till they had to go get the baby, the couple went to the nearest Mothercare outlet to purchase the essentials. Luckily for them, they also received some hand-me-downs from their close friends and family. Completing the family With her husband and mother by her side and a car full of baby supplies, Syaira went down to the hospital to meet the baby. They originally wanted a semi-open adoption, which meant that contact is exchanged between the birth family and the adoptive family but without any identifying information out of respect for everyone’s privacy. However, the birth family requested a closed adoption where the records of the birth parents are kept confidential. Taking the baby into her arms wasn’t like a beautiful and moving reunion between mother and child often depicted in Hallmark movies. In fact, as she was so occupied with signing and receiving her forms, she didn’t have the time to be emotional, nor did she realise that she achieved a dream that she once considered unattainable: to be a mother to baby Noah, named after one of the prophets in Islam. It was only when she was alone in the car, with Noah sleeping soundly in her arms, did she realise that they are now finally a family of three. “My husband went out to get coffee and I was sitting in the car with the baby and I was just like… My god, it’s finally happening! It’s the quiet moments when we were alone with the baby that we had the time to process what just happened.” Advice for potential adoptive parents While her journey may seem smooth, Syaira recognised the commitment of raising a child. If you've heard the idea that children can fill the void in any marriage or solve any marital problems, well, it is a notion that she disagrees with. Instead, she believes it is imperative to “have a deep talk with your spouse about what it means to be parents and what you [both] want." Unlike pregnancy that can sometimes be unplanned, adoption is a conscious choice that allows the couple to discuss beforehand if they are financially and emotionally ready for the commitment. A tip she shared was to read up on the relevant topics as much as possible before making the decision to start the adoption journey. She emphasised the importance of being financially ready, not just for raising the child, but also covering the costs of the pre-adoption procedures. Milk kinship An added challenge that Syaira faced was to induce lactation for her baby to foster milk kinship and become her mahram. In Islam, a mahram is a member of one's family: with whom marriage is prohibited; from whom concealment of the body with hijab is not obligatory; and with whom, if he is an adult male, she may be escorted during a journey. For our benefit, Syaira patiently explained the implications of breastfeeding the adopted child in her religion. The adoptive parent(s) and child are considered each other’s mahram, but this does not apply to extended family members such as the adoptive grandparents. However, breastfeeding an adopted child a certain number of times before he turns two would allow him to become a "milk child", and thus be considered as mahram. Hence, she chose to do this so that Noah can interact with the extended family with ease. Induced lactation The idea of breastfeeding an adopted child was not foreign to Syaira, whose Malaysian relative, a doctor, had breastfed her own adopted children. Initially, she had planned to induce lactation, pump the milk and store it in the freezer prior to the baby’s arrival. However, everything happened too quickly for her and it became “a last minute thing” that she had to organise with her doctor on the same day when her baby arrived. Syaira was given two medications — a birth control pill and a hormone pill. One is taken first to trick the body into believing it is pregnant, while the other is taken after a certain number of days to trick it into believing it has given birth. In addition to the oral medications, Syaira was advised by her lactation nurse to pump every three hours in order to stimulate breastfeeding and encourage the production of breast milk. To say it was time-consuming is an understatement. On top of the high frequency of pumping, she also had to wash and sterilise the equipment and before she knew it, it was time for another pumping session. As Syaira need not remain in confinement, she was out and about with her baby, which added to the inconvenience of adhering to the pumping schedule. Groaning as she recalled the process, she said, "When you pump, you can't do anything. You just have to be there, like a cow. When the baby cries, I have to call for my husband. You can't do a lot of things so it was very... troublesome." She revealed that she only pumped four or five times a day and was surprised when the milk came through within a week. After over a week of “pumping, medication and hormones,” Syaira was delighted to see the colostrum — something she once thought was impossible. Colostrum is the nutrient-rich first form of milk typically produced immediately after giving birth. Now, most breastfeeding mothers would wince at the thought of cracked nipples, breast engorgement, and the dreaded plugged milk ducts. But Syaira considered herself to be “very lucky”. The ease of it surprised her as “it was [only] a bit painful” and she only experienced mild engorgement without any painful or serious side-effects. While Syaira experienced milk letdown within a short period of time, it was in low supply. Compared to the average 100ml of milk per side, her personal average was 12ml. Nonetheless, with the encouragement of her supportive husband and a milk-hungry infant, she froze the milk bit by bit and she managed to complete the feeds after over two months to achieve her goal. The big reveal Syaira shared with us that she plans to tackle the adoption stigmas and microaggressions head-on and gradually educate Noah about his adoption history when he is young. In her extensive research since she embarked on the adoption journey, the well-read mother has done a lot of research that predominantly advocates telling the child early. This has been proven and reviewed by many experts on the matter, including a board-certified pediatric psychologist. She learnt from her research that this practice can help the child to be “secure and confident” in their identity as an adopted child rather than develop negative feelings towards their adoption history. Her first-hand experiences with people who grapple with identity crises upon finding out about their adoption history that causes them to question who they believed they were also further encouraged her to be upfront with Noah about his adoption at a young age. “It’s about building that relationship with the child from young,” she said, referring to her and her spouse as Noah’s “forever family”. Thus, she believes in “complete transparency”, and that it is easier to start young when Noah can ask questions. Her plan includes gradually facilitating age-appropriate conversations with him about his adoption with various resources like books and movies to help him understand the concepts of adoption and family. “I don't think I can be so selfish to keep him from [his birth family] or them from him if they want to be reunited,” Syaira said. “I feel that everything should be decided by him... It's not about what I want. If he wants to meet them, I'll make an effort to reach out to them." Parenting style Among the various parenting styles, Syaira subscribes to the more “respectful, gentle” parenting style as she does not believe in hitting the child. She candidly shared a challenge she faced when Noah was going through a "hitting" phase, which he demonstrated around family members and his cousins, but not at school. Being the studious mother that she is, she turned to podcasts and parenting books for solutions, which advised against making it a big deal and stated that children at that age typically know how to be gentle and that the hitting stems from impulse. But it was during a staycation where she witnessed a father handling a similar problem in a way that deeply inspired her. According to Syaira, the man was having a chat with his two children who were walking beside him when one of them raised a hand and tried to hit the other. He simply caught the child’s hand mid-air to stop the behaviour without making a fuss and went on with their lives. “That’s how I want to be, he’s so cool!” Syaira exclaimed, proceeding to say she hoped to become the “cool, calm, collected” parent who is “confident in what they do". She did admit that it is easier said than done because many parents may find it instinctive to call the children out in an agitated manner in such situations, especially when a lot of us in Asian households were brought up that way. "Parenting is actually unlearning yourself and what you have been taught to become the parent that you want to be, and regulating yourself is the most difficult thing you have to do as a parent." Husband as a pillar of strength When we asked her who her biggest pillar of strength was, Syaira named her husband without any hesitation. It goes without saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but as a modern couple who lives on their own, Syaira and Ashraf are each other's main support system. While the workload cannot be evenly split between the couple, they know that they depend on each other for support when the going gets tough. She chuckled as she said, "My husband and I always say that parenting is basically one person losing it at a time so the baby doesn't die. You can't lose it together!" Parenting is an ongoing journey Despite the sheer amount of research Syaira has done prior to adopting Noah, the first-time mother remains humble and realistic when navigating parenthood. She identified self-regulation as the biggest challenge for her since the start of her parenting journey. Flaring up at your child is an easy way to express your displeasure, but can cause negative emotions between parent and child, resulting in adverse effects on the child in the long run. “If we as grown adults cannot regulate our own emotions, what makes you think a toddler who is two years old can do it?” Syaira remarked. However, she acknowledged that it is tough to perpetually keep one’s temper in check and still figure out proper ways to appease the crying child, especially after a long day at work. Nonetheless, Syaira remains uncertain if she is parenting the right way and noted that it is difficult to tell until Noah becomes much older. But as we saw her gush, describing her beloved Noah as a cheeky, bubbly and social butterfly (a trait that he probably inherited from her), we're almost certain that she's on the right path. “[Motherhood] has not turned out exactly how I expected but it is seriously the best thing... that has ever happened to me... It’s so much harder than I thought it would be but it’s so much more gratifying as well.” Top image courtesy of Nursyazanna Syaira Suhimi.
Article
In 2015, Anna Lam Kar Yee first got the idea to work on edible cutlery when she came across an Indian company called Bakeys, which was seeking crowdfunding on Kickstarter.According to the now 31-year-old, she “was fascinated by the concept.”After seeing how much single-use plastic waste that people, including herself, inevitably generated from all the takeaways during the Circuit Breaker, Lam was determined to do something.She decided to quit her full-time job at Mars Food Inc to start Crunch Cutlery, a company that produces edible cutlery, with two other like-minded Singaporeans, Sean Neo and Ezra C.Now, Lam is one of the female game changers in the sustainability scene who’s receiving support from HSBC.#sustainability #climatechange #food
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/crunch-cutlery-hsbc-golf/
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Many Singaporeans probably recall experimenting a lot at home during Circuit Breaker last year, be it with some crafts or cooking. Like many of us, 31-year-old Singaporean Anna Lam found herself experimenting with a simple recipe for hardtack — a type of biscuit that’s more lasting than the usual ones we eat. Some hardtacks can even last for years, and can be staples for travellers on long sea voyages. Nope, Lam is not preparing for a long getaway in a post-Covid-19 world, but an entrepreneurial journey that set sail from those little kitchen experiments. And now, Lam is one of the female game changers in the sustainability scene who’s receiving support from HSBC. Edible cutlery to replace disposables In an email interview with Mothership, Lam shared that she got the idea to work on edible cutlery in 2015, when she came across an Indian company called Bakeys, which was seeking crowdfunding on Kickstarter. “I was fascinated by the concept,” Lam said. After seeing how much single-use plastic waste that people, including herself, inevitably generated from all the takeaways during Circuit Breaker, Lam was determined to do something. “Another key motivator was the single-use plastic waste I personally accumulated during the circuit breaker from takeaways and food delivery. I found it hard to stick to reusable cutlery because of the added inconvenience. That was when I realised that the inconvenience pain point had to be solved to make an impact on single-use plastic consumption in Singapore.” Lam then quit her full-time job at Mars Food Inc to start Crunch Cutlery, a company that produces edible cutlery, with two other like-minded Singaporeans, Sean Neo and Ezra Chan. Six flavours and very nutritious Convincing people to stop using single-use plastic waste is, unsurprisingly, tough because it’s just so convenient to just “use and throw”. To make a compelling case for more Singaporeans to choose edible cutlery over plastic cutlery, the trio set out to create an exciting gourmet experience for users by collaborating with scientists and engineers. The trio has since developed six flavours of edible cutlery. They include both sweet and savoury flavours like strawberry, blue pea lychee, green tea, tomato, spicy and gluten-free buckwheat. Depending on what you are eating, you can be sure to find the right edible spoon to go with. For example, a tomato-flavoured spoon can go well with a poke bowl. And a bowl of acai would perhaps taste even better with blue pea lychee spoon. Besides being tasty and sustainable, the edible cutlery from Crunch Cutlery is also nutritious, with ingredients that are high in fibre and vitamins, such as organic chia seeds. While many F&B businesses took a hit from Covid-19 pandemic, the trio behind Crunch Cutlery still managed to get their products on the shelves of several eateries. They also aim to make a “quantifiable reduction” to the number of plastic cutleries used in Singapore by 2022, and to expand to overseas markets in the near future. An uphill battle Give it some time, and hopefully more people will be aware of, and enjoy using edible cutlery, as it is still not widely adopted in Singapore. Through events like "Swing for the Game Changers", a contest which coincided with the HSBC Women's World Championship, Lam had the opportunity to introduce Crunch Cutlery to the masses. Lam revealed that raising awareness and encouraging people to use edible cutlery is the hardest part of this business venture: “Educating customers about our product is challenging as we are fundamentally striving to redefine the dining experience for customers – to have cutlery as part of the meal experience rather than an accessory to a meal.” That said, when asked if she’d ever felt like giving up and going back to the relative stability of a nine-to-five job, Lam’s reply was: “Thankfully not yet!” She admitted, however, that starting a business in the sustainable space is an “uphill battle”. “Sustainability in Singapore is a challenging field. Many are aware of it, but not many practice it. If you want to start a business in the sustainability space, you have to be mentally prepared for an uphill battle.” Be aware and take action What’s keeping Lam and her partners going in this “uphill battle” is constantly being reminded that our actions today determine how our future will be. “Be aware that we are at an environmental tipping point. If you are part of the younger demographics, you will bear the brunt of environmental degradation over the coming decades. Keeping this in mind will hopefully spark and sustain your efforts to be more personally environmentally friendly,” Lam shared. Lam added that starting Crunch Cutlery is her personal commitment to the cause and that she hopes to encourage more people to gradually adopt a more sustainable lifestyle by starting small. Most importantly, the lifestyle tweaks that one chooses to make have to be sustainable (pun intended). Lam said: “Start small with quantifiable changes that you can sustain, [for example], if water bottles are too heavy, consider keeping a small foldable cup in your bag instead of buying bottled water.” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Anna Lam is one of the three HSBC Women’s World Championship Game Changers who are passionate about sustainability and driving positive change on this front. You can find out more about Crunch Cutlery and other sustainability champions here. This sponsored article is brought to you by HSBC which champions women Game Changers in the HSBC Women’s World Championship and in businesses tackling the environmental challenges we face today. Top photos courtesy of Crunch Cutlery.
Article
Singaporeans will soon be able to renew their passports for 10 years at a time, instead of the current five.The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said on May 7 that Singapore Citizens aged 16 and above who submit a passport application from Oct. 1 will get new passports that are valid for 10 years.According to ICA, there will be no change to the passport application fee, which will remain at S$70.Applications can also continue to be made online, via ICA's e-Service.
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/singapore-passport-renewal-10-years/
mothership-sg
Singaporeans will soon be able to renew their passports for 10 years at a time, instead of the current five. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said on May 7 that Singapore Citizens aged 16 and above who submit a passport application from Oct. 1 will get new passports that are valid for 10 years. "This will reduce the frequency of passport renewals, and offer greater convenience to Singaporeans," said ICA. Passport application fee unchanged at S$70 There will be no change to the passport application fee, which will remain at $70, ICA said. Applications can continue to be made online, via ICA's e-Service. ICA said that applicants with no access to the Internet may visit the Citizen Connect Centres (CCCs) located at Our Tampines Hub and selected Community Centres/Clubs islandwide, where they can have free access to Internet-enabled computing devices. Those who are unable to transact online and do not have someone who can help them, may visit ICA for assistance. Validity for those under 16 remains at five years Meanwhile, the validity period of the passport issued to children below 16 years old will remain at five years. ICA said that this is because children’s facial features change more rapidly. Thus, renewing their passport every five years will allow the photograph in their passport to be updated more frequently, which will minimise identification problems when going through immigration. Biometric passport technology has stabilised In its statement, ICA said that 15 years have passed since the biometric passport was introduced, and that biometrics screening technology has become widespread. ICA said that biometric passport technology has stabilised, and that it has "greater confidence in the durability of the passport microchip". These developments led ICA to assess that it is viable to increase the validity of the Singapore passport to 10 years without compromising security or global confidence in the Singapore passport. It also highlighted the fact that other countries that previously issued five-year passports have moved to a 10-year passport. Top image by Nigel Chua
Article
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong confirmed that for now, there will be no extension to the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) that began on May 16 and is scheduled to last until June 13.Nor will P2HA be "upgraded" to a full Circuit Breaker. PM Lee stated that the existing measures have succeeded in bringing down the number of cases.He also urged Singaporeans to keep up the good work, work from home if possible, go out only if it's important, and to see a doctor immediately if one feels unwell, even those already vaccinated.
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/pm-lee-phase-2-heightened-alert-update/
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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong confirmed that for now, there will be no extension to the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) that began on May 16 and is scheduled to last until June 13. Nor will P2HA be "upgraded" to a full Circuit Breaker. PM Lee stated that the existing measures have succeeded in bringing down the number of cases. Addressing the nation in a live speech on May 31, PM Lee said: "Because of your support, the number of daily cases has come down. Barring another super-spreader or big cluster, we should be on track to bring this outbreak under control. We will know for sure in another week or so." He urged Singaporeans to keep up the good work, work from home if possible, go out only if it's important, and to see a doctor immediately if one feels unwell, even those already vaccinated. He added: "If our situation continues to improve, and the number of community cases falls further, we should be able to relax the restrictions after the 13th of June." Beef up Singapore's Covid-19 containment efforts But that doesn't mean Singapore is going to rest on its laurels. PM Lee also announced further steps taken to beef up the Covid-19 response and ensure that the newer, more infectious variants can be contained. Singapore's testing, tracing and vaccination processes will be augmented. Testing Fast testing is imperative to prevent the disease from spreading widely. PM Lee announced that anyone visiting a GP or polyclinic with an acute respiratory infection will receive an Antigen Rapid Test (ART), as well as a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. While the ART is less sensitive than the PCR, it is also cheaper and easier to administer, with a faster response time. People who test positive with the ART will be immediately isolated, and the PCR test will confirm the diagnosis later. This will help to reduce the chances of infection. PM Lee also announced that DIY tests will be available for purchase at pharmacies, and with alternatives such as breathalyser tests, routine testing can be carried out at places like malls, offices and restaurants. People whose occupations involve regular contact with others, such as fitness instructors, physiotherapists and teachers, could all be tested regularly. The idea is to change the approach to testing, from those appearing ill to those who are visibly well. Large-scale testing could also help to ensure that large-scale events, such as a concert or a wedding reception, can proceed. PM Lee said, "therefore, you should expect routine, large-scale, fast and simple testing to be part of our new normal." Tracing Contact tracing will also be enhanced, helped by tools like TraceTogether and SafeEntry. The immediate household members of a close contact of a Covid-19 case will also be ordered to isolate themselves immediately, without waiting to see if the first degree contact tests positive. The more aggressive approach will help to prevent clusters from growing bigger. Vaccination PM Lee also announced the ramping up of Singapore's vaccination efforts, helped by the confirmation of faster vaccine deliveries over the next two months from suppliers. So far, nearly 4 out of 10 residents have received at least a first dose of the vaccine. Recently, the Multi-Ministry Task Force (MTF) announced a shift in strategy, to prioritise first dose vaccinations. In other words, the priority is to get as many shots in arms as fast as possible, instead of fully vaccinating a smaller segment of the population. This approach provides the maximum number of people with good protection, instead of a good number of people with maximum protection, PM Lee said. Students will be the next group slated for vaccination, with registrations open from June 1 onwards. Priority will be given to those taking their O-, N- and A-Level examinations, as well as special needs students. After the students comes Singaporeans aged 39 and below, beginning around mid-June. PM Lee said that everyone who wants a vaccine should be able to get their first shot by National Day (August 9). To make the process even more convenient for the remaining elderly who have not booked their slot, PM Lee also announced that those above 60 can walk into any vaccination centre and get vaccinated on the spot. Endemic PM Lee said that while the global pandemic will one day subside, it may be that Covid-19 cannot be eradicated completely. In that case, it will become endemic and circulate among small groups of people for years to come, and there may be small outbreaks among the population in Singapore. The virus can be managed through vaccination and testing, and even though some will be infected from time to time, pre-pandemic events like religious services and entertainment with crowds can resume. He urged Singaporeans to keep up their efforts for the next two weeks of P2HA, and thanked us for our cooperation and support. Top image from MCI.
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In November 2019, Yoo EunHye started Unnie K-Shop to bring quality skincare products from South Korea and teach local users how to use these products.The proof of quality is literally in her own skin.“We are real, ordinary people - we’re not models. We don't secretly go to aesthetic clinics and spend tens of thousands of dollars to improve our skin. Everything is actually [achieved] via our home care system which we share with our clients.”#entrepreneurship
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/unnie-k-shop-sponsored/
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Yoo EunHye - a new mum in her mid-thirties - barely has any wrinkles or laugh lines, and boasts a youthful, glowing complexion. My first instinct would have been to ask her for the brands of skincare products she was using, but that would be making a common “misstep”, one that most Singaporeans fall for - a misconception which Yoo seeks to address through Unnie K-Shop. Started webshop to bring in high quality Korean skincare products Yoo came to Singapore five years ago from South Korea. When she started working as a professional beautician, many of her customers noticed her radiant skin and naturally started asking Yoo about her skincare routine. Yoo was more than happy to share what she was doing. However, she quickly came to realise that there was one obvious problem while making recommendations - the products that she was using weren't available in Singapore. “I tried to find similar products in Singapore...or those from the same brand or have similar ingredients, but I couldn’t,” Yoo said. Even the ones that were available in Singapore were “totally different” from what she was using. The next best option was to then buy and ship products from South Korea, but she ran into another major roadblock: many Singaporeans aren’t able to get products from Korean skincare companies. The reason? Many of these brands only accept payment via a Korean bank account and they only deliver to local addresses. She highlights that this is because the Korean local markets are already strong enough for them to be self-sufficient, whereas those who focus on an export business “are not suitable for use in my opinion”, Yoo says. The beautician realised that she could help solve this problem, by setting up a business that would bring in good products that she’s using into Singapore. Making use of her connections back home, she set up Unnie K-Shop together with her Singaporean husband Dave Sito and another co-investor, in November 2019. Filling in a beauty gap in the Singapore scene After being advised so by her co-investor, she decided to go into selling and demonstrating the use of the products on Facebook Live, as it was a way to reach out to a bigger audience without spending an exorbitant amount on marketing and social media ads. Looking at the Facebook Live scene, she saw that Unnie K-Shop could help address a market gap: in comparison to South Korea, the Singaporean beauty scene was rather sparse. “I realised that there are a lot of sellers using Facebook Live, but very few of them actually sell skincare...[In general]...there is also a huge information gap due to language differences and the culture...in Singapore we don’t have beauty channels where they talk about how to use [skincare] products on a daily basis, but in Korea , it’s like perfectly normal...that's how we realised that there is an opportunity to bring real good products and teach people how to use [them].” In doing these Facebook Lives for Unnie K-Shop, Yoo had to cross several hurdles. The first was the language barrier: speaking on live video is one thing, but doing so having to use a second language was a different ball game altogether for her. As she had no formal training in English, the first few Facebook live videos saw her struggle to confidently demonstrate and explain how to use the skincare products. She had to have Sito her husband, who would help translate and support her during the livestream, to develop confidence. To her surprise, Yoo says that viewers have been very welcoming and accepting of her. After receiving plenty of positive comments, she developed the confidence to host these Facebook Lives alone. “Despite my bad grammar and inadequate vocabulary, they understand me. Maybe they bought the products because they understand what I was trying to convey via my body language and the fact that I use the same products that I sell which led them to trust me.” Pandemic pains and surprising growth Surprisingly, it was the Covid-19 pandemic that brought them both the most substantial growth in their business. While the average number of viewers for their live shows have remained steady, they started experiencing high volume of customer enquiries over the last year. Initially, they started by opening sales only during the live sessions, but one particularly great outing led to Yoo’s team having to spend three full days to answer all messages. In order to efficiently manage the increase in sales, they built a website to assist them with taking orders. Unfortunately, they ended up crashing the site within minutes during yet another product launch, the Oxytical Vial 3.98, which have sold out four batches at the time of writing. Yoo recounts how she had to conduct an emergency Facebook live session to hold half of her customers from ordering first, while another half of her customers went into the website to input their orders. Some even decided to only go into the website in the wee hours of the night to secure their orders. Eventually, Yoo had to move Unnie K-Shop to Shopify’s platform to better manage the overwhelming demand. Importing the products from Korea also became another pain point. Previously, all their products were sent via air freight, and this caused not one, but three whole merchandise batches getting stuck at South Korea’s Incheon Airport with no clarity on delivery dates during the initial lockdown in South Korea. Debating between refunding her customers or trying to get the products to them, Yoo decided to sink more money into a fourth shipment, which was equivalent to the size of the previous three shipments that were stuck. This fourth shipment was covered by a shipping company that shipped the products over using their own planes. It was more expensive, but it was able cover all of the stocks that were being owed from pre-orders. Eventually, all shipments came. They’ve quickly moved to include multiple shipping agents and also sea-freight, and things have been more stable in procuring supplies and handling orders ever since. Overcoming those obstacles, they grew from a very small venture - a humble Facebook live-selling model, to a website hosting a wide selection of curated skincare products from Korea. Product demos are still conducted weekly on Facebook live. From a small part of her husband’s study, to filling up an entire living room, and then moving to a bigger house. Yoo says they are considering renting a warehouse for their products as well. Ultimately, they want what works for you Yoo stresses that Unnie K-Shop isn’t just another skincare product seller you can find on an e-commerce platform; she emphasises that instead of just selling products, she curates their skincare collection. In fact, for every hundred products reviewed, she says only 10 of them are given her stamp of approval, and made available for sale on their shop. “We are real, ordinary people - we’re not models. We don't secretly go to aesthetic clinics and spend tens of thousands of dollars to improve our skin. Everything is actually [achieved] via our homecare system which we share with our clients. We demonstrate the products live so that our clients can learn to do the same and ask questions.” Customers can get advice from her via the shop’s Facebook page,where she checks with them the products they are using, what ingredients are in their skincare product, and work out why their current products might not work with them. This might be the defining difference about what she does. In fact, Yoo’s student had said that she much preferred Unnie K-Shop compared to a certain famous Korean skincare seller which was “too big”. “We were very confused. What do you mean that because they're too big, that's why they're not good? [They explained that] because when they want to buy something, they don't know what to buy. It's like you go into a large scale candy shop, and then there are like 50 different candies, you don't know what is good, what matches your skin type, and the differences between the products. There's no recommendation, you're totally lost.” On the other hand, Unnie K shop is extremely open to advising customers on what they should get, and even then only what they need. A holistic skincare routine is more important than the brand of the product Yoo highlighted that while many Singaporeans place a big emphasis on the brands, South Koreans are more focused on the ingredients used in skincare products and the habit of a proper skincare routine instead. This, she highlights, could be the reason why many Singaporeans tend to follow brands, rather than seeking out products by ingredients that might help their skincare concerns. She also points out that some also “expect one product to [solve] their problems”, when it is not a feasible expectation. “Of course we do have products that specifically target a certain problem, but if you do not follow a holistic routine, it will not be effective, or [the effectiveness] will only be short term. Every skincare step serves a unique purpose. In line with that philosophy, throughout the interview, Yoo didn’t emphasise or push one particular product or line of products, but instead, wanted to impart the importance of a holistic skincare routine, which is far more effective than using a particularly expensive product. Their hopes, as such, were more centred on what they hope their customers could take away from their shop, rather than what they could buy. “In Korea. Not every woman is as rich as the average Singaporean girl. So for most of them they don't actually go to aesthetic clinics. Most Korean women only use home skincare routines to maintain their skin conditions; even techniques like micro needling and using modelling mask packs can all be done easily at home. “What we hope to achieve is more for our customers that they, you know, can learn good techniques, they understand how to choose the product better. They learn more about ingredients and things like this. And we also want them to know that problem skin can be solved with home care solutions they have. If you’re raring to change your skin for the better, drop by their Facebook page and Instagram page to find out how to begin - just drop them a private message for enquiries or a quick consultation, and do visit their website to see what kind of products are available for sale. Exclusively for Mothership readers, new customers can get S$15 off their first purchase on the website, with a minimum order amount of S$150 with the promo code MS_UNNIE_15OFF. Promotion ends May 31, 2021. Terms and conditions apply. This article is brought to you by Unnie K-Shop, who’s made this writer seriously look at the ingredients list of her skincare products. Top image via Yoo EunHye
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Young adults aged 39 years and younger will be vaccinated after students get their shots, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a live nationwide broadcast on Monday, May 31.Priority will be given to the graduating cohorts for 'O', 'N', and 'A' Levels, as well as special needs students, he elaborated. Other students aged 12 years and above will then have their turn, including students in Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL).After the students get their shots, the final remaining group, young adults 39 years and younger, will be vaccinated, PM Lee said, adding that their turn will start around mid-June.
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/pm-lee-young-adults-vaccine-after-students/
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Young adults aged 39 years and younger will be vaccinated after students get their shots, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a live nationwide broadcast on Monday, May 31. Graduating cohorts to be prioritised Currently, vaccination of those aged 40 to 44 is ongoing. PM Lee announced that the next group to be vaccinated after the 40-44 age group will be students, adding that in the latest Covid-19 outbreak, there are more cases of students getting infected in schools and tuition centres. "While the children were not seriously ill, parents are naturally worried," he said. Therefore, the government will make use of the June holidays to vaccinate students, with registration to open the next day on June 1. Priority will be given to the graduating cohorts for 'O', 'N', and 'A' Levels, as well as special needs students, he elaborated. Other students aged 12 years and above will then have their turn, including students in Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL). Those aged 39 and below to get their jabs after After the students get their shots, the final remaining group, young adults 39 years and younger, will be vaccinated, PM Lee said, adding that their turn will start around mid-June. He further explained that as this is quite a large group, the government will be giving Singaporean citizens in the group a two-week priority window to book their appointments first, before they open up to the rest who want to be vaccinated. Boost to vaccination programme with faster vaccine deliveries PM Lee added that the authorities are vaccinating as many people as vaccine supplies allow. He said while the country's 40 vaccination centres are running smoothly, they faced a constraint in vaccine supply, which explains why they have been "working very hard" to confirm and speed up deliveries of vaccines from their suppliers. However, PM Lee added that the government has recently received further confirmation of faster vaccine deliveries over the next two months, which will allow a further boost to the nation's vaccination programme. "We can offer the vaccine to everyone, even sooner than we expected," he said. Related stories: Top image adapted via Ministry of Communications and Information & Maverick Asio/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
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Here’s our resident contributor Abel Ang’s latest sharing on our #LessonsOnLeadership series — making a big change in terms of how we might currently think about our careers and how we prepare ourselves for our next moves. Read on:
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/career-advice-abel-ang/
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COMMENTARY: "Manage your career as if you are a start-up." Writing for Lessons on Leadership, a new series hoping to inspire the next generation of Singaporeans through the stories of Singapore’s many successful business leaders and entrepreneurs, our contributor Abel Ang shares his top career advice for young Singaporeans entering or who are in their early years in the workforce. Abel Ang is the chief executive of a medical technology company and an adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Business School. “Get a degree in a sunrise industry, the future is bright”: one of the worst pieces of career advice I ever received. Nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and fintech are some of the fads that have come and gone. Such advice of the “future is bright” variety is usually given without much consideration to the interests, personality, and temperament of the recipient. Is it any wonder that half of Singapore's new entrants to the workforce want jobs outside their fields of study? I suspect many of these followed well-meaning “sunrise industry” advice. And I apologise if you happen to fall into this category of people, but as far as I’m concerned, choosing to follow this type of advice is about as wise as drinking day-old bubble tea left on the kitchen counter. By the time someone has graduated with a bachelor’s or post-graduate degree in a topic, the target sector may be in the doldrums, having fallen out of favour with investors and consumers. Since we’re talking about career advice, my take is what constitutes good or bad career advice depends on the person receiving it. Good advice should be like a well-tailored shirt — it should fit the person for whom it is intended, and bring out the best in the person’s features, talents, and attributes. Manage your career as if *you* are a start-up When someone approaches me for career advice, my first response is usually to have them read the bestselling book The Start-up of You, co-authored by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. Its core premise is that an individual should manage their career as if they are a startup, and that they should not wait until they have been fired before searching for the next job. Hoffman describes the book as a “blueprint for thriving in your job and career in today’s challenging world of work,” where technology and globalisation are decimating traditional career paths and disrupting industries. Since I am getting old, I have developed a method of cheat sheets to help me remember important lessons from books. My cheat sheet of takeaways from Hoffman’s book can be summarised in the acronym “SIGN” – an action I associate with landing a new job, given the myriad of employment, medical, and insurance documents that need to be executed before someone joins a new company. And what does SIGN stand for? Skills, Invest, Grow and Network. 1) Skills Specifically, keep arming yourself with useful and relevant skills in your field. Focus on skills that are aligned with your personality and talents, and which have value in the industry of your choice. The advice goes beyond a simplistic recommendation of an in-demand skill that will magically give you the job and career of your dreams. If you don’t already know this, you should absolutely keep learning, even after graduating from school, and prioritise jobs and skills that offer you the greatest learning potential. In the same way that startup companies are obsessed with customer feedback for their product, the recommendation is that you should stay in touch with your respective sector to understand what skills will make you attractive and competitive in your chosen marketplace. 2) Invest in yourself. The book recommends that you invest in and build a personal brand that is independent of the company you work for. You could do this by building a presence online to share your professional achievements, and/or engage with industry-specific platforms to contribute articles, and/or conduct talks to raise your standing within the professional community you are part of. Here’s one easy way to assess your personal brand value: Google yourself. In a world where lifetime employment in one company is no longer a given, personal brands come in handy when there are limited opportunities for career advancement at your current company, or when one is looking for a change of scene, pace or location. Having a personal brand energises and makes this change decidedly less stressful because your resume is always updated. Other aspects of self-investment include - setting aside a personal budget to pick up the skills that you want to develop, and - buying coffee or meals with interesting people who can be of assistance in helping you achieve your career or learning goals. 3) Grow constantly. Growing constantly means to keep your eyes constantly open to opportunities, and your mind curious about the industries around them. In the same way that startup founders are looking for gaps in markets that they can provide solutions to, individuals that treat themselves like startups are always hunting for professional opportunities to grow themselves or their networks. For a young person, this could take the form of attending industry-related events or volunteering in an industry association to expand one’s network and knowledge of the space they are in. The book recommends that people live like their “life is in permanent beta”. This describes the mentality of a person in continuous growth mode. In the same way that a startup’s software goes through a beta phase to improve and meet the needs of the market better, the permanent beta concept indicates that the work of personal growth is never over. 4) Network. According to the Hoffman: “The people you spend time with shape who you are and who you become… the fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” The lesson here is not about handing out your name cards outside the nearest MRT station, and hoping for the best. It recommends that people start with networks they have a connection with from school, university, or where you have worked previously. Feed and nurture the network, and it will pay dividends when you need it to. An example of a great network is the PayPal mafia. The alumni of people who worked at PayPal have gone on to become founders and CEOs of companies like YouTube, Tesla, SpaceX, and Yelp. Each person in the collective continues to nurture their network and connections, by referring things to each other, sharing resources, and investing in one another’s companies. Looking for employees that SIGN As the CEO of a high-growth medical device company that employs 1,000 people around the world, I’ll tell you that I’m always on the lookout for talent that can help us enhance our growth. One of the things we look for in potential hires is evidence of “SIGN”. We are not threatened when our colleagues take pride in their work and post their achievements on social media. I often celebrate with current and past colleagues, and am genuinely happy for them to celebrate their successes publicly, as long as company confidential information is not shared online. We continue to nurture the alumni of people that have worked with us and are trying to build our own version of the PayPal mafia. We keep in touch with those who want to stay in contact, because it gives us an opportunity to journey with them as they seek to reach their full potential. When people circle back to me after reading The Start-up of You, I often tell them that they need to discern their own paths. I ask them to avoid cliches, buzzwords and glib advice – and to seek authenticity and resonance with what they want in their own lives. And so here’s my parting shot: Whether you are 21 or 60, you can still function like a start-up. It’s never too late to start becoming the entrepreneur of your own career. Top photo via Anthony Young/Unsplash
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From May 29, 2021 onwards, overseas S'pore citizens & PRs must test negative for Covid-19 before flying into S'pore.#covid #travel
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/overseas-spore-citizens-prs-pre-departure-covid-19-test/
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All Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PR) who are overseas must present a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test result before they are allowed to depart for Singapore from May 29, 2021. The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced this updated travel requirement on May 26, 2021, citing a worsening global situation, with emergence of new and potentially more infectious variants. Previously, MOH did not require Singapore citizens and PRs who are overseas to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test before flying back to Singapore. MOH said that it did not want to make it difficult for citizens and PRs to return home quickly, should they be caught unprepared by the rapidly deteriorating pandemic conditions abroad. "We have put in place advisories on overseas travel for some time now, and SCs and PRs abroad would have had more time to manage the risks of Covid-19 in the countries that they are in." This new travel requirement will kick in from May 29, 11:59pm. Only those who have stayed in lower-risk countries or regions — namely Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Mainland China, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macao — throughout the last 21 days before departure for Singapore are exempted from this requirement. Those returning from lower-risk countries or regions will have to: take a Covid-19 test upon arrival in lieu of a Stay Home Notice (SHN), or serve a seven-day SHN at their place of residence, and take a Covid-19 test at the end of the SHN. Travellers who arrive in Singapore without a valid negative test result may be denied entry into Singapore. PRs and long-term pass holders who fail to comply with the new requirement may have their permit or pass cancelled. The ministry added that Singaporeans who test positive for Covid-19 while overseas and require urgent medical care in Singapore can still return to Singapore via a medevac flight or other equivalent forms of conveyance. MOH said that changes to border measures will be updated on the SafeTravel website.
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Tracy Heah and Debbra Lee struggled with being new mothers when their kids were born.Apart from coping with the constant demands of their newborns, they also struggled with guilt – guilt over having thoughts of hurting their babies and not being as good as the mothers around them."It's important for people who are going through this to know that they're not alone," said Lee.#motherhood #mentalhealth #wellbeing
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/postnatal-depression-mothers-stories/
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Tracy Heah remembers vividly the months spent tending to her son after he popped out of her. The initial joy from birthing a healthy baby boy was cut short by despair — sheer despair at the incessant noise that came out of the little creature day and night. Why won't you stop crying? "You just don't know why it's crying or why it's upset, and nobody really understands how heightened that feeling is until you've had it," said the 44-year-old. Once, driven nearly to the end of her tether, Heah contemplated hurling her baby against the bedroom wall. It's a monstrous thought to entertain — more so if it concerns your own child — but it's real, it's overwhelming, and it can make a new mother feel so alone. Debbra Lee, 50, felt exactly the same thing when she had her daughter. She was a jumble of emotions — nervous, sad, frustrated — and because of that, she could not eat or sleep, subsisting mostly on caffeine. She lost a lot of weight as a result. There were days when the stress and sleep deprivation nearly made her throw her baby girl out the window. "I think that was the worst bit — feeling that I was just this awful person who didn't deserve what I had. How could I be so mean and so horrible?" Being a new mother is difficult Both ladies didn't know it then, but they were going through postnatal depression. Affecting one in 10 new mothers, postnatal depression can be brought on by a variety — and often a combination — of reasons, such as a difficult labour, sleep deprivation, adjusting to being a new mother, and even difficulties with breastfeeding. Take latching, for example. It can be long and tedious for some new mothers -- some take up to an hour. Those who don't manage to do it right can end up with cracked and painful nipples. And then there's the adjusting to a completely new schedule, which can make new mothers feel like they're living in a different time zone, complete with the jet-lagged daze. It can feel like Groundhog Day, according to Heah: "I was on this crazy routine of feeding for like an hour, and the baby will sleep for an hour, and then they'll be up again wanting to feed again, because they would fall asleep while breastfeeding... so all these little struggles that nobody tells you before you have the baby." Being at your baby's beck and call Part of the challenge of being a new mother is also the rude shock of going from independent career woman to "being at the beck and call of this little thing that needs you so much", said Lee who owns a bakery in Malaysia. "If a man ever needed me that much, I'd be out the door!" she laughed. For many women who are used to being in control of their career and solving problems at work, having a baby can throw that sense of control out the window, Lee mused. You can bring your A-game to being a mother and do everything right, but your child might still end up screaming the house down. And of course, the baby can't tell you what else to do. "I think that's what pushes us to the brink — we just can't solve that problem," said Heah. A bundle of joy and lots of guilt Both mothers said that going through postnatal depression was a very lonely affair, partly because the people around them — mothers included — were so dismissive of their struggles. "It's OK lah, get over it." "Very cute what your baby. It's OK lah." "It'll pass." The depression did pass, said Heah, but not before she struggled for months on end. Lee's depression, on the other hand, lasted for a year. Another reason for their loneliness? Guilt. Guilt for not being as loving as the mothers in their playgroups. Guilt for not being able to hold it all together. Guilt for even thinking of hurting their babies. The truth is that many new mothers struggle. Their struggles may not be as severe as outright depression, but they struggle nonetheless. "It's important for people who are going through this to know that they're not alone," said Lee, "and to know that it's a valid feeling, and to know that however you're dealing with it, it's okay." "It will pass and if you need help, go and find help." Seeking help, giving help Nearly throwing her baby against the wall was a wake up call for Heah. She called a counselling hotline and poured her heart out to a psychiatrist, twice a week, one hour each time. Those hourly sessions were, in a sense, sacred, because they were hers alone, her time to focus on her own mental health, while her baby was safely ensconced in a relative's arms. The psychiatrist would assign Heah some small activities, like putting on some make-up before heading to the supermarket, or writing little notes to her husband. "So what she did was she made me drill down to what was it that I was feeling. So I would tell her things like, I feel fat, I feel ugly, I feel unloved. So it was just addressing each of those feelings, so if you felt, ugly, do something to make yourself prettier (in your own eyes), maybe it’s putting on some make up or dressing up. For me it was eyeliner." Lee didn't need professional help but when she understood that she had went through a depressive episode, she resolved to help new mothers in whatever ways she can, sharing about her own experience, but more often than not, just lending them a listening ear. Every one suffers from some mental stress every now and then Underlying Lee and Heah's stories is the call for people to normalise having open conversations about mental health issues and their inherent struggles. Depression, anxiety, and even daily stress — these affect everyone at every stage of life. "I think there's just so much pressure to be perfect all the time — and not just children or teenagers — everyone is under pressure," said Lee. And so motivated by their personal experiences with postnatal depression, the ladies have started Depressed Cake Shop SG, the Singapore chapter of a global movement to encourage conversations about mental health issues. The movement is centered around grey baked goods with a pop of colour. Grey symbolises depression, while the spot of colour, hope. Members of the public are encouraged to join the movement by baking their own grey cakes. If you can't bake, you can still participate by buying grey cakes from one of Depressed Cake Shop SG's vendors and host your own grey gathering or gift them to friends. You can even attend a grey-themed yoga class for free, but donations are encouraged, of course. You can also donate directly to Depressed Cake Shop SG here. All proceeds from the F&B vendors who join the movement, as well as donations from the public, will go towards fulfilling Lee and Heah's goal of raising S$10,000 for the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH). This will be the women's first Depressed Cake Shop SG activity, and they hope that people will embrace the movement and start opening up about their own personal struggles. It will help, Lee said. "When you [open up] to someone, it relieves you a little bit." Stories from the City of Good is a series on ordinary Singaporeans giving their best for others and inspiring each other to become a Singapore that cares. This is a collaboration between Mothership and the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre. Top images via Tracy Heah and Debbra Lee. Other photos by Depressed Cake Shop SG.
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Singapore Airlines (SIA) has raised around S$2 billion from completed sale-and-leaseback transactions involving 11 of its aircraft.The deals were arranged with four other parties, and involved seven Airbus SE A350-900s and four Boeing Co 787-10s.According to the CEO of SIA, Goh Choon Phong, “The additional liquidity from these sale-and-leaseback transactions reinforces our ability to navigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic from a position of strength."SIA further said that it will continue to "explore additional means to raise liquidity as necessary" in this period of high uncertainty, as the airline industry continues to navigate the "unprecedented challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic".#covid #aviation
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/sia-sale-leaseback-deals-2-billion/
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Singapore Airlines (SIA) has raised around S$2 billion from completed sale-and-leaseback transactions involving 11 of its aircraft, according to a press release on May 3 by the airline. The deals were arranged with four other parties, and involved seven Airbus SE A350-900s and four Boeing Co 787-10s. The CEO of SIA, Goh Choon Phong, said: “The additional liquidity from these sale-and-leaseback transactions reinforces our ability to navigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic from a position of strength." SIA further said that it will continue to "explore additional means to raise liquidity as necessary" in this period of high uncertainty, as the airline industry continues to navigate the "unprecedented challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic". SIA sees biggest drop in shares in two weeks amidst recent increase of Covid-19 cases Separately, Bloomberg reported that SIA's shares dropped by about 3.2 per cent on the same day -- the most in about two weeks -- amidst the recent increase of Covid-19 cases. Stock broker UOB Kay Hian Pte was quoted as saying that the new cases threatened the re-opening of Singapore's economy. S$15.4 billion in liquidity has been raised since April 2020 The figure raised from the sale-and-leaseback transactions is part of a larger amount of S$15.4 billion in liquidity that has been raised since April 1 last year, the press release further stated. This amount includes S$2.1 billion from secured financing, S$2 billion via the issuance of convertible bonds and notes, and over S$500 million from new credit lines and a short-term unsecured loan. It also encompasses S$8.8 billion raised from a successful rights issue in June 2020. According to The Business Times, S$7.1 billion out of this S$8.8 billion was spent by December 2020, on items such as operating expenses, ticket refunds and debt servicing. SIA also said that it had access to more than S$2.1 million of undrawn credit lines and the option to raise up to S$6.2 billion in additional mandatory convertible bonds prior to its annual general meeting in July 2021. Top image from SIA Facebook
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Aside from touching on Covid-19 updates and short term measures in his speech, Prime Minister Lee also gave a brief idea of what he imagines will be the new normal:"In the new normal, Covid-19 will not dominate our lives.Our people will be mostly vaccinated, and possibly taking booster shots every year.We will get tested often, but it will be fast and easy. We will go to work or school, meet friends and family, participate in religious services, and enjoy entertainment and sports events.We will re-open our borders safely, visitors will again come to Singapore. Singaporeans will travel again to countries where the disease is well under control, especially if we have been vaccinated.And eventually we will even go about without masks again, at least outdoors.Right now, we are some ways off from this happy state, but we are heading in the right direction."
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/new-normal-singapore-lee-pm/
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Aside from Covid-19 updates and short term measures, Prime Minister Lee touched on in his speech, he also gave a brief idea of what he imagines will be the new normal. That phrase has of course been bandied around quite a bit, but PM Lee's reference to it tackled a hypothetical scenario, provided that Singapore meets some of the criteria he laid out. He said he did not expect Covid-19 to disappear, but to become endemic, and "remain with humankind". This means that the virus will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for years to come. Singapore, too, might see small Covid-19 outbreaks from time to time. PM Lee said that this the new normal will involve learning to carry on with life even with the virus "in our midst". He brought up the common flu and dengue, which he said is now managed through public health measures and personal precautions, as well as regular vaccinations for the flu. He emphasised that while the vaccine might not entirely prevent infections, it makes becoming very ill less likely. Borders Another part of the new normal that PM Lee touched on was the issue of borders. He pointed out that living with an endemic Covid-19 means Singapore cannot completely close borders. Instead, Singapore must stay connected to the world, with "effective safeguards and border restrictions" to ensure safety. PM Lee also said that Singapore will be not able to prevent some infected persons from slipping through from time to time. However, he explained, if the population is mostly vaccinated, Singapore should be able to trace, isolate and treat cases before it becomes a severe outbreak. Singapore’s priority, according to PM Lee, is to get through this pandemic and position itself strongly for the future. He also spoke about how the countries which are disciplined and put in place sensible safeguards, will be able to re-open their economies, re-connect to the rest of the world, grow and prosper. New normal Rounding up his speech, Lee gave an idea as to what the new normal might be. "In the new normal, Covid-19 will not dominate our lives. Our people will be mostly vaccinated, and possibly taking booster shots every year We will get tested often, but it will be fast and easy. We will go to work or school, meet friends and family, participate in religious services, and enjoy entertainment and sports events We will re-open our borders safely, visitors will again come to Singapore. Singaporeans will travel again to countries where the disease is well under control, especially if we have been vaccinated And eventually we will even go about without masks again, at least outdoors. Right now, we are some ways off from this happy state, but we are heading in the right direction." Some ways off. Image from Getty
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The Land Transport Authority (LTA) Singapore has completed its review of Electric Road Pricing (ERP) rates from May 27 to June 27, 2021, both dates inclusive.Following the implementation of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures including full Home-Based Learning (HBL), LTA will be reducing the ERP rates across all gantries and time periods by S$1.A total of 13 half-hour timeslots will see ERP rated reduced to S$0.There will also be no charges on the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) and the Kallang - Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE).#transport #singapore
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/erp-rates-june-holidays/
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The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has completed its review of Electric Road Pricing (ERP) rates for the June 2021 school holidays. ERP rates reduced by S$1 Following into the implementation of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures including full Home-Based Learning (HBL), LTA will be reducing the ERP rates across all gantries and time periods by S$1. A total of 13 half-hour timeslots will see ERP rated reduced to S$0. There will also be no charges on the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) and the Kallang - Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE). With effect from May 27 Here's a detailed table on the revised ERP rates: The revised rates will apply from May 27 to June 27, 2021, both dates inclusive. The rates will revert to pre-school holiday charges from June 28, 2021. Top image from Wikipedia.
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Fighting climate change may seem like a mammoth task for an individual.While it is true that this crisis does not have a quick solution, making small tweaks to our own consumption habits can go a long way.For example, did you know that you can buy kale grown in Singapore?More than 20 types of locally produced food can be found at all major supermarkets.By supporting local farmers, you are also doing your part to protect the environment.#environment #sustainability #localproduce
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/mse-buy-local-produce/
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Fighting climate change may seem like a mammoth task for an individual. While it is true that this crisis of our generation does not have a quick solution, making small tweaks to our own consumption habits can go a long way. You’ve probably heard enough of saying no to straws and bringing reusable bags when shopping, or even eating less meat. But nope, I’m not talking about these which ask for fundamental shifts in our habits. There’s actually a simpler change you can make to reduce our carbon footprint: Support local produce. “Trace Mak Together” short film As Hari Raya Puasa is around the corner, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) has created a short comedy film which you can watch with your friends and family over this festive season. For the uninitiated, the light-hearted and informative film shows a variety of local produce as well as where and how you can find them. The 4-minute film is a good conversation starter for those who wish to get other family members or friends to go green. Here’s how support for our local farmers can also be an environmentally-friendly act. Fresher produce and a lower carbon footprint We can all work towards a more sustainable lifestyle and, understandably, the meatless lifestyle might not be for everyone. Hence, one way to effectively cut down on our personal carbon footprint is to buy produce grown in Singapore. Local produce does not require freight services via planes or ships. And guess what? The shorter transport time from farm to fork means the food is much fresher and can retain more of its nutritional content! Compare overseas and local produce. Produce transported from overseas might not last as long and can be damaged on their way to Singapore. Local produce will not face such problems — this means we can avoid food waste, due to spoilage, produced just from transport. Not to forget, many of our local vegetables are grown in high-tech vertical farms that maximise output in limited spaces. This is unlike traditional farms which have a significant carbon footprint due to land use change. Some farms are even located at the most unexpected places, such as on the rooftops of HDB multi-storey car parks: As these vegetables are grown locally, the quality and food safety are certainly assured by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). In recent years, local produce has become a really competitive alternative as they are now widely available online or at supermarkets. Yup, you don’t have to travel all the way to an ulu Lim Chu Kang farm. You can shop for local produce even in the comfort of your living room. Hence, there is no excuse for not giving local farmers your support. More local produce options at supermarkets If you are someone like me who frequents supermarkets, you might notice quite a number of food items with this sticker on their packaging: You can find them on local produce, including kale, which you would expect to arrive here from temperate-climate areas. Besides vegetables, you can also find fish and eggs produced locally. Here’s a quick look at the variety of local produce available at supermarkets that you might have missed during your last visit: While Singapore imports a majority of our food, SFA is looking into boosting our local food production to cushion us from the impacts of climate change. Covid-19, which has disrupted global supply chains, has also reminded us of the importance and urgency of enhancing our food resilience and security. Therefore, SFA has been supporting our local farmers with funding and space, as well as leveraging on research and development, to grow our local agri-food industry. This is to ensure we have sufficient food to buffer any food supply disruptions. While farmers in Singapore will help provide us with a buffer during bad times, they need our support during ordinary days to sustain or grow their businesses. Furthermore, this will lead to a win-win situation as only with more support from Singaporeans that prices are more likely to become more affordable due to economies of scale. If you are thinking of cooking up a feast or being tasked with grocery shopping over this festive season, do remember to keep a look out for the “SG Fresh Produce” logo. You can watch the light-hearted and informative 4-minute film here: go.gov.sg/tmtyt Top image via MSE’s short film. The writer of this sponsored article by MSE loves grocery shopping.
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Singapore will likely not embark on "further tightening" of prevailing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, finance minister Lawrence Wong said on Friday, May 28.The current measures in place for the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period have been working as the number of new community cases has stabilised, Wong added, saying there is no need for further tightening "in our overall posture" for now.A fuller update will be given at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 on Monday, May 31, Wong said.
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/phase-2-heightened-alert-lawrence-wong-no-tighten-rules/
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Singapore will likely not embark on "further tightening" of prevailing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, finance minister Lawrence Wong said on Friday, May 28. The current measures in place for the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period have been working as the number of new community cases has stabilised, Wong added, saying there is no need for further tightening "in our overall posture" for now. A fuller update will be given at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 on Monday, May 31, Wong said. He also called on Singaporeans to remain vigilant and play their part by minimising their activities and movement outside of their homes. The minister, who is co-chair of the task force tackling Covid-19, said the number of community cases has "even declined slightly". "I think if we continue to do that... then we have a very good chance of continuing to bring down the cases and keep the infections in check," he added. He was speaking to the media during a virtual press conference to announce enhanced support measures for businesses hit badly by the tightened restrictions. New S$800 million support package These measures, costing S$800 million, include enhanced wage subsidies for affected sectors such as gyms, fitness studios, performing arts organisations and arts education centres. "If there are further extensions of the restrictions beyond June 13, the ministry will also consider whether support measures can be similarly extended," Wong said.
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Observers of financial and business news in Singapore might have noticed a trend in recent times — the world's wealthiest individuals are increasingly setting up shop on our tiny island.In the past few years, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, British inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson, as well as son of Haidilao founders Zhang Hanzhi have set up family offices and bought property here.We explore what's attracting them to our tiny island nation and if this a good or bad thing for Singaporeans.#MSExplains
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/ultra-rich-singapore-explainer/?fbclid=IwAR0Hqhblf0ZZAD0jlxqT1VDGq91P3v99uLMexl9WDtWEyyckhI4m3AX4tZg
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Observers of financial and business news in Singapore might have noticed a trend in recent times — the world's wealthiest individuals are increasingly setting up shop on our tiny island. In the past few years, we've seen Google co-founder Sergey Brin, British inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson, and son of Haidilao founders Zhang Hanzhi setting up family offices, and buying property here. What are "family offices"? Family offices are described by Investopedia as being advisory firms that manage the finances or investments of an affluent individual or family. In other words, if you're a rich person with lots of money that you want to preserve for your lifetime and the next few generations, you might set up one of these offices to help you do that. In response to a parliamentary question on the topic, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Apr. 4, 2021 that about 400 family offices had been operating here since the end of 2020. This is double the number given by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in October 2020, just six months prior. At the time, Tharman also cited research estimating that each family office typically managed assets in excess of US$100 million (S$132.77 million). If that figure still holds true, the total assets managed by family offices in Singapore would be at least S$54.4 billion today. So if we take the proliferation of family offices here as evidence of the the ultra rich parking their money in Singapore, the next question to ask would be: Why? A safe place to operate The most obvious reason why the ultra-rich are fond of Singapore is that it is a rather safe place for a wealthy person to park their money. An indication of this is the fact that our country receives top marks for its sovereign credit rating. In fact, Singapore is one of the few countries in the world to currently hold the highest possible score of an AAA rating from the three most influential agencies handing out these ratings — Moody's, Fitch, and Standard and Poor's. Those looking to establish a family office might be interested in specific factors such as political and economic stability, as well as the strength and transparency of its legal system, which all count toward a stronger credit rating. For example, if a country's government or judiciary is known to have high levels of corruption, a wealthy individual may choose not to operate there over concerns about how they may treated, should they be unable to get into the good books of those in power. Or maybe a country's politics may be so unstable that there is a risk of the government collapsing into chaos, or even just changing its corporate tax policy, for example, after every election. This too would understandably be a turn off for someone looking for a location to headquarter their financial activities. Yet, safety and stability can't be the only things making Singapore attractive to the rich. After all, countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland have also received AAA ratings across the board; Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia also rate highly. So while safety and stability are basic requirements, something else is needed to really draw the money of the world's wealthiest to Singapore. Here are a few of them: Tax incentives According to Deloitte, Singapore is known for having one of the most competitive tax regimes in the world. Corporate tax here is levied at a flat rate of 17 per cent, while income tax comes in at 22 per cent for those in the highest bracket. Compare that to tax rates in fellow AAA-rated country Sweden where corporate tax is about 20 per cent and income tax can be as high as 57 per cent, according to Investopedia. Meanwhile in Singapore, Deloitte cites the absence of capital gains taxes and tax on foreign-sourced income in the hands of individuals — a rarity in the developed world — as being particularly attractive to ultra high net worth individuals. Apart from the friendly taxation, a few other government policies have made it easier for rich persons to bring their wealth to Singapore. This includes the Variable Capital Company (VCC) framework introduced in January 2020 and administered by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). Explaining how VCCs work is beyond the scope of this article, but in simple terms, Financier Worldwide wrote that it provides a new legal structure that provides a superior option to existing fund or collective investment scheme structures. According to InCorp Asia, VCCs allow shareholders greater freedom and flexibility to enter and exit a fund through easy subscription and redemption of shares, increasing the efficiency of investment funds. In even simpler terms, this just makes it easier for a wealthy person to manage their money. To make things even more convenient for those looking to move their wealth here from other tax havens, MAS is covering some of the cost of setting up VCCs until 2023. Another policy that has helped to draw the rich to our island nation has been the Global Investor Programme (GIP). Under the GIP, an individual may apply for permanent residency here if they invest S$2.5 million or more in new or existing Singapore-registered companies, or GIP funds that invest in Singapore companies. Once they've attained Permanent Resident status, their families may then enjoy Singapore's world-class education system as well as the other advantages and amenities our city has to offer. Setting ourselves apart from the competition We've established that Singapore is something of a tax haven with investor-friendly policies. But ever the competitor, there are things that set us even further apart from the other tax havens out there like the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, or Hong Kong. One is our status as a financial hub. It means that the range of services needed by family offices, or individuals seeking to invest their wealth, are widely available in Singapore. Accounting and advisory services company Crowe Singapore pointed to our strong eco-system and the "deep pool of talent such as asset managers, private bankers and legal and finance professionals". Aside from having the infrastructure to support the financial activities of the world's millionaires and billionaires, Singapore benefits from being in Asia. Writing for CNA, David Kuo — co-founder of investment education website The Smart Investor — highlighted that Asia has been touted as the next centre of global economic growth. Singapore therefore presents itself as an entry point for those looking to invest in the region. How about Hong Kong? The special administrative region boasts some of these advantages that we've described already — it is a financial hub in Asia. One popular point of view is that political instability in Hong Kong has turned many off. Asian Investor quoted Steve Diggle, founder of Singapore-based multi-family office Taurus Investment Management, as saying in 2020 that wealthy families from mainland China seemed to be moving their money out of Hong Kong. Likewise, Nikkei Asia Review spoke to a private banker of nearly two decades who said that "individuals in Hong Kong whose financial assets exceed $20 million had dispersed their assets in multiple overseas locations, including Singapore". Good or bad for Singapore? So how should we view this development in our nation? On one hand, it can be argued that the rich coming here and investing their money should be seen as a good thing. Theoretically, by bringing their money into Singapore, using our banking and financial services, and in some cases investing in our businesses, the ultra-rich are creating jobs for those of us with less. Chan, in his parliamentary reply, said that family offices "generate indirect employment when they work with external finance, tax and legal professionals on wealth planning and operational matters" and expand the pool of capital for Singapore-based startups and business ventures, as well as the funds that invest in such companies. Kuo, in his commentary, pointed out the "multiplier effect" family offices have on the economy. "It is not unreasonable, for instance, for a S$100 million family fund to spend around S$1 million a year in expenses." But others may point to the ongoing issue of inequality — brought to light especially by the Covid-19 pandemic — and wonder if pandering to the ultra-rich may have undesirable effects on society at large. The topic of redistributing wealth was broached by Member of Parliament Foo Mee Har in February earlier this year. In parliament, Foo pointed out that the trend of getting the wealthy to contribute more was "gaining traction globally". "When you consider that selected entities or individuals may have enjoyed outsized windfalls because of Covid-19, it may not be unreasonable to expect that they do more for the common good," she said. In reply, outgoing Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat acknowledged the pandemic's uneven effects on society. "We will indeed continue to review our wealth taxes," he said. Mothership Explains is a series where we dig deep into the important, interesting, and confusing going-ons in our world and try to, well, explain them. This series aims to provide in-depth, easy-to-understand explanations to keep our readers up to date on not just what is going on in the world, but also the "why's". Top image made from photos by Zhu Hongzhi and Jason Leung via Unsplash
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From May 22 to 30, the Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation (RLAF) is organising a collection to provide aid in the form of health, relief and social services for communities affected by the recent developments in Gaza.Within the first 12 hours, the campaign had surpassed S$800,000.One major donor was the Sheng Siong Group, who contributed S$200,000 to the sum.According to CEO Lim Hock Chee, “Sheng Siong has always strived to help the community. So, this sum of money is a way for us to give back and help the people in Palestine.”
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/sheng-siong-ceo-donates-s200000-towards-gaza/
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From May 22 to 30, the Rahmatan Lil Alamin (Blessings to all) Foundation (RLAF) is organising a collection to provide aid in the form of health, relief and social services for communities affected by the recent developments in Gaza. According to a press release by RLAF, the campaign has surpassed S$800,000 within the first 12 hours. One major donor was the Sheng Siong Group, who contributed S$200,000 to the sum. Sheng Siong Group donates S$200,000 Lim handed over the monetary contribution to CEO of RLAF Muhammad Faizal Othman in a cheque handover ceremony at Yusof Ishak Mosque. The event was witnessed by Singapore's non-resident representative to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Hawazi Daipi, and Chief Executive of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) Esa Masood. "Sheng Siong has always strived to help the community. So, this sum of money is a way for us to give back and help the people in Palestine," said Lim. Online donations The fundraising effort is done in collaboration with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The foundation said that Palestinian refugees are left to seek shelter at UNRWA schools and other places during the global Covid-19 pandemic with "limited access to water, food, sanitation, and health services". Members of the public can make their online donations via various platforms, including PayNow, bank transfers, Giving.SG and Muslim.SG, with instructions on how to do so here. Top image from Muhammad Faizal's Facebook page.
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Singapore is approaching the end of the second week of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).The tightened measures were initially announced for a four-week period, though it was also said that their impact could only materialise "one to two weeks later". While the number of unlinked and community cases has indeed fallen since May 16, case numbers may not be the only factor in determining whether Phase 2 will be extended or not. #phase2HA #communitycases
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/will-phase-2-ha-extend/
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Singapore's approaching the end of the second week of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). The period of tightened measures was announced to last for four weeks, from Sunday, May 16, through to Sunday, June 13, 2021. This means that we're about halfway through, with two more weeks to go till June 13. There's another reason why this halfway point is significant: It's the point in time where the authorities are expecting numbers to come down. The Multi-Ministry Taskforce co-chair Lawrence Wong said on May 18 that the impact of the tightened measures could only materialise "one to two weeks later, because of the time lag in these measures". After all, Wong explained, some of the new cases were likely "seeded" one to two weeks ago, due to the incubation period of the virus. How are we doing two weeks in? Here are some indications of whether the tightened measures are working. Are unlinked cases falling? In Apr. 2020, two weeks into the Circuit Breaker, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that the number of unlinked cases had not fallen, indicating a "hidden reservoir" of cases in the undetected community. Thus, PM Lee announced, the Circuit Breaker would be extended for a further four weeks. This year, two weeks into Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), the number of unlinked cases has fallen. Can unlinked cases be linked subsequently? The number of unlinked cases is falling, but each unlinked case still requires extensive contact tracing work. This is to identify close contacts, and to establish whether the unlinked case could potentially be linked to other cases and/ or clusters. In turn, this allows the authorities to take appropriate measures to guard against further spread. What is happening at JEM and Westgate shopping malls is an example of this. MOH said on May 22 that it was investigating cases of Covid-19 infection amongst individuals who worked in the two adjacent malls. The identification of JEM and Westgate as the site of potential ongoing transmission allowed the authorities to do more testing, and to close the two malls as a precautionary measure, till June 5. A total of 60 cases have since been linked to the cluster, including six who were detected through testing operations for workers and visitors at JEM and Westgate, and eight who tested positive while in quarantine. Are infections being ringfenced? MOH's criteria for closing a Covid-19 cluster requires "no more cases linked to the cluster for the past two incubation periods (28 days)". Prior to that, however, we can look for indications that potential Covid-19 outbreaks have been contained, or, "ringfenced". A major cluster at the start of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) at TTSH saw hospital wards being locked down. There was also extensive testing of all staff, patients, and recent visitors to the hospital. And in an unusual move, the public places visited by the cases linked to the cluster at TTSH during their likely infectious period were closed for cleaning for two days. These measures can be said to have succeeded, with Health Minister Ong Ye Kung saying on May 22 that TTSH "is getting back on its feet", after resuming patient admissions from May 18 with nearly all previously-quarantined staff back at work, and no new cases for more than 14 days. Similar actions — where locations are identified as the possible site of a potential outbreak, and large groups are pre-emptively tested — have also been taken at Changi Airport, at two HDB blocks in Hougang and Pasir Ris, as well as at JEM and Westgate. Is activity being reduced? Tightened measures such as the ban on dining in would definitely reduce activity overall. However, the tightened measures might not have 100 per cent of the intended effects. This is because some may choose ignore the rules, or try to find loopholes. For example, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)'s inspections have already found breaches of the rule that companies cannot get employees who can WFH to work on-site. The ministry has promised stricter enforcement against such companies, as well as confidentiality for whistle-blowers. Thus, it is necessary to ensure that the tightened measures work as intended, through enforcement action and public education. What comes next, after Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)? Singapore's "performance" in the above-mentioned areas in the next two weeks will have some impact on what will happen next, after Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) comes to an end on June 13. But, aside from the case numbers and the tightened restrictions, there are other developments to watch for in the next few weeks and months — such as Singapore's vaccination policy, as well as the overall global situation — which will also have an impact on what life in Singapore looks like after Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), and even beyond. Vaccination policy The government is also considering giving "as many people as possible" one dose of Covid-19 vaccine first, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on May 16. Ong also said on May 16 that the government will be studying the severity of the disease among those who are vaccinated, or those who have been infected by vaccinated individuals, sharing that in the current outbreak, none of those who had at least one dose of the vaccine required intensive care. Is it possible that the relaxation of certain measures will be made contingent on a certain percentage of the population getting at least the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine? If so, this would be similar to how a 70 per cent take-up rate for the TraceTogether token was made a precondition for Singapore to enter Phase 3 in 2020. After all, vaccinated individuals already receive certain "perks" such as not needing to go for pre-event testing (PET) before attending large events like concerts and weddings, in recognition of the reduced risk that they will contract or spread Covid-19. Global situation and Covid-19 variants As more becomes known about Covid-19, its existing variants, as well as potential future variants, Singaporeans may well have to expect the unexpected. Even assuming the numbers do fall sharply in the next few weeks, those hoping to simply return to the previous states in Phase 3 (Heightened Alert), Phase 3, or even Phase 2 might be disappointed. "All the precautions we are used to, in fact, may not be sufficient to safeguard against the spread of the virus," said Wong on May 18, explaining the need for tightened measures under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). He cited "growing evidence" that the new Covid-19 variants can spread through aerosolised particles as the reason for this. The authorities have since issued guidelines on ventilating both air-conditioned and naturally ventilated spaces. Thus, it may be the case that some restrictions from Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) — such as the banning of indoor “mask-off” activities, dining in, and indoor exercise — may not be so easily relaxed. And the authorities will impose a new requirement for Singapore citizens and permanent residents wanting to return to Singapore, in view of the worsening global situation, with emergence of new and potentially more infectious variants. From May 29, those coming into Singapore must test negative before they are allowed to depart. Whether even stricter measures than these will be needed to combat future mutations of Covid-19 is something only time will tell. Top image by Syahindah Ishak & Lean Jinghui
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This year, 1.4 million Singaporeans will be receiving their GSTV – Cash Special Payment and GSTV – Cash and MediSave from June and July respectively.The GSTV – Cash Special Payment and GSTV – U-Save Special Payment are part of the S$900 million Household Support Package announced at Budget 2021, to provide additional support to families during this period of uncertainty.
https://mothership.sg/2021/06/gst-voucher-2021/
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This year, 1.4 million Singaporeans will be receiving their GSTV – Cash Special Payment and GSTV – Cash and MediSave from June and July respectively. Of these 1.4million, nine in 10 eligible citizens will also receive their GSTV payouts automatically. Details on the payouts A Ministry of Finance press release stated that the GSTV – Cash Special Payment and GSTV – U-Save Special Payment are part of the S$900 million Household Support Package announced at Budget 2021, to provide additional support to families during this period of uncertainty. Lower- to middle-income families will receive more. More details here: GST Voucher cash payment The GSTV – Cash Special Payment of S$200 will be credited directly into citizens’ bank accounts from June 23. Those who do not have a PayNow-NRIC-linked bank account but have provided their bank account number to the Government previously, will receive their payouts via bank transfer on June 30. The rest will receive cheques sent to their address registered on their NRICs, from July 15. From July to August, cash of up to S$300 will be credited directly into citizens’ bank accounts from 30 July (Fri). U-Save Households living in 1- and 2-room HDB flats typically receive GST Voucher (GSTV) – U-Save rebates amounting to an average of about three to four months of their utility bills. Households living in 3- and 4-room HDB flats typically receive benefits amounting to one to two months of their utility bills. About 950,000 Singaporean households living in HDB flats will be receiving their quarterly GSTV – U-Save rebates, as well as the GSTV – U-Save Special Payment this July. They will receive an additional 50 percent of their regular GSTV – U-Save in FY2021, through a one-off GSTV – U-Save Special Payment in April and July 2021. The total amount of rebates to be received in FY2021 ranges from S$355 to S$595, depending on the HDB flat type. MediSave Additionally, about 575,000 Singaporeans aged 65 and above in 2021 will also receive a top-up to their CPF MediSave Accounts of up to S$450 each from July 30. You can get more info here. Top photo via Getty Images, Wikipedia.
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The six-station Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) stage two is getting ready to be open to commuters in the third quarter of 2021.This comes about a year after it was initially scheduled to open.Some 100,000 households in Springleaf, Lentor, Mayflower, Bright Hill, Upper Thomson and Caldecott will be within a 10-minute walk of one of the nine stations along stages one and two of the TEL.It is estimated that another 23 stations on the TEL should open by 2024.Land Transport Authority (LTA) Singapore#singapore #publictransport
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/thomson-east-coast-line-2021-opening/
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The six-station Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) stage two is getting ready to be open to commuters in the third quarter of 2021, the Land Transport Authority said on April 30. This comes about a year after it was initially scheduled to open. Travelling time to be cut for many Some 100,000 households in Springleaf, Lentor, Mayflower, Bright Hill, Upper Thomson and Caldecott will be within a 10-minute walk of one of the nine stations along stages one and two of the TEL. The six-station TEL has been handed over to operator SMRT, with all civil and structural works for the stations completed. The new line will bring time savings to commuters. Sin Ming residents travelling to Republic Polytechnic, for example, will have their travel time cut from 50 minutes to 25 minutes. More stations to open in next three years Following this handover of stations from LTA to SMRT, emergency-preparedness exercises will be carried out. Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South -- three TEL stations -- were opened in January 2020, but stage two of the line was delayed due to Covid-19. Another 23 stations on the TEL should open by 2024. Singapore is expanding its rail network to about 360km by 2030. The Jurong Region Line and the Cross Island Line are the other lines under construction.
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Singapore is "a long way off" from being able to open its borders to international travellers in the way that it did before, said Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) in an interview on May 19.He pointed out that that it was "not easy to make a match" with another country to establish a travel bubble, as countries would only want to establish a travel bubble with other countries that were relatively safer.Furthermore, PM Lee said, the countries involved would need to have "confidence", and expressed hopes that this could be restored by vaccination, which would help to bring the disease under control.#singapore #covid19 #travelbubble
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/pm-lee-covid-international-travel/
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Singapore is "a long way off" from being able to open its borders to international travellers in the way that it did before, said Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) in an interview on May 19. However, PM Lee explained that Singapore could not afford to seal its borders off to the rest of the world. This is because Singapore is "a small open country" that is reliant on food and fuel from other countries, as well as "people moving in and out, even during Covid-19." Thus, he said, Singapore could only close borders "to the extent that [it] can", even while taking precautions against the spread of the virus. "We have various ways of enabling safe travel between us and other countries," he said, acknowledging that while there were limits on the number of people who could travel, "at least it keeps the channels open." He described the approach as "not without risk, but unavoidable." Travel bubbles: "Not easy to make a match" PM Lee also spoke about travel bubbles and how Singapore viewed them. He pointed out that that it was "not easy to make a match" with another country to establish a travel bubble, as countries would only want to establish a travel bubble with other countries that were relatively safer. Furthermore, PM Lee said, the countries involved would need to have "confidence", and expressed hopes that this could be restored by vaccination, which would help to bring the disease under control. PM Lee elaborated on this later in the interview, saying that what was needed was "mutual understanding of each other’s situations, and mutual confidence that we will be open with one another and will keep things under control, or if not, we will fly a red flag straightaway." Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble He also acknowledged that Singapore's agreement with Hong Kong to establish a travel bubble had not yet been implemented, saying that "it may be a while before it comes into effect." PM Lee also answered a question posed by the moderator about whether there was "an international consortium to try to encourage more travel going forward to reopen as quickly", and if Singapore was part of it. He said that there was no such international consortium, as countries were "not yet ready", and pointed out that some countries are "still tightening up their rules" due to increased incidence of more transmissible mutant strains of Covid-19. PM Lee said that Singapore hopes to "have a wider inkblot" by joining various travel bubbles together, but said that this would "take a while". PM Lee also expressed concerns about the Covid-19 situation in other parts of the world, such as India, Latin America, and Africa. Singapore is "far from out of the woods" Singapore is "far from out of the woods" in its management of the Covid-19 situation, PM Lee said, providing an overview of Singapore's situation. Because of this, PM Lee said, countries "cannot afford to slacken" as the Covid-19 outbreak "pops up in a new direction" whenever it seems to be under control. However, he said that Singapore's experience with SARS in 2003 "primed our system" to deal with the "next new disease", making it easier for the government to have "the right policies", as well as the cooperation of the population. PM Lee's interview was part of the US Chamber of Commerce's inaugural Global Forum on Economic Recovery. You can access the transcript here, or watch the interview here: Top image screenshot from PMO on YouTube
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Singapore has been in talks with several pharmaceuticals to manufacture vaccines and therapeutics locally, including Sanofi Pasteur and Thermo Fisher Scientific.Both companies will be situating their vaccine facilities in Singapore.However, attracting pharmaceuticals and vaccine manufacturers to situate themselves in Singapore is not just for local benefit, but for the region and the rest of the world as well.#vaccines
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/singapore-produce-vaccines-for-region-alvin-tan/
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Attracting pharmaceuticals and vaccine manufacturers such as Sanofi Pasteur and Thermo Fisher Scientific to situate themselves in Singapore is not just for local benefit, but for the region and the rest of the world as well. Singapore to be capable of end-to-end vaccine production by 2026 Minister of State for Trade and Industry (MTI), and Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Alvin Tan shared this insight during a plenary session at the St. Gallen Symposium on May 5, in response to a question about what leaders can do to handle the pandemic globally, and ensure that vaccines get to everybody. Tan was speaking to about 2,000 participants from across the world at the 50th edition of the symposium, a three-day event (May 5- 7) supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Economic Development Board (EDB). Singapore has been in talks with several pharmaceuticals to manufacture vaccines and therapeutics locally, including Sanofi and Thermo Fisher. Both companies will be situating their vaccine facilities in Singapore. Tan added that by 2026, Singapore will be capable of end-to-end vaccine production. The move is to ensure that Singapore has a steady supply of vaccines, and can overcome challenges posed by supply chain disruptions, said Tan. Not just for Singaporeans, but for the world too However, Tan shared that bringing the facilities to Singapore is not only for local consumption, but for the region and the world as well. "And not just in terms of vaccine supply, but in terms of research, investment, and enterprise," Tan said. Tan noted Singapore's limitations as a small island state, and the vulnerabilities and constraints Singapore has to overcome. "It's not natural that we would be a vaccine manufacturer; it's not natural that we are a hub for services for carbon sequestration and trading," Tan said. "So we've always have had to...punch above our weight, secure the factors that will help us overcome our vulnerabilities, but also be relevant to the world", he said. Playing a role in helping global fight against Covid-19 Adding to his point about Singapore's goal to supply vaccines beyond local consumption, he said that the government was aware that the Covid-19 virus "respects no borders". He pointed out that Singapore lacked the luxury of larger countries such as the United States and China to be able to close their borders, despite a slight rise in local cases in recent weeks. Hence, he suggested a need to cooperate with other countries in order to handle the pandemic globally, adding that Singapore has played a part in sending aid to India, a country seeing record numbers of daily cases in the midst of its second wave. Tan mentioned the example of Singapore doing its part by sending 256 oxygen cylinders to India. Tan also wanted Singapore to play a key role in the global fight against Covid-19. "We will produce not just for ourselves. In fact, we cannot just produce for ourselves, but we want to be a research hub for the world, and also a keynote in the supply chain to service the world", he said. Only location with participants This year's St Gallen Symposium has adopted a hybrid format, with live panels and discussions streamed from St Gallen in Switzerland, Singapore, and the United States. Singapore is the only location with participants attending the conference. Hosted by UBS, this is the first time Singapore is holding an event concurrently with the actual symposium in Switzerland. Top image via Alvin Tan/Facebook, EDB website
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Uncle Song was paralysed from the waist down in 1993 after a car fell on top of him while working as a mechanic.Despite being in denial initially about his loss of mobility, Song managed to turn his life around by selling ice cream in his special “Bumblebee” vehicle.This is Song’s story of his struggles after his accident, how he managed to raise three children over the past 21 years, and that above all, family is the greatest treasure.#life #inspiration
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/yew-tee-wheelchair-ice-cream-uncle/
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Those living in the Yew Tee and Chua Chu Kang areas might be familiar with a certain face on the streets who has been around for the past two decades. Ice cream uncle Song Yong Kiong, who is better known as Uncle Song to those who purchase his frozen treats, has been a familiar face in the neighbourhood. Like any other ice cream uncle in Singapore, the 60-year-old plies his trade with a metal cart filled with the dessert, and other add-ons such as wafers and bread. What makes Song stand out though, is his unique vehicle. Unlike other ice cream uncles whose carts are typically attached to a motorcycle, Song's vehicle looks like a motorcycle on steroids. That's because it has been modified to accommodate his wheelchair — Song is a paraplegic, meaning he is paralysed from the waist down. Considering his age -- the crow's feet and laugh lines on his face are deep, and the white in his hair stark, manning an ice cream truck isn't the easiest of jobs, especially with its exposure to inclement weather. But why has Song, in spite of his condition, persevered for the 21 years he's been in this trade? The accident in 1993 To get some answers, we met Song at his flat in Chua Chu Kang where we stumbled on him and his family having dinner. The awkward intrusion proved to be a boon though, as Song's wife and daughter were able to provide much insight into his life, perhaps more than the man himself could. At the start of the interview, Song jokes about why we would want to interview a "monster" like him. There, however, seem to be a tinge of melancholy that underlies his jest. Song's story starts off with a troubling and unfortunate accident back in 1993 when he was working as a mechanic. In a matter-of-fact and slightly brusque manner, Song recounts in Mandarin how he was lying beneath a car to fix it when the supports holding the car up gave way. Over 1,000kg of steel landed on the lower half of his body. After he was rushed to the hospital, he recalls being surrounded by numerous doctors, and with no feeling in his legs, was wheeled into the operating theatre. It was only after the surgery did doctors deliver the heartbreaking news — that Song would no longer be able to walk. "I was devastated... stunned. My mind was blank. I just sat there, everything was blank." "I didn't pity myself," Song said, but seeing his wife bring his three young daughters for visits at the hospital, he was overcome with a sense of abject desolation and worry over how he would provide for his family. "I think to myself, my children how? They're so young." Remained in denial for years Although Song was discharged from the hospital after three months, for years after, he continued to fervently deny his loss of mobility. Holding onto the hope that he would still be able to walk once again, he travelled to Malaysia, his home country, in search for an alternative cure. His hunt was futile though — scouring various clinics, hospitals and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners across the country, he was met with the same verdict doctors first gave him after the accident. Song subsequently met a friend who brought him to his church in Singapore. Describing himself as someone who did not subscribe to any one religion at the time — "Any god I also pray" — Song merely tagged along for church services and cell groups, as the pastor would offer to pick Song up from his home, for the next two to three years. Church members later helped raise enough money to get Song a vehicle so he could travel to church himself, and after some discussion, he realised that it could be a means to earn an income as well. And in 2000, Song's special three-wheeled ice cream cart, and his livelihood for the next few decades, made the debut. Wife took over role of family breadwinner During the interview, it becomes gradually apparent that Song's powers of recollection are not what they used to be. Song halts at several points during his speech and his answers are brief. Thankfully, Song's wife, Lee Yong Kiaw, and his youngest daughter, Keyi, chime in at opportune moments to help fill in the gaps. As he was previously the sole breadwinner, Song's loss of employment after the accident hit his family like a sledgehammer. With no time to mourn the loss of her husband's legs and livelihood, Lee had to immediately take over as the provider of the family during this trying period, taking on part-time jobs as a hawker and subsequently, one at a factory. All this while, Lee had to juggle work and provide care for three children and her wheelchair-bound husband. Keyi recalls her mother being an unwavering rock during this period. "She was very strong. She didn't really cry also. There was no time." Lee's job was made more arduous by the fact that aside from handling Song's physical needs, she had to support him through his emotional turmoil as well. "He's a good husband and father. Even though we were married for only a few years before he was put in a wheelchair... Before that, we [were] actually quite fortunate, but life is unpredictable. We can only take what life throws at us. But I’ve already accepted the reality, life must still go on." Their situation was exacerbated by the fact that Song and his wife are both from Malaysia, and did not have access to most grants and subsidies that locals might benefit from. Lee is thus thankful to her two brothers who moved over from across the border to help care for Song. Eager to provide for family again Finding a job for wheelchair-bound Song was extremely tough, Lee said. The option of selling ice cream was thus a welcome relief to the Song family. In his eagerness to return to work, and spurred by his desire to provide for his family, Song would stay out for long hours till midnight to sell as many ice creams as he could. During the interview, Song claims to work around eight to nine hours daily, but Keyi immediately interrupts with an eye-roll and a drawn-out "where goootttt??" Lee then reveals that he would work for more than 12 hours, and she would have to call him to convince him to come home. In response, Song says in a blasé manner: "If I [can] earn money, then I work until can earn more lor." It's clear from his brief recounts and Keyi's and Lee's stories that being out and about and being able to support his family in any way was his main priority. Lee added that the simple gesture and "feeling of counting money was a blessing". Helping out at her father's "Bumblebee" An enthusiastic Keyi, however, was simply happy to help out when Song returned to work. While Song and his wife pragmatically refer to it as a "motor", Keyi and her friends have affectionately named the vehicle "Bumblebee" due to its resemblance to a certain fictional robot character from "Transformers". Chuckling, she says that as a child, she was thrilled as she found selling ice cream "very interesting", and was "very proud" that her father was working once more after being unemployed for years. Despite the fact that Song had little to no business at the start, Keyi would takeaway lunch once she finished school and rush over to where Song was stationed with his cart, where she would assist him with fetching the wafers or bread and taking change from customers. One of her fond memories included ringing the bell to attract customers — "Even though nobody came to buy, I will be very excited, looking at my father saying, "Daddy, look, we're selling ice cream!"" For Lee, however, it was a more bittersweet and heart-aching experience, seeing her child sitting with Song on his "Bumblebee", devoid of customers. "But very fun!" Keyi cheerfully chirps in during the interview. Hurdles to overcome Selling ice cream isn't actually as easy a job as some might think. Song needs to rise early to prepare the dry ice, wafers and other ingredients. Mishaps abound as well — Song has injured himself before, suffering a deep cut to the bone while slicing through the huge slabs of ice cream, as well as burns from the dry ice. And once his business picked up after moving his cart to a more prominent location with higher foot traffic, he would be cutting and serving up around 800 chunks of ice cream per day — which is certainly no mean feat. Song's lack of mobility also proved an additional hurdle to overcome. Not only does he have to deal with stares and people shoving at him when they walk past, in the course of his work, he has tumbled off his wheelchair and off the "Bumblebee" several times. One particularly heartbreaking incident was when Song was coming out of a coffee shop, and a reversing car crashed into him. Song suffered a fracture to his leg and had to take a year off to recuperate, but once recovered, he was raring to return to work. Family around him Keyi was only a year old at the time of her father's accident, so seeing Song in a wheelchair is all she has ever known. She doesn't consider her father to be any different from others though, and growing up, her friends and peers have never passed judgment on Song's condition either. Her friends would even chip in to accompany Keyi to help Song sell ice cream. "So far they all say my Dad very impressive, which I'm also very proud of him for." However, she does feel the need to stick up for him, especially in light of how strangers outside have treated him. "I don't feel my Dad is different, but I feel like I need to stand up for him. It's partly because of the experiences we've had, how people treated him. Of course there are nice people also. But I guess that's the only difference — people's response to him, rather than the physical difference." And with his family by his side, it seems now that Song has managed to reach a certain modicum of acceptance about his injury, and taken the accident in his stride. His hard work and earnings have also managed to sustain his family over the decades. Keyi says that the family "doesn't have a lot but we have sufficient." "That's how we grew up. I don't know how it happened, but ya we grew up very happily." And while Song seems to be a man of few words, he does credit his family for being the ones to pull him through the tragedy of the accident, particularly his wife, for staying by his side and "never leaving each other". As Lee says, Song's ice cream business was a product of the family working together and complementing each other. Without that, the burden would have been on Song's shoulders alone. Time to retire Now that Song's three daughters are adults — Keyi already has a young son of her own — he's decided it's time to throw in the towel. The "Bumblebee" was sent to be scrapped in March 2021, after numerous attempts by Song to repair it over the past few years despite the noise and smoke emitting from the vehicle. Is Song sad to see it go though? After all, the vehicle saw him and his family through their hardest times. "I don't feel very sad actually, because my kids are grown up already and I'm old already. The car has been with me for over 20 years, it's old also." Until Keyi quickly dismisses her father's words: "Aiya, he was sad la. He thought about it for a year before sending it to scrap." Song then acquiesces: "This 'motor' has given me a lot. It's time to let it retire also." Stories of Us is a series about ordinary people in Singapore and the unique ways they’re living their lives. Be it breaking away from conventions, pursuing an atypical passion, or the struggles they are facing, these stories remind us both of our individual uniqueness and our collective humanity. Top photo courtesy of Song and family
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If you have a talent for data, spreadsheets, and extracting meaning out of them, you might have just found yourself a new career: being a data analyst.Here are four Excel hacks, ranging from easy (for beginners) to advanced (for more practised users dealing with large amounts of data).#exceltips #spreadsheets
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/excel-hacks/
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The software can look intimidating. But it's also very useful — once you know your way around it. Here are four Excel hacks, ranging from easy (for beginners) to advanced (for more practised users dealing with large amounts of data). If you’re worried about the legitimacy of these hacks, don’t — half of them are provided by a business analytics lecturer and data analyst from PSB Academy, Nyayapati Swami. 1. Excel formulas This is especially useful if you're tracking your expenses. Instead of you having to calculate the total amount for various expenditures, the software will be doing the math for you. How to Select a cell (where you want the answer to appear) Type the equal sign (=) Select a cell or type its address in the selected cell. Enter an operator (+, -, x, /). For example, – for subtraction. Select the next cell in the equation, or type its address in the selected cell. Press Enter and you'll get the result of the calculation. 2. Quick Access Toolbar One simple, yet under-utilised tool in Excel is the Quick Access Toolbar. With the right customisation, it can greatly speed up your work process — you can even do without a mouse. How to Select the downward facing arrow at the top of the page (as image below) Go to More Commands Customise it with the commands you use most often, such as formatting cells, borders, calculate now, and more You can also add other commands not available on the ribbon. To do this, toggle the "Choose commands from" button on top, and select the drop-down you want. 3. Selecting the best trendline Warning: these intermediate to advanced tips are from the lecturer, so expect some software navigation (but also greater functionality). Excel provides a very simple way (the lecturer’s words, not ours) to find the trendline that can be used for a given data set. This means going from this: To this: How to The following data of crude oil prices for the year 2020 will be used to illustrate this. Copy the data into an excel file. Select data (including the headings) --> click on insert. In the Charts menu, select all charts --> choose XY Scatter --> click ok. You should get this: To add trendline, click on plus sign and select trendline. This will add the trendline to the graph. Next, click on More Options. A menu will appear on the right side of your screen. Here you can select different types of trend (exponential, linear, etc), but we're going with Linear trend. Tick "Display equation on chart" and "Display R-squared value on chart". Close the menu (by clicking on x). You should get this: It's not much of a graph at this point, because the line is not adhering to the data. This is happening because the data is quite scattered — otherwise, you would have been able to already infer up or down trends after this step. In such scenarios, we will need to adjust the value of R2 to make closer to 1. This betters the fit of the graph so that you can discern a trend. For instance, selecting “polynomial graph” with the order of six would be the best fit, with R2 = 0.9735. "From this graph, it can be observed that the price for crude oil fell drastically in April which can be attributed to the effects of Covid-19, which affected travel and businesses globally," Swami explained. Or you could use it to demonstrate a pattern in your spending habits, love life etc. 4. Cell Messaging Cell messaging allows you to inform users about the information that can be entered in a particular cell. For example, the cell can display an instruction like “Enter your name” when it is selected: How to To display such a message when you click on a cell: Select the cell Go to Data Tab Click on Data Validation In the window that appears, select “input message” tab Type the message Tick the “Show input message when cell is selected" Click Ok Handy for communicating with your project team mates. Coveted skillset in post Covid-19 world If you've learnt something new from the hacks, you might be interested in PSB Academy's new Diploma in Business Analytics. Launched earlier this year, the 12-month course allows students to learn data analysis techniques using various software such as Microsoft Excel, IBM SPSS, and R Programming. The practical lessons enable students to translate raw data sets into insights that support business decision making, using data-driven methods to uncover past patterns and build related predictions. According to PSB Academy, the diploma was conceptualised due to an increase for the need of data analysts in various industries. Citing a 2020 survey conducted by NTUC LearningHub, PSB Academy noted that data analysis skills were among the top three digital skills much coveted by local employers, in the context of surviving Covid-19 and beyond. This includes employers from the built environment (construction, architecture, real estate, cleaning, security), essential domestic services (healthcare, education), lifestyle sectors, manufacturing, and more. The survey explained that along with data analysis, digital marketing capabilities and project management skills have become increasingly important in helping organisations make better decisions in a fast-changing world. According to the Ministry of Manpower, as of 2019, the median monthly gross wage for a research market analyst stands at S$4,528. However, this figure varies on your experience and qualifications, so don’t expect to earn this sum straightaway if you’re a newbie to the industry. If you're looking to delve into another aspect of business school, another option is PSB's Diploma in Business Administration with three specialisations: You can check out the progression pathways here This article made the writer a little less afraid of using Excel.
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Singapore has imposed a limit of two persons on social gatherings to curb the spread of Covid-19 till June 13, 2021.On May 17, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung addressed five frequently asked questions with regards to this. Here's a summary of the points.#covid19 #phase2 #heightenedalert
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/2-pax-rule-exceptions/
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Singapore has imposed a limit of two persons on social gatherings to curb the spread of Covid-19. This will last till June 13, 2021. However, the move, which began enforcement just two days after it was announced on May 14, left residents unclear over some grey areas. In response, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has addressed five frequently asked questions on May 17. Here's a summary of the points: 1. House owners can still carry out renovation works But only two workers are allowed in the house for the whole day, with no other visitors allowed on the same day. This means that different contractors are permissible, but subject to the two distinct visitors per day rule. However, if the house is vacant (i.e. not occupied by any resident), there is no cap to the number of contractors allowed in the house. Contractors can also carry out renovation works at more than one house a day, as the limit of visiting two households per day does not apply to those who need to do so to carry out renovation or repair work. 2. Office meetings can accommodate more than two people The two pax rule applies to non-work interactions, Ong clarified. However, all employees should be properly masked and at least 1m apart. Additionally, social gatherings are not allowed at work, and staff should have their meals individually. They should also be working from home wherever possible. 3. A family with more than two members can do outdoor exercises together But they should split up in pairs and practice safe distancing between each pair. "This is to avoid encouraging others who may not be from the same household to do likewise," Ong explained. For outdoor group exercises involving people from different households: With masks off - Max of two persons (including the instructor) With masks on - Max of 30 in groups of two (conducted by instructor) 4. Taxi drivers/deliverymen can eat at void decks For these workers, as well as others who are on the move all the time, they can eat their takeaway meals at void decks or in their cars. The same rules applies — no socialising. Hawkers who have limited space within their stalls can also eat at the table directly in front of their stalls. You can read more about the exception here: 5. A household with more than two members can travel in the same taxi/private hire car Ong said that the government will also be flexible towards families fetching their elderly parents who do not live with them for essential activities, such as medical appointments. You can share a ride with colleagues, but this will be subject to the two-passenger rule. If a group of colleagues has to travel somewhere, they must split into pairs. Related story Top image via NParks, Ong Ye Kung's Facebook page
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"In fact, I think you will find, the more accomplished a person is in the organisation, the more things that they have done, the more experiences they've had. Which you might be surprised, as you know, 'you mean your CEO used to clean tables?? she used to serve customers??'And I'll tell you, yes, there is no one in middle or higher management in Awfully Chocolate who has not gone through everything from bottom up, including myself. I was probably one of the first service staff, for my sweet customers who still remember me. And I try to go to the stores every weekend, every public holiday, because that's when you get to meet more people. And so many of you have less-than-perfect handwriting 'Happy Birthday' cakes; that was me. Because after 23 years, some things cannot be fixed!"- Lyn Lee, co-founder, Awfully Chocolate, reflects on more than two decades of the well-loved Singaporean brand in business, in our latest instalment on #LessonsOnLeadership. More in our interview:
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/lessons-on-leadership-lyn-lee-awfully-chocolate-interview/
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The first thing Awfully Chocolate co-founder Lyn Lee wants people to know is that yes, she is but one of a group of people behind the brand. "Everyone else says 'leave us alone. We want to bake, we want to do our thing'," she says to me, sitting down at a small table laden with a spread of chocolate goodies at Awfully Chocolate's Great World City outlet. To this day, she says her icing handwriting continues to be "less-than-perfect", and the one thing she permits herself to take credit for is the red flower (sometimes it's a rose, sometimes it's a camillia) brooch her staff wear on their uniforms at Awfully Chocolate shops and cafés. But taking these self-effacing quips from her at face value would be a considerable mistake. Now 47, Lee benefits from starting early — she and her friends founded Awfully Chocolate when she was just 24 years old, and the brand effectively grew with her, giving it a far longer runway (ahem) to expand even further. Her idea to put their heads together to create a cake that she, at least, can eat — and enjoy — every single day and not get tired of it, was what set off a year's worth of weekends spent huddling over mixing bowls, crouching in front of ovens, experimenting with various ingredient brands and proportions — culminating in a cake that was made from a chocolate they engineered with their own specific blend of cacao beans. This one: “I told my partners I had this idea of my perfect chocolate cake, something I could eat every day; not too rich, not too sweet and not creamy. I was lucky that they believed in and supported my vision enough to start a whole business around one cake, because we did not have anything else to go on other than our gut feel.” It was certainly under her leadership that this motley group of friends went from selling one whole cake, that wasn't even available for display or in slices, to a total of 45 outlets (including restaurants, cafés and shop fronts, as well as their sister brand Sinpopo) in Singapore and China, boasting a full suite of chocolate products and kept running by some 170 staff locally, not counting the 350 people running the 27 outlets overseas. She tells me even in this regard that everything was a team effort, reminding me of this frequently — that she just happens to be fronting it. First shop opened more than two decades ago Personally, I am struck by how long Awfully Chocolate has existed as a brand. Indeed, its first shop in Katong was opened in 1998, to naysayers ranging from their packaging supplier, who was convinced they had over-ordered their cake boxes, to others who said they would be pulling their shutters down in three months. With how established the brand is today, its origin story has already been told and retold in many different places (by Lee, too, no less), so instead I set out trying to understand the foundations upon which this homegrown chocolate empire was built. How it began: a venture adventure The unorthodox beginnings of Awfully Chocolate — a group of people with no formal training in any of the fields the company operates in today (baking, retail, service/sales/hospitality/marketing, etc) who, as Lee describes it, "believed in trying out a venture together" — reflects how differently they did things starting out. "It was an adventure! Because when you start something, that's what it feels like, right. And it's got to be a bit fun. But it's got to be a bit scary. And that was the idea. We believed in what we were doing. Even though we had not received maybe very technical or very formal training, we had enough experience, we felt, in our various jobs, to come up with good ideas, and to have some sort of planning on how we thought it would succeed. And it could succeed, but no one could guarantee success. That's why it's called a venture adventure. And it was with that spirit that we started all this." Why an adventure? Because Lee says there were all kinds of challenges and obstacles that were thrown their way — and it's a cycle; over the years, it regrettably doesn't get easier. "If you talk to anyone who has been in business for 20-over years, it doesn't get easier. In fact, sometimes we'll feel that wow, every few years throws up a different kind of challenge, you know — whether it's manpower, or people's ideas changing, or tastes changing, or anything; the pandemic! The pandemic is the largest thing. I think, for most businesses, it would have been the craziest challenge that we ever faced. And so you have to keep on going, but you do draw upon lessons. So if I were to look back, and I were to look forward as well, I think that is the spirit that keeps us going." Making, acknowledging, adapting quickly and learning from mistakes And being on a venture adventure necessitates the experience of having the gumption to stick to your guns if you think something is worth doing, despite what anyone else says, Lee adds — even if it turns out to be an error. "So it's also about trying — if you never try, you never make the mistake, you'll never learn. The business journey is always about making tonnes of mistakes as well. But then the question is, what do you do from the mistake? Do you then give up? Or do you then say, Okay, that was dumb. This is what we ought to do. What do we need to do to learn from it? How do we go forward? And so you know, I think if I could pick up something from that, that is the value. It doesn't come in one word. It's the ability to not be afraid to try; having made your mistake, figure out what you need to do not to make that mistake again, but pick yourself up and go forward. Can I call that the most important value? Because I think that's what it is." Further, if there's anything the past year has reinforced for the company and her team of leaders, Lee says, it definitely was the need to be highly adaptable. "I suppose the other characteristic of a life of venture and adventure is that things change. Right? And you've got to roll with it. And it's great that everyone is adaptable. And we've talked about it, in society, that we've had to be adaptable, especially in the past year. But even before the past year, I feel that if you want to succeed in anything that you do, you do need to take life with its rolls and its punches and adapt." The higher you go in your career, the harder you have to work Here's something some people may already understand, but bears repeating — the higher up one moves in their career, the harder they must work. And at Awfully Chocolate, Lee affirms that there is no task her core team of founders feels is beneath them to do. "In fact, I think you will find, the more accomplished a person is in the organisation, the more things that they have done, the more experiences they've had. Which you might be surprised, as you know, 'you mean your CEO used to clean tables?? she used to serve customers??' And I'll tell you, yes, there is no one in middle or higher management in Awfully Chocolate who has not gone through everything from bottom up, including myself. I was probably one of the first service staff, for my sweet customers who still remember me. And I try to go to the stores every weekend, every public holiday, because that's when you get to meet more people. And so many of you have less-than-perfect handwriting "Happy Birthday" cakes; that was me. Because after 23 years, some things cannot be fixed!" So this is a thing Lee does — her own companywide management duties aside, she says prior to the pandemic and its various restrictions affecting retail and physical stores and eateries over the past year and a half, she would endeavour to visit her shops at least every other day. Definitely on weekends and public holidays, though, because that is when she has the best opportunity to interact with customers on busy days at the shops. "Sometimes I tell the customers, I'm so sorry, you kena me today, because my staff will probably be faster processing certain things...I don't want to just go down there and stand there over them. So I get down and I get stuck in. And I get excited and I go to the stores and then I start serving customers and then I'll drop a cake or I'll punch in a number wrongly then you see the customer going like — 'why is this person taking so long??' And I apologise on behalf! But that's me. And I probably think that that has been imbued into a little bit of the culture — that we all like to get stuck in and involved and understand things. Because then I also ask, how are you able to create policies and make management decisions, if you have no clue what it's actually like to do those things and go through those things and, and do those motions? Before you can make management decisions about those actions and things, please get out, go there and understand it first by doing it yourself." The importance of being open-minded Having been in the business more than two decades now, Lee has also seen her fair share of candidates, hired and managed staff with a wide range of attitudes, priorities and work ethics. And these days she looks for two things: open-mindedness, and a sense of adventure — the same adventure she and her co-founders embody. "When I say open-minded, it's because I feel that our society has, being very small, has made everyone sort of have a very specific idea of what they need to do, or be, or study and achieve in order to make it in life. And I want to tell them that, look, there's a path for everyone. And don't feel that you have to conform to somebody else's idea or society's idea of what you need to be in order to be a success. So you need to be open-minded, because there's a lot of pressure for you to follow that route; you need to challenge yourself and know that no, there's many different ways where I can find happiness, where I can find peace, where I can find success. And that's what I look for, in the people that we work with. And a sense of adventure, because life is an adventure, nobody said it was going to be smooth and easy. So don't go into life expecting things to just fall into your lap, or to be very peaceful. But the better you are at dealing with challenges, I think the more successful you'll be, because you get trained in dealing and coping with them until they become milestones for you, actually, and you don't look upon them as such difficulties anymore." Lee recognises, too, that candidates looking for jobs these days are concerned about work-life balance, convenience in one's commute, fixed hours, and a clearly-prescribed job scope. "They appear to be questions which you're just putting up walls, because you've got this preconceived notion of, you're only going to work in a certain place with a certain address at a certain size. And you will only do those certain things. And that's not adventurous, and that's not open-minded. And I think you're dooming yourself for failure if you go into don't just say a job, any project with that mindset, which is different from having a plan, by the way, because we plan things as much as we can." And hence, her advice to a young person reading this: Don't be too set in your ways about the job you're looking for. "Open-mindedness is a quality that we're all going to need going into the new normal and into the future. So why not start it now? If you feel drawn to the the dynamism of the business world, or just doing your own ventures, doing your projects, or going on a ride, going on an adventure, then you have to be dynamic yourself. You cannot expect to work in a dynamic environment without you being dynamic. If you want to work in a dynamic environment, but you don't want to have to travel and don't want to have to do anything out of a very specific scope, and you want to know that there's 10 other people in your department that can cover for you if you're not around, then you're not dynamic. So a dynamic environment would not want you." The secret to success? Never acknowledging fully that there is success That, Lee says, keeps her on her toes. She shares at multiple junctures in our conversation that the fulfilment she and her colleagues work toward comes from the joy her customers experience and feel from consuming their food and dessert — it's everyday anecdotes of them she shares, not so much the remarkable expansion the company has seen over the years, that light her face and even bring emotion to her voice. "I think for anyone at Awfully Chocolate, as long as you buy the product, you enjoy it, that is worth all the hard work, and the little details and the squabbles like oh, it should be like that, it should be like that. Because at the end of the day, whether it's the only thing that you can eat, or whenever it's just something for you for tea at the end of a stressful day and you just want to destress, it doesn't matter what form the purpose or the pleasure comes in. It's good enough. That's why we're here." Top photo by Zenn Tan
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For many of us, whipping out our phone's camera and scanning a QR code has become a rite of passage for entering restaurants, shopping malls and other public places.However, from May 17, 2021, you will have to use either the TraceTogether (TT) app or your physical TT token instead, to perform SafeEntry.We came up with five tips to make your life easier.#tracetogether #covid19
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/tracetogether-safeentry-tips/
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It's been about a year since the implementation of SafeEntry for entering public places in Singapore. For many of us, whipping out your phone's camera and scanning a QR code has become a rite of passage for entering restaurants, shopping malls and other public places. However, from May 17, 2021, you will have to use either the TraceTogether (TT) app or your physical TT token instead, to perform SafeEntry. According to a joint press release by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), having more people participate actively in the TT programme will strengthen digital contact tracing. This is particularly important due to the recent rise in community cases, some of which remain unlinked. If you happen to be one of those who haven't collected your TT token, or downloaded the TT app, perhaps now is a good time to do so. 1. Get your token, but take care of it If you're looking for the easiest way to use TraceTogether, it is to carry the token with you wherever you go. You can opt to collect your physical token, by bringing your original identity card to any community centre in Singapore. You can also collect tokens on behalf of your family members, by presenting their identity cards. Of course, the TT token is only useful if you have it physically with you, so you'll need some way to ensure you don't forget it. For example, you can keep it in your handbag, or your laptop case, or if you're really afraid of forgetting it, you can go relieve your primary school days, by using a cheap but reliable lanyard. If you intend to use the physical TT token, you need to make sure that it's working at all times. A blinking green light means it is working, a blinking red light indicates that the battery is low, and a lack of a blinking light means that your token is no longer operational, and needs to be replaced. While there is no charge to replace faulty tokens due to damage, you will only receive one free replacement token if you lose it (subsequent replacements will be chargeable). A piece of anecdotal advice from a Mothership staff, who swears by the token: Make sure it is well-protected from external damage. He's currently on his third TT token, and attributes the lack of longevity of his tokens to the fact that he hung his first two tokens outside his bag on a lanyard, making them susceptible to knocking into things and getting damaged. If you don't wish to keep cycling through new tokens, better take good care of it. Some swear by token covers — this can range from the very cheap to the very cute to even artisanal leather. 2. If you use the TT app, mind your phone's battery If you don't wish to carry a physical TT token around, you can always use the TT app on your smartphone instead. There are two ways you can use the app. The first way is by launching your TT app, and scanning the QR code at the venue. The other way is to tap your phone at a SafeEntry Gateway device, similar to how you would tap a physical token. You'll still need to open the TT app, but doing this saves you the step of scanning a QR code. When you hold your phone near it, the Gateway will beep and show a green light, indicating that you have successfully checked in. However, this will not work if your phone is out of battery power. So if you have issues with battery life, you might want to bring your TT token as well, as a back up. SafeEntry Gateways will be mandatory at a range of venues from Jun. 15, including F&B outlets, schools, sports and fitness centres, healthcare facilities, bank branches, and more, so you can expect to use TT even more. 3. Add your favourite locations For most people who find their smartphones are indispensable to their daily lives (like myself), you will probably feel that the TT app is the easier option to use. And for the smartphone user, there are plenty of nifty tricks that you can use to make your life easier, many of which have already been shared within the last year. For example, did you know that you can save your favourite locations on the TT app, making it easier for you to check in without having to scan a QR code? Just fire up your TT app, head to Favourites, and add your selected locations: be it your office, the nearest shopping mall, or the McDonald's that you frequent way too many times. Now you don't have to crowd in front of a solitary QR code, and compete with other people to scan it. This is a similar function to saving favourites on the Singpass app, but if you used that function previously, you'll now have to re-bookmark your favourites on the TT app. 4. Move your TT app to your homescreen Another way to improve your TT experience is to move your TT app to your phone's home screen, something that can be done with both iPhone and Android devices. Doing so allows you to access your TT app easily, so if you're someone who has a ton of apps, this can be rather useful. You can also set up a widget on your home screen, just for the TT app: The widget allows you to press "New check in" without needing to open the app, and you will be able to scan your QR code immediately. Checking out of a location is equally simple, as the widget displays a "Check out" button for your last checked-in location. Another tip if you happen to use an iPhone: performing a long press on your TT app will give you a shortcut to check in, saving you a few seconds. 5. Scan QR codes by tapping your iPhone iPhone users can also scan TT QR codes, by simply tapping the back of their phones. Detailed steps on how to do so can be found in this article here: Two things to note though: you can only use this shortcut if your iPhone is already unlocked, and this shortcut is only available on iPhone 8 and newer models. Top image via Nigel Chua and Jason Fan.
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It may seem completely unthinkable that a millennial would still be hooked on Channel 8 shows in the age of Netflix, Disney+, and YouTube.But our writer, who has been watching Channel 8 since the 90s, hardly thinks the era is good television is over for Channel 8.Mediacorp Pte Ltd #television
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/channel-8-dramas-fan/
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I still watch Channel 8 shows. In fact, when I'm having a bad day, I sometimes feel better after going home and watching Channel 8. (Yes, you are free to judge me.) My recent favourites include "King of Culinary" (三把刀), "Hawker Academy" (小贩学院), as well as some 9pm dramas like "A Jungle Survivor" (森林生存记) and currently, "Mind Jumper" (触心罪探). But gone are the times when I would talk to my friends about 9pm Channel 8 serials. In fact, along the way, it has become kind of uncool to profess love for the newer Channel 8 shows. A 20-year love affair It may seem completely unthinkable that a millennial would still be hooked on Channel 8 shows in the age of Netflix, Disney+, and YouTube. Being confined to local television is a thing of the past — with a click or two, we now have the option to watch dramas from all over the world. And so, the mystery remains: Given all these choices, why do I still find myself catching certain local programmes at broadcast time? Even if I'm not home to watch them, there is a good chance that I would diligently set aside some time for meWATCH. Somehow, my love for Channel 8 has persisted from the 1990s all the way into 2021. But just so we're clear: I'm not saying that all Channel 8 shows are worth watching (I personally cannot get behind the current 7:30pm "Recipe of Life" (味之道)'s ridiculous and meandering storyline). All I'm saying is that, and naysayers please hear me out, there is still much to love about Channel 8 shows. Leisure in a time where on-demand didn't exist Perhaps it has something to do with nostalgia. I have plenty of fond childhood memories associated with the act of watching TV, and more specifically, watching Channel 8. Pleasant memories include my family and I tuning in to variety shows after dinner. Over plates of cut fruit, we would then sit around the living room, watching the 9pm drama together — an activity that has since become relatively rare these days since personal screens became ubiquitous. In a world where on-demand TV was still relatively unheard of, how I organised my time as a kid revolved around this programming schedule. If I hadn't finished my homework by the time the 6:30pm news happened, it means that I would be due for an earful. And my cue to wash up and go to bed? When the credits for the 9pm drama rolled. We lived in an era where local TV and radio played a huge part in fostering a shared imagination of our lives in Singapore. How we understood life and leisure was also way simpler back then. But I'd like to think that my love for Channel 8 shows isn't rooted in an irrational desire to chase the joys of a rose-tinted past. The best era is over? I think not. Ask anybody who used to be remotely invested in Channel 8 shows and they'll likely tell you that the peak of Channel 8 shows in Singapore seemed to be in the 90s, or maybe early 2000s. I watched as my peers gradually fell out of love with Channel 8 over the years ("Huh? You're still watching Channel 8??"/ "Walao, you go home to watch the 9pm show?"). The best Channel 8 show in their opinion? Probably "Stepping Out" (出路), "The Unbeatables" (双天至尊), "Holland Village" (荷兰村), "Wok of Life" (福满人间) or maybe even "The Little Nyonya (2008)" (小娘惹). To them, all other dramas from 2010 onwards have no place in their consciousness. Story arcs continue to be innovative Nobody will disagree that there are plenty of memorable shows from the 1990s and 2000s. But if we are talking about storylines that compel, I think that riveting story arcs still exist. There are the perennial police and crime drama favourites (think "C.L.I.F.", which has a grand total of five seasons, and a lesser-known cold case investigation drama "Truth Seekers" (真探), which I really enjoyed). Local TV has also continued to innovate with unusual plots. Some that I really liked: Aliens living in the Singapore heartlands ("Our Friends From Afar" (知星人) was called "the best thing on Singaporean TV" by this writer in 2017) An elaborate con artist plot ("Game Plan" (千方百计) featuring Christopher Lee and Jesseca Liu) A heroine and imperial guard time-travelling from ancient China to modern-day Singapore ("A Quest To Heal" (我的女侠罗明依) snagged an impressive amount of nominations for Star Awards 2021) An intrepid Vietnamese bride integrating into Singapore life ("My Star Bride" (过江新娘) was a widely popular show in 2021) But wait, aren't some of these so-called "novel" story ideas unoriginal? Surely one can imagine con or time travel shows from virtually any culture! The main difference —and this is why I believe Singaporean TV continues to ensnare — is that it frames the relationship between characters, as well as conflict resolution, in a context that's distinctly local, making it all the more relatable to Singaporeans. And this is why it's not just novel plots that have the ability to draw audiences in. Slice-of-life family dramas (think "118") also help us to make sense of our life in Singapore as we know it through on-screen portrayals of anxieties and aspirations. If anything, perhaps a valid criticism I would agree with is that there hasn't been any recent slice-of-life family dramas that have been quite as memorable. A question of acting? Another common retort is that the quality of acting is not like what it used to be. But let's not forget that A-list (and B-list actors) exist in every generation. That means that while there are some actors now who aren't so great, not-so-great actors also existed back in the 1990s and 2000s too. If we are looking at older artistes like Zoe Tay or Christopher Lee, who are thought to have reached the pinnacle of acting excellence, I think talent renewal is well underway. Surely artistes like Qi Yuwu (three-time Best Actor winner at Star Awards with breakthroughs in international films), Rui En (two-time Best Actress and All-Time Favourite Artiste at Star Awards) and Felicia Chin (widely considered to be A-lister) must be considered promising? Others like Xu Bin, Shaun Chen and Rebecca Lim have also held their own in various roles. And what about the up-and-coming younger talents, involving the likes of Carrie Wong, Ya Hui (although she hasn't had any recent breakthroughs, from what I recall) or even Chantalle Ng? Given their relatively young ages, they arguably have a decent runway before they take over from the generation before them. Arghhhh the ads The argument that I am most empathetic to is the fact that advertising has increasingly become more prevalent and embedded in Chinese dramas. If you've been following local TV in recent years, you'll notice that you would first have to sit through an entire 30-second Daikin jingle ("iiiiiiiii... smiiiiiilleeee... seeeerriiiiiiess!") before you can get started on the 9pm show. There would likely also be product placements and promotional messaging within the programme. This could range from the benefits of a particular mattress, promoting traditional Chinese medicinal products or even how to curb the spread of dengue. (Sidenote: Perhaps this might be one of the reasons explaining a decline in Channel 8 period dramas in recent years?) However, this phenomenon that isn't limited to just local TV. Some overseas productions, such as Thai dramas that I am particularly fond of, also have similar ad placements promoting snacks, drinks or cosmetic products. If the ads bother you and significantly affect your ability to enjoy the programme, I get it. There can be more elegant ways of subtly integrating client messaging into the programme. Do these ads interfere with the watching experience? Yes. But how much it affects a viewer then depends on their expectations of what should and should not go into a drama. (My threshold for advertising is likely higher.) Personally, I have never felt that these ads made me want to stop following a compelling storyline. Put it this way: There will always be room for improvement. We can always aspire towards more realistic representations, even more sophisticated methods of storytelling, and an overall increase in production value. However you choose to see it, the fact that I still find myself gravitating to Channel 8 shows could very well say something about the quality of Channel 8 dramas and its ability to connect to audiences. Or it could mean that, as my friends would say, I need to get a life. I'm betting on the former. This article is not sponsored, okay. Top photo collage via Wikipedia.
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The Singapore government has updated its guidance for the use of face masks, in response to the emergence of more infectious virus variants seen in Singapore.Members of the public are now recommended to use masks with good filtration capabilities.As a mask wearer for more than a year now, you might be wondering: Does my face mask actually work?We explain why and how you can determine if your face mask is really filtering out the bad stuff.#masks #covid19
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/face-mask-with-filter-explainer/
mothership-sg
The Singapore government has updated its guidance for the use of face masks, in response to the emergence of more infectious virus variants seen in Singapore. Members of the public are now recommended to use masks with good filtration capabilities. As a mask wearer (and recipient of many free face masks) for more than a year now, you might be wondering: Does my face mask actually work? First, a quick primer on how a face mask works SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, replicates in our respiratory tract. Whenever an infected person talks, sneezes, breathes, sings, or cough, they release respiratory particles which contain the virus. These particles range from the visible flecks of spittle to aerosol droplets which are invisible to the naked eye. They are infectious and so if these particles were to land on someone else's mouth or nose and get inhaled, that's how the virus is transmitted. Wearing a mask puts up a physical barrier to catch large droplets, preventing an infected person from transmitting the virus to those around them. We've been wearing masks for over a year, what's different now? You might have read about the recent Covid-19 clusters. The Singapore government attributes this to new variants which transmit the virus more easily. As of early May, Singapore has detected at least 10 different Covid-19 variants in local and imported cases of Covid-19 infection. For example, B.1.617, which was first detected in India, was found in three cases at Changi Airport terminals. Of note though, is one of B.1.617's subtypes: B.1.617.2. This subtype has been linked to the clusters at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Tuas South Community Care Facility, and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. B.1.617.2 is thought to be about 50 per cent more transmissible than the UK strain (B.1.1.7). The UK government has declared the B.1.617.2 subtype a variant of concern in the United Kingdom, after B.1.617.2 infections in the country jumped from 202 to 520 in one week. Aside from B.1.717 and B.1.1.7, other variants were detected in Singapore, including B.1.351 (first detected in South Africa), and P1 (first detected in Brazil). Most of them have increased transmissibility, which makes infecting a population much easier. This makes putting on a good quality mask — and wearing it properly — all the more important. Previously, a mask was defined as a covering which is made of paper, plastic or textile and is solely designed to be worn over the nose and mouth as protection against infection or air pollution. This meant that you could still use those cheap and cute masks that can be bought online — which typically have more aesthetic than practical value. Now though, because of the emergence of more infectious virus variants, the Ministry of Health recommends that you wear one with at least 95 per cent filtration efficiency. These are much better at filtering infectious droplets. OK, so can I continue using my reusable masks? Yes, but use reusable masks that are made of at least two layers of fabric. Ideally, the two layers should serve different functions, like repelling fluids, virus filtration and absorbing moisture from one’s breath. Those that have been distributed by the government — DET30, Livinguard, and Proshield — are adequate for use. Some even have pockets for additional filters. Speaking of the government-issued masks, there are very specific steps that wearers must take to ensure that the antibacterial properties of the masks last as long as they should — typically for about 30 washes. These steps include soaking used masks in gentle soap and lukewarm water and rinsing in clean water. Avoid rubbing, scrubbing, or wringing them, and do not tumble dry them. Filters in reusable masks should be changed regularly. I'm not a fan of reusable masks. What if I want to wear surgical masks? If you want to stick with surgical masks, take note that a good quality surgical face mask should have a three-ply layer, according to HealthHub: An innermost layer used for absorbing moisture The middle layer which is a filter The outermost layer (typically the coloured side) which repels water Some surgical mask manufacturers produce masks which are tested and certified according to the European standard, EN 14683. Other mask certification include American standard ASTM F2100 and Chinese standard YY 0469. Surgical masks which are certified according to these standards are typically guaranteed to have at least 95 per cent bacterial filtration efficiency — which is generally good enough for members of the public. If you really want to protect yourself, you can also look for an N95 surgical respirator, which according to this nifty guide by the Health Sciences Authority, provides the protection of both a surgical mask and N95 respirator. It can be used to block large droplets of body fluids as well as very small particles like fine aerosolised droplets. Look for those which are certified by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Avoid single layer masks because these aren't strong enough to filter infectious droplets. You'll also want to avoid masks with valves because, even though it helps you breath easier, the valves can allow infectious droplets to pass through. Mothership Explains is a series where we dig deep into the important, interesting, and confusing going-ons in our world and try to, well, explain them. This series aims to provide in-depth, easy-to-understand explanations to keep our readers up to date on not just what is going on in the world, but also the "why's". Top image by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash
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A plan has been hatched to stop the public sweeping of open areas and on ground levels of housing estates in Singapore one day a month, starting from as early as 2022.The campaign, which is in the works to be ramped up to become a monthly affair, has already kicked off on Sunday, April 25, 2021.All 17 town councils took part in the initiative whereby the surroundings were not swept from 6am to midnight as part of the annual Keep Clean, Singapore! campaign.The Public Hygiene Council (PHC), which is the agency behind the idea, said the campaign kicked off with the "SG Clean Day" initiative to show "how much litter there is and what it will be like if there was no one to sweep it all away".But it is not a matter of giving cleaners time off or letting the estate go to the dogs."Residents will then be encouraged to volunteer picking up litter around their neighbourhoods, in small groups of eight," the agency added.#keepcleansingapore #sgcleanday
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/estates-no-sweep/
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A plan has been hatched to stop the public sweeping of open areas and on ground levels of housing estates in Singapore one day a month, starting from as early as 2022. Already started The campaign, which is in the works to be ramped up to become a monthly affair, has already kicked off on Sunday, April 25, 2021. All 17 town councils took part in the initiative whereby the surroundings were not swept from 6am to midnight as part of the annual Keep Clean, Singapore! campaign. Campaign to show amount of litter generated The Public Hygiene Council (PHC), which is the agency behind the idea, said the campaign kicked off with the "SG Clean Day" initiative to show "how much litter there is and what it will be like if there was no one to sweep it all away". It added that it is in talks with the town councils to step up "SG Clean Days" to once every quarter in 2021. Eventually, the plan is to have it once every month by 2022. Residents can clean estate But it is not a matter of giving cleaners time off or letting the estate go to the dogs. "Residents will then be encouraged to volunteer picking up litter around their neighbourhoods, in small groups of eight," the agency added. Getting volunteers to do clean-up Activating volunteers will also be the focus for an upcoming May 29 event ahead of World Environment Day. The PHC has planned the BlockWalk, an event where volunteers will be spread out across Singapore to pick up litter in neighbourhoods and community spaces, such as void decks, playgrounds and parks. It will be the largest neighbourhood clean-up event of the year. The aim is to rally 300 to 1,000 volunteers with their stakeholders and partners, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Singapore. Other initiatives revived Moving forward, PHC will revive the Buddy Clean workshops to encourage students to take personal responsibility by cleaning up after themselves in public. It is one of several outreach efforts that were paused due to Covid-19 restrictions. PHC will also take over the SG Clean Quality Mark certification of premises under the National Environment Agency (NEA), and will continue the certification and re-certification of NEA premises in 2021. Top photo via Kindness SG
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The new variant was detected in recent patients in Vietnam.
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/vietnam-new-covid-variant/
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The health minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Thanh Long said on May 29 that the country has detected a new Covid-19 variant. This new variant has the characteristics of the variants originating from India and the United Kingdom, according to local media outlet VnExpress. This variant was discovered after the ministry ran gene sequencing on recent Covid-19 patients, Reuters reported. The newly-discovered hybrid variant is reported to be the variant from India, but with mutations originating from the U.K. variant. The name of this new variant has not been announced. The health minister said that the new variant, which is likely to be even more transmissible than other existing variants, contributed to the rise in community cases in the country. Vietnam reported 49 new community cases of Covid-19 infection on May 29, and is reportedly experiencing a fourth wave of Covid-19 outbreak, in spite of its success in bringing infections under control previously. Top image by Pete Walls on Unsplash
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In 2016, Shi Qing Yuan had several health issues like borderline hypertension, as well as knee and back pains from sciatica -- pain involving the sciatica nerve. At 103kg, he was also overweight.Furthermore, he was told by doctors that he needed spinal surgery for his sciatica, as well as lifelong blood pressure medication.That was when Shi realised he was the one responsible for his own health, and that he should do something to take control of his health again.#health #fitness
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/singapore-man-58-spinal-surgery-run-marathons/
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A 58-year-old Singaporean man has managed to lose 17kg in just three years. Not only that, the bodily aches he used to experience were now gone. And he credits all these to a consistent workout routine and perseverance despite the difficulty of sticking to it. Had a wake-up call when doctors said he needed spinal surgery Taking to Facebook to share how he managed to turn his health around, Shi Qing Yuan revealed that when he was 53 years old in 2016, he had several health issues like borderline hypertension, as well as knee and back pains from sciatica -- pain involving the sciatica nerve. At 103kg, he was also overweight. Furthermore, he was told by doctors that he needed spinal surgery for his sciatica, as well as lifelong blood pressure medication. That was when he realised he was the one responsible for his own health, and that he should do something to take control of his health again. "Aug. 16, 2016, was the day when I decided to take charge of my health and wellness," he told Mothership. Started with daily walks Shi first started with 3-5km daily walks. After 50 days, he managed to drop 10kg, which he said was "enough" for him to start jogging. Shi said that when he first started exercising, he experienced "aches and pains", and had "poor aerobic endurance". But since he understood that that was to be expected, he pushed on and continued with his workout plan. He fitness level eventually improved over time, and in 2018, he was able to start running, managing to run 10 to 12km each time. He even completed his first half marathon, which is about 21km long. While he sustained injuries along the way, he said the experience taught him to help his body recover properly through rehabilitation so he could carry on running. "As I walked and jogged longer distances, my knee and back pains began to disappear as my body adapted to (the) activity," he said in his Facebook post. Changed his diet Shi's gradual improvement in his health was aided by a change in his diet too. He reduced his sugar intake by half, and took in less carbohydrates as well, eating less rice, breads and cakes. On the other hand, he consumed more protein like fish and chicken, introduced a lot more greens and fruits to his meals, and drank enough water to hydrate properly. The transformation in his health was visible from the outside -- he lost 17kg in the span of three years, weighing 86kg in 2019. Shi is now an avid marathoner, having taken part in dozens of races. The medals he collected from these races were displayed prominently in his home as well, and are testament to the hard work he has put in all these years. Shi, who now continues to work out 10 to 12 hours a week, has set his sight on his first marathon, and hopes to do ultramarathons eventually -- a remarkable feat considering the rude awakening he received on his health just a couple of years ago. Never too late to get fit Hoping to motivate others like him who needed to turn their health around, Shi wished to debunk the common perception that it's too late to get healthy if one is advanced in age. He also hoped his personal story would inspire others to get started in their fitness journey as well. While he admits there were days when he felt "lazy" and didn't feel like working out, he said he was able to overcome the inertia by following two principles: being consistent, and continuing to persevere. For those who find it hard to get off the couch and start moving, he said: "Rain or shine, just go out and do it." However, he said it is ultimately up to each individual to take charge of their health, saying "advice is only good if taken". He continued: "Most people, especially the elderly, find it difficult to kickstart (their fitness journey) because they don't see themselves at the finish line. They cannot imagine themselves even at the start. The biggest factor I believe to help one succeed is the desire to be well, as well as following through and acting on that desire to become well. Pushing through pain is not about suffering or punishing yourself, but it's about understanding your body limits and setting realistic tolerance levels to progress through them." Top image courtesy of Shi Qing Yuan
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In recent years, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) Singapore has been carrying out “road repurposing”, where road space is adapted to a different purpose.Road repurposing is carried out so that bus rides, as well as the walking and cycling experience, can be improved for commuters, while also creating more space for the community.It is also part of a larger effort to promote Green Transport, that is, transport options that cause less pollution and which do not consume as much natural resources.This can take the form of walking and cycling, but also includes travel via public transport.Thanks to the availability of sustainable travel choices, which are made more viable with initiatives like road repurposing, getting around Singapore via Green Transport alone has become more and more convenient over time.This in turn creates a greener, more sustainable and liveable city.#sustainability #greentransport
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/lta-road-repurposing
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If you’re familiar with the Bras Basah area, you’d know that a major development was the introduction of Bencoolen MRT station along Bencoolen Street. Bencoolen MRT’s opening meant much greater accessibility for the Bras Basah area. This came about not just because of the Downtown Line, running deep below street level, but also due to a redesign of the entire street, including a wide, tree-lined footpath and cycling path, additional bike parking facilities, and an all-day bus lane to speed up the commute for those taking public transport. LTA also collaborated with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and got students and alumni from NAFA to design the distinctive benches that line Bencoolen Street. Further developments to be expected include the Bencoolen Street cycling path being linked up to cycling routes like the ones connecting Queenstown and Bishan to the city, and the planned cycling route along the future North-South Corridor to the Central Business District, which will further improve the connectivity in the area. Today, looking at Bencoolen Street after the makeover, one might find it hard to believe that the street ever looked any different just five years ago. What’s going on? Road repurposing. These changes are just one example of what the Land Transport Authority (LTA) calls “road repurposing”, where — you guessed it — road space is adapted to a different purpose. Road repurposing is carried out so that bus rides, as well as the walking and cycling experience, can be improved for commuters, while also creating more space for the community. It is also part of a larger effort to promote Green Transport, that is, transport options that cause less pollution and which do not consume as much natural resources. This can take the form of walking and cycling, but also includes travel via public transport. Thanks to the availability of sustainable travel choices, which are made more viable with initiatives like road repurposing, getting around Singapore via Green Transport alone has become more and more convenient over time. This in turn creates a greener, more sustainable and liveable city The kind of road repurposing that happened at Bencoolen Street involved part of the road being converted to wider footpaths and cycling paths. But another type of road repurposing, known as pedestrianisation, involves converting a road fully to a pedestrian pathway, as was the case at Campbell Lane, Albert Mall, and more recently, Armenian Street. Since 2019, instead of a road for cars, Armenian Street is now a park, allowing easy access to eateries along the stretch, as well as the Asian Civilisations Museum. Road repurposing at Kampung Admiralty Road repurposing doesn’t only happen at downtown sites. LTA seeks views from residents, businesses and other stakeholders to identify what can be done to improve the road situation, and thus far, over 60 road repurposing projects across various parts of Singapore have been identified, including one near Kampung Admiralty. If you’ve been around the area recently, you might have noticed that a section of Woodlands Ring Road — between Woodlands Drive 63 and Woodlands Drive 71 — has been closed to cars since February 2021. Now, those living across the road from Kampung Admiralty can simply stroll across the pathway, instead of having to wait for the traffic lights to change in their favour. The safety of schoolchildren, and the elderly residents and patients who frequent the area, was just one of the considerations behind the road’s conversion into a footpath. Other reasons included convenience for pedestrians and public transport commuters, explained transport minister Ong Ye Kung on Facebook. Not a permanent change…yet You might notice that the changes at Kampung Admiralty do not look much like the artist’s impression, however, but this is because the changes have yet to be made permanent. As the road repurposing project impacts the daily lives of Admiralty residents and stakeholders, it is being carried out in two phases. The first phase involves temporary changes being made, so that members of the public can experience them and adapt to. If the community is supportive, and the project is found to be feasible after Phase 1, the project proceeds to Phase 2, where the changes are implemented permanently. Kampung Admiralty currently in Phase 1 Therefore, at Kampung Admiralty, where Phase 1 of road repurposing has just started, temporary red and white water-filled barricades now separate the portion of the former three-lane road that has been set aside for pedestrians and cyclists on one side, from a single bus-only lane on the other. The community can also engage with LTA to share feedback and suggestions, which helps to ensure that the road changes are able to meet people’s needs. This allows LTA to take into account the trade-offs involved in road repurposing, and balance the needs of various stakeholders, before proceeding to the next phase of the project. Road repurposing at Havelock Road Another recent project at Havelock Road involves reclaiming space used for streetside parking. The narrow walkway on the side of the road lined with shophouses was not able to accommodate pedestrian traffic at times, especially during peak hours. Residents and shop owners in the community had therefore shared their feedback on the situation with LTA, regarding their access to amenities and the general ease of getting around in the area. LTA, in response to this, launched a trial to convert roadside parking into a wider footpath adjacent to the shophouses. After these road repurposing works are completed, the many streetside eateries will be much more easily accessible. And with parking spaces removed, one imagines that the road will see somewhat less vehicular traffic, making for a safer and more peaceful dining experience for all involved. Carrying out road repurposing in these two phases means that there is an opportunity to refine the plans before they are made permanent. As with the Kampung Admiralty project, the residents and shop owners will be able to continue providing feedback on the project as it moves into Phase 1, and before it goes to Phase 2. It’s not yet certain that all of LTA’s 60 planned road repurposing projects will eventually go through to Phase 2, as this would depend on how the community responds. One thing’s for sure though — walking or cycling along Bencoolen Street has never been smoother. This sponsored article by LTA made the author want to go for a ride on his bicycle. Top photo by Nigel Chua
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Billionaire James Dyson has relocated from Singapore back to the United Kingdom, reversing a move he made two years ago.He now primarily lives in the U.K., according to filings for companies the billionaire controls, including for his family office Weybourne.The 73-year-old, who is worth US$29 billion (S$38.5 billion), had previously faced criticism from U.K. lawmakers for switching to Singapore initially given his pro-Brexit stance.This latest move comes after Dyson had bolstered his presence in Singapore for two years, liquidating U.K. companies and hiring staff in Singapore for his family office.
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/dyson-moves-back/
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Billionaire James Dyson has relocated from Singapore back to the United Kingdom, reversing a move he made two years ago. According to Bloomberg, Dyson, 73, now primarily lives in the U.K., according to filings for companies the billionaire controls, including for his family office Weybourne. “We do not comment on private family matters and nothing has changed in respect of the company,” a Dyson spokesperson said, according to Bloomberg. “The structure of the group and the business rationale underpinning it are unaltered.” Criticism over the move Dyson, who is worth US$29 billion (S$38.5 billion), faced criticism from U.K. lawmakers for switching to Singapore initially given his pro-Brexit stance. This latest move comes after Dyson had bolstered his presence in Singapore for two years, liquidating U.K. companies and hiring staff in Singapore for his family office. Now Dyson is facing another controversy. BBC reported he had texted prime minister Boris Johnson in March 2020 to get assurance that Dyson staff wouldn’t face a change in their tax situation if they came to the U.K. to help make ventilators in response to Covid-19. The billionaire wrote to the Treasury, but then reached out to Johnson, sparking concern over whether the prime minister followed procedures to disclose the messages. Johnson was forced to defend his actions in parliament on April 20. However, Dyson said in a statement on the same day that it was Johnson who initiated contact in 2020. The ventilator project at the time of "national crisis" cost Dyson about 20 million pounds (S$37 million), required staff from Singapore and the U.K. to work around the clock, and that their exchanges were disclosed at the time to U.K. officials. Dyson's Singapore homes: One sold In 2019, Dyson had acquired a three-storey penthouse for US$54 million (S$71.7 million) in Singapore, but sold it at a hefty loss late last year. The penthouse was sold to a United States citizen for S$62 million. The Dysons also bought a bungalow near the Singapore Botanic Gardens in 2019 for S$45 million, which they still own. The firm had previously said it intends to hire more than 2,000 people in Southeast Asia over the coming years, but then confirmed in July it would cut 900 of its 14,000 jobs globally due to the pandemic. According to Bloomberg, the company said it would “shortly” move into a new global headquarters at an old power station in Singapore this month. Top image via Getty Images
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We tried to resuscitate the baby for one hour but the baby eventually passed on.When we stopped the resuscitation, we said to the parents, "We're sorry." That's the only word used for such situations.The parents broke down. The entire resuscitation team, three nurses and two doctors, was also emotionally affected. This took a toll as it was the beginning of our shift.[But] We can't say, "I'm done, I can't take it, I have to go back home, I'm too emotionally affected."No, we reflect, we hold up and we move on. And we make sure that episode does not affect us for the next six to seven hours of our shift.'Sanjeev Naidu Govindasamy has been an Emergency Room (ER) nurse for 13 years.Currently, he is a Senior Staff Nurse at Alexandra Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre (UCC), and had previously worked in NUH's ED from 2011 to 2018, before coming to Alexandra Hospital.Here, Sanjeev shares about his most memorable cases in the Emergency Department (ED), the lessons he has learnt in dealing with situations such as conveying difficult news, as well as how he has been blessed in his marriage with his wife who is also working as an ER nurse in Malaysia.#healthcareworkers # #nurse
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/alexandra-hospital-er-nurse-experience/
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PERSPECTIVE: Sanjeev Naidu Govindasamy has been an Emergency Room (ER) nurse for 13 years. Currently, he is a Senior Staff Nurse at Alexandra Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre (UCC), and previously worked in NUH's ED from 2011 to 2018, before coming to Alexandra Hospital. Sanjeev also shares about his most memorable cases in the Emergency Department (ED), the lessons he has learnt in dealing with situations such as conveying difficult news, the issue of long waiting times, and how he has been blessed in his marriage with his wife who is also working as an ER nurse in Malaysia. Sanjeev's reflections on being an ER nurse first appeared in the book 'Missy Reflections: Reflections of Loss, Courage and Hope', published by Alexandra Hospital. You find out more here. By Sanjeev Naidu Govindasamy, as told to Matthias Ang I'm an adrenaline junkie I wanted to be in emergency nursing because I'm an adrenaline junkie and the emergency room is a very high-intensity environment. That is the number one factor. You never know what kind of patient is going to come through the emergency door. But whoever comes, whatever comes, you have to be 100 per cent prepared and focused, and make split decisions in a very short period of time, delivering the utmost care to the patients. So I chose Emergency Nursing. From the day I graduated in 2010, even from my third year of nursing in 2009, I have been attached to the ED and from then until today, I have been a full-fledged emergency nurse. There has been no turning back. The moment I knew nursing was for me Nursing is actually my second career. I was previously a full-fledged mechanical engineer for seven years. However, I felt kind of bored by the 8 to 5 job. I decided to apply for nursing school at the age of 27. I told myself, I would take one year to try it out. Within the first four months, I had one incident that happened to me during my training period. I was nursing a bedridden 21-year-old boy with an autoimmune disorder. My job as a trainee nurse was to bathe him and provide for all of his basic daily needs every day for three months. Eventually, he was able to use a wheelchair and walk using the walking frame. When the father of the patient saw that, he immediately came to hug me. That night, after so long, I really slept peacefully. It was then that I knew, this is what I wanted to do. I work three different shifts as an ER nurse Currently, I have spent 13 years in ER. Three years in Malaysia and 10 in Singapore. Emergency nurses work three shifts, morning, afternoon and at night, on a rotational basis. In Alexandra Hospital, the morning shift begins at 8am. The earliest we can finish would be 3pm, while the latest is 5pm. For the afternoon, the earliest we start is 12pm and we will end by 9pm. As for the night shift, we work 12 hours, from 8.30pm to 8.30am. Usually, there is a spike in cases within the ED after holidays There is not much difference between the type of cases we get for our shifts. However, we can predict the types of patients we will receive on a quarterly basis or in the advent of public and school holidays. For example, if Friday is a long weekend, we can anticipate that Monday morning will be a very busy morning in ED. People who have developed some injuries or a condition could have waited until they have finished their staycation or long holiday before coming in on Monday. For school holidays, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we did not have many cases of students or young adults coming into during the holiday itself because they will be out of Singapore, on vacation. However, once the school holidays have finished and they are back in Singapore, it will be a busy period for us. You can also see a dip in the number of elderly patients during the Hungry Ghost Festival. There won't be many elderly patients coming into hospital, out of superstition. They prefer not to come, unless they are really, really sick. Now, apart from our fair share of normal surgical cases, there is an increase in patients with respiratory-related illnesses, such as elderly patients who have either been self-medicating or going to see a GP for cough, fever and a runny nose. There has also been a rise in patients with anxiety attacks. The most memorable cases that I have worked on The passing of a three-day old baby which reminded me of my own daughter One case that is very close to my heart is also a very sad one. It happened in February this year. I had been posted to Ng Teng Fong Hospital for a one-month attachment. I still remember it was the third day of my posting in the hospital's ED — I was attached to a nurse in the Critical Area. It was about 9:30am to 10am. We just took over from the night shift and were doing our daily equipment checks. All of a sudden, we heard a cry. Another nurse from the Triage Area, carrying a three-day old baby, ran to the Critical Area. The baby suffered a cardiac arrest and had no heartbeat. We tried to resuscitate the baby for one hour but the baby eventually passed on. The resuscitation took place in front of the parents as they really wanted to be there for the baby. The consultants in ED also allowed it. It was a very traumatic experience for both the parents and for us. When we stopped the resuscitation, we said to the parents, "We're sorry." That's the only word used for such situations. The parents broke down. The entire resuscitation team, three nurses and two doctors, was also emotionally affected. This took a toll as it was the beginning of our shift. We had to prepare the baby to be handed over to the mother, to allow the parents to grieve. And at that moment, I was the only one who could swaddle the baby as I just had a baby girl two years back. I've been separated from my daughter during this pandemic. I only got to see her for a few weeks during a short break in October last year, during Deepavali. I've been keeping in contact by video call and WhatsApp. So I was very affected by this incident knowing that if anything happens in Johor Bahru, I won't be there for my own child. The thing is, once we settled everything with this baby in an hour, we are back on our feet again, to do our job for other patients. Support was also given by the nurse managers of Ng Teng Fong Hospital to help us overcome it. We can't say, "I'm done, I can't take it, I have to go back home, I'm too emotionally affected." No, we reflect, we hold up and we move on. And we make sure that episode does not affect us for the next six to seven hours of our shift. Receiving 'help' from a 'frequent' patient in handling another patient Some patients are 'frequent'. This means the same patient can come in two or three times a week, for a period of four to five months. They will show up every week with the same problem: intoxication. I have even seen patients coming in frequently for a period of up to two years. We know their stories and they know us very well. For example, some of them have greeted me with a shout from afar, "Hi Sanjeev, I'm back again!" There was one incident where I was caring for two intoxicated patients in NUH. One was a patient that I knew very well, for many years. He always came in for the same problem. The other patient was in NUH for the first time. He was found lying on a playground floor and a Good Samaritan had called the ambulance to send him to a hospital. As the new patient became more sober, he became a bit aggressive, wondering why he was in the hospital. He also stood up and shouted a bit, even though he was still very dizzy and unsteady. When we were trying to calm him down, the other patient whom I knew very well suddenly took off his blanket, got up from the bed and told the new patient, "Look here. You're in NUH, this is my nurse, you better be polite to him." He even said, "I will protect them, you tell me who is being difficult." And I had to tell the other patient, "No no no, please calm down." Patients have chipped in to help ER nurses with other patients as well Apart from helping with difficult cases, we also have patients who help to console worried patients beside them. In fact, we have also learned a lot from our patients in ED about how loving people can be when they are sick. I have seen patients who have a terminal condition, with months or even days to live. But when they arrive in ED, they are so lively, cheerful and joyful. They will encourage us nurses to not be sad as we will be seeing them frequently in the department. Some of the patients become part of our ED family. And sometimes, when there are language barriers with some patients, another patient will somehow realise we are having difficulties, open the curtain and ask, "Do you need help? I can translate for you." It's really a team effort from the top to the bottom, from the doctors to the nurses, to auxiliary support staff, housekeeping, our patients and even their next-of-kin. Communicating difficult news to patients When it comes to communicating bad news or news of a patient passing on, we normally never do it alone. We always go as a pair, as a doctor and a nurse, because you will never know how patients will react when they receive the news. Emergency Departments will also have this special room known as the family room or quiet room. We will gather the family in this room and once we enter the room, we have to do a very quick assessment of the emotions in the room. Some will be very calm, some will be very anxious, some will already be tearing up. So we have to assess these situation very quickly and choose the right words and most importantly, right body language on how to convey the news. To be honest, every single time, it gets harder and harder. There is not once where it has been easy. You cannot just go in and say, "I'm sorry ma'am, I'm sorry sir, they have passed on" and just walk out. The patient might be somebody's brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunty, husband, wife...it's very tough. You must know how to be a good listener Sometimes, when we are just going to update a patient's next-of-kin or a caregiver, saying that "your father will be admitted into hospital and will take about one to two hours to get a bed," that short period of five to 10 minutes can become a longer conversation when they break down in front of you. They will open up to you, say that they can't take the stress, and that they're worried about their parents. And you just can't say, "Sorry, I can't..." No, you still have to stand there, hold them, listen to them and reassure them that you will do your best to help their parents. Small things like offering them a seat or a beverage can be seen as a huge gesture as well. I am fortunate that my wife is also an ER nurse I got married in 2013. My wife is also an ER nurse. So she understands what goes on in the emergency room and we can communicate about it. She also understands, why I have missed the first and second birthdays of my daughter as a result of the border closure. Until today, people find it hard to believe our story, but we met through an arranged marriage. My parents were pushing for me to get married and I was not in a relationship then. So I told my father, "You want me to get married? Fine, I give the responsibility to you. Find me a girl who understands my job. I'm a nurse, I work shift hours, I will not be able to get long periods of leave, I will never get weekends. Anniversaries and birthdays, very difficult to get leave." Somehow it fell in place. We are always trying our best The public often complains that they wait for two, three even four hours in the waiting area before they are actually seen and treated. But what I would like them to know is that within all of the ERs in Singapore's restructured hospitals, behind the curtain, patients are being resuscitated, they are on stretchers with their lives hanging by a thread. It is a chaotic and tense situation. However, we are trying our best to accommodate patients as fast as we can, as soon as possible. We do want to cut down the waiting time. It is one of our highest targets in the pipeline. All we want is understanding and an opportunity to explain why the waiting time is long. We really don't want our patients to wait in the hospital for a long time. Remember, it's better to wait than to be the person on a stretcher. Top images courtesy of Sanjeev Naidu Govindasamy
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Dining in at F&B establishments has been disallowed in Singapore from May 16 - June 13, 2021.But with the measures announced just a few days prior, it has been a mad rush for businesses to adapt their revenues models to conform to the new rule.We spoke to the owners of five F&B brands in Singapore, ranging from coffeeshop stalls to cafes, on their situation.#fnb #phase2
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/no-dine-in-reactions/
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Dining in at F&B establishments is disallowed in Singapore from May 16 - June 13, 2021. But with the measures announced just two days prior, it has been a mad rush for businesses to adapt their revenues models to conform to the new rule. We spoke to the owners of five F&B brands in Singapore, ranging from coffeeshop stalls to cafes, on their situation. They are: Brotherbird (cafe, bakery) Yakiniku Warrior (coffeeshop stall) Feather Blade/Rappu (restaurants) Huggs Coffee (coffee chain) Abundance (recently opened cafe) Better prepared than last year 30-year-old KC Chia is the co-founder of popular bakehouse/cafe Brotherbird. The brand has a takeaway kiosk in CT Hub, as well as a cafe in Bali Lane, which just reopened in January following a one-year hiatus. Chia told Mothership that they are "more prepared' for the challenges ahead, after the Circuit Breaker in 2020. Both outlets will remain operational during this period, and also serve as online preorder collection venues. Chia aded that the latter function aims to disperse early morning queues at their stores. More time needed to react A similar sentiment was echoed by Lee Haoming, Huggs Coffee's 33-year-old managing director. The coffee chain has 20 outlets in Singapore, all of which offer dine-in, although some with limited seating. "[...] We’ve gone through similar measures last year hence we are prepared to a certain extent. However, it’s still extremely disruptive and costly to change our entire operations in less than 48 hours," Lee said. Another source of their stress is the Thomson Plaza outlet — the latest store in the chain that had just opened on May 15. The past two days has seen Lee and his team scrambling to churn out takeaway and delivery promos, as well as procuring takeaway packaging. 28-year-old Sheen Jet Leong, who owns Rappu and The Feather Blade restaurants, said that he understood the merit of limiting dine-ins, but felt that the adaption period was too short as well. "Also, a case could be made that instead of a knee jerk reaction to curb dine-ins entirely, the capacity could have been limited to a lower percentage or to outdoor dining only," he added. In the meantime, Leong is offering bundle promotions and free delivery with a minimum purchase of S$100. The restaurants also have an in-house islandwide delivery fleet to mitigate the high costs of delivery partners. A change in menu To cope, many F&B businesses have made tweaks to their menu. This is especially so for 32-year-old Kelvin Tan, who operates Japanese BBQ stall Yakiniku Warrior out of a coffeeshop in Geylang. As one can imagine, it might be a little hard to takeaway Japanese BBQ. Tan has therefore pivoted to selling rice bowls, such as beef, chicken, and pork bowls. When Tan and his wife, Joanne Yeoh, 29, started the business in December last year, they were "confident" that Singapore has passed its peak of the pandemic. Even then, the couple had expected a no dine-in rule to be implemented as community cases began to rise again, and were intending to formulate new recipes for the beef bowl and apply for delivery services. Downtime Lastly, 32-year-old Yuan Xin is the owner of Abundance, a hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese cafe that opened in late-April. Although business, still in its infant stages, will definitely be "impacted," Yuan Xin said that they will be taking this time to "smoothen operations." Top image by Mandy How
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Sheng Siong stock price jumped 11 per cent in one day on May 14, 2021 before trading closed, following news that Singapore will disallow dining out at all F&B establishments.The latest shock announcement in Singapore came as the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measure is set to take effect from May 16 through June 13, and will affect hawker centres and food courts, both indoors and outdoors.As all F&B establishments will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery options, people will have to remain home more often, which will see grocery purchases increase in volume.#supermarket #singapore
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/sheng-siong-stock-price/
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Sheng Siong stock price jumped 11 per cent in one day on May 14, 2021 before trading closed, following news that Singapore will disallow dining out at all F&B establishments. Sheng Siong stock price rebound Sheng Siong stock price experienced a sharp rebound from its healthy but downward trending momentum. During afternoon trading, Sheng Siong stock price stabilised at S$1.67. Over the past nine months since August 2020, the supermarket chain's stock price dipped from a high of S$1.85 in August 2020 to S$1.49 per share just before Friday morning's sudden announcement. Green in a sea of red Across the board, Sheng Siong emerged the rare leafy green stock blinking in a sea of red on price charts on Friday. Blue chip stocks bled out in the short term as pessimism reigned, with OCBC and Singtel share prices falling 2 to 3 per cent. The Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measure has put a dampener on Singapore's recovery, at least in the short term. Sheng Siong dividend per share Investors who bought Sheng Siong stock at a then-high of S$1.30 per share prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 have reaped or are reaping the profits wrought by the worldwide effects of the coronavirus on consumer behaviour. Sheng Siong revenue hit S$1.39 billion for 2020. Its net profit stood at S$139.1 million for the full year ended Dec. 31, 2020, the company said in a Singapore Exchange filing on Feb. 24, 2021. Following that announcement, Sheng Siong proposed a final dividend of three cents per share, subject to shareholder approval, taking its full-year dividend payout to 6.5 cents per share. This dividend payout represents 70.5 per cent of the company’s full-year net profit. Shock announcement The latest shock announcement in Singapore came as the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measure is set to take effect from May 16 through June 13, and will affect hawker centres and food courts, both indoors and outdoors. All F&B establishments will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery options. This measure will force people to remain home more often, which will see grocery purchases increase in volume. Even wedding banquets have been hit by this sudden rule and made to cease because they are considered a dining activity. Group gatherings will be reduced from five people to two people. Strenuous indoor exercise classes, or strenuous individual and group indoor sports and exercise activities, will also be halted. Personalised services that need masks to be removed, such as facials and saunas, singing and playing instruments that need “require intentional expulsion of air” like wind or brass instruments, will also not be allowed. However, medical and dental services can continue. Sheng Siong news https://mothership.sg/2021/03/lessons-on-leadership-lim-hock-chee-sheng-siong-interview/ https://mothership.sg/2021/05/work-from-home-antigen-test/ All photos via Google Maps
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In 2001, Taufik (not his real name) was sentenced to 30 years and three months imprisonment for drug trafficking and consumption. He was 25 years old.However, he has been granted early release due to his good conduct and behaviour, family support, and his completion of in-care rehabilitation programmes. He will likely be released in November 2021, at 45 years of age.Speaking to Mothership, Taufik tells us what prison life is like, as well as the internal and external struggles he has had to overcome behind bars.Read his story here: https://lnkd.in/gi2e63c
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/prison-inmate-20-years/
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PERSPECTIVE: In 2001, Taufik (not his real name) was sentenced to 30 years and three months imprisonment for drug trafficking and consumption. He was 25 years old. However, he has been granted early release due to his good conduct and behaviour, family support, and his completion of in-care rehabilitation programmes. He will likely be released in November 2021, at 45 years of age. Speaking to Mothership, Taufik tells us what prison life is like, as well as the internal and external struggles he has had to overcome behind bars. As told to Syahindah Ishak What was it like when you first found out you will be going to prison? I was very lost ah. My mum... she was sad. She was worried that I was going to get hanged because my charge was a capital charge. Both of us were heartbroken at that time. I also have two younger brothers and one younger sister. They were very shocked, they didn't know that my offences will lead to a capital charge. At the time, I was also married and my son... he was only one year old when I was sentenced. My son is 21 this year. Do you remember your first day in prison? What was that like? I didn't know the culture inside the prison so I was very lost. I was also scared of anything that can get me into trouble because I didn't want to make things worse. I just did what I thought was right and along the way, the other inmates started giving me advice and telling me what I should and shouldn't do. What does your daily life in prison look like now? For me, I'm working right now. Every day, I wake up in the morning and do my morning prayers. Then when the doors open, I go to work. I'm currently undergoing a work programme at the YR Industries' Bakery, so I help to bake. What do the inmates do after work? Actually, not all of us are working. We all go through different programmes, like rehab or studying. Once we end our programmes, we go back to our respective housing units for recreational activities. We get to choose whether we want to watch TV, play indoor games, or go out to the yard to do some outdoor activities. After that, we're back to lock-up in our cell to have dinner and then it's time to sleep. What type of food do you eat in prison? There are different dishes. There's chicken, egg, and fish. In one month, the menu varies. Do you ever get sick of the food? No. I like anything that comes with chicken. *laughs* In the housing units, what are some of the TV programmes that are shown and what games are available? The prison schedules the TV programmes that inmates get to watch. The programmes are pre-recorded, so there are movies and variety shows. We get our news through newspapers. For games, there are the indoor board games, like chess, and outdoor activities at the yard like sepak takraw and basketball. Some inmates also spend their time exercising. What does your prison cell look like? I'm currently staying in a cell with two other cell mates. For three people to stay in the cell, I consider the size okay ah. It's not that small, and the cell got nothing much. Most important thing is that I have a place to sleep in. How's your relationship with your cell mates? So far so good. We are around the same age. We can share personal stuff with each other sometimes. We can share about something that makes us sad or something that makes us happy. We are actually quite close ah. What are some of the rules inside a prison? We must maintain discipline — no smuggling of items, and no fights. We must also be respectful towards the officers. If someone breaks any of the rules, they will get a warning first. If they do it a lot, they can get charged. Do you often see inmates fight or argue with each other? There are a few lah. But the last time I saw a fight was a long time ago. Usually, what happens is an exchange of expletives. Have you had any arguments with other inmates? During the early stage of my sentence, there was some tension. When I first entered prison, I was not stable yet. I was more sensitive and I got angry easily. But they were all just tensions, they never escalated to fights. How do you avoid getting into trouble? What do you do to keep yourself sane each day? I look out for positive influences, anyone who can encourage me to push through, like my mother, counsellor, and some officers that I can relate to. My mother always tells me not to miss my prayers, because if I don't miss my prayers, she said that God will take care of me. I also went to quite a few courses while in prison, courses that taught me social skills and how to change myself. That also taught me how to think positively. What you feed your mind is important. If you think negatively, then you will only attract negative things. Do you often think about the offences you committed? Yeah I do, nearly every day. Every time I think about my offence, I think to myself: "What a big mistake." And all the lost time I could have had with my family, my son. I regret what I did. If you don't mind me asking, why did you commit the drug offences? It's the friends I had. I was introduced to drugs when I was young. And before I was caught, I was already addicted to heroin. To feed my habit, I needed a lot of money, and the only way for me to get money is to traffic the drugs. You were aware that drug trafficking is a capital offence? Actually before I was caught, I didn't think that hanging was a possible punishment. I only found out after I was caught. But luckily, I didn't get the death penalty. How did you overcome your drug addiction in prison? That must have been tough. Ya, in prison, I had no choice but to go cold turkey. It was really difficult at first. But through rehab and counselling, they taught me how to say no to these negative influences. They also taught me coping mechanisms lah. From there, I slowly overcame my addiction. What do you miss most about life outside of prison? I just miss my family ah. My family were very close. I remember when my father was still around, we used to go for picnics and have a gathering together. When your father was still around? He passed away in 2013. What was that like? How did you deal with it while you were in prison then? I first found out from my officer that my father was sick and in hospital. At that time, I was granted permission to come out of prison and visit my father in hospital. That was the first time in 13 years that I left the prison. And it was to visit my father at the hospital. When I saw him on the hospital bed, I was very very sad. I lost so much time with him, and the only time I had left with him was in the hospital. Wah... that really made me feel so heartbroken. At that point, he couldn't speak, so he would just look at me. When I visited him in the hospital, the doctor predicted that he would only have two weeks to live. 13 days after that, I was told by my officer to go to my brother's place. That's when my father already passed away. I wasn't really surprised because of what the doctor said. But I was very very sad... I was really sad. If your father is still alive, what would you want to tell him? I would make a promise to him that this time is my last time time in prison. I also want to promise him that I will take care of my mother, my son, and the rest of my family. Has the situation in prison changed because of the pandemic? There are some changes lah. We must adhere to the safe distancing measures and wear our masks. How did you feel when you found out about the current Covid-19 pandemic? I was very worried, especially for my mother. I read in the papers that older people are more vulnerable to Covid-19. Each time she visits me, I will ask if she took public transport. If she did, then I will tell her to take a taxi next time. If she can't get a taxi, I told her that there's no need to come and see me. Her safety is more important. What do you want to do once you get released? I want to see my family, and ask for their forgiveness. I want to say sorry for leaving them for so many years. And I will try my best to make it right this time. How's your relationship with your son? Does he visit you often? When I was sentenced, my son was one year old. He is 21 now. My mother-in-law was taking care of him during my early years in prison. Sometimes, she brought him to visit me, but that's like once in a few years. In 2019, he moved in with my sister and he visited me a bit more. The last visit I had from him was last year. It is actually very awkward. Whenever he visits me, we just don't know what to talk about. Usually, it will be me asking the questions and he would answer with a short reply. I feel a bit sad lah because I'm not close with him. We're not like any other father and son. I've actually been trying to find ways to get closer to him. I tried reading some books about icebreakers and how to start a conversation with my son and make him talk. What about your wife? My wife has never visited or communicated with me since I got into prison. She applied for divorce two times already. But both times, they were cancelled because first, she didn't attend court and second, she didn't follow-up. When I go out, I hope to meet with her and discuss what's best for our relationship. What are some things you want to say to your son when you see him outside? I want to say sorry to him and ask for his forgiveness. I've not been taking care of him for so long. I hope he can give me a chance to be his father again. I hope I can bond with him, and mend our relationship. I will also give him advice, tell him not to get involved in the criminal world because you never know, he might get sentenced like me. I don't want that, of course. He is my only son. He's my bloodline. But I really hope he can accept me as a changed person compared to who I was before I entered prison. People might have told him about my character and who I was in the past. But I hope he will accept me for who I am now. That is my goal when I'm out— to be a better son to my mother and a better father to my son. So much has changed over the years since I've been in prison. I don't know what it's going to be like outside. I mean, Singapore is so advanced already right now. I need to first get some help and advice from my family and my counsellor on how to adapt outside of prison. But I would like to visit Gardens by the Bay. I saw pictures of it... so beautiful. Jewel also. I will be like a tourist lah. *laughs* What do you remember about Singapore before you went to prison? There were no smart phones like now. I remember the Nokia phones just launched FM Radio at the time. Esplanade was under construction. VivoCity also wasn't around yet. Even the MRT lines have changed. Back then, Singapore only had the East West Line and the North South line. Oh yes, when I'm out, I also want to try cycling. I was told that Singapore has a lot of park connectors now. And my brother bought a bicycle for me already, so I want to take up cycling when I'm out. Are you ever worried about going back to your past life? I don't have the urge to make the same mistake again. I will also make sure that I choose my circle of friends carefully. I won't go back to my life last time. If you can say anything to your younger self right now, what would you say? What would I say? *pause* Life is short, cherish your freedom, and appreciate your family more, because down the road, family will stick with you. Not your friends. It's your family. Always. Top image courtesy of Singapore Prison Service. Quotes were edited for clarity.
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#LessonsOnLeadership: in our latest contribution, we hear from Ya Kun International Pte Ltd scion Jesher Loi, who shares his whirlwind educational journey from science to music to business and back to his family company.“First go and explore... find out what kind of job or industry you want to work in. Then choose what you want to study. Don't think to yourself, ‘I'm good at this subject so I want to study that.’I think it is good to have a plan because, of course, you cannot go through life without one. However, if you hold your plans too tightly, then you may not actually enjoy the process.”
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/jesher-loi-ya-kun-commentary/
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COMMENTARY: "I think it is good to have a plan because, of course, you cannot go through life without one. However, if you hold your plans too tightly, then you may not actually enjoy the process." Jesher Loi is the grandson of Loi Ah Koon, the founder of heritage brand Ya Kun International. He began his time at the family company as his father's personal assistant. Fast forward 11 years, the 36-year-old serves as the director of branding and market development. Loi's path, however, was not always clear to him. As a young university student, he felt conflicted between his passion for music and his aptitude in the sciences, as well as his inclination toward business. Lessons on Leadership is a Mothership series hoping to inspire the next generation of Singaporeans through the stories of Singapore’s many successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. Loi shares his personal journey to balance his family's business with his love for conducting, as well as the lessons he hopes to impart to his current music students. By Jesher Loi, as told to Jane Zhang Business only began growing in early 2000s The family business was a process that grew over many years. It was only in 2001 that the business really kicked off. Before that, for decades there was only one shop. Even when my grandfather began to gradually retire in the 1990s, there was no talk of succession, no ambition to expand. On the weekends, my dad would go down to the shop to help out. He had a nine-to-five job in a completely different field, but on Saturdays he would travel to the shop and spend the mornings just toasting bread. That was where his heart was — you could see that was where he was excited to be. Even then, however, he and my mum did not expect that they would carry on the family business, and they never imagined that it would grow so large. It wasn't until 1999 or even 2000 that my parents realised that it would very likely be up to them and my dad's brother to carry on the business. Together as a team, they began to professionalise the business, and the shop did very well, with increasingly long lines. People began to say things like, "Hey, why don't you just go somewhere else? I mean, if you have two, it's going to be double the sales; and you'll lessen the pressure on one outlet, right?" So that is when they decided to expand. While my parents were busy building Ya Kun, I was busy studying In 2001, none of this was on my radar, to be honest, since I was only in Secondary 4. At that point, I was still studying and enjoying my CCAs, preparing to go to Junior College. At that point in the early 2000s, the government was really pushing students to join NUS Life Science. While I was at National Junior College, there was a lot of encouragement for us to apply for that major. I always had an interest, though, in biology, in some form or another. I was so serious that I actually went for a medical internship halfway through JC, and followed doctors for two weeks. To be fair, I didn't pay attention to what my parents really did. I mean, I knew that they were expanding the business, but at that age things like accounting, HR, and finance held little importance to me. What I do remember was how energised they were and how excited they were at home. They started to win awards. There was a lot of euphoria over entrepreneurship because back then it was a groundbreaking concept. At that time, there were no mentors or fireside chats. There was no one to counsel them on what to do. If they needed assistance over the matter of accounting, they talked to someone from church. If they needed legal advice, they spoke to someone at church. As trailblazers, they did everything themselves. Although there was the rare occasion when the business overlapped with my schoolwork — once we participated in a fundraising drive with a booth at NJC's fun fair — for the most part I was still just a student. My main focus was my studies, not the future. After all, at 16 or 17 years of age, kids aren't necessarily thinking long-term about their careers. For me, I knew what I was good at and what I enjoyed studying. Based on just those two reasons, I chose biology as my emphasis. Over the years, I've come to the realisation that basing a big decision purely upon those guidelines is, in and of itself, a flaw. In fact, I think that is a mindset that young people need to work on, and we need to help them learn how to make such decisions with a more well-rounded process. However, back then, that was how I decided what to major in, and I followed that path all the way until army. And my time in army changed everything. Making the decision to take a gap year While I was in army, I had plenty of time to think. I was struck how we were all going along exactly the same path: serve, ORD, enter university. Even though I had already secured my place in NUS Life Science, I realised I wanted take a break after army and experience one year of something different before resuming my studies. I decided to take a gap year. Now the question became, what should I do during my gap year? Despite my focus on the sciences in school, I had always been involved in music, both in secondary school and in JC. In fact, I had been the vice-chair, the president of my CCA, as well as concert master. I was even conducting the youth choir at my church. I thought to myself, why don't I go study music? The choice seemed simple, especially since it was only going to be one year. It so happened that my family had some good friends in the U.S. One of them actually worked at a university there, and so through her and her contacts, I explored the opportunity of studying overseas. I actually sent most of my applications and recordings while still in army. I was accepted, and thankfully, I even received a music scholarship. Meanwhile, the business already had more than 20 outlets. It was getting busier by the day and gaining significant momentum. The success of the business was what enabled me to study overseas, and I'm very, very grateful for that. I do not take that for granted. How the gap year turned into four years The challenge I faced was that the school in the U.S. did not acknowledge gap years. Instead the admissions office suggested that I simply enrol as a regular student, take all the classes I was interested in, and then "drop out" of school once I was finished. Meanwhile, I spoke with NUS about my predicament, and they very kindly said that they approved of this enterprising spirit and so they would be willing to keep my spot for another year. They were very open-minded about it. However, I knew that if I did not want that spot, then it was only fair to let NUS know so someone else could take my place. I was torn because if I truly gave up my place at NUS, then that was it; I would no longer be coming back to Singapore to study. So I packed up and went. Leaving was tough — that was my first time leaving home, and I was an only child. When I arrived on campus, I was lost and clueless, but I quickly settled in and started my music studies. When I was planning out my courses for the year, I did not sign up for any gen ed classes (the 101 courses). Instead, I ploughed straight into all the music courses. Everyone else thought I was crazy, but I knew I had to be focused. I was there for only one year, and then I was going home. Over the months, however, my perspective radically changed. The environment there — the constant practising, the concert attendance, the feeling of waiting backstage to perform — it was phenomenal. I loved it so much that halfway through, I told my parents that I wanted to do my undergraduate studies there. I explained that I already had one foot in the door and that the atmosphere was very congenial. It was a really nice, safe campus. I was enjoying myself. I told them I wanted to continue. We needed to have a serious conversation over whether I should give up my slot at NUS. As we talked through the options, one suggestion we thought about was to give up my spot and apply again later. I was concerned, though, because there was, of course, no guarantee that I would be able to secure a spot a second time. I decided to continue my education in the U.S. From science to business to music I wanted to do music. I loved it, and I enjoyed it. My parents were very sensible and practical. So while they understood that I loved music and that it was my passion, they also wanted to make sure that I had thought through my decision. They were willing to allow me to continue my studies in the U.S., but they recommended that I considering changing my major. So I became a science major. I had always had an affinity for both science and music so choosing science as my emphasis made a lot of sense. I actually did very well that semester thanks to my solid Singaporean education! I received As in all of my classes — in fact, that semester I achieved one of my best GPAs during my time as an undergrad. However, I couldn't settle in. My science classes were on one side of the campus, and on the opposite end was the music department. I found myself constantly looking over at the block of music buildings and thinking how I missed them, how I wanted to go back, how I missed performing. After one or two semesters, I ended up having a hard talk with my parents. Again, they were very understanding. They said they understood if I didn't want to do science, but asked if I had considered business as a major instead. After all, I was their only child, and I would some day have to manage the business in some capacity or another. They encouraged me to give business a try. For the next semester, after switching my major to business, I juggled both business and music courses. That way I could still graduate on time, regardless of which major I ended up choosing. Ironically, I struggled in some of the business courses because of my close ties to the family business. For example, I was able to grasp concepts of business management my dad explained to me because I could see it being practised in the family business; but when various schools of thought were taught in class I had difficulty remembering them. In a way, because I already had a real life case study in front of me, understanding the philosophies behind the various theories was a challenge. I realised that, at the end of the day, I did not enjoy business as a major. In addition, I treasured my time in the U.S. — I knew it was a precious, limited opportunity. Even after exploring other majors, I still loved music and deeply desired to do something with it. I was also very clear that I wanted to use my classical training to help change people. I did not want to come and fight for a place in Singapore's local music scene. Instead, I wanted to use performing as a way to impact lives and give people something to think about on their drive home. With all of this in my mind, I chose to return to music, and I finished my last two years of university as a music major. At the same time, I completed a few more business courses. If I had managed to cram just one more course in by the time I graduated, I would have also gotten a business minor. What working in my family's business is like After graduation, I came back to Singapore — equally eager and clueless — and my dad offered me a position as his personal assistant. It was a flexible arrangement, one that not only allowed me to get my feet wet on the business side of things, but also to explore musical opportunities. That first year was a year of adjustment for me. I was only 25 years old or so, I had just graduated and I was about to get married. In fact, the next few years was an entire period of transition for me, I think, as I settled into my roles. It was probably strange for my colleagues, too, as they looked at me. They probably thought, "This guy is back. Is he going to have any bright ideas?" I didn't have any bright ideas. I am very grateful as I look back over the years since I graduated — the process took a long time. This year marks my 10th year working, and it was really only in the last four or five years that I really hit my stride. A lot of what I have gained is intangible. One example would be the ability and confidence to stand up to my parents on business matters when necessary. Even reaching this point took time and experience. If I had done this when I was 28, I doubt they would have accepted it. Actually, it can sometimes be very funny. We will have a heated debate in the conference room in front of other people, but then afterwards, we will turn to each other and ask, "Eh, what you want for lunch ah?" We know that family is family, and work is work. And fair is fair. I think that if I did not have the business, I would have pursued something totally different, something not in F&B. I may not have even worked in an SME. To be honest, perhaps I might have worked in government. Even as I think about the what-ifs, I remain very, very grateful for what I have. The business has opened a lot of doors. It has allowed me to maintain a day job while still pursuing other things, such as networking at the business federation, being a member of various boards, and meeting people. Having a plan is good, but hold it loosely Along the way, I obviously picked up a lot of other interests. The business has spawned passions and interests I never knew existed, such as mentorships or using HR as a tool to better people's lives. In addition, I am able to run music CCAs part-time in JCs and secondary schools and use that as an avenue to help guide young people. The fact is that I really enjoy working with students. There is this dynamic about working with them — they are so innocent, and they react so well. There is still that spark of excitement within them. And I share my own story with them. I remind them, "You guys, please don't pick math because you are good at it. You must be very sure you want to be a statistician or a teacher. Don't just say, 'Oh, I'm good at it so I'll go study math.'" I always ask them, "Do you know what do you want do in life or not?" Most of the time, they reply, "Oh, actually, I don't know." So, like I tell my students, put the cart before the horse. First go and explore... find out what kind of job or industry you want to work in. Then choose what you want to study. Don't think to yourself, "I'm good at this subject so I want to study that." I think it is good to have a plan because, of course, you cannot go through life without one. However, if you hold your plans too tightly, then you may not actually enjoy the process. Nor is it certain that you will enjoy the resulting outcome; the reality may be very different from what you had originally projected. It is good to have a plan, but you must also hold it loosely in your hand. Read our interview with Jesher and Adrin Loi, the family founders of Ya Kun, here: Top photo: Enterprise Magazine, via Grace Fu's Facebook page
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It's probably safe to say that most Singaporeans don't enjoy being in the vicinity of bees.But for John Chong, bees are a very large part of his daily life.Before becoming a beekeeper and the founder of BEE AMAZED Garden, one of Singapore's only beekeeping centres, Chong had a 37-year career in Singaporean mainstream education.Chong's teaching career began in 1979 at the now defunct Yung An Primary School, after which he eventually become vice principal at Zhangde and MacPherson Primary Schools.However, a 2015 trip Chong took to Myanmar and India provided him with a new perspective that made him leave all that."After my visit to the two countries, I saw the poverty there. And I thought, well, maybe it's time to give back to the society," he said. "That was the defining moment for me.”Upon his return, Chong gave MOE notice for early retirement and a year later, it was granted to him — Chong retired in December 2016.Unfortunately, that grand plan didn't really pan out — Chong says he wanted to set up a vocational school in Myanmar but that fell through.It wasn't until a chance encounter with some honey made by stingless bees, which Chong described as having a "unique" flavour, was his interest in bees and beekeeping kindled.#career
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/yishun-beekeeper-john/
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It's probably safe to say that most Singaporeans don't enjoy being in the vicinity of bees. If at all, it would either be running away from them screaming, or screaming in secondhand agony while watching wildlife personality Coyote Peterson intentionally sting himself in a perplexing act of masochism: But for John Chong, bees (and being in close contact with many of them) are a very large part of his daily life — he's a beekeeper, and is the founder of BEE AMAZED Garden, one of Singapore's only beekeeping centres. You can count on one hand the number of beekeepers or bee farms found in Singapore, and so one would expect Chong's beekeeping facility to be located basically in the middle of nowhere, like other farms that are often out in far-flung places. We were, therefore, surprised to learn where his bee farm was. A gem tucked away in... Yishun As our Grab driver dropped my colleagues and I off, we stood around uncertainly in front of a large green gate, beyond which we could make out a lush field and large pond. The air was fresh and there were no buildings in sight. Huh, we all thought. Who knew Yishun — which some have called the "Twilight Zone of Singapore" — would contain this hidden gem of nature? There were also no signs to help us decipher if we had arrived at the correct place, but Chong eventually emerges from one end of the grassy compound to greet us. As he leads us to his bee garden, he immediately launches into an animated introduction of the venue — and that's where we discover Ground-Up initiative (GUI), a sustainable kampung-like community of like-minded individuals of which he is part. 37 years as MOE teacher, HOD and vice principal Watching him meander through the garden and point out various trees and the fruits they bear, Chong truly looks at home among nature. Dressed in a pink dry-fit shirt, cargo pants, boots, and a brown cowboy hat he insisted on putting on before our interview, we were hard-pressed to imagine Chong standing in a classroom in a starched collared shirt and tie — but that was precisely what he did at numerous points over a 37-year career in Singaporean mainstream education. Chong's teaching career began in 1979 at the now defunct Yung An Primary School. He worked at numerous schools, and was one of nine Singaporean pioneering teachers who kickstarted the Singapore International School in Hong Kong. He would eventually become vice principal at Zhangde and MacPherson Primary Schools. So why leave all that before he actually has to, and leave for an arguably hazardous job he currently does? Now make no mistake — Chong's passion for teaching is palpable, exclaiming to us immediately, "I love working in schools, I love interacting with students and the teachers!" But a 2015 trip he took to Myanmar and India provided a new perspective. "After my visit to the two countries, I saw the poverty there. And I thought, well, maybe it's time to give back to the society," he said. "That was the defining moment for me." Chong humbly recalls wanting more out of life. "I was a nobody, yet I could make it to the position of vice principal. I thought now that I was reaching the last phase of my life, I wanted to contribute more than just leaving a legacy behind in school. I wanted to help improve the livelihoods of people in Myanmar and India." Upon his return, he gave MOE notice for early retirement (because he needed the ministry's approval to do so as a school leader). And a year later, it was granted to him — Chong retired in December 2016. Now, how did this lead to bees? Unfortunately, that grand plan didn't really pan out — Chong says he wanted to set up a vocational school in Myanmar but that fell through. It wasn't until a chance encounter with some honey made by stingless bees, which Chong described as having a "unique" flavour, was his interest in bees and beekeeping kindled. When his son went to Australia for studies, Chong took the chance to accompany him there. In a bid to learn more about beekeeping, he wrote to 10 local beekeepers seeking career advice. One of the four who responded to him was rearing bees in an interesting setting. "The urban beekeeper told me he keeps his bees in the Central Business District (CBD). And wow! That got me interested, because in Singapore we have a CBD too! All those buildings and banks, even in Orchard Road, maybe I can keep my bees there." A second meeting with a backyard beekeeper — literally, one who keeps his bees in the backyard of his home — in Australia further convinced Chong that this was the career he desired. "Backyard beekeeper" is a title he now gladly adopts. Chong had his first real encounter with bees when assisting the Australian backyard beekeeper with a relocation. He recalls the experience with the enthusiasm of a small child getting a pet for the first time: "My first encounter with bees was truly amazing, even though I was stung twice. The bees managed to sting me on my ear and neck despite the protection [in the form of a bee suit] I had on. I was expecting to die, but I didn't die. No swollen face, no severe allergy, nothing. It just felt like a mosquito bite, but of course slightly more painful. So in my heart, I congratulated myself, 'Yay,' I thought, 'I can be a beekeeper now!'" Other experienced beekeepers Chong contacted in Australia were also greatly encouraging when they heard of Chong's pursuits. Since then, Chong decided to concentrate on his beekeeping efforts in Singapore. He even hired a consultant — a fellow Singaporean beekeeper — to teach him the tricks of the trade. "They told me to 'Just do it!' It's so simple. Just do it. So with that in mind, I just did it. And here I am now." Still a teacher at heart All of Chong's effort has since culminated in BEE AMAZED Garden, which he started in December 2017. But Chong hasn't really left his teaching career behind. Far from being a solo hobby or leisurely pursuit for Chong — he also conducts workshops, basic beekeeping lessons and honey-tasting sessions. On the small plot of land that Chong's garden occupies within the GUI compound, visitors first step into a small, but very well-kept garden. The plants are flourishing, each patch of flowers carefully labelled. This, Chong says, is where his bees collect their pollen and nectar. Beyond that lies a long narrow observation deck from which guests are able to safely observe the rows of beehives he maintains behind a mesh wall. Further down is a sheltered area where Chong conducts his workshops. Rows of seats made from upcycled wooden pallets are arranged in the space, and the walls are decorated with blown up photos of flowers and educational boards depicting the various species of honey bees. As we chat with Chong, I can still see the MOE educator in him shine through — he throws in learning terms like "service excellence" and "value education" when describing the workshops he runs, and peppers his anecdotes with life lessons and simplifying analogies. One can easily imagine him doing the same with students. Chong says as he shows us his hives, which have all been repurposed from other materials: "Be innovative, be creative. We should all 'make something useful out of nothing', that's my tagline." From the larger hives made of wood sitting on benches, to the upcycled wooden pallet seats, and the smaller vertical hives made of recycled bamboo strung up around the area, it's clear Chong takes that adage to heart. Chong adds that caring for bees isn't that different from caring for students. He jokingly adds that the years spent as a teacher had actually prepared him for the job of a beekeeper. "When you're a teacher, you have a class of 40 students. If you're a beekeeper, you have a colony of roughly 10,000 bees. So a colony is like one class of students. In a sense, as an educator, I can relate how I manage my school to how I manage my bees." Befriending the bees BEE AMAZED is not just a passion project — Chong has also embarked on a journey to rid people of the "unnecessary and unfounded" fear of bees. When asked whether his visitors step in with misconceptions of the insects, Chong immediately nods in agreement. "The first misconception is that bees are scary, or out to sting us. But really, it's common sense. As long as we don't provoke or disturb the bees, they'll leave us alone. If we do so, of course we're asking for trouble. That's being foolish." He cites an incident where a bee landed on a visitor but did not sting them. "My very first workshop was to host a school group, and one bee landed on the principal's ear. My heart dropped! But I told the principal to remain calm and not move, and she did, the image of poise and dignity. Luckily, after a few minutes the bee simply flew away. Situations like these really validate the advice I give to people: if you're calm and composed and don't swat the bee, the bee will just fly away." Chong's garden contains 18 hives, colonised by two species of bees: a honey bee species Apis cerana, and stingless bees of the genus Trigona. The larger wooden hives in Chong's garden which house the honeybees are spruced up with colourful paint and drawings of flowers on the side. Every hive, which holds one colony of bees each, has names like Lois, Elizabeth and Hannah painted on the side. Incidentally, they're all female names. The majority of bees, as Chong explains to us, are actually female. All the bees that leave the hive to collect pollen are females, while drones, the male bees, remain within the hive to mate with the queen. "Some people say, "How come you have so many girlfriends?" I say, "No, it's because all the bees are females". So to honour the female bees, I give them female names." It struck me that perhaps the names and decoration of the hives help to personify the bees, even if unintentionally by Chong, by portraying them in a more friendly and personable light. He also calls visitors to the garden "friends of the honeybees". Ultimately, he tells us, bees just want to survive. Whenever bees sting someone, they die — there is thus no good reason to sting anyone unless provoked. The critical and irreplaceable role bees play in ecosystems — even in S'pore For Chong, bees aren't just his livelihood — his love and admiration for them drives him to view them as companions, or even role models we can learn from. "Bees are very good servants, they serve one another since young. They're also so dedicated in pursuit of excellence, and they work so hard and diligently to produce all this honey. And it's more than just producing good honey, it's about the survival of the next generation. They are single minded towards this end. I believe that there's much we can learn from them." Learning aside, bees are actually critical to the environment and our ecosystems, pollinating a large number of flowers, plants and commercial crops like apples, grapes, broccoli and tomatoes. Unfortunately, humanity is in the midst of an insect extinction, with more than 40 per cent of insect species declining, according to The Guardian. Bees are one of those drastically affected. There were a recorded 6 million honeybee colonies in 1947, but that number has dropped to 3.5 million in 2019. Population declines of bees can result in a collapse in the global food production industry. A one-man show Currently, Chong runs his beekeeping business entirely by himself — and that, for him, is the most challenging part. Aside from conducting and hosting workshops and visitors, Chong also helps people who request his help with removing hives from their property. He then safely relocates the hives and transports them to his garden. Chong contends with natural predators as well — he tells us he has lost whole hives to monkeys, ants, and wax moths, whose larvae consume the honeycomb. And yes, his bees do make honey, but he doesn't sell it. Chong’s bees are used solely for education only. Instead, he imports honey from Israel to sell here. We did get to taste the honey Chong imported, and interestingly, various flavours (made when bees collect pollen from varying species of flowers) contained very subtle notes that emerged even to my undiscerning palate. Despite the difficulties of maintaining BEE AMAZED without any help, Chong seems to truly have embraced the job of helping to bridge the gap between bees, misunderstood and yet so critical to the environment, and the general public. "Bees just want to defend themselves and their home, that's why they sting. Right now, Singaporeans are slowly becoming more and more environmentally friendly. I hope to make Singapore bee-friendly again, and maybe in the future, beekeeping will become as common as keeping guppies." Hear more from John himself in this video: If you wish to join one of Chong's workshops to learn more about bees or beekeeping, you can find more information or contact him via his website here . You can also purchase Chong's honey from this website This article was first published in April 2019. Top photos by Angela Lim
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Awfully Chocolate has opened its latest concept — a lounge-like working space — in the CBD (Central Business District).Housed in Capitaland’s community workspace Bridge+, the lounge features drop glass windows that allow natural light to flood the place, as well as an extensive counter of savoury pastries, deserts, and drinks.For those looking to stay for long hours, there's plugs at every table, as well as free wifi.#coworkingspace #singapore #fnb
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/new-awfully-chocolate-lounge-in-cbd-is-a-co-working-space-with-plugs-free-wifi-food-coffee/
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Awfully Chocolate has opened its latest concept — a lounge-like working space — in the CBD (Central Business District). Housed in Capitaland’s community workspace Bridge+, the lounge features drop glass windows that allow natural light to flood the place, as well as an extensive counter of savoury pastries, deserts, and drinks. Packaged chocolate products are available as well: You can also find Sinpopo’s draft coffees and roasted grain cold brew teas here. The menu: Working experience There are different seating arrangements: high seats by the windows, low sofas (more suitable for chilling than working), and the usual tables and chair. (Note: there's a cordoned area, only for Bridge+ members.) For those looking to stay for long hours, there's plugs at every table, as well as free wifi. There's no need to pay to use the space per se, although it's only polite to purchase some food and drinks while you're there. An ongoing promo has selected cakes and hei ice cream going for S$10 in a set. Choose a slice of Nutella tart, salted butterscotch brownie, flourless chocolate cake. An obvious concern is that seating is rather limited, so there's a chance you may not get a seat if it becomes a popular spot. However, a spokesperson for Awfully Chocolate says that they are looking to increase its capacity, while still adhering to safe distancing measures. Awfully Chocolate Bridge+ Address: 79 Robinson Road #02-03, Singapore 068897 Opening Hours: Monday - Friday: 11am to 6pm Closed on Public Holidays Top image by Mandy How
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From Apr. 29, 2021, PayNow users in Singapore and PromptPay users in Thailand will be able to send up S$1,000 or THB25,000 daily.Users will simply need just their phone numbers, and transfers can be made instantly at any time, similar to how PayNow and PromptPay transfers are made.Senders will also be able to view the applicable foreign exchange charges prior to sending their funds.The participating banks in Singapore are currently DBS Bank, UOB, and OCBC Bank.In Thailand, the four banks participating in this linkage are Bangkok Bank, KASIKORNBANK, KTB - Krung Thai Bank, and The Siam Commercial Bank.#banking #paynow #singapore #thailand
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/paynow-thailand-promptpay-transfer/
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From Apr. 29, 2021, PayNow users in Singapore and PromptPay users in Thailand will be able to send up S$1,000 or THB25,000 daily. Transfer with just mobile number This was announced in a joint media release by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Bank of Thailand (BOT). Users will simply need just their phone numbers, and transfers can be made instantly at any time, similar to how PayNow and PromptPay transfers are made. "The transfers will be completed within a matter of minutes, representing a marked improvement over the average of one to two working days needed by most cross-border remittance solutions", the release read. There will be fees for the transfer, though MAS and BOT said that the fees will be "affordably priced" and "transparently displayed to senders prior to confirming their transfers". Senders will also be able to view the applicable foreign exchange charges prior to sending their funds. These rates are benchmarked closely to prevailing market rates. Participating banks The participating banks in Singapore are currently DBS, UOB, and OCBC. In Thailand, the four banks participating in this linkage are Bangkok Bank, Kasikornbank, Krung Thai Bank, and The Siam Commercial Bank. This linkage is the first of its kind globally, and came about from several years of extensive collaboration between MAS and BOT, both countries’ payment system operators, bankers’ associations, and participating banks. These banks have committed to benchmark their fees against the market. Top image via The Association of Banks in Singapore's Youtube video
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"I don't want people to pity me. I'd feel better if people get inspired by me."Mohamed Zahid Bin Mohd Yassin, who was born with spina bifida, was 17 years old when he had to rely on a wheelchair to get around.Now, he runs his own courier business, delivering items across the island at affordable prices.
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/zahid-courier-public-transport/
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It's a Friday afternoon and I'm sitting across from 39-year-old Mohamed Zahid Bin Mohd Yassin in a Starbucks at Waterway Point as he tells me about the courier service that he runs. It is rather unique, compared to most other couriers in Singapore. While other couriers usually utilise motorbikes or trucks to pick up and deliver items around the island, Zahid's mode of couriering exclusively uses the MRT and buses. Oh, and his wheelchair. Zahid, who is a wheelchair user, was born with spina bifida, a condition that occurs along the spine when the neural tube doesn’t form and close, which often results in damage to the spinal cord and nerves. Growing up, he was unable to feel sensation in his legs, but he was still able to walk with the aid of crutches and leg braces. However, when Zahid was 17 years old, his condition began to deteriorate, and he no longer was able to walk using crutches, and began using a wheelchair at his doctor's suggestion. Started own courier business After graduating from ITE College Central, Zahid worked full-time as an admin assistant cum telemarketer and customer service representative. Four years ago, he was falling ill and being hospitalised often due to health issues, which hindered his ability to continue with his full-time work. Eager to still find an alternative way to support himself, Zahid looked around and took inspiration from people who he saw doing deliveries. He decided to start his own business — Ayeed the Courier — delivering small items and packages across the island using only his wheelchair and public transportation. Affordable rates for hand-carried goods Because Zahid does his deliveries using his wheelchair and public transportation, he only delivers items that are not too bulky and can be hand-carried, such as packed food, clothing, and small to medium parcels. He offers both same-day and three-day delivery. For delivery within three days, Zahid charges a flat rate of only S$5 per trip. For same-day delivery, he charges, based on distance; for deliveries of less than 8km, S$6. Between 8km and 10km, it costs S$8. And for deliveries that span more than 18km, Zahid charges S$10. He explains that he decided on his prices after calculating his own costs and seeing what the home-based businesses that he works with needed: "I saw that some of them were really concerned about the high costs charged by [other] delivery services." Plus, he says, he is able to charge less because compared to other courier services that need to pay upkeep and fuel prices for their vehicles, his cost is pretty minimal: "For me, I only depend on buses and trains. So it's less cost for me." But, I ask Zahid, isn't spending hours every day going back and forth across the island tiring for him? He responds frankly, "To be honest, it is tiring. But to me, having an income, [even though] it's not that big, I really feel relief, that I can do something. That I can earn my own income, on my own time and at my own pace." Public transportation has given him independence The public transportation situation has improved greatly since his childhood, Zahid says. Back when he was younger, in order to go anywhere, he was usually dependent on taxis as a main mode of transport. "That's why before accessibility for wheelchairs was implemented on buses and MRTs, my social life was not really active. Mostly I would be staying at home, because I couldn't afford to go anywhere." He thinks back to those days, laughing as he remembers: "During my early years, I hardly go Jurong. That time I stayed Hougang. So I only go Jurong during Hari Raya, so once a year." Only after the North-East Line opened in 2002 did public transport give him the independence to go out on his own, and Zahid says that he is content with the current public transportation system. "Now, this delivery service makes me go Jurong every day, because my clients are mostly there. I can go to any places that I want — even the south, like Marina Bay, I also do deliveries there." Still faces some struggles While the experience of taking public transportation has been greatly empowering for Zahid, he has faced a fair share of challenges throughout his journey: "There's always barriers for us people with disabilities, especially those who are on wheelchairs.” For example, many of us are guilty of getting out of the MRT train and seeing the lift right there, way closer than the escalators, and opting to take the lift instead. So how often does Zahid have to deal with being unable to use the lift because it is crowded with non-wheelchair users? "Daily," he tells me, with the resigned amusement of someone who has found himself in that situation far too many times. At times, he says, people completely ignore his presence. "Sometimes, I say, 'Excuse me, I need the lift. Can you please make way for me?' They don't even bother, they just go up." He has been heartened by some kind — and youthful — commuters, though: "Kids are the ones who ask their parents to take the stairs [and escalators]. They go inside [the lift] already, then they ask, “Mummy, let’s take the stairs. Let’s let this uncle go in." Taking the bus Another struggle for Zahid is crowded buses. Wheelchair users must park their wheelchairs in the wheelchair bay, facing backwards against the padded backrest and with their brakes on for safety reasons, as this minimises the risk of the wheelchair tipping over when the bus is moving. Many of the older buses have only one wheelchair bay, so when the spot is occupied by another wheelchair user, Zahid has no choice but to wait for the next bus. The newer buses rolled out by Land Transport Authority (LTA) since 2018, though, have two wheelchair bays, which allow for two wheelchair users to be safely parked onboard at any given time. Even when there is a wheelchair bay is free, though, sometimes passengers who are standing don't move out of the way for Zahid. "Some of them, I'm already in front of them, but they still can stand there like I'm not visible.” One way to avoid these kinds of situations is for passengers who are standing in a crowded double-decker bus to move to the upper deck instead, if they are physically able to. This then makes room for commuters who need to be on the lower deck, such as wheelchair users like Zahid and seniors. Fostering a caring commuter culture To support commuters who may have conditions that are not as outwardly visible as Zahid's, LTA introduced the "May I have a seat" initiative in 2019. Commuters with less visible health conditions or disabilities who need a seat on public transportation can collect the "May I Have a Seat Please" lanyard and card from the passenger service centres located within MRT stations, bus interchanges, and integrated transport hubs. The lanyard and card can then be displayed to alert fellow commuters that they require a seat, and commuters are encouraged to offer their seat to people wearing it. Commuters are also encouraged to give seats to those who need them more — for example, senior citizens, expectant mothers, and parents with young children. All of these measures to support commuters such as wheelchair users, seniors, and individuals with invisible conditions are part of LTA’s initiative to foster a caring commuting culture, which requires everyone to work together and play their part as part of the community effort. Accessibility features for wheelchair users Over the years, LTA has introduced a variety of features to improve accessibility for wheelchair users like Zahid. The access ramp, which is deployed by the bus captain, enables wheelchair users to board the bus smoothly from the pavement. There are also specially-placed bell push buttons for wheelchair users, which are placed at a lower height for easier reach — either on the horizontal handrail or on the vertical pole. The bells are also programmed with a different sound than the other stop bells, to indicate to the driver that a wheelchair user is getting off at the next stop. Wheelchair users and other commuters can also help signal to the bus captain that a wheelchair user needs the ramp to be deployed by pressing the wheelchair push button at the side of the bus' second door. Be grateful for your mobility "Is there anything you wish that people would know about your experience of being in a wheelchair?", I ask Zahid. "I would tell them that they should be grateful that they still can walk and they are still able to go up the stairs," he responds, without hesitation. He shares: "I, myself, [in these] 39 years, I would want to go up the stairs. If I got the [ability] to walk, I would surely use the stairs more often." "I managed to... but by using the ramp," he jokes good-naturedly. Zahid also asks that people learn to better understand wheelchair users and people with disabilities like him, and to not look at them with pity. "I don't want people to pity me. I'd feel better if people get inspired by me." This sponsored article is brought to you by the Caring SG Commuters Committee. Stories of Us is a series about ordinary people in Singapore and the unique ways they’re living their lives. Be it breaking away from conventions, pursuing an atypical passion, or the struggles they are facing, these stories remind us both of our individual uniqueness and our collective humanity. Top photos via Facebook / Zarina Jaffar and courtesy of Zahid. Some quotes have been edited for clarity.
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“If there’s anything I’ve learnt after changing four jobs in two years and gaining a new job in the next, is that a job that matches your skill sets and having an employer who is willing to invest in you are key in finding a company that is the right fit.After all, some industries can be an extremely cutthroat and unforgiving place for many graduates like me, who may have to start from ground zero and learn everything from scratch.”Our writer shares her experience of not knowing what to do after graduating and what she has learnt after changing four jobs in two years.Workforce Singapore#recruitment #jobs
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/wsg-mcf-career/
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If you had told me as an undergraduate that I’d be working for Mothership just two years after graduation, I’d have stared at you in disbelief and asked, “Why?” Like so many Arts students in their final year of University, I was a bumbling 23-year-old who had no clue what I wanted to do in life. Four years of studying English literature at the tertiary level had equipped me with critical thinking skills, a heightened awareness of different cultures and insightful knowledge about the human condition, but it had also left me reeling from the occupational uncertainties of a general degree. While teaching seemed like the most obvious path (for my degree) after graduation, I wasn’t sure if I had enough heart, skill, or grit to take on the responsibility of nurturing our nation’s future. On the other hand, writing seemed like a plausible idea. I had always enjoyed writing as much as I had enjoyed reading, but the sheer amount of practice needed to hone the craft had always daunted me. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and nobody becomes a writing maestro overnight. (And as an English major trained to write prosaic, long-form essays, delving into the world of commercial writing seemed like an unfamiliar, mammoth task.) Job experimentation and carving a path Confronting these fears, my first job post-graduation was an internship with a travel writing company. I saw this internship as a way of building up my writing portfolio after having done some freelance writing while I was still studying. With little to no industry experience, my first month at the company was an immense struggle. On top of having to re-write copy, pitch ideas for organic articles, do research on places of interest and write sponsored material about things I had never even experienced before, I was expected to work like a machine. I was overwhelmed by the pace at work, and constantly felt like quality was compromised for quantity’s sake. My editor sensed that I couldn’t cope, and gave me the option of cutting short my internship. Heavy hearted and with no clue as to what I would embark on next, I accepted her offer. A month later, I found a job at an enrichment centre for toddlers and lower-primary children. I saw this as a way to “test the waters” to see if teaching was a possible career option for me, before considering applications to NIE. Located in the heart of Bukit Timah and downtown Newton, many of the kids who attended this enrichment centre were from upper-class families. My role as a teacher required me to train them in cognitive skills aimed at improving their emotional intelligence, concentration and resilience. Interacting with the children was fun, but I constantly felt inadequate at work because of my lack of expertise and relevant qualifications. As monthly fees were expensive and parents were demanding, I was also under intense pressure to deliver the results they wanted. And just a month and two weeks after work started, I was let go with a remark from my boss that a different industry would suit me better. Falling hard and learning where my strengths lie Over the next eight months, I tried my hand as a social media manager and junior copywriter at two different advertising agencies. At the first advertising agency I worked at, employees were expected to do more than their job scope for minimal pay, and any lapses in performance stuck out like a sore thumb. Unlike more technical industries where formulas can be memorised, adapted and applied to arrive at given results, the advertising industry also prizes innovation and conceptual creativity (in addition to meeting deadlines and client expectations) - skills that are not guaranteed even with practice or experience. As copywriting is a craft that requires brevity, wit and precision, I also learnt that being a good writer doesn’t always translate. Things weren’t much better at the second advertising agency I worked at either. I remember wading through a cesspit of ad annuals to come up with more than 100 different headline options for three key visuals, only for my managing director to reject close to all of them. Pitching ideas and receiving feedback from my creative director was also like being savagely critiqued by Michael Kors on Project Runway. Due to the lack of guidance and training, my stints at both advertising agencies ended after I was let go within a smattering of months. Before parting, my managing director also told me that my strengths lay more in editorial writing, and that I should consider a career in that direction. Job compatibility and finding the right fit And so when Mothership offered me an opportunity to join the company after I had applied for the position of a writer in the beginning of 2019, I was flattered but doubtful. Would I again fail to meet expectations? Would this be yet another sinking ship? After all, I had at the same time received a job offer from the SCDF for the position of a communications executive, and was torn about having to choose between the two. On one hand, a job in the public sector seemed like the wiser alternative given my failures in the private sector thus far. On the other hand, a job at Mothership felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that may never come by again. After voicing concerns about my past struggles and my own personal limitations, as well as assurance from my boss and managing editor, I decided to accept the offer to work at Mothership. Thankfully, the company was willing to train me on the job, and I have never looked back ever since. If there’s anything I’ve learnt after changing four jobs in two years and gaining a new job in the next, is that a job that matches your skill sets and having an employer who is willing to invest in you are key in finding a company that is the right fit. After all, some industries can be an extremely cutthroat and unforgiving place for many graduates like me, who may have to start from ground zero and learn everything from scratch. Use MyCareersFuture as a job and career resource portal If, like me in the past, you are a fresh graduate who has no idea what you want to do in your career or first job, fret not. MyCareersFuture (MCF) is here to address all your job and/or industry-related questions so that you’ll be able to make a wiser decision when it comes to applying for one. Unlike how I had to fumble through job after job looking for one that’s the right fit, MCF will suggest job roles that are suitable for you and your skill sets. There are also self-help articles and virtual career fairs to further facilitate your job search journey. Based on what other people like you have applied for on the portal, MCF will also help you search and apply for relevant jobs that you may not have considered before. Depending on your needs and wants, there are even filters for the following criteria: Type of employment Minimum salary Job level Job locations Government support You’ll also be able to sign up for career coaching services that will help you identify where your strengths lie and advise you on how to plan a career path for yourself - something that I will definitely keep in mind. To get personalised access to the latest career tips and advice sent straight to your inbox, join WSG’s mailing list here. This sponsored article by WSG gave this writer a chance to look back and ruminate on her past working experiences. Image via Lucas law on Unsplash
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For 17-year-old Fadtris Isa, his definition of unwinding is to go sim-racing with friends.The e-sport involves a computer simulation where a realistic race is replicated on a game console, down to the minute details like grip and tyre behaviour.Considering the racing game series "Gran Turismo" as one of his favourites, Fadtris started playing these games casually when he was eight years old.But it was only in 2019 when he decided to take it more seriously and played competitively.In 2020, Fadtris joined the LOR Online Season 2020 and emerged as part of the top five in the league.Having seen the potential in him, Legion of Racers (LOR), an international team of e-sports athletes from Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines, recruited him to join the team.#esports
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/fadtris-isa-sim-racer-interview/
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As a Singaporean (former) teenager, my very interesting hobbies included taking a nap and listening to music. But for 17-year-old Fadtris Isa, his definition of unwinding is to go drifting with friends. For obvious reasons, Fadtris does not have a driver's license yet. But before you report him to the traffic police, he's only ever driven and drifted on sim-racing games. The "sim" in "sim-racing" and "sim-racer" is short for "simulated". The e-sport involves a computer simulation where a realistic race is replicated on a game console, down to the minute details like grip and tyre behaviour. Joined sim-racing team at 16 And it seems like Fadtris is pretty good at it, since he has been signed on as a sim-racer with Legion of Racers (LOR), an international team of e-sports athletes from Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines. At 17, he is one of the youngest LOR members, who range from 12 to 28 years old. Making it into the team, however, came as a complete surprise to Fadtris. Considering the racing game series "Gran Turismo" as one of his favourites, he started playing these games casually when he was eight years old. But it was only in 2019 when he decided to take it more seriously and played competitively. In 2020, he joined the LOR Online Season 2020 and emerged as part of the top five in the league. Having seen the potential in him, LOR recruited him to join the team. This event holds a special place in his heart, partly because the conversation between him and LOR's general manager Jon Low started casually in a fast food restaurant. Letting out a small laugh, he recalled: "Jon actually invited me out for dinner at Burger King after my one-hour racing session [in the studio]!" Jokes aside, he remembered feeling a cocktail of emotions, mainly joy and anxiety. "I was quite anxious [after being recruited], actually. Even though I achieved good results in the online competition, I don't know how I would stack up against my other teammates." Practises twice a week in studio In a bid to up his standards, Fadtris began to put in more hours into his craft. He would practice at LOR's Xperience Studio at least twice a week. putting in about two hours just to familiarise himself with the track and to get the right set up for his car. The training doesn't end there, though. Occasionally, he would have his own practice sessions at home, where he has his own sim-racing rig. As he beamed with pride, Fadtris told us that he owns a second-hand rig which he bought at around S$550 using three years' worth of his Hari Raya green packet savings. Gaining parents' support Now, the Asian in you probably wondered if his parents ever nagged at him for spending what some would consider "too much time" on games. Especially since he joined LOR the same year he was due to take his O-Level examinations. (Fun fact: The LOR Online Season 2020 where he was scouted ran between June and September that year. Meanwhile, some of Fadtris's major O-Level examinations took place in September as well.) Breaking into a little laughter, the first year game and interactive media design student from Republic Polytechnic sheepishly said: "They did nag at me a bit and said 'Eh Fadtris, stop playing your games and go study lah.' But, I mean, I did get through the O-Levels in the end. They did get frustrated with me but after I signed the contract with LOR, they realised it was a serious thing and began to acknowledge my talents." Passion runs in the family However, what most people don't know is that it was actually his father that kickstarted his passion for cars. Not spared from the love of cars is also Fadtris's older brother Faris, who now specialises in making miniature car models for collectors. Growing up, they would look forward to following his father to workshops to feast his eyes on cars, citing "really old Mazdas and Nissans" as his favourites. On rare occasions, he would be given the opportunity to do "small things" like washing the car and changing the oil. Despite his initial apprehension towards Fadtris' sim-racing career, Fadtris' father has become more supportive after getting to know a little more about the e-sport. The 17-year-old said, "I brought my dad to the studio the other day and let him have a go at one of the rigs. Previously, he didn't want to try it [Fadtris's rig] at home. But after that day, I accidentally spotted him playing a game on my rig!" First endurance race In Jan. 2021, Fadtris was part of a three-man team for the ERGP Endurance Series. The endurance race is 12 hours long, which meant that each driver would have to drive for four hours before swapping to the next driver. To say it was a memorable experience is an understatement for Fadtris. Wincing as he told us about his first-ever race as part of LOR, he shared that the team was steadily treading at the fifth position out of more than 40 other cars — a great feat for a relatively new team, we must add. Alas, 30 minutes before the end of the race, the car disconnected and they unfortunately weren't able to finish the race. As he shrugged his shoulders, he said: "I guess that [disconnecting from online races] is one of the weakest links of sim-racing. But taking that into consideration, it was a pretty good experience for us rookies." Small, supportive community Prior to reading this article, you've probably never heard of sim-racing before, which is a testament to how small the community really is. Though some may see it as an setback, Fadtris sees it as a big opportunity, especially when he gets direct support from people on the ground and as a means to form a strong bond with his local and international teammates. "Without the connection [we have] between us, we won't be able to communicate as well as we do now on the track. It makes practice more enjoyable, knowing we can joke around. I can't imagine having it any other way with my teammates." The new kid on the block may be relatively young, but he has big ambitions ahead of him. "Being the Singapore number one [in sim-racing] is on my bucket list but I'm still a long, long way from that." Top image courtesy of Fadtris Isa and Legion of Racers.
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#LessonsOnLeadership: Richard Eu, non-executive chairman of Eu Yan Sang, helmed the company his great-grandfather started between 1989 and 2017, defying naysayers who dismissed TCM as a sunset industry and raising it to today's success."I know nothing! I think I'm good at organising things together, people, whatever it is, and I always assumed I know the least, so we try and work as a team. And you have to employ people who are smarter than you. If you don't do that, you can't progress."
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/lessons-on-leadership-richard-eu-eu-yan-sang-interview/
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One would expect that a person who has lived all of 74 years will have learned a good few things, attained a good few things and be in a comfortable place to share advice and sagely wisdom from their extensive life experience. Richard Eu (the Second), however, does not understand why I am seeking any of this from him. We're sitting at a small table straddling a sliding door at the close of lunch hour at P.S. Café at Raffles City for our conversation, which he walked to from a lunch at Raffles Hotel clad in a casual polo T-shirt and worn-in jeans. "I really don't think I am a success or have attained success," he says to me more than once. He has a great deal to be proud of, though — since joining Eu Yan Sang in 1989 as general manager, he consolidated the business's fragmented shareholdings, merged the businesses in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, wrested back majority stake in the consolidated company for the family, and got it listed on and eventually delisted from the Singapore Stock Exchange. Not to mention his real and lasting achievement: making traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) accessible, even strengthened through scientific research, to a non-traditional Westernised public tired of Big Pharma and Western drugs. Eu can certainly be credited for turning the average person's impression of TCM from dark, dusty halls lined with unmarked powders and unidentified animal parts sitting in jars to what it is today: carefully harvested, hygienically prepared, dried, boiled, pounded and measured out, portioned into convenient serving amounts for immediate or almost-immediate consumption. And with Eu Yan Sang cemented effectively as one of the largest TCM brands in Asia, Eu handed the reins over to Eu Yan Sang's current chief executive Aaron Boey in 2017, the first time that the leadership of Eu Yan Sang will be placed in outside hands, stepping back to become the non-executive Chairman. A law degree that led to investment banking, stockbroking, computer distribution & retail For all that he accomplished, it's fascinating also to learn that the scion grandson of legendary businessman Eu Tong Sen wasn't always planning to join the family business — although the varied jobs he took over the years would end up setting him up perfectly for leadership and the skills he needed in Eu Yan Sang. His law degree, to begin with, was something he got just for the purpose of having a degree behind his name, "because that was important in those days". Nor does he think of himself as smart even though he managed to get a place in law school at the University of London. "I don't think it was brains. I didn't have to study very hard. I just studied to pass; I wasn't looking to be a fantastic court lawyer or whatever. I just wanted to get a degree and be done with it." Another reason he read law, on his father's advice, was because there was no business degree course offered in the UK at the time. "It didn't really matter (which discipline I did) but it opened a door lah. If you have a law degree, it's easier to get a job. I went into investment banking. It's either law or accountancy, generally speaking." To be fair, he wasn't wasting his time while studying either — Eu says he was always interested in business, and his enterprising spirit led him to cart whatever European fashion he could carry back to Singapore to resell, as well as electronics and Seiko watches on his return trips to the UK to sell to his classmates. In his final year, he invested in a Chinese takeaway food kiosk business with some friends, even working at the kiosks in his spare time for the better part of two years before he returned to Singapore and it collapsed, bringing down his and his partners' investments with it. "The microwave technology wasn't good (at the time). It affected the quality of the food prepared because it was soggy." Why investment banking after a law degree? "It's where the money was," he says simply, although at the back of his mind he did recognise that he was looking for opportunities that would help him in doing business in the future. It was probably this subconscious motivation, therefore, that drove him to his career moves in his early working years — he would only join Eu Yan Sang at the age of 42. These included helping two of his uncles with their businesses, one of which was the corporate turnaround of a flagging computer distribution company, as well as a consulting stint with Metro, where he learned about retail — this would prove to be key in unlocking Eu Yan Sang's potential. "I hate to be told I can't do something" One thing that definitely fuelled Eu's success in innovating the way TCM is produced, prepared, packaged and sold is his conviction to a contrarian approach and manner of thinking. This came into play with Eu Yan Sang in the late 1980s, at a time of TCM being dismissed as a sunset industry. "I didn't think it (TCM) was sunset at all. I had a totally contrarian view to everyone else. And so to a large extent you have to believe. You have to have that conviction." And what was Eu's conviction at the time? That TCM can, and will succeed and thrive, and can be sold to the modern seeker of healing as long as it is packaged for him or her. "So I think you've got to look. I don't know how you explain this, but you look at things and you question yourself. Why? Why is this business successful? Why are they different? Why is selling a McDonald's hamburger so successful? And other hamburger places are not...Why is that, you know? It's not just the product itself. I think there's a time and place for everyone... But when you look at corporate life cycles it's always there. So the question for us in Eu Yan Sang is, is it really a total sunset or is there an S-curve, right? Is there a way to bring it out? So what I thought was that because the Westerners were moving against Big Pharma and were going into more natural remedies and things like that. I thought, you know, the Westerners are doing this. We are copying the West all the time... We have a much deeper knowledge of natural remedies than any Westerners." And how did he know this or decide that this view he had, that nobody else shared, would prevail? Gut feel, he says, although perhaps decision-making can now be informed by analytics and data too. "You can also analyse everything till the cows come home but there's nothing in the analytical process that tells you when to act. But I think I may be wrong. Nowadays, with big data, there's a lot of insights that you might be able to glean from consumer research, maybe. Back then it wasn't so straightforward, so you just had to use a lot of gut feel. I mean you can use your big data, your analytics to help reinforce your feelings about something. Or it might tell you not to do something." Learning to let go, and dealing with emotions Now that Eu has stepped back from active leadership of Eu Yan Sang — this will be his fourth year in retirement from the CEO role — I must admit he does sound reflective and wistful in our conversation. He admits candidly that he continues to work through his own emotions that come from the process of transitioning the company he built up from family- to professionally-managed. "So for example, how your staff are being treated — back in the day when you were a family-run and family-owned and run business, you tend to take a more paternalistic approach. When you're professionally run, it's a bit more objective and not so personal. In a family-type situation, you can afford to be more forgiving. But you also are held to different standards of behaviour. So, for example, the behaviour of people towards each other. In both family and non-family situations, how a manager behaves towards co-workers reflects on that person’s value system. However I believe a family member will be held to higher standards of behaviour and should behave accordingly. Hopefully, this behaviour sets the corporate culture as well when family-owned companies transition into professional management." He acknowledges, however, that the difference lies in where one comes from in managing the business. Also, as one of numerous shareholders, Eu believes that he does need to step back and let go, particularly in areas where not everyone is in agreement with him about how things should be done. "I take the attitude that you've got to be able to disengage, right? So we've got to determine that if if something makes you unhappy, what is it? If it is some sort of attachment that you have which is not rational, it's purely emotional. Always question whether it's right to feel this emotion. This is from the point that you are supposed to let it go, you let other people manage it and so on. So at that point, how much detachment should there be? 100 per cent? Yeah, if it's 100 per cent, why am I feeling emotional? I should not. Then I'm wrong." The most important thing about managing a business? How you treat your people It's also quite remarkable and refreshing to me, the number of times Eu says he is wrong or knows little about things — a reflection of the humility and the realistic perspective he has toward the positions he holds on matters. "I know nothing! I think I'm good at organising things together, people, whatever it is, and I always assumed I know the least, so we try and work as a team. And you have to employ people who are smarter than you. If you don't do that, you can't progress." This humility, in my view at least, extends also to his management style. He remarks that his preference is to work in smaller-sized companies generally, and having been used to running Eu Yan Sang as a family business, he feels he was perhaps more forgiving than people in a larger, more professionally-run outfit might be used to. "We always try to find reason for people to stay in the company beyond just how much we pay them. How you treat your people matters because I think if you have a good working environment, people will not leave so easily even if they are offered more pay elsewhere. Because I don't believe that people work only for pay. If that's all they're working for, then let them go." Eu says that in the years he was at the helm, he stood guided by Eu Yan Sang's values of trust and integrity in managing his staff. "You've got to be straight with your staff, basically; that's how I did it. It's not easy to do sometimes, it's very difficult, but I think you have to treat everybody with dignity and respect, you know, especially your staff. Then if there's mutual respect, it's easier to have even the difficult conversations, you know, and that's how I did it." On top of these: doing the right thing by people. "I think that's very important. I think one also needs a sense of what's right and wrong — I think it's important, to instil in children as well. A strong moral compass." And what do years of experience give? Speed in decision-making Another big takeaway from my conversation with Eu is that even though he doesn't feel like he is a success or has attained it, one of his motivators is to find ways to help people — hence, perhaps, his decision to share his lessons and values with me as well. "I don't think I'm that successful, and I just try to lead my life the way I think it should be led. I think that's really it, you know... I try to think about other issues, as to how to help people as well. So it's hard for me to say no to people, generally, especially if they need help. And that's one of my failures, maybe. But it's quite fulfilling." And while he confesses he struggles to grasp the next big things the world will have to grapple with, such as cryptocurrencies and blockchain, one thing he does feel older people like him have an advantage in, though, is the ability to make decisions more speedily. "I think it's something you learn over time, that you try to make decisions as quickly as possible. So it's not to hold back. And I find that with experience, you can make decisions faster. You get it, you comprehend the problem, you grasp the problem. And you can decide quicker. That's the benefit of experience. And that's the benefit of actually learning from experience. Mistakes, too, both good and bad. This is where the old guys have a bit of advantage over young guys, if the old guys have been able to learn from it." Changing the landscape of an industry, and not feeling a thing Finally, I had to ask — how does it feel, looking back on all that you've achieved? Long pause. Eu then says he hopes that the company, at least, will be recognised for changing the landscape of the TCM industry. "When you're in it, you don't feel a thing actually. I don't feel it, and I'm astounded that people might feel that. It's very hard for me, I can't be objective about that. So yeah, I hear what people say; I take it with a pinch of salt. Don't ever believe everything people say about you. But I do feel that we have made a change in our industry, so I think it's good." Lessons on Leadership is a Mothership series about the inspiring stories of Singapore’s business leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as the lessons and values we can learn from their lived experiences. Stay tuned for our next interview with Lyn Lee, founder of Awfully Chocolate, out later this month. Top photo by Lauren Choo
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Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) currently make up the majority of the Singaporean workforce at about 60 per cent.As Singapore ages, these workers experience a relatively new phenomenon of feeling disadvantaged, according to Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng.Ng cited an opinion piece written by Tommy Koh in the Straits Times about ageism, and the difficulties older workers face in finding jobs.To help close the PME gap, NTUC is formulating a set of recommendations, together with partners in the Singapore National Employers Federation(SNEF), which will be surfaced to the government later this year.Ng said one idea that emerged from discussions with the PMEs was the possibility of "ring-fencing" certain jobs for locals.He cited the example of jobs in the Human Resources (HR) sector, as they do not require specific technology that locals don't have, and it requires skills that Singaporeans are good at.#jobs #singapore
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/ng-chee-meng-pme-help-ring-fence/
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When the nature of work itself is changing, the labour movement needs to change with it. Even as the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) marks the 60th anniversary of its founding in 2021, Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng is observing current global trends that signal — in his view — the need to evolve. "60 years of nation-building in partnership, essentially with the PAP government throughout. By all measures, Singapore has succeeded, I think way beyond what our forefathers could have imagined. And the journey has been a fruitful one, in the symbiotic relationship with the PAP throughout. But even as we are succeeding, the world is changing around us with all the different geostrategic changes and the power balance, even the economic model of globalisation that created so much wealth in the world is now changing because of the inequalities." Ng elaborated that Singapore's demographic profile has shifted rapidly since independence, from a youthful population to a rapidly-ageing one. By 2030, according to current trends, there will be just 2.1 workers supporting each retiree, a steep contrast from the 5.6 figure in 2015, the same year that Ng entered politics. "Understanding this is critical, not just for NTUC's success, but very importantly to be relevant to the new working class of Singapore," he added. PMEs feeling disadvantaged Ng noted that Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) currently make up the majority of the Singaporean workforce at about 60 per cent. As Singapore ages, these workers experience a relatively new phenomenon of feeling disadvantaged. Ng cited an opinion piece written by Tommy Koh in the Straits Times about ageism, and the difficulties older workers face in finding jobs. In the past, the older workers were the rank-and-file while the PMEs were the young up-and-comers. So NTUC previously did not represent the PME workers as much, and a gap formed. Going forward, NTUC will therefore look to close that gap and "champion" the PME cause. Moves have already been made, with Labour Member of Parliament Patrick Tay tasked to head a PME taskforce, which have conducted comprehensive surveys with some 8,000 PME workers in the past few months. Recommendations To help close that PME gap, NTUC is formulating a set of recommendations, together with partners in the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), which will be surfaced to the government later this year. Ring-fencing certain jobs for local PMEs Ng said one idea that emerged from discussions with the PMEs was the possibility of "ring-fencing" certain jobs for locals. "Are there certain jobs in our economy that we can put some ring-fencing around to allow our local PMEs to be the first call?" he said. He cited the example of jobs in the Human Resources (HR) sector, as they do not require specific technology that locals don't have, and it requires skills that Singaporeans are good at. "I thought that was a pretty interesting idea we got from the discussions, and we'll look seriously at how we can refine the thinking, and suggest maybe in time to come, think about certain possibilities in protecting Singaporean PME jobs where we have the skills, and (hand the) advantage to local applicants." In response to a question from Mothership about whether this could potentially hurt competitiveness in certain sectors, Ng said there must be a balance between the macro policy aim of economic growth, and the micro perspective of protecting local workers. "This is a very delicate balance, and at this stage, we don't want to (jump in) and impose a law," he said. "We have to be very selective and careful to make sure we do not deprive ourselves of the best talents that can bring value to Singapore, but at the same time, take care of our local PMEs." Ng elaborated that in sectors where certain skills are needed, such as high-tech, companies can utilise the Capability Transfer Programme to bring in overseas talent to help local workers gain necessary skills. But in other areas, like HR, Ng said he is "reasonably persuaded" that ring-fencing could work. Collaboration with employers HR practitioners can also work with NTUC to implement the Fair Consideration Framework and help to reduce any possible unfair treatment against PMEs. "We are not adverse (to) taking these steps further," added Ng, again referring to Tommy Koh's suggestion to make age discrimination illegal. While Ng agrees with Koh that such an option should be viewed as a last resort, workers might be interested in the NTUC's ability to help shape legislation through the efforts of Labour Members of Parliament. Still, Ng favours collaboration with employers first, before going to the "extreme" of mandatory laws to afford employment opportunities for PMEs. Working with government to create favourable economic conditions In response to a question from Mothership about Tan See Leng's recent appointment as Manpower Minister (taking over on May 15), Ng said that "See Leng and I interact every week" and added that he thinks they are "like-minded" in matters affecting labour. However, he also has due considerations for the incoming Minister for Trade and Industry (Gan Kim Yong) to make sure the macro economy is well-positioned for growth. "Without good growth in the economy, it would mean that our businesses will not have better profitability. If there's no better profitability, my interests as Sec-Gen and my workers is that there will be no better wages." He said he intends to work with them and also the government to create favourable economic conditions. NTUC Income can help PMEs in transition As NTUC Income is an affiliated organisation, Ng mentioned the possibility of having it providing support for PMEs in transition. He recounted how the PMEs that NTUC reached out to spoke of the need for support during transition periods, such as after retrenchment or while PMEs are upgrading their skills, where they need additional support. NTUC Income could therefore help such workers, whether the support comes government or NTUC, to get the assistance they need. NTUC in a better position to help its members, Ng urges more workers to join However, Ng reminded his audience, that NTUC can only represent the PMEs if they choose to join up. "If I have no members, I cannot represent you in the company, I cannot represent you legally," he said. Many of these initiatives are not available to non-members. Right now, NTUC represents about 30 per cent of the Singapore workforce. In response to a question from the media, about his target to reach 1.5 million members by 2030, Ng said that the likelihood of reaching 1 million soon is "very high" and NTUC is on track to reach its target by 2030. In response to a question from Mothership, Patrick Tay shared that he has met workers who told him that they were discouraged from joining NTUC as a member because "their HR wouldn't like it." However, Tay pointed out there's a misconception between membership and representation. While representation has some legal considerations, membership is open to every worker, with even some CEOs joining NTUC as members. Top image by Karen Lui.
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Every morning, 55-year-old Linda New Suat Kien sets off to a market near her home to get fresh chicken which she cooks and sells from her house.Although operating a home-based business is not easy, New perseveres for the sake of her two grandkids.New started Linda's Kitchen in April 2020 after she couldn't find a job which allows her the flexibility of caring for her two grandchildren — currently aged nine and five.The kids' father — New's younger son — is currently in jail for drug-related offences. Their mother, a Thai national, returned to her home country two years ago.New also has an older son who recently came out of a halfway house and works in a bicycle shop in Redhill.Today, New sells curry chicken and baked-to-order butter cakes at Linda's Kitchen, to support the family.New ultimately hopes that she and her sons can one day operate a small hawker stall together, selling curry chicken and other foods."I've never given up on my sons...No matter how bad they are, I cannot bear to give up. I will never give up on them because I hope that one day, they will come back."#homebusiness
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/lindas-kitchen-curry-chicken-bukit-panjang/
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Editor's note: Due to overwhelming demand for New's butter cakes and chicken curry, she requested that readers only order through the Google form. She also asked that customers be patient as she would need some time to fulfil all of the orders. Every morning, 55-year-old Linda New Suat Kien sets off to a market near her home to get fresh chicken. New buys her poultry there so often that she and her butcher have established a routine: She would drop him a WhatsApp message the day before, to reserve the chicken parts she wants. The next day, the bag of chicken will be waiting for her at the butcher's stall. She insists on buying fresh chicken daily for the chicken curry which she cooks and sells from her house. It just doesn't taste the same when you use frozen chicken, she says in Mandarin. Her chicken curry is very popular among her customers and they keep coming back for it, says the soft-spoken but earnest woman. The rempah (spice paste) for the curry is made from scratch, and cooking is done in small batches so that the curry is not left sitting around for a long time. New's kitchen is also stocked with not one but three small ovens, because her butter cakes (S$25 each) are selling like hotcakes — up to 20 cakes per week, helped by kind folks who buy in bulk to give away. Her baked-to-order butter cakes are devoid of the icing and personalised messages that are quite trendy today, but are very rich thanks to the better quality Golden Churn butter that she uses. A customer of Linda's told Mothership that her butter cake is "fluffy, soft, and the buttery taste just lingers in the mouth after eating". Toils at her small home business for her grandchildren Operating a home-based business is not easy, but New perseveres for the sake of her two grandkids. New started Linda's Kitchen in April 2020 after she couldn't find a job which allows her the flexibility of caring for her two grandchildren — currently aged nine and five. The kids' father — New's younger son — is currently in jail for drug-related offences. Their mother, a Thai national, returned to her home country two years ago. New also has an older son who recently came out of a halfway house and works in a bicycle shop in Redhill. And so the responsibility of caring for the young children has fallen squarely on New's shoulders. This has made it almost impossible for the grandmother to find a full-time job outside. She says: "I do mention that I need flexible working arrangements whenever I go for interviews, but they usually tell me that if there's no one else to look after my grandchildren, it's quite difficult for them to hire me even though they really want to give me the job." As many parents would know, caring for young children is a full-time job in itself, requiring plenty of time, energy, and money invested. New shares that her five-year-old grandson recently recovered from a bout of bronchitis that was brought on by drinking too much cold water. "He's better now because I brewed Chinese medicine for him." Her nine-year-old granddaughter, on the other hand, was diagnosed with dyslexia and requires specialised coaching, which the Kids Testing and Dyslexia Centre, an intervention centre, offers to her for free, thankfully. Was a single mother since 22 In a strange turn of events, it seems like history is repeating itself. In 1988, New lost her husband to kidney failure. Widowed at the tender age of 22, she was left to raise her two sons on her own. At the time, her elder son was four, while the younger one was just five months old. "I was devastated initially, and I didn't know what to do. But I told myself that I had to be strong and face the reality that my husband was gone; he couldn't come back again." The mother took on several odd jobs: cooking and delivering pig's trotter vinegar for new mothers who were in their confinement periods, and even washing clothes. "I would go over to people's houses to wash their clothes at 5am and return home before my sons woke up at 7am. Before I left the house, I would lock all the windows and doors. No choice lah, since I had no one to help me take care of them." When her sons were older, New started looking for jobs outside. For 16 years, she worked as a printing shop "auntie" at a secondary school before she went on to cook lunches for students at a childcare centre. For a brief period of time, she even tried being a hawker at a Pasir Panjang coffeeshop, selling her chicken curry alongside several small dishes. Unfortunately, the human traffic there was so low, New had to close down her business after a few years. "My journey these past 30-odd years has been extremely difficult," she says, musing that her absence in her sons' lives might have pushed them into the open arms of gangs and drugs, and subsequently, multiple jail sentences. Grateful for the kindness of people Difficult journey aside, New is thankful for the benefactors who came her way, like a law firm which represented her sons when they were charged in court. The firm charged her "very little" and gave her the option of paying in instalments, says New. A Taiwanese woman in Singapore — whom New had never met — bought new bags, clothes, and shoes for New's grandchildren after she heard about the family's plight. "It's thanks to the kindness of people like this that we only need to buy clothes during Chinese New Year." New ultimately hopes that she and her sons can one day operate a small hawker stall together, selling curry chicken and other foods. Her younger son, she lets on, used to work as an assistant in a Western food stall, and he can make a pretty good bowl of mushroom soup. "I've never given up on my sons...No matter how bad they are, I cannot bear to give up. I will never give up on them because I hope that one day, they will come back." If you would like to order chicken curry or butter cakes from Linda's Kitchen, you can fill up this Google form. Top images by Joshua Lee, Linda New. Interview was conducted in Mandarin.
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“I felt like I had my identity stripped off, you know it was my face, I would look in the mirror and I would not understand what happened, I would not recognise myself.”In Oct. 2020, a pot of oil meant for deep frying donuts exploded, and Charlene Chew suffered third-degree burns to her face, neck and shoulders.Here's the story of how Chew has risen above the trauma and loss of identity, and has managed to find some meaning in her life since the accident.#motivation #inspiration
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/burn-survivor-charlene-chew/
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Like any other millennial-slash-Generation Z individual these days, I was scrolling through TikTok in the wee hours of the morning, fingers on automatic, swiping up through a mind-numbing combination of comedy skits, relationship advice and life hacks. That was until the platform's algorithm fed me with a viral video that had garnered a whopping 12 million views and nearly three million likes. It was a montage showing a young woman's struggle with what appeared to be burns on her face, interspersed with clips of her working out at the gym. The individual clips were clearly shot at various points in time throughout her recovery, and the video ends off with her confidently smiling at the camera. I noticed that the hashtags on the video read #burnsurvivor and #tiktoksg and was jolted out of my daze — considering the rarity for videos featuring people from our little red dot to blow up on an international platform, this was a big deal. Realising that she was likely a Singaporean, I tabbed through her videos — most of which documented her process of recovery — and marvelled at the tenacity and confidence she displayed. I was determined to find out more about her story. Pot of oil exploded on her face When Charlene Chew first walks in, the healing scars on her face are barely noticeable from afar. Only up close, does one notice the irregular skin that spreads across her forehead, nose and cheeks. Despite appearing bubbly and friendly, the 23-year-old remains nervous in front of the camera and bright lights — a slight contrast from the self-assured woman talking straight to the camera on TikTok. At our behest, Chew soon lapses into a slow and measured recount of the life-altering event that took place in October last year. While deep frying donuts at her Melbourne home, her then-boyfriend forgot to turn off the stove, and the pot of oil was thus left boiling on the stovetop (for the length of a Netflix episode, she said). Chew was completely unaware of the impending mishap until the house started to fill up with smoke. Rushing over to the kitchen, she removed the pot of oil from the stove, placed it in the sink, and unthinkingly, turned on the faucet — "And yeah, oil and water don't go together," Chew said. Recalling that particular moment when the oil exploded onto her face and parts of her neck and shoulder, she said the pain was "indescribable". "It was really, really excruciating and I also didn't know how to react, so I just crouched down on the floor... I don't know what I was doing, I was just screaming. I wasn't sure of the extent of the injury but I was in a world of pain." A full face of bandages and multiple surgeries Chew was rushed to the hospital but as the accident occurred in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, she wasn't attended to immediately due to the influx of patients. Her ordeal was thus extended for an inordinate amount of time — she had to wait in the waiting area for two to three hours for an available room, and several more hours before seeing a doctor. The first week of Chew's hospitalisation went by in a drug-induced haze. She had to undergo a few surgeries to remove the dead skin, graft on the donor skin and wait for the new skin to spontaneously heal. When it didn't, she had to go under the knife once more. In total, Chew spent three weeks in the hospital before being discharged, and had bandages wrapped around her face for at least a month. Chew also had half of her hair shaved on the right side of her scalp so the new skin there could be grafted onto her face. Even after being discharged, she was attended to by a nurse that would visit her everyday at her home. This was followed by a litany of follow-up procedures Chew would have to go through such as daily injections to prevent blood clots, as well as scrubbing her raw, burnt lips. Not recognising herself in the mirror Like many survivors of traumatic incidents, Chew remained in denial for a period of time after. "I refused to accept that my burns were that serious, and I was in a lot of trauma and confusion, and just brain fog, all the time, and in a lot of pain. [...] I didn't really feel anything, because I felt like this wasn't me, this isn't real. My brain just went into denial mode." The true reality of the situation, that her life had been thoroughly and irreversibly altered, only sunk in when she went for a check-up following the accident. Seated in front of the gathered panel of medical specialists including a speech pathologist, orthodontist, occupational therapist and surgeons, she was informed that the third-degree burns were so severe her nerves were nearly seared off. "Me and my mum just sat there speechless, because it was just something that was really hard to hear. And it was like, my face." Our faces are intrinsically tied to our identity and self-image, and often, first impressions are based off faces alone. One can thus imagine the distress Chew experienced when her face was drastically and irrevocably altered. "I felt like I had my identity stripped off, you know, it was my face, I would look in the mirror and I would not understand what happened, I would not recognise myself." Simply leaving the house and having to face strangers was a huge hurdle that would occasionally reduce her to tears: "I would cry in a corner, then go do my workout [at the gym], and then go home and cry again." Throughout the interview, Chew repeats the phrase: "It's my face" — almost as if she still remains in disbelief as to the extent of her injuries. Leaving Melbourne was her "darkest episode" The accident not only resulted in changes to Chew's physical appearance, but it also led to a chain of life-changing events. Chew's then-boyfriend broke up with her soon after the accident and left the house they shared. She explains that prior to that, their relationship was already rocky and had some "deep-seated issues". However, that accident was the last straw. Alone in Melbourne without anyone to care for her during such a period of vulnerability, Chew made the heavy decision to return to Singapore, where her family lives. "I have friends [in Melbourne] but you don't expect friends to go to medical appointments with you especially when you have to go three times a week." This decision did not come easy as Chew also had to find doctors in Singapore for her to continue her medical appointments and rehabilitation. Furthermore, Chew had previously been living in Melbourne for over six years for pre-university, her bachelor's degree, a gap year in between and subsequently her master's degree. Leaving her life in Down Under was her "darkest episode". On the day she would finally leave her Melbourne home, she recalls sweeping all her makeup and hair products into the trash, thinking that she wouldn't be able to use it anymore with her injuries. Upon closing the door to her home for the last time, Chew recognised the note of finality and the weight behind this small action. "I was like, that's it. I'm leaving the relationship, I'm leaving my home, I'm leaving the country, I'm leaving my friends, I'm leaving everything I knew. That was the deepest grief I've ever felt in my life." Road to recovery Having been dealt blow after blow, Chew's mental health took a hit as well. "I think when the accident happened, yes, it was devastating, and the break-up was even more devastating, and everything sort of happened at the same time. I would have episodes where I would go completely insane and start yelling. And I kind of shocked myself as well." The helplessness and fear she experienced also manifested in restless sleep and bouts of nightmares, where she would toss and turn and dream that someone was strangling her. Prior to the accident, Chew had been going for therapy for mental health conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety. She shared that she had never taken her therapist's advice seriously until the accident. Now, Chew is putting to use the tips that her therapist previously taught her, and copes with the accident and her injuries through meditation and journaling. Fitness has also been an indispensable part in her road to recovery. Chew was a fitness junkie even before the accident, and regularly participated in sea sports such as kitesurfing. Unfortunately, she isn't able to do much outdoor activities in her current condition — being exposed to the sun affects the skin grafts on her face and she has been advised not to participate in too strenuous exercise as it affects her sweat glands. "So that was really hard to deal with and is still very hard to deal with," Chew admitted. "There are certain limitations [to the things I can do], for instance, if my friends want to go wakeboarding at 2pm, I can't, because the sun's just way too strong." This hasn't stopped Chew from attempting to regain some sense of normalcy by hitting the gym though, and she documents her workouts and gains on her TikTok. Scars will remain for life One upside is that the accident has, in a way, strengthened Chew's relationships with her friends and family. She reflects that she has started opening up to them more, and made a conscious effort to have more honest conversations with them. "Naturally when you talk about burns, you talk about how you feel, and from then on, I guess it started to open up more opportunities to speak to people who are close to me about their feelings too." Despite the slow and steady progress Chew has made over the past six months, she remains slightly uncertain about her eventual recovery, as burns are very "dynamic". And perhaps in what might have been a blow to her confidence, the scars on her face will remain there for life, a perpetual reminder of the accident. Haltingly, she adds that she can deal with "light scars", but she is still currently very early on in her recovery. After all, her skin grafts can take at least two years to heal fully. "I know that this is not the final product, and so I cling on to the hope that I'm gonna get better." Hoping to help others who are in similar situations with her Tiktok videos Now, one of the pursuits Chew is occupying herself with is educating people on her social media platforms, especially TikTok. She lights up when she mentions the friends she has made on it, describing it as a "big blessing", as it helped cement her sense of belonging in a country she spent six years away from. What started off as a whim and, in her words, badly-edited videos based off her friends' encouragement, has since evolved into a 165,000 following. While the fame stumped Chew initially, and it still does, she has since gracefully embraced this newfound support on TikTok, and has decided to use it for good. "Burns are more common than we think," Chew says, and even though being in front of the camera with thousands of eyes on her virtually puts her in a vulnerable position, she shares that she's willing to do so to help others in similar situations. One could almost say that Chew lost her identity in more ways than one. But six months on, Chew has managed to find some form of closure to her accident: "Change, whether good or bad, is really the only constant in life. You have the power to choose how you react, [and] I think in life you can either be a victim of your own circumstances or be the author of your life. Yes, it did [affect my confidence and mental health], and yes, I suffered a huge loss of my identity and still struggle with it now, but I'm actively working on it every single day, chipping away at it. Things never get easier, you just get a little bit tougher every time." One of Chew's latest videos on TikTok is of her intimately smiling at the camera with a mug of tea and doling out advice to viewers. As the camera zooms in her face, she enunciates clearly, perhaps as a reminder to her audience, and more importantly, herself: "You are doing fantastic." Stories of Us is a series about ordinary people in Singapore and the unique ways they’re living their lives. Be it breaking away from conventions, pursuing an atypical passion, or the struggles they are facing, these stories remind us both of our individual uniqueness and our collective humanity. Top photo courtesy of Charlene Chew
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Singapore's plan for sustainable development, termed The Green Plan, was launched earlier this year.The five pillars under the plan were elaborated on at the inaugural Green Plan Conversations on Apr. 24, 2021.The event was hosted by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, as well as Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Desmond Tan.The five pillars and their areas of concern are:• City in Nature - extending nature throughout Singapore and creating sustainable, greener homes for Singaporeans;• Sustainable Living - making actions such as reducing carbon emissions, keeping the environment clean and saving resources and energy a way of life;• Energy Reset - using cleaner energy and increasing Singapore's energy efficiency;• Green Economy - creating new jobs and transforming industries, along with using sustainability as a competitive advantage;• Resilient Future - building up Singapore's climate defences and resilience, and enhancing Singapore's food security.According to Fu, the Green Plan is a long-term plan that will evolve over time.The plan will also involve a national engagement process, such as bringing people from all walks of life to discuss these areas under the Green Plan.#sustainability #environment
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/green-plan-conversations/
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Singapore's plan for sustainable development, termed The Green Plan, was launched earlier this year. The Green Plan's five pillars The five pillars under the plan were elaborated on at the inaugural Green Plan Conversations on Apr. 24, 2021. The event was hosted by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, as well as Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Desmond Tan. The five pillars and their areas of concern are: City in Nature - extending nature throughout Singapore and creating sustainable, greener homes for Singaporeans; Sustainable Living - making actions such as reducing carbon emissions, keeping the environment clean and saving resources and energy a way of life; Energy Reset - using cleaner energy and increasing Singapore's energy efficiency; Green Economy - creating new jobs and transforming industries, along with using sustainability as a competitive advantage; Resilient Future - building up Singapore's climate defences and resilience, and enhancing Singapore's food security. Singapore has a disadvantage in alternative energy During the opening segment, it was highlighted that Singapore experiences several physical limitations and is disadvantaged in terms of alternative energy. Unlike other countries, we do not have waterbodies nor strong winds that can allow us to harness hydroelectric power and wind power. Even solar energy, which is currently Singapore's most viable renewable resource, is limited by factors such as the lack of land and intermittency issues. As such, Singapore's Green Plan focuses instead on developing a diversified economy that aims towards an inclusive transition to a green one, while being well-connected with the global economy. The plan also focuses on investing in new solutions and infrastructure. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke on how Singapore must innovate and use technology extensively in order to achieve our climate goals, during the Leaders' Summit on Climate. Green Plan to engage Singaporeans from all walks of life Fu said that the Green Plan is a long-term plan that will evolve over time. The plan will also involve a national engagement process, such as bringing people from all walks of life to discuss these areas under the Green Plan. Over 60 participants have attended the online session on Apr. 24, which includes members of the public, representatives from non-governmental organisations, environmental groups, and businesses. Participants shared their views on matters, such as what they regard as priorities for the Green Plan, and the considerations and impact of the Green Plan on their daily lives. The government will review the suggestions generated from the Conversations and identify ideas for follow-up and co-creation with partners and participants. More Conversations will be held by the Ministries co-leading the Green Plan to look at various areas of work. Members of the public may also submit their ideas through the Green Plan website, and updates on the Green Plan Conversations can be found here when available. Top image via NParks' Facebook page
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Working at a family service centre in a low-income neighbourhood, social worker Elizabeth Quek remembered being exposed to an array of unfortunate circumstances and a smorgasbord of challenges.Having terms and conditions attached to various types of support, however, meant that it was easy for social workers to be judgemental.Quek recalls falling into a mode of thinking she described as "pathological", where she viewed the problems of her clients too simplistically.It wasn't till she was five years into her job that Quek started to do "a lot of reflection" on her work:"I started thinking about how some of these things that we're doing when we're trying to help people is actually harmful. I started to think that some of the ways I was doing things — telling people what to do — was completely disrespectful."Instead of setting out directions and goals for her clients like in her early days of social work, these days Quek typically spends her time with the women talking about life in general.#socialworker
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/aware-domestic-abuse-elizabeth-quek/
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Before arriving at AWARE's women's shelter, Jessica (not her real name) suffered at the hands of an abusive husband. Finding that her income was too high to qualify for public rental housing, but too low to afford open market rentals, she continued to stay with her violent spouse. Now, the shelter provides a much needed reprieve and an environment where both Jessica and her children are safe. However, in about three months time, in July 2021, AWARE's shelter will close its doors. As it is, six women and eight children are still staying at the shelter and will have to find new accommodation and living arrangements. Known as the Support, Housing, and Enablement Project (or S.H.E. for short), the shelter is approaching the end of its planned two-year donor-fueled existence. A longitudinal research project at its core, S.H.E. saw the women's advocacy group trying to find out if housing stability for single mothers and low-income women would have an impact on other aspects of their lives. "Our research hypothesis is that if we provide our families two years of stable housing, they would improve without much intervention on our part," said Elizabeth Quek, the program's manager — or in her words "House Mother". In other words, AWARE and Quek were betting that when given the conditions to thrive (such as having a roof over one's head), previously beleaguered women would naturally move towards finding solutions to their problems. A seasoned social worker, the 35-year-old was understandably concerned for the families in the shelter that had yet to find permanent living arrangements. "I get kind of worried — I mean all of us get worried with July approaching so quickly," she said. "It just made sense for me to be a social worker" Quek first decided to become a social worker when, as student at the National University of Singapore, she had to pick a major. Social Work stuck out to her in large part because of a mentor she had growing up who happened to be a social worker. He had counselled her when as a Primary Six student she was followed and assaulted by a stranger, and supported her as she came to terms with the traumatic event. "My mentor was just there for me during the whole process, checking in on me," recalled Quek. It was a showing of empathy and openness that was rare back in those days; "I think especially because so many years ago, people didn't know how to respond — my family members didn't know how to respond." With that experience very much in mind, Quek decided that "it just made sense for me to be a social worker". The realities on the ground Yet, Quek quickly realised that any lofty ideas she had going into the job were erased by the realities of being on the ground. Working at a family service centre in a low-income neighbourhood, Quek remembered being exposed to an array of unfortunate circumstances and a smorgasbord of challenges. She told me of clients with abusive partners while others were beset with mental health problems. Quek even lost a client to pneumonia, a situation she described as an "injustice". "Even when we've decided to become a social worker you're constantly asking yourself, do I still want to do this? The stories that we hear regularly, the injustices that our clients face, it can really take a toll on you... you use a lot of yourself." Social work isn't as simple as providing help for the less fortunate; there are often many hoops to jump through and systemic barriers to overcome before aid can be administered. For instance, single parents have to dispose of their marital flats in order to be eligible for HDB housing assistance schemes. This is complicated by the fact that divorce proceedings can sometimes be long and drawn out. "It should not be so difficult as it is now for clients to get the resources they need," said Quek. "Easy to be judgmental" Having terms and conditions attached to various types of support also means that social workers can hold a certain amount of authority over the people they are trying to help. "If you're running a shelter, it's a roof over their head; you have a lot of power and control. You can tell people what to do, if that makes sense," explained Quek. "I think as social workers, it's easy to be judgemental." Eventually, Quek fell into a mode of thinking she described as "pathological", where she viewed the problems of her clients too simplistically. "So at some points I would expect people to follow the directions that I think are good for them, or the goals that I have set up for them. I would get really irritated when people were not punctual... sometimes the things I would do were kind of strong." It wasn't till she was five years into her job that Quek experienced something of an epiphany regarding the way she was going about things. While attending a course to further her skills as a social worker, she started to do "a lot of reflection" on her work: "I started thinking about how some of these things that we're doing when we're trying to help people is actually harmful. I started to think that some of the ways I was doing things — telling people what to do — was completely disrespectful." In particular, she remembered one occasion where she asked a woman pointed questions about her marriage, only to realise afterwards how out of line it was. "I did apologise to her for doing that. But this is just an example of some of the harm that we can do when we think that our perspective is correct." Families as the experts of their own lives In many ways, the S.H.E. Project Shelter represents the antithesis of this early version of Quek. The seed of the project was planted by an AWARE report published in 2017, accompanied by a press release titled "Single parents need more inclusive policies on public housing". The study, which involved in-depth interviews with 55 single mothers, found that 95 per cent of interviewees had faced problems when seeking public housing. Families subsequently experienced stress, uncertainty, and financial pressure, with many reporting that they struggled with overcrowding and tension in their relatives' homes, as well as frustration with the processes they had to go through to receive aid. After the report was published, AWARE was contacted by a concerned individual who wanted to help and together, they decided to embark on the two-year project. The principles underpinning the project, as spelled out on AWARE's website, include: The families are the experts of their own lives Community support is critical Services will be provided on a non-judgemental basis They are adhered to with the aim of giving single mothers a stable living condition and building their confidence, capacity, and eventually a path towards both financial independence and permanent accommodation. Once they are part of the programme, the women and their children are provided with everything they need — payment of the apartment's rent and utilities included — except food; the residents are only required to pay a very low monthly fee. When you consider that many women who decide to leave their abusive husbands often have to contend with a lack of resources and nowhere to go, its easy to see how having a place like the S.H.E. shelter would be useful. And while being a victim of violence is not a precondition for moving into the shelter, most of its residents have experienced some sort of abuse — either from their partners or their relatives. A gentler touch over two years In March 2019, Quek was drafted in to manage the project, hosting a total of 13 women and 14 kids in four apartments. Other than its guiding principles, S.H.E. sets itself apart from regular shelters by offering a tenancy of two years (most shelters typically provide housing for three to six months). Describing her management of the project, Quek said that she tries to be more respectful of the women's wishes and desires, letting them figure things out on their own. "But still we have found, through our research, two years is a bit short." Though some of the women managed to attain permanent housing during their time at the shelter and move out, others remain bogged down by issues such as pending legal cases (where divorce proceedings may be involved). One area that shelter residents have seen a marked improvement in is employment. According to AWARE, most of the residents have either found jobs, moved into full-time positions from part-time ones, or shifted to better paying jobs. The average incomes of the residents also rose from S$790 to S$1,050. This, Quek believes, happened due to the gentler touch she's adopted with the residents. Instead of setting out directions and goals for her clients like in her early days of social work, these days Quek typically spends her time with the women talking about life in general. "(I'll ask them) what have they achieved? Usually they'll have many good things to share with me, so we celebrate all these things, But then definitely we'll go into the housing issue, and then they'll share with me what they have tried to do." On her part, Quek will also assist the residents with writing advocacy letters to the relevant authorities such as HDB. Trusting the residents However, with July fast approaching, I asked Quek if she had to resist the urge to break the shelter's principles and return the more pushy and pathological approach. "I would say I'm not perfect," she admitted. "I mean there's always that worry about, okay, if you don't follow up closely, if you don't push the client will they actually change?" Quek adds that for those who provide aid, there's always a temptation to push clients even though they know that it's counter-intuitive. "But the whole intention of this program was meant to be more hands-off, really trusting in people and their initiative." The social worker told me of one story from the S.H.E. shelter that has helped thus far to allow her to sustain that trust. It involved a single mother of five who arrived at the shelter in 2019 She hadn't worked for a long time and with five children to care for, Quek was apprehensive that being forced to hold down a stable job might be too much of a shock to the system. "I did check in with her about her motivation, what were her hopes and things like that... but at the back of my mind I was really worried." But Quek's fears were unfounded. The woman managed to find full-time employment one month after arriving at the shelter, to Quek's surprise. One and a half years later, the woman is still engaged in a stable job and doing well. "I found that when I trust the residents, they ultimately go and do whatever is needed." You can support AWARE's S.H.E. shelter here. Stories from the City of Good is a series on ordinary Singaporeans giving their best for others and inspiring each other to become a Singapore that cares. This is a collaboration between Mothership and the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre. Top image by Christian Chen via Unsplash and courtesy of AWARE
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All SMRT Corporation Ltd taxis are expected to be electric vehicles by 2027.The company announced its goal of a complete changeout of its entire taxi fleet to electric taxis within the next five years, according to a news release on Apr. 20.The first batch of 300 electric taxis is expected to arrive in Singapore progressively from July.The electric taxis could include a few models such as sedans, station wagons and multi-purpose vehicles to meet the diverse needs of the market.#electricvehicles #environment #sustainability
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/smrt-electric-taxis/
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All SMRT taxis are expected to be electric vehicles by 2027. The company announced its goal of a complete changeout of its entire taxi fleet to electric taxis within the next five years, according to a news release on Apr. 20. The first batch of 300 electric taxis is expected to arrive in Singapore progressively from July. The electric taxis could include a few models such as sedans, station wagons and multi-purpose vehicles to meet the diverse needs of the market. Yesterday, SMRT had also announced a Memorandum of Understanding that Strides Mobility signed with EuroSports Technologies on developing and deploying electric motorcycles in Singapore and the region. Strides Mobility is SMRT's sustainable urban mobility services arm. Tan Kian Heong, President of SMRT Road Holdings, said: “In line with Singapore’s Green Plan, we are excited to be among the first point-to-point transport operators to commit to the deployment of electric taxis on a large scale. This is a key part of our plan to incorporate principles of sustainability into each of our businesses to bring sustainable urban mobility services to our customers. Going Green is an integral part of how we operate our business.” Related news Top image via Wikimedia Commons
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“My heart felt like it had been shattered into a billion pieces. Food tasted so bland and my weight plummeted. [...] Each time I would close my eyes, I would get flashbacks of the tragedy.”Elaine Lek’s son took his own life 1 month before his 18th birthday, after a battle with depression and generalised anxiety disorder.In the aftermath of losing her son, Lek suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.In 2019, Lek and her husband Koh Say Kiong set up The Zen Dylan Koh Fund in memory of Zen, to support youth with mental health issues in need of therapy, especially those who struggle to find help or who cannot afford private therapy.Together with other mothers who lost their children to suicide, Lek co-founded the PleaseStay movement, a non-profit group that works to raise awareness about and prevent youth suicide in Singapore.3 years on, she writes about how she has slowly learned to navigate her pain.#mentalhealth #familyandrelationships
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/elaine-lek-zen-suicide-please-stay/
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PERSPECTIVE: When Elaine Lek's son Zen was 17 years old, he took his own life after a battle with depression and generalised anxiety disorder. In 2019, Lek and her husband Koh Say Kiong set up The Zen Dylan Koh Fund in memory of Zen, to support youth with mental health issues in need of therapy, especially those who struggle to find help or who cannot afford private therapy. Together with other mothers who lost their children to suicide, Lek co-founded the PleaseStay movement, a non-profit group that works to raise awareness about and prevent youth suicide in Singapore. Here is an abridged adaptation of Lek’s essay "For Zen", which was first published in White: Beyond Mental Health Stigma by Klin Studio. White: Beyond Mental Health Stigma is a collection of personal narratives, critical research, and community work that reframe the way that mental health is looked at. More information about the book can be found here or @thewhitebooksg. By Elaine Lek Zen, my beloved firstborn, took his own life. He was one month away from turning 18 and on his way to graduate from his pre-university Foundation Studies at Trinity College in Melbourne. As a young boy, Zen was diagnosed with Dyslexia. He had struggled with his grades but managed to do well through his secondary school with proper help. However, the first time we observed Zen becoming moody and somewhat withdrawn was in his first year at junior college. We noticed that he started cutting himself and spoke to him about it, but he couldn’t explain why he did it. We then brought him to seek professional help. He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and prescribed Medikinet, a commonly known study drug for ADD. With the limited knowledge we had then, we left it at that, chalking up his struggles to drastic life changes and study stress. Thought sending him overseas to study would help with pressure We also thought that sending him to Melbourne and removing him from the pressures of the local school system could help with his struggles. At first, he did seem very happy and well-adjusted academically and socially for most of his time in Melbourne. We visited and communicated with him very often and never noticed anything amiss. I shared a particularly close bond with Zen, especially in the last year when he started living in Melbourne. We messaged each other and did video calls several times daily despite being geographically apart. Sometime after his third term in Melbourne, Zen’s friends called to tell us that he was not in a good place. I flew up almost immediately. I told him that we loved him and promised to get him professional help when he returned for his term break. His previous psychiatrist was retiring when that happened, so we brought him to a new psychiatrist who diagnosed him with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and put him on Lexapro. This was an antidepressant drug that could potentially cause severe side effects in kids and adolescents — a fact we were not made aware then. Upon his diagnosis and prescription, Zen told me, "Mummy, my body lacks serotonin, the happy hormones. I can be happier now!" Became suicidal When Zen left again for school in Melbourne two weeks later, he was alone once more, and without healthcare support. He became very sleep-deprived and suicidal, especially at night. I flew to him again. Over a cosy dinner, we discussed setting up appointments to get him some help in Melbourne the very next day. He FaceTimed his father and said he was heading to the gym with his friends. He seemed happy. We lost Zen that night. A few hours later, I received a call that sent me running to my son’s boarding house just five minutes away from my hotel room. Those were the longest minutes of my life. Zen fought for his life for three days at the Royal Melbourne Hospital before we made the painful decision to let him go. Experienced PTSD, anxiety, and suicide ideation after Zen's death For the weeks and months that followed Zen’s passing, my body reacted acutely as a result of the trauma I experienced. This presented itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): physical pain, flashbacks and fears. Heart palpitations that escalated to chest pains became my constant companion. My heart felt like it had been shattered into a billion pieces. Food tasted so bland and my weight plummeted. I had a major meltdown on Zen’s 18th birthday, a month into my grief, and was screaming for friends to take me to a hospital for a jab to take away the pain. Each time I would close my eyes, I would get flashbacks of the tragedy. I consumed alcohol and took non-addictive sleeping pills to fall asleep. When I could sleep, I would get "anxious" dreams where I was always helpless, or I would wake up in the middle of the night with panic attacks from the realisation that this was all real. If I was awake, I cringed in pain and agony. I was and still am afraid of dark quiet places. I left the TV and the lights turned on all day. For the first month, I could not bear to leave the house. I had separation anxiety. It was at home that I felt most connected with my son and leaving the house made me feel so lost. At some point, I knew that I was spiralling and needed support and professional help. Pain has not lessened, but have learned to navigate it To this day, the pain of missing, yearning and pining for my son has not gotten any lesser. I believe a mum will never stop grieving till her dying breath. I have since learnt that there is no such thing as "moving on", words that we hear all the time. I have learnt to cope hour-by-hour and now, day-by-day. I am still in the valley of anguish and pain, both physically and emotionally. I continue to navigate the waves of grief but at least it does not crash over me. The daily heart palpitations and anxiety have become my constant companions especially when I have a traumatic flashback, or when I am arrested by thoughts of not being able to see and hug my son again for a long time. Other times, it’s a nagging ache in my heart. Now, I truly understand the meaning of heartache. Sometimes I feel so breathless that I have to remind myself to breathe. I still hate waking up in the mornings. I still deal with the disappointment of being alive to face the whole cycle of grieving again. But when I open my eyes each morning, I will greet Zen with "I love you and I miss you so much", and the thought that "mummy is one day closer to seeing you again". Being present for younger son It is not uncommon for a suicide-bereaved parent to also have suicidal thoughts. To fight the thoughts, I keep telling myself that I can’t fail Zen. When he sees me again, I want him to tell me with pride that I have done well. I can’t be selfish at the expense of my younger son. Max still needs me. In a Mother’s Day letter to me, Max wrote that he wanted to see me find happiness again and that he would want to make memories with me. It touched me to the core. So, amid everything, I remind myself to be present for Max. Max is my now! Likewise, I must not think of Zen as my past. He is still my present as well as my future. I long for the day where the dark clouds will dissipate. Meanwhile, I am determined to deal with my grief head-on. I need to walk the rest of this journey as bravely as I can to be a great mother to Max. I know that I need to honour my love for Zen in positive ways too. So, I pour what’s left of my energy into finding a sense of purpose in the weeks and days that followed. Staying connected with Zen Once the sun goes down my husband and I will light a candle for Zen on our balcony. We talk about our child with each other over whisky and look to the sky to speak to him. The balcony is where we often bonded over heart-to-heart conversations and hence, where we feel most connected to Zen. We continue to do so even when we are out of town. When I need to feel close to my son, I wear his clothes. I have three tattoos on my wrists — one with both our names in an infinity sign; one inscribed with "we part only to meet again", reminding me that we will be reunited again; the third, a picture of Zen's favourite skateboard. Every time I place my hands on the tattoos, I feel Zen holding and comforting me. I kiss them as a gesture of kissing him. One month into my grief, I started a journal so that I could write to Zen daily. When I’m alone, I often have conversations with Zen in my head or out loud. I would hear him calling me “Mummy” and answering me when I call. I had set up an Instagram account @zenmummyforever where I share photos of our precious memories with his close friends. I created a Spotify playlist "zenmummyforever", a mixtape of songs taken from his playlist and other songs that are poignant in describing my grief. I continue to connect with my son as an act of hope and comfort. To this day, his mobile phone remains activated so that his close friends, as well as myself, can continue to message him. The family chat also continues to be active. Finding solace in other mothers who have lost children to suicide It was only when I met mums who had, like me, lost their precious children to suicide, that I found my solace and lifeline. We share our innermost thoughts and feelings, we validate each other’s grief journeys. We still meet regularly at my house, where we allow ourselves to emote endlessly about our children. We call it a night in heaven with our children gathered together. It is in each other’s company that we feel comforted. We banded together to start a movement, "PleaseStay", that aimed to address the crisis of youth suicides and to break the stigma associated with depression and suicide. The movement urges for a higher national priority in the agenda to elevate suicide prevention, increase awareness for help and support services amongst youths-at-risk and their families, and the need for whole-of-society approach in removing stigma and prejudice. We felt that there was an urgency for more compassionate conversations and understanding of mental health issues in our society. The objectives of this advocacy group are very close to my heart. I cannot stress enough how there is a need for better public education on mental health issues, drug use, and management. I believe that there is still much denial among families whose children may be struggling with mental wellness. Oftentimes as parents, you might pass it off as all a part of growing pains. “They will get over it,” you think to yourself. I believe it is necessary for an older generation to be actively more aware of the signs of mental illness, instead of denying them. We need to be more informed as a society so that lives can be saved and our children can get the support they need. I appreciate that there is a role for medication in the treatment of mental illness. Medication works differently for everyone and it's important to be educated on possible side effects of prescriptions. After Zen's passing, I started researching Lexapro and found articles detailing the warnings, side effects, and the high risk of suicide ideation in youths, particularly in the first few months of starting treatment. I wasn’t advised on any of these risks. I appeal to healthcare professionals to ensure the severity of serious antidepressant drugs with side effects are explained to parents diligently, along with the right course of management, home support, and supervision. Zen always wanted to help others After Zen had passed, my husband and I decided to donate Zen’s organs and today he lives in six people in Melbourne. He took his own life but selflessly gave six back. We knew it was what he would have wanted because even in death, Zen will continue to be kind just like he was when he was alive. We read all the messages on Zen’s phone and discovered he had been counselling many of his friends who were also struggling with mental health issues. In a particular message to a friend, Zen wrote that he was born to be sad and that he was struggling to be happy for more than a week at a time. He said he wanted to bear all the sadness of this world because he couldn’t be sadder than he was already feeling. Zen also wanted to be a psychologist to help kids with the same struggles. I think it was because he knew he could understand this pain. So, this is my Zen! The boy who has touched so many lives with his love, care and friendship, reaffirmed by all the eulogies and messages from his friends after his passing. Zen’s selflessness led my husband and me to set up The Zen Dylan Koh Fund with Limitless, a non-profit organisation that helps youths with their mental well-being. That morning when we launched it, we saw a beautiful rainbow appear from our balcony. We took it as a sign of approval from our son. We miss our son deeply and we will continue to light a candle on our balcony every night. He is our guardian angel and we hope he finds his eternal bliss. Helplines If you or someone you know are in mental distress, here are some hotlines you can call to seek help, advice, or just have a listening ear: National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 Samaritans of Singapore 24-hour Hotline: 1800-221-4444 Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours) Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children) AWARE Women's Helpline: 1800-777-555 (10am - 6pm, Monday to Friday) Top photo via The Zen Dylan Koh Fund website.
Article
When it comes to Ramadan in Singapore, many would associate it with the extravagant Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar, which has been a must-go for the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore since the 1970s.However, there is an older but equally festive Ramadan bazaar in Kampong Gelam which precedes its Geylang Serai counterpart, having been around since the 1960s.We explore how Ramadan was celebrated in this historical district.#ramadan #singapore #culture
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/kampong-gelam-ramadan/
mothership-sg
When it comes to Ramadan in Singapore, many would associate it with the extravagant Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar. While we've not been to the well-loved bazaar in the past year (no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic), the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar has been a must-go for the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore since the 1970s. However, did you know that there is an older but equally festive Ramadan bazaar in Kampong Gelam? The Kampong Gelam bazaar precedes its Geylang Serai counterpart, having been around since the 1960s. Here's how Ramadan was celebrated in this historical district. Kampong Gelam in the 1980s Based on photos of the bazaar in the 1980s, the stretch of road along Bussorah Street and Muscat Street was bustling with vendors hawking their goods and visitors eager to purchase them. The bazaar was located conveniently right in front of Sultan Mosque, which meant that visitors can continue shopping and join the festivities after performing their obligatory maghrib (sunset) and terawih (a non-obligatory evening prayer during the month of Ramadan) prayers. Muscat Street (1988) Bussorah Street (1988) Here, one could find everything they needed to prepare for Hari Raya Aidilfitri or festive food to break their fast. Visitors would come here to buy decorative pieces to spruce their homes, including artificial flowers and table runners. Kueh from S$0.20 Vendors could also be seen preparing festive street food that Singaporeans still love today, like ayam percik (grilled chicken glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce) and prawn vadai (dough fritters). Just take a look at the vast variety of food available, with kuehs sold for as low as S$0.20. And of course, no bazaar is complete without the festive lights. Present-day bazaar These days, bazaars typically only take place along Muscat Street. Bussorah Street, on the other hand, has been revamped and is now home to several restaurants, souvenir shops and boutiques. Muscat Street (2018) Hybrid celebration While there haven't been any bazaars at Kampong Gelam since last year, that doesn't mean the festive vibes are long gone. For the first time in 13 years, the streets of Kampong Gelam will be lit up with festive lights. Following the theme of Cahaya Ramadan (the light of Ramadan), streets along Kampong Gelam including North Bridge Road, Arab Street, Bussorah Street, Baghdad Street and Kandahar Street will see cascading lights every day from 7pm to 12am till May 12. Here's what it looks like: There's also the "The Light of Gelam" Light Show, which happens nightly. For the rest of the month, one can also look forward to various virtual and physical activities including: Trishaw tours Go back in time and embark on a nostalgic journey with Trishaw Uncle tours around Kampong Gelam and immerse in the sights and sounds of the district. Vouchers and merchandise giveaways are available for the first 100 sign ups. Visitors can also use their SingapoRediscovers vouchers for these tours. Kampong Gelam Virtual Tour Singaporeans can also rediscover Kampong Gelam from wherever they are through Monster Day Tours’ Kampong Gelam Virtual Tour. Bookings can be made here. Craft workshops One can also take part in traditional craft workshops organised by Lokka Lekkr, including: Screen printing on tote bags Block printing on pouches Introduction to linocut printing Mini tapestry looming Batik painting The first 150 workshop sign-ups will also receive a S$20 discount on the workshops. Culinary workshops If you’re looking to improve your cooking chops, one can look forward to culinary workshops by HZ Culinary. Here, you can learn how to make in-demand dishes like Yemeni mandi rice, peri-peri chicken and even popular Mediterranean desserts like kunafa and baclava. If you’re interested to find out more about the various tours and workshops, you can find out more here. Virtual precinct tour One can also enjoy the view of the lights via the 360 virtual precinct tour here. More information on Cahaya Ramadan will be available here. While basking in the festive mood, visitors should also be mindful to adhere to safe management measures in place. This sponsored article by The Singapore Tourism Board has made the writer crave ayam percik while she is fasting. Top image from National Archives Singapore.
Article
Ng Wai Mun, who works at the Public Trustee’s Office under the Ministry of Law, Singapore, remembers the first time she pushed open the doors to enter an abandoned shophouse in 2015.The shophouse, which had been left vacant after the owner died alone in it some years back, was piled high with bags of the deceased’s personal belongings.Apart from getting requests to inspect ownerless properties, the bulk of Ng’s work is actually trying to track down the next-of-kin of a deceased so their un-nominated CPF monies, and assets (like bank monies and shares) not amounting to more than S$50,000, can be distributed to them.
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/pto-civil-servant-track-nok/
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It all happened six years ago. Ng Wai Mun still remembers pushing open the doors to enter the abandoned shophouse, which had been left vacant after the owner died alone in it some years back. Her team had received a letter of administration from the court (this court order formally appoints them as the administrator) to enter the property to look for documents -- anything that might suggest if the woman had any surviving next-of-kin (NOK). “Usually it starts from issues like mosquito breeding, or if there is a risk of the building collapsing,” Ng told us. “That’s how we usually come to know that this property is abandoned [because] some agency will inform us about it.” Ng’s mission? To trawl through any documents in the property to establish if there is any NOK -- or at least, any that they can find. If a NOK can be found, all the assets would be handed over for administration. If not, the proceeds from the sale of the estate and valuables would accrue to the state until a NOK shows up. The task sounded straightforward enough. But when Ng opened the door to the shophouse unit, she and her colleague realised that they were in for a tough time: The unit was piled high with bags and bags of items. Dressed in comfortable (“must be covered”, she emphasised) shoes and clothing, Ng and her colleague spent the next two to three days in that unit trawling through everything that was left behind, one plastic bag at a time, in hopes to find evidence of a potential NOK. It could be anything: Birth certificates, letters, photos. A clue of any kind that might lead them to a family member. This peculiar and extremely laborious task is all in a day’s work for civil servant, Ng Wai Mun, who works with the Public Trustee’s Office (PTO). Sitting down with Mothership at their office, which is located at the URA Centre East Wing, Ng shares more about her intriguing role and what happens to the assets of people who die alone. But first things first: We ask her to tell us more about her experience in these abandoned properties and how she felt going inside. Interesting coincidences & a (possibly) supernatural tale “I wouldn’t say it’s creepy,” she said. “But sometimes we experienced coincidental incidents.” Continuing the tale about how she stepped into the shophouse filled with bags of personal effects, Ng asked her colleague to look out for photos of the deceased. To her surprise, despite the sheer mess inside the unit, the photos emerged almost immediately out of nowhere: “The next moment, after I lifted up one box, all her photos dropped out from below because the box was decomposed. From there, we discovered photos of her younger days and we found out about her life. We felt like it’s a coincidence, like she’s there listening to us.” Following the photos, they wanted to look for the passport to search for clues from her travel history. “Next thing we know? We found her passport too.” Ng stressed that given the state of the property, it was “so special” for them to actually find something they were looking for. “You don’t expect to find anything, [and yet] it appeared on its own.” But that wasn’t all. After the cleaners had cleared the place out, and the property was about to be handed over, Ng went over in the morning to inspect the place for the last time. And that was when there was yet another strange coincidence: “I was murmuring, ‘...This property is going to be sold soon.’ As soon as I said that, her bedroom door just slammed shut on its own. There was no wind! My colleague went to try and open the door, it couldn’t be opened. We felt that she’s lingering around, [so I told her], ‘It’s time to go already. No point staying on here.’” Ng confessed that when she first saw the photos of the deceased’s “colourful life” (she had been a dance hostess in her younger days, we were told), Ng felt a little sorry for her. After all, the woman appeared to be good looking, relatively wealthy, and seemed to have lived such an interesting existence. And yet, despite everything, she had died in her property alone with her body only being discovered days later. “She was very lonely when she died. I asked my colleague, ‘Why don’t we make arrangements for some prayers to be offered to her?’ I had a feeling she might still be here, not resting in peace.” Determining if someone has a NOK, and how many? Apart from getting requests to inspect ownerless properties, the bulk of Ng’s work is actually trying to track down the NOK of a deceased so their unnominated CPF monies, and also assets (like bank monies and shares) not amounting to more than S$50,000 can be distributed to them. Ng said, “It is important to make your will. Also, the next time you happen to read your CPF statement, why not check your CPF nomination and make one if you haven’t?” “It’s your last wish after all,” she added. Ng methodically takes us through the process of what typically happens when they are often informed of a death. The first thing to ask: Does this person have a NOK? If there are none, the assets accrue to the state. The state then holds on to the assets and the money will always be there until someone comes forward to claim it. (“We’ve had one case where the NOK showed up after 22 years,” she told us.) If a NOK exists but is categorised as ‘untraced’, then Ng’s role is to track them down and inform them of the monies to be collected. First, they need to determine how many NOK the deceased has (the Intestate Succession Act determines how the money will be distributed to each NOK) before they can even reach out to assist in the claims process. For Muslims, the distribution of assets is determined by the Administration of Muslim Law Act. A good starting point to look, Ng shared, is to check with the informant who reported the death of the person (it could be a social worker, nursing home staff, or a neighbour), or to check with other government agencies for relevant information. But how do they reach out or get more information? A surprisingly helpful tool to track someone down, Ng revealed, is Facebook. Social media as a surprisingly important tool Sometimes, when all they have is the name of a person, Ng pursues that lead by finding out everything she can about the person through the internet. “I will find them on Facebook, and Facebook message them… Sometimes I even write on their wall! I started another account for this PTO role.” You must be a very good stalker, I told her. “Not really lah. Actually, we will always try to find them on Facebook or Google. Sometimes they will have blogs, or the [search results] might link you to another lead. When you have the determination to find the NOK, you will try all ways and means.” But sometimes, luck is just as important as well. She related a “super satisfying” tale about how she had traced a NOK all the way in Jamaica through a series of coincidences involving a defunct university and a person on Facebook who had publicly shared childhood photos of himself. “I went to message him and he responded! It turned out that the deceased was his eldest brother and he didn’t know that his brother had passed away. They were estranged.” Apart from virtual means, they will also try to get in touch with the NOK by sending letters to any registered addresses they can find. But if the family members still don’t respond? PTO officers are left with no choice but to knock on their doors to explain all of this in person. Seeing the ugly side of family disputes, but also bringing people together By visiting people’s homes, Ng and her colleagues potentially get entangled in messy and often ugly family disputes. “[For] some (NOK), they’re aware that they’re eligible to make the claim,” Ng said. Referring to certain cases where family disputes make it very difficult for them to assist with the claims process, she explained: “They just don’t want to take the money because the family has some issues, or are in a dispute they’re unable to settle [among themselves].” In some instances, the family might also be uncooperative in sharing documents, resulting in the PTO not being able to proceed any further: “The managing part is very tedious. Especially if the family doesn’t cooperate… They don't understand why we ask for so many documents. They think we’re trying to make their life difficult, or that the government is trying to prevent them from getting [their] money. Some even ask, ‘Why can’t you just pay me ah?’” Some documents, however, are necessary to ascertain familial ties and to ensure that the deceased’s assets are appropriately distributed by law. Given the deeply personal nature of what Ng’s team has to deal with, it is inevitable that things can sometimes get heated with the family members. Some have cursed or hurled personal insults at them — an occurrence that officers have fortunately, or unfortunately, gotten used to. But as Ng came to learn, staying calm and being firm is crucial to doing the job well. “Initially I see some newer officers get affected by it, or they might feel uncomfortable. But over time, they become more seasoned.” The extent of their work also involves no small amount of monies —in the past few years, about S$905 million of CPF savings belonging to deceased persons were passed to the PTO for distribution due to the absence of a nomination. Out of which, PTO managed to distribute 89 per cent of the unnominated CPF savings it received from CPF Board. Even though Ng approaches her tasks with a laser-sharp focus and purposeful goal-orientedness, it doesn’t mean that she feels nothing towards the cases she works on. In fact, she shared that she actually feels quite “emotional” when she sees estranged family members reconcile. Seeing family members break down or reconcile when they reconnect for the first time in decades is something that moves her deeply. But if there’s a key takeaway she has learnt from her job, it has nothing to do with complex laws or processes, but something a lot simpler: “Whatever that it is, just cherish what we have. Life is so unpredictable right?” Top photo by Tanya Ong, courtesy of Ministry of Law. This sponsored article by the Ministry of Law is a gentle reminder to make your CPF nomination. You can also make use of the My Legacy portal for resources on end of life planning.
Article
MOH is concerned over reports of healthcare workers being told they are not welcome by landlords, said Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak.#healthcare #covid19
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/ttsh-healthcare-workers-discriminate/
mothership-sg
Don't shun Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) employees during this pandemic, Ministry of Health (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak urged Singapore residents on Tuesday, May 4, at the virtual multi-ministry task force press conference. He said the ministry is concerned over reports of healthcare workers being told they are not welcome by landlords. MOH is working with hotel groups to render support to staff who require support for accommodation as they are working extra hours to help control the outbreak. Some healthcare workers have also requested to stay away from the rest of the family members during this period. This is not because they pose an increased risk to their loved ones, but are acting out of "an abundance of caution" to give their family members some peace of mind, Mak said. "These workers are well, and they have committed a lot of time and energy towards looking after patients at Tan Tock Seng Hospital at this stage. So we endeavour also to support them, making sure they have support and accommodation through this difficult time when they are being called up to do much more than what they'd normally be expected to," Mak told the press. Mak said he hopes Singaporeans can come together to support healthcare workers at the frontline, just like last year. On May 4, the cluster at TTSH grew to 40 cases, making it the largest and most active cluster here. Related stories Top image via Google Maps
Article
From May 8 to 30, the limit of 8 persons in a group for social gatherings will be reduced to 5.The cap of 8 distinct visitors per household per day will also be reduced to 5 distinct visitors per household per day.#covid19 #singapore
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/covid-measures-may-4/
mothership-sg
Following the rise of locally transmitted Covid-19 cases and the emergence of new virus strains, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) has announced the tightening of safe management measures. The new measures will take effect from May 8 to 30, 2021, MTF said in a virtual press conference on May 4, 2021. Reducing interactions among social circles One big change is the reduction of permissible group size in social gatherings, from eight persons to five persons. As announced on Apr. 30, individuals are advised to keep to two or less social gatherings per day, whether visiting another household or meeting with friends or family members in a public place. The cap of eight distinct visitors per household per day will also be reduced to five distinct visitors per household. Workplace measures Secondly, the percentage of employees allowed to return to the office will similarly be reduced. Currently, 75 per cent of employees who are able to work from home are allowed to return to the workplace. From May 8, however, the number will be back at 50 per cent. MTF said that employers should continue to stagger start times of employees who need to return to the workplace and implement flexible working hours. Social gatherings at the workplace should be avoided. However, if they cannot be avoided (e.g. during meal breaks), the gatherings are subjected to the revised community limit of five persons. Reduction of activity and event sizes To minimise the likelihood of large cluster formations, MTF is reducing event sizes and/ or lowering the event size caps, beyond which pre-event testing is required. The affected events and their related measures are: Congregational and other worship services Pre- event testing will be required if there are more than 100 attendees at any one time, capped at 250 attendees. Congregational singing will be suspended in religious organisations to manage any risks of spread. Weddings Marriage solemnisations may proceed with up to 250 attendees in total (including the wedding couple, excluding the Licensed Solemniser and vendors) for the entire event, in zones of up to 50 attendees. Pre-event testing will be required for the wedding couple for solemnisations involving more than 50 attendees. Similarly, wedding receptions may proceed with up to 250 attendees in total (including the wedding couple, excluding vendors) for the entire event, in zones or time slots of up to 50 attendees each. Pre-event testing for all attendees (including the wedding couple) will be required for wedding receptions involving more than 50 attendees. Funerals Attendees at the day of the burial/ cremation will be limited to no more than 30 persons, down from the current number of 50 persons. The cap for other days of the wake remains at 30 attendees at any one time. Spectator/participation sports events (seated) All mass participation sports events will be suspended and no spectators will be allowed. Live performances at designated venues, pilot business-to-business events, cinemas The maximum number of attendees allowed will be reduced from 750 to 250. Pre-event testing will be required for all attendees if there are more than 100 attendees. Cinema attendances will be reduced to 100 attendees, with the potential to increase to 250 attendees with pre-event testing. Museums and public libraries Operating capacity will be reduced from 65 per cent to 50 per cent Tours Maximum tour sizes offered by tour operators and tourist guides will be reduced from 50 attendees to 20 attendees. Top photo by Hannah Sibayan on Unsplash
Article
A range of mid-scale to luxury hotels have just opened or will continue to open in Singapore, Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding.The constant supply of short-term accommodation properties in Singapore is not slowing down due to the anticipation of satisfying strong re-opening and pent-up demand sometime in the near future.According to those in the know, optimism is also in the air given that the government will give the industry strong support.#singapore #hospitalityindustry #hotels
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/new-hotels-singapore-pandemic/
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A range of mid-scale to luxury hotels have just opened or will continue to open in Singapore, Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding. CNA reported that the constant supply of short-term accommodation properties in Singapore is not slowing down due to the anticipation of satisfying strong re-opening and pent-up demand sometime in the near future. And optimism is in the air given that the government will give the industry strong support, those in the know said. The Clan Hotel, for example, opened in March 2021 in Telok Ayer, almost a year into the pandemic, at a time tourism numbers were in the doldrums. Hotels opening soon Joining this establishment are at least four hotels that will be opening in 2021. Oasia Resort Sentosa will be opening soon in the second half 2021. The 172-room Citadines Connect City Centre Singapore will be opening in Dhoby Ghaut in December 2021. There will be two lfy properties opening in 2021. The 240-unit lyf in Farrer Park will be opening this October. lyf at one-north will be opening in the fourth quarter of 2021. More hotels opening after 2021 For those who can't get enough of waking up in different rooms, there will be more hotels slated to be opened after 2021. A 204-room Edition by Marriott hotel is scheduled to open in 2022, located on the former Boulevard Hotel site on Orchard Boulevard. A 350-room Pullman Singapore hotel will open at Hill Street in 2022. A 303-room Mondrian Singapore hotel will open in Duxton Hill in 2023 or so. New hotels that started operating in 2020 These hotels supplying thousands of rooms will be on top of a few other hotels that have already opened in Singapore recently. These relatively new hotels were opened only in 2020. Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore in Changi Duxton Reserve at Duxton Road Mint Hotel within One Farrer Hotel All photos via respective property owners
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Ethel Neo, 30, was in her confinement period after the birth of her first son in 2018 when she started craving chicken collagen soup. Almost two years and many, many kilograms of chicken feet later, she finally managed to perfect a recipe that satisfied her craving.However, the product launch coincided with the start of the circuit breaker period.As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, the couple were uncertain whether their collagen soup would be well-received by the public.Calling themselves a pair of risk-takers, they bit the bullet and went ahead with their original plans anyway.“We didn’t want to delay our plans because the factory had already manufactured the soups based on what we originally forecasted,” Neo's husband, Peter Lau said.#singapore #entrepreneur #fnb
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/chu-collagen-interview/
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Who would have thought that a post-pregnancy craving could give birth to a successful F&B business? Ethel Neo, 30, was in her confinement period after the birth of her first son in 2018 when she started craving chicken collagen soup. As someone who prefers to cook her own food, the self-confessed foodie then tried her hand at making the collagen soup from scratch. A lot of chicken feet Almost two years and many, many kilograms of chicken feet later, she finally managed to perfect a recipe that satisfied her craving. If you're wondering what it's like to drink collagen soup almost every day, here's what Neo's 36-year-old husband, Peter Lau, hesitantly said in front of his wife: "Trying the same thing every day to perfect it can be a bit... too much." "Now we only drink it on special occasions," Neo chimed in. The true fan of the collagen soup, however, is their two-year-old son who has it every single day. But all that soup drinking and chicken feet stewing didn't go in vain after all. You see, Neo didn't just make the collagen soup for her own consumption. She would also prepare her soup for gatherings with family and close friends, all of whom had showered her cooking with compliments. Neo said: "When I started making it, I got a lot of requests from my family, friends and even friends of friends. So I thought, ok, there is a demand for this." The thing is, however, it's not exactly easy to make a large batch of chicken collagen soup from scratch. Up to eight hours to boil soup It takes up to eight hours just to boil the soup, which would have then been reduced to just a bowl of soup. And that doesn't include the time required to prepare the ingredients and to clean up the kitchen afterwards, which Lau jokingly said was his main duty. After months of sourcing, thankfully, they managed to find a manufacturer that could replicate the recipe to produce the soup in bulk as CHU Collagen, a frozen and prepackaged collagen soup. Everything went well and they were ready to market their product for sale online in April 2020. What they didn't know then, however, was that their launch coincided with the start of the circuit breaker period. Neo and Lau admitted that they were both scared at first as they didn't know what to expect during such a daunting time. As if there wasn't enough to worry about, the couple were uncertain whether their collagen soup would be well-received by the public. Calling themselves a pair of risk-takers, they bit the bullet and went ahead with their original plans anyway. "We didn't want to delay our plans because the factory had already manufactured the soups based on what we originally forecasted," Lau said. And it seems like everything was worth the risk after all. In fact, Lau would say that the timing was "perfect" because the circuit breaker period happened to be a time where a lot of Singaporeans turned into home chefs and so many people took a chance on CHU Collagen. In Sep. 2020, the chicken collagen soup was listed at FairPrice Finest outlets and sold out at nine outlets within the first day. Their soups were also completely sold out online two weeks before the Chinese New Year in 2021. In less than a year, CHU Collagen has made S$1 million in revenue as seen in financial statements shown to Mothership. Not bad at all for something that started out as a craving. Rave reviews from famous Cantonese chef Since its launch, CHU Collagen has received a lot of rave reviews, including one from an apparently famous chef of a popular Cantonese restaurant chain. Neo sheepishly told us: "We gifted a very famous chef in Singapore our soup and received feedback that it was very good. For a well-renowned chef to appreciate our soup, it really boosted our confidence." The chef loved the soup so much, he apparently bought more to gift them to his staff. To them, however, one of the most valued compliments has to be the very first "thank you" email they received from one of their customers. "When customers write in to us to tell us how much they enjoyed the soup, it really made us so happy. It made us very motivated to improve and do better," Lau said. The taste test To put it in numbers, CHU Collagen’s perfect five-star rating is based on 81 reviews on Google. Curious to know if it is indeed worth the hype, we tried all three offerings from CHU Collagen. To judge it fairly, we prepared all of the soups as part of a hotpot. So here's our take on the products: Premium Chicken Collagen Soup The premium chicken collagen soup is the flagship product for a reason. The soup was pleasantly robust and umami without tasting that it was laden with MSG. Instead, it reminded us of homemade chicken soup so one could easily trick people into thinking that you made the soup yourself. Since it is a collagen soup, it has a thicker consistency. But if you're not used to the thickness, you can always add more water without compromising much of the flavour. This flavour is one many would enjoy having especially on a cold, rainy day. Rating: 5 out of 5. Can't go wrong with this one for communal hotpots. Spice level: 0 out of 5. Literally chicken feet. Premium Prawn Mee Soup As one would know, making prawn mee takes a lot of time to prepare as well. Upon boiling the frozen soup base, the entire office could smell the aromatic stock of prawn heads and that made us really look forward to the soup. As expected, the prawn mee soup had a strong prawn flavour and just like the chicken collagen soup, doesn't taste like the typical frozen or instant food. Be warned, though. This prawn mee soup is on the peppery side so you may want to prepare a glass of water as part of the meal. Our only gripe? The soup was a little oily so it made the experience a little less appetising. Rating: 4 out 5. Legit prawn mee soup, just a little greasy. Spice level: 4 out of 5. Quite shiok. Premium Laksa Soup The premium laksa soup is the latest addition to the growing variety of CHU Collagen products. The first thing we noticed was how thick the laksa soup actually is compared to other laksa soup bases we've seen at most hotpot eateries. This is a rich laksa broth with a noticeable coconut milk flavour. And again, just like the other soups, this didn't taste like a store-bought soup base at all. The soup also coated the noodles evenly, providing a flavourful bite every time. Our only complaint is that it lacks a fiery punch (as a base of comparison, the prawn mee soup is spicier) that one would often expect from laksa thus making it quite surfeiting. Though, you can probably zhng it up with your own sambal. Overall, a great option for communal hotpots with children and those who can't take spicy food. Rating: 3.5 out of 5. Don't get us wrong, the laksa is good. But given a choice, we'd rather get the chicken collagen soup or the prawn mee soup over this. Spice level: 2 out of 5. Overall, a great option for communal hotpots with children and those who can't take spicy food, While some may be intimidated by the premium pricing, we'd say that it is a worthy buy at least for special occasions. And while the serving suggests that it can feed up to two persons, the soup bases packs quite the punch and are rather concentrated. We added water to suit our taste for all of the soups and it easily fed up to five hungry colleagues. Extremely supportive father If you've been following CHU Collagen, you would notice that it is also a hit among local celebrities, especially filmmaker Jack Neo. That's partly because Jack is Neo's father. And as a doting father, Jack was more than eager to help his daughter promote her growing F&B business. Growing up as a child of a celebrity, Neo knew that whether she liked it or not, she would always be associated with her father. "I don't think I can ever step out of his shadow. Neo is also quite an uncommon surname in Singapore so people would often ask me if I'm related to Jack Neo." However, that also motivated her to let CHU Collagen succeed on its own and so for a good six months, not many people were aware of the people behind the brand. It goes without saying that they put in a lot of hard work into this venture. Neo, who recently welcomed their second son in February, told us that her husband personally did some of the deliveries even just a day before she gave birth. She wasn’t lazing around either. Right after delivering her second child, she got back to work and started replying to emails. After some time and a steady stream of positive reviews, Jack was roped in to help with social media marketing. That was at his insistence too, Neo and Lau told us. Neo said: "He was very bored during the circuit breaker as well and kept asking us 'Do you need help marketing it? Papa can help!'" "He was looking at Wang Lei [doing live auctions] and said 'if Wang Lei can do, papa can do also'," Lau added. While they laughed reminiscing these jovial moments with Jack, they also didn't forget to mention how appreciative and blessed they are to have a supportive fan in him. Spouses and business partners Some people might have doubts about married couples working together. However, Neo and Lau make being both spouses and business partners look like a breeze. In fact, CHU Collagen isn't the first business they've started together. The couple are also founders of Éclat by Oui, a diamond simulant jewellery brand they started in 2017. This, Neo shared, was a good "training ground" for them to work together and get to know each other as business partners. Their secret to working well together? Delegating their roles and responsibilities. Neo is in charge of the recipes and the branding of the product, including the design of the logo and packaging. Lau, on the other hand, likens himself to be a saikang warrior (he even does the delivery sometimes and the title on his name card reads Chief Saikang Officer, no joke) who handles more of the logistics and administration side of the business. They also acknowledged that it's difficult to keep their work and personal lives separate but they have two rules that help with their relationship: Never talk about work on date night. Never bring unresolved conflicts overnight. "Which is why we sleep very late at night!" Neo quipped. And it seems like it's working based on the sweet captions they often pen for one another on Instagram. Awwww. What's next? The couple has many ambitious plans for the future, but a lot of them are in the pipeline. For one, they have launched a monthly subscription plan for the soups, delivering them right at your doorstep. This, it seems, is the first-ever subscription plan for frozen soup in Singapore. From now till April 14, customers can get a 20 per cent discount on the subscription every month. More information on the subscription plan can be found here. CHU Collagen will also be available on Shopee by mid-April and physically at Eccellente by HAO Mart supermarkets in the next few months. CHU Collagen soups are currently available for sale online or exclusively at FairPrice Finest outlets from S$11 to S$14 per 500ml pouch. This sponsored article by CHU Collagen has made the writer crave chicken collagen soup again.
Article
There are currently three women ministers in the Cabinet.We unpack the reasons they aren't likely to succeed Lee Hsien Loong as Prime Minister.#singapore #politics #womeninpolitics
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/why-no-woman-singapore-prime-minister/
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There's a job available, I hear the role is good but the competition is intense. To get it, you need to be a member of parliament from the People's Action Party (PAP), ideally have experience running a ministry, and...be a man, seemingly. Haven't you noticed that amidst the speculation of who will be the next Prime Minister-in-Waiting, all the names offered up were men? Let me first add a caveat that people who are too focused on the headline will miss. So if you see comments to that effect, you'll know they haven't even read the third paragraph. Here goes. I am not saying a woman should become Prime Minister solely because she's a woman. As always, the best candidate for the top job should be the best person for the job. Also, while I recognise that Halimah Yacob is our first female president and head of state, this doesn't necessarily exclude a women to be the head of government role. Now with that out of the way, let's try and parse the reasons why no one thinks it's a realistic possibility that a woman will succeed Lee Hsien Loong as Prime Minister. ...at least, not yet. Not many women in Cabinet Let's assume the next PM comes from the current Cabinet, which has 20 members, including PM Lee. Out of these 20, only three are women, which means just 15 per cent of the Cabinet's slate of full ministers are women. Josephine Teo, Manpower Minister, Second Home Affairs Minister Grace Fu, Sustainability & Environment Minister Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Finance Minister, Second National Development Minister So if we're going purely by numbers alone, the fact is that women in Cabinet are outnumbered by their male counterparts. Even if you expand the definition of "Cabinet" to include office-holders (i.e. Senior Ministers of State to Parliamentary Secretaries), it has only improved slightly. Out of 37 political office-holders, nine are women. They include Senior Ministers of State like Sim Ann and Amy Khor; Ministers of State like Sun Xueling, Low Yen Ling and Gan Siow Huang; and Parliamentary Secretary Rahayu Mahzam. That's a rate of 24.3 per cent, or just under one-quarter of the total number of office-holders. So there aren't that many women to choose from in the first place. History against them But even the fact of having multiple full women ministers in Cabinet is something relatively new, and only during PM Lee's premiership. The first time in Singapore history that the government had two full women ministers was 2017, when Teo was promoted to Minister in the Prime Minister's Office. She was concurrently appointed to the posts of Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and Manpower. She joined Grace Fu, who had earlier been promoted to full minister in 2015, helming the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. Before Fu, there were only two women who served as full ministers in the Singapore Cabinet. One was Lim Hwee Hua, who was Minister in the Prime Minister's Office as well as Second Minister for Finance and Transport. However, after having been defeated in Aljunied GRC in the 2011 GE, she retired from politics. The other was Seet Ai Mee, who was made Acting Minister for Community Development before the 1991 GE. She was widely expected to be promoted to a full minister if she had won, but she lost her seat to Ling How Doong of the Singapore Democratic Party. This means that there was no woman minister in Singapore before the 1990s. Experience by ministry Ever since Heng Swee Keat took himself out of the running, there have been many, many column inches devoted to the experience of his potential successors. Much like a hiring manager scanning the resume of a job applicant, political observers examined their various stints in charge of the different ministries, along with their other credentials. Experience running a "heavyweight" ministry is seen as a point in their favour, those which deal with matters of national security (e.g. Home Affairs, Defence), the economy (e.g. Finance, Trade & Industry) or both (e.g. Foreign Affairs). In other words, "heavyweight" ministries can also be defined as those whose ministers have previously run another ministry. For instance, K Shanmugam was a Law Minister before helming the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Home Affairs Ministry. Vivian Balakrishnan led the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources; and Community Development, Youth and Sports, before taking on the Foreign Affairs portfolio. But women, by and large, have not helmed such heavyweight ministries yet. Even if you go by budget, the top five ministries in terms of expenditure were (looking at the revised FY2020 numbers, page 15): Health Defence Education Trade & Industry Transport None of them have been helmed by a woman in Singapore's history. Candidates themselves It would seem that women have a steep hill to climb, with numbers and history not in their favour. But let's take a look at the three ministers themselves. Josephine Teo - First minister who anchored & won a GRC Josephine Teo is 52 years old and the current Manpower Minister, as well as Second Minister for Home Affairs. In terms of age, Teo is the youngest among the three female ministers, and is around the same age as 4G frontrunners Chan Chun Sing and Ong Ye Kung. She has experience in various portfolios, having also served as Senior Minister of State for Finance, Foreign Affairs and Transport. Teo is also the first woman minister to anchor a GRC and win it. She stood in Jalan Besar GRC in GE2020, where her team secured a strong 65 per cent of the vote against a People's Voice team. However, whether fairly or unfairly, Teo has caught public attention for making a number of statements some deemed controversial. Whether it's the "small space" comment from 2016, or saying in May 2020 that she has not come across a single migrant worker who has demanded an apology, Teo has the distinction of someone that almost every Singaporean has an opinion about. That would be useful for politicians elsewhere, but less so in placid Singapore. During the latest PAP Central Executive Committee (CEC) election, Teo did not get enough votes to get into the top 12, and was ultimately co-opted into the CEC. She is not a PAP office-holder, but was appointed as the chair of the PAP's Women's Wing. Grace Fu - First female minister who helms two different ministries Grace Fu is older than Teo at 57, and with age cited as a reason by Heng, that's another mark against her chances. But Fu arguably has more ministerial experience, entering politics in 2006 and holding various offices in the Education, National Development, Information, Communication & the Arts and the Environment & Water Resources ministries. She was promoted to full minister in 2012, as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and then helmed the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in 2015. In Parliament, she was appointed Leader of the House. In GE2020, Fu won her Yuhua SMC contest against an SDP opponent with over 70 per cent of the vote. In the subsequent reshuffle, she was given a new role as the newly-renamed Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, which appears to be a priority of the PAP's. In the recent CEC election, Fu did well enough to be directly elected to the CEC. Fu also holds the position of Organising Secretary in the CEC. Indranee Rajah - Parliamentary combatant Indranee Rajah is another political veteran, having entered politics in 2001 and standing with Lee Kuan Yew in Tanjong Pagar GRC. She is 58 years old. As a political office-holder, she held various positions with the Ministries of Law, Education and Finance. She was promoted to full minister in 2018 as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, where she oversees the National Population and Talent division. She is also concurrently Second Minister for Finance and National Development. In Parliament, Indranee served as Deputy Speaker and was recently appointed Leader of the House after winning her GE2020 contest in Tanjong Pagar GRC with 63 per cent against a PSP team. Indranee also drew attention in Parliament for her clashes with the Workers' Party (WP) Members of Parliament. She engaged in a back-and-forth with WP's Pritam Singh over the Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd. corruption case in 2018. In 2019, Indranee also confronted Singh over the WP's "moral authority" in hypothetical cases of misconduct, given the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council situation. And in 2021, she questioned Singh after he tussled with Heng about the WP's suggestion for a parliamentary budget office. If the mark of a potential Prime Minister is their ability to cross swords with the opposition in Parliament, Indranee would be higher up in consideration. However, like Teo, Indranee did not receive enough votes in the CEC election to be directly elected, and was co-opted. Change needed first Despite their accomplishments, no one is considering any of the three women ministers as realistic candidates to take Heng's spot. Perhaps in the future the prospect of a woman PM may not seem so far-fetched. GE2020 saw the highest number of women MPs with 27 out of 93 elected seats. Hazel Poa, Non-Constituency MP from the PSP, is another addition. Still, at 29 per cent, there just aren't that many women in politics right now. In March earlier this year, an attendee at an NUS forum asked Minister K Shanmugam whether Singapore is indeed ready for a woman as PM. He replied that while the party wants more women MPs and ministers, and are actively scouting talent, the burdens of the job is a daunting prospect for many people. He added: "If you have an active professional life, you are also spending your weekends preparing for them...And then at night, three times a week, you are in your constituency. Weekends, you are in your constituency, parliamentary sessions you are juggling… it takes a toll on you, on your family life, on your work." But that may be a Singaporean hurdle, as opposed to an Asian one. While one might say women in politics is a "Western ideal", tell that to the people of Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Bangladesh and India, all of whom have had women as heads of government. Both Hong Kong and Taiwan are also currently led by women. For now, it would be highly unexpected if a woman succeeded Heng as the leader of PAP's 4G team -- and the next PM-in-waiting. Top image from Indranee Rajah and Josephine Teo's Facebook pages and timeauction.org.
Article
Grab is set to list in the U.S. with the largest-ever merger with a "blank-cheque company", also known as a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).We explain what a SPAC is, and why some companies, like Grab, prefer to list using a SPAC merger.#MSExplains#fintech
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/grab-spac-merger-explainer/
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Grab is set to go public in the U.S. with what Bloomberg called the "largest-ever merger with a blank-cheque company", estimated to skyrocket its worth to US$39.6 billion (S$53 billion). A SPAC-tacular play If you're like some of us at the office, you might be wondering what a "blank-cheque company" is. "Blank-cheque companies" are known as special purpose acquisition companies (SPAC). A SPAC is a shell company (meaning it has no operations) which is set up for the sole purpose of raising money from investors through an initial public offering (IPO) so that it can acquire a company in the future — typically within two years. SPACs are called "blank-cheque companies" because their IPO investors typically don't know what company the SPAC will ultimately acquire. Managing Director of capital fund Thomvesr Ventures described SPACs like so to Crunchbase News: “You can think of it like: an IPO is basically a company looking for money, while a SPAC is money looking for a company.” Confused? Here's an analogy. John really wants to set up a F&B business. The trouble is he doesn't know yet what he wants to sell. He approaches his friends for money to invest in his new business. He tells them that he hasn't decided on what this business is, but he whips out his track record of acquiring businesses and turning them into popular F&B joints that generate a lot of profit — his friends are impressed and they decide to chip in. A fast track to IPO There are some benefits that a SPAC provides and you can read about them here, but in the case of Grab, the main attraction lies in the fast-tracked IPO process. The traditional IPO route for a private company like Grab which wants to go public is usually long and arduous. The stock exchange regulator and investors will scrutinise the company's financial statements to detect fraud. The company also has to spend time (and money) organising investor pitches and roadshows to publicise its IPO and attract both private and retail investors. The whole process can take anywhere from four to six months to complete, reported CNBC. When a private company gets acquired by a SPAC, however, the former gets a faster IPO process because the latter is already listed. Let's return to John Three months later, John comes across a home cook, Peter, who makes incredibly delicious steak sandwiches — so tasty, in fact, that John thinks they will be a hit with foodies, if Peter starts selling his sandwiches at say, a mall. But Peter has no experience in running a business, and he doesn't want to go through the onerous and lengthy process of setting up a business. But there is another way. John pays Peter for the right to sell his sandwiches. With John's funds and Peter's sandwiches, they partner to operate a stall at a mall called "Sandwiches R Us". The sandwich business is owned by John, Peter, as well as the friends who invested money with John. In the process, Peter gets to sell his sandwiches to the public (and earn lots of money because his food is so darn delicious) in return for giving up partial ownership of his business. John and his friends, on the other hand, get partial ownership of what is likely to be a very successful sandwich business in return for cash. Secured US$4 billion in private investments The SPAC which is merging with Grab is Altimeter Growth. It is owned by investment firm Altimeter Capital Management. Grab said on April 13 that the merger will lead to a new holding company, of which both Grab and Altimeter Growth, will be subsidiaries. It is this holding company's shares which will be traded on NASDAQ "in the coming months" according to Grab. It is expected to be worth US$39.6 billion (S$53 billion). No word yet on its name, but we think that it's probably not going to be as fancy as "Sandwiches R Us". What has been confirmed though, is that Grab will receive US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) in cash from this deal. This includes slightly over US$4 billion (S$5.3 billion) in private investments — or what is called Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE) — from investment firms like Temasek and fund managers like BlackRock, and Altimeter Capital Management. Yahoo Finance also reported that under a special corporate governance arrangement, Grab CEO Anthony Tan will have 60.4 per cent of voting power while owning a 2.2 per cent stake in the new entity. Of shell companies and blank cheques All this talk about shell companies and blank cheques sounds terribly dubious but in actual fact, SPACs are quite above board, completely legal, and apparently, enjoying a boom right now. In fact, according to Reuters, SPACs raised US$99 billion (S$132 billion) this year alone compared to US$83 billion (S$111 billion) in 2020. But it’s not all roses with SPACs. A Financial Times analysis found that a majority of blank-cheque companies in the U.S. between 2015 and 2019 failed to raise their share price significantly. Some also claim that the way a SPAC is set up makes the business ripe for fraud — as was the accusation levelled against Nikola, an electric truck startup after it merged with a SPAC last year. Whatever the case, amid the current SPAC frenzy in the U.S., this will probably not be the last we hear of Asian tech companies taking the SPAC merger route to go public. Mothership Explains is a series where we dig deep into the important, interesting, and confusing going-ons in our world and try to, well, explain them. This series aims to provide in-depth, easy-to-understand explanations to keep our readers up to date on not just what is going on in the world, but also the "why's". Top image by Joshua Lee.
Article
Driven by his love for cooking, Nicholas Loh dropped out of school at 14, working as a dishwasher and a cook in a catering business before he set up his own hawker stall in Yishun.Today, he sells customisable Japanese rice bowls from S$5.“At the end of the day, that’s my life passion. To me, it’s not just about making money. It’s about making people happy.”#business #fnb #hawker
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/hideki-interview/
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It's not everyday that one encounters Japanese cai png (economy rice). But there I was one evening with a bowl of aburi (flame-seared) goodness from Hideki — a juicy, grilled chicken cutlet, seasoned baby octopus, a gorgeous, quivering onsen egg and, the sublime seared salmon belly which was charred on the outside but softer than clouds on the inside. And of course, not forgetting the png in cai png — a bed of Japanese sushi rice nestled below. This bowl of high-calorie goodness comes courtesy of 26-year-old Nicholas Loh, the chef at Hideki, an unassuming hawker stall tucked away in a corner of Yishun Park Hawker Centre. The first thing that strikes you about Nicholas Loh is his radiant enthusiasm for food. He would veer off mid-sentence to extol the virtues of his shoyu marinade or squeal with delight at the miracle that is a sous vide machine. He credits his grandmother for cultivating this passion in him. The matriarch of Loh's family was a formidable cook, but she never allowed her grandson to help out whenever she was in the kitchen, says Loh. "She was the type who will tell me, 'you go out of my kitchen lah!'" The boy would slowly learn to pick up skills like cutting and slicing from his grandmother by observing her from his place by the kitchen doorway. Seeing Loh — who calls himself an ex-Ah Beng — pick up culinary skills so easily impressed her. "She was quite impressed because last time I only played games, sleep, you know lah, this kind of Ah Beng pai one lah." To an observer, Loh ticks all the boxes of a seemingly dysfunctional childhood: Divorced parents, a home plagued by a constant stream of screams and quarrels, struggling with anger management, and dropping out of secondary school after his second year. It was a trying time for him, and if he hadn't gone out to work in the culinary industry at the age of 14, he might be a completely different person today, says Loh. Starting out as a waiter at 14 He started out right at the bottom as a waiter in a Japanese restaurant ("You feel like an ant. No, not even an ant — a speck of dust!") in 2009. One of the biggest things he had to learn as a young wait staff was to swallow his words — even when he was not in the wrong. Loh remembers encountering a particularly difficult customer — a "Karen" in today's lingo — who insulted his mentor after she (wrongly) accused him of bringing the wrong order. Before he could snap back, Loh's manager stepped in to placate the customer. His colleagues understood him and taught him a very valuable lesson, says Low: "In life, no choice you have to endure everything. In life, there's always someone who is bigger, better, stronger than you. When people cause conflict, as long as you don't retaliate, you're not causing conflict." From dishwasher to chef After three years of serving up sushi and green tea, and yelling "irrashaimase!", Loh started apprenticing with a catering company, as a dishwasher ("You have to first understand how the place works, how every one fits together, before you can move on to other things") before he was allowed to touch a stove. His very first dish that passed was a sautéed and braised chicken. Cooking with a catering company was — in Loh's words — "freaking hell". The cooking was done in bulk — unlike anything he had ever seen. Vegetables — like cabbages and potatoes — came in gigantic baskets to be peeled. Once, Loh peeled two baskets of potatoes in two hours until his fingers became shrivelled and blistered. And then there was the wok, which Loh estimates to be around 10kg. Imagine flipping 20kg of rice around. "Like rowing boat like that lor!" Every Chinese New Year, the catering company cooked for around 6,000 people daily. "We would start work at 6am, come home at 6pm, come back to work at 2am, then we work until 2pm, and nap for a while before working until 10pm again. Then go home and sleep before coming back to work at 6am again. It was really crazy kind of timing." After the catering experience, Loh went on to work in a French restaurant as well, but ultimately, he felt that Japanese cuisine was where his passion lies, which is the reason why he set up Hideki. "There's discipline and finesse. It's what I call the epitome of cooking." Of sous vide salmon steaks and imported shoyu The idea to serve Japanese fare cai png style came to Loh as a sudden burst of inspiration — to allow people to customise their rice bowls however they see fit. At Hideki, you start with a base of either sushi rice, soba noodles, or a garden salad. Then you layer that with your choice of protein (I'd suggest the chicken), a sauce, and sides ranging from S$1 to S$2 per portion (go for the salmon belly bites). At its cheapest, a rice bowl from Hideki can go for S$5. The weirdest combination he had ever heard of was rice on top of soba noodles, coupled with chicken and pork, and then piled on with a whole assortment of sides. "It was a very weird bowl," he laughs. Listening to Loh, it's quite clear that he takes a great deal of pride in the Japanese cai png bowls that he whips up for his customers. His secret shoyu marinade is made with imported shoyu and mirin. This concoction is used to marinade his salmon for up to 24 hours, and his chicken and pork for up to 48 hours, before they are cooked sous vide-style to retain their juiciness. When it comes to searing the cooked salmon steaks, Loh says that he doesn't do it on both sides because that would only produce "charcoal black" fish — that's not good. "You want it to be charred (on one side) so that you get the crispy texture and the soft salmon flesh." Loh's approach to producing affordable Japanese food has earned him a number of fans, who praise his food for its value, creativity, and big portions. And it looks like he is not stopping any time soon; he recently opened a second outlet in the CBD. "At the end of the day, that's my life passion. To me, it's not just about making money. It's about making people happy." Hideki Address: #01-17, Yishun Park Hawker Centre, 51 Yishun Ave 11, S768867 (map) Operating hours: 11.30am to 8.30pm (Tuesdays to Sundays) Address: #01-07, Shenton Food Hall, Shenton House, 3 Shenton Way, S068805 (map) Operating hours: 11am to 7.30pm (Mondays to Fridays) Social media: Facebook • Instagram Top images by Joshua Lee, Nicholas Loh.
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The cybersecurity industry is booming.This growth is evident by the Singapore government’s recent announcement that S$1 billion would be pumped into building up the government's cyber and data security capabilities.If you’re hoping to jump on the cybersecurity bandwagon, here’s how you can sharpen your skills for a career in cybersecurity.Red Alpha, a local cybersecurity talent development start-up, will be offering a 40-months Alpha Specialist Training Programme, which encompasses an intensive bootcamp, industry placement and advanced upskilling.The programme is open to fresh graduates from university and polytechnics and those looking for a mid-career change.While a cybersecurity background is not necessary, it is advisable for applicants to have at least a background in Information Technology.#cybersecurity #informationtechnology
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/red-alpha-training-programme/
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Everyone and everything is going digital these days. From bubble tea to luxury goods, it seems that nothing can’t be bought with a click of the mouse or touch of the screen. This also means everyone’s data from their phone number to their credit card details exist in the virtual sphere. And as consumers slowly move to digital platforms, so do those with more malicious intentions. What has resulted are numerous incidents of hacking and online scams. Naturally, the cybersecurity industry is booming. This growth is evident by the Singapore government’s recent announcement that S$1 billion would be pumped into building up the government's cyber and data security capabilities. If you’re hoping to jump on the cybersecurity bandwagon, here’s how you can sharpen your skills for a career in cybersecurity. Not enough cybersecurity talent to go around According to Emil Tan, Advisor to Red Alpha and co-founder of Singapore’s largest cybersecurity community group, Division Zero (Div0), cybersecurity talents here are lacking, despite the number of related diplomas and degrees. Although there were an estimated 3,400 cybersecurity positions open in Singapore in 2020, the number of qualified individuals remain low, according to the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA). This manpower crunch is worsened by the large number of companies across various industries that set up their headquarters in Singapore — such as big tech and engineering firms (AWS, Dyson, VMware), big pharma (MSD) and banks — all of which require cybersecurity talents to help run their operations. This is notwithstanding the talent government agencies and ministries require. So how can you break into the industry? And do you have what it takes for a career in cybersecurity? Enter Red Alpha, a local cybersecurity talent development start-up. Specialised training programme Oftentimes, fresh cybersecurity hires only get the chance to develop these practical skills when at work, and end up experiencing an extremely steep learning curve. Red Alpha thus aims to bridge this gap by providing trainees with real-world skills for the industry. Red Alpha will be offering a 40-months Alpha Specialist Training Programme, which encompasses an intensive bootcamp, industry placement and advanced upskilling. The programme ensures that trainees develop “real-world skills in line with their aptitude and aspirations,” Red Alpha’s CEO Dean Gefen said. While the programme might sound like a traineeship or something of the sort, it’s actually more of a full-time job. 1. Intensive bootcamp During the four-month bootcamp, trainees will be exposed to rigorous hands-on training to prepare them for careers such as cybersecurity architects, solutions specialists, incidents response and threat intelligence specialists, and red team specialists. The bootcamp will also incorporate talks, workshops and career sharing sessions with partner organisations to provide trainees with industry exposure. Here are some of topics that may be covered during the programme: If you’re worried about the vigour of the bootcamp and that you might not be able to keep up with the pace, fret not. The bootcamp has a trainer to trainee ratio of 1:6 so you can be assured that your questions during class won’t go unanswered. These trainers are experienced practitioners from various fields of cybersecurity. Instead of a one-size-fits-all curriculum, the teaching materials are also tailor-made for each trainee, according to their strengths and weaknesses assessed during the application process. To recognise outstanding trainees, one trainee of each class will receive a cash prize of S$10,000 and be named the “MVP” of the month. These are the criteria for one to be considered as a “MVP” of the class: Attitude and grades in class Helpfulness to fellow trainees Participation in outside classroom activities e.g. extra classes and seminars with partner organisations, participating in optional open-source projects Trainees will get a monthly study allowance of S$2,500 with CPF contributions through the entirety of the first stage of the bootcamp. 2. Industry placements and upskilling In order to acquire real-world experience and training, trainees will spend the next three years working in full-time positions at one of Red Alpha’s partner organisations after the bootcamp. Some of these organisations include Privasec, Speardome and Momentum-Z. To keep trainees abreast with the current cyber landscape, every six months, trainees will get the opportunity to level up their skills via a one-week workshop back at Red Alpha. The workshops will be based on each trainee’s performance and job scope, which Red Alpha will keep track of through constant conversation with the trainee and their supervisor. Topics could include reverse engineering, vulnerability research, advanced penetration testing techniques, web intelligence and more. During this period, the trainees will receive a monthly employment salary that commensurates with their competencies. How to apply? Think you’re cut out for the programme? The programme is open to fresh graduates from university and polytechnics and those looking for a mid-career change. While a cybersecurity background is not necessary, it is advisable for applicants to have at least a background in Information Technology. Following the application submission, shortlisted applicants will have to undergo a skills assessment stage and interview. The training lessons will take place at the Red Alpha office located at UE Square, and the next programme is slated to start on May 31, 2021. You can apply for the programme here. This sponsored article by Red Alpha let the author learn the importance of cybersecurity in Singapore. Top photo from Unsplash
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#LessonsOnLeadership: In our Perspectives column, Raffles Medical Group co-founder Dr Loo Choon Yong reflects on his childhood, watching his dad juggle three jobs to make ends meet, and also the serendipitous events that led to him becoming a doctor.
http://mothership.sg/2021/04/raffles-medical-loo-choon-yong-perspectives/
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COMMENTARY: "So with that kind of background, right, when you're asked to help, how to not help?" 72-year-old Dr. Loo Choon Yong, co-founder and executive chairman of Raffles Medical Group, has more than four decades of experience running a medical practice and being a doctor under his belt. However, his path to where he is today was not always clear. As a schoolboy, he was interested in physics and science, and also had a keen passion for reading. Instead of becoming a scientist, though, Loo was encouraged by his father to pursue medicine as a way to support the family, and his six other siblings in particular. As part of Lessons on Leadership, a new Mothership series hoping to inspire the next generation of Singaporeans through the stories of Singapore’s many successful business leaders and entrepreneurs, Loo shares more about his experiences growing up in 1960's Singapore. By Dr Loo Choon Yong I never wanted to be a doctor, by the way. Father worked three jobs The truth is, we always had to borrow money. My father, who worked in a bank, had to borrow money from a friend who was an unregistered dentist, and repay it after my father received his 3 months annual bonus. I mean, banking jobs were considered very good jobs actually. My father, he was educated and bilingual, and for his time, that was not bad. He kept us together by teaching English for an hour at a primary school in the weekday mornings, working in a bank five and a half days a week, and on alternate evenings giving tuition or teaching at the night school. His only leisure time was Sunday. On Sunday he would bring us to church, because we were a Christian family. And in the afternoon, he played mahjong with his friends. That's all. Everyone slept in one room And we (my parents and seven of us children) stayed in one room! I did not have a bed. So I slept on a bedsheet, a canvas actually, which was very good — very cool, you know. One place we stayed was a warehouse that was partitioned. The partition was not soundproof. And then, you know, you had a row of rooms like that. So you had a door, but in the day you usually put a curtain for a bit of privacy. No air conditioning, of course. If there were windows opened, you could actually get some cool air. Then a common kitchen. The toilet was a monsoon drain and just zinc roof, with a door and that's it. No flushing, you just do it. This is how we grew up. Choosing to go to Raffles Institution I'm eternally grateful to Mr. Wee, my Primary 6 teacher. My father was his classmate in Presbyterian Boys' School, which was supposed to be quite a good school pre-war. So when it came to Primary 6, and it was time to choose a secondary school, my father put Presbyterian Boys' as the only choice — very convenient, we were staying just near there.. I mean, I was a fairly good student — always second boy, never first. The first always rotated, I was consistent. Mr Wee was also very strict. I remember he said, "Come" — he always called us like that, with a beckoning index finger — "Come. Choon Yong. You take this form and tell your father, put Raffles Institution as first choice. If he really wants PBS, all right, second choice. You can leave the third choice blank.” That's what he told me. I went back — I mean I didn't know anything right? — "Ah pa, Mr. Wee say this." Fortunately, ah pa did that. That's how I went to RI. And I had the shock of my life. Everybody was so smart. Smarter than you, left right centre. And I thought to myself, wah, don't play a fool with this. Developed love for reading From the time I was 13 years old, I never stopped reading. I would read different things, and I discovered the beauty of reading and of words! Can you imagine? Because you must remember that before that, we only studied. We were studying for our exams, not actually reading. 读书,不是看书。 So in my family, we did not have this tradition of reading for leisure or for pleasure. Books were expensive. The only books I had were those I won every year as a prize. The prizes they give you — there would be a bookshop that came to the school, and you would choose the books. So those were the few books I had, that I won every year for being second in the cohort. I had never gone to the library until Sec 1. When I was in RI, I went to the National Library in Bras Basah. And... wah, I was really reading almost a book every day. That's when I read Charles Dickens and all the classics. And that's when you begin, you know, the pleasure of reading — the words can convey images. Isn’t that why we read? They can describe the forest in Africa, the wild river and so on. And the words pop up with meaning, because you're not studying for the information to regurgitate for tests. Deciding to become a doctor When time came to decide what subjects to focus on for my O-Levels — so that was around Sec 3 — you had to decide between arts or science, so science sounded logical. I was good in those subjects; I preferred those. Then the A-Levels — called Pre-U in those days — you had to decide: it could be engineering, pure science, or medicine, which has got biology or zoology, botany and others. Or arts — usually it would be economics, history and so on. And so my father said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I want to go and be a scientist — nuclear scientist, physics", and you must remember, during that time nuclear energy was a big thing. Then he told me, "Doesn't seem like a good idea. Singapore, you're not going to go into these things." I mean, we're talking about the 60s. We were becoming independent and we were a small country. And he said, “Why don't you do medicine?” Because, he said, “I never see a doctor starving. Doctors should be able to make a decent living, you can help me with all your siblings.” At that time, my father was already a manager at the bank. But he had so many kids that were all around university age. My older sister went to work in a bank as a teller after her O-Levels to help the family income. My older brother, he was in university or about to go — he's three years older than me. So probably he was in first year university. No NS at that time yet. So that's what my father told me. I thought okay. I didn't mind studying medicine. So with that kind of background, right, when you're asked to help, how not to help? And so that was that. Love for reading still exists to this day, work is thinking These days, I read a lot of newspapers, periodicals, whatever. And books too, like Obama's memoir. Of course, I still work. My work is thinking, right? Can I stop thinking? I do think about what Biden is going to do. That’s not work. I think about Singapore's future as well, that's not my work. But I also think about my work. And for work, I do more than thinking. I arrange things, I get people together, new ideas, new services. We have a businesslike way of managing our practice from 45 years ago. You need to have some profit to be sustainable. But the abiding motivation for us was always: how do we look after our patients well and better? And that was the idealism that drove us to expand; since more people liked our care, we just kept expanding to serve them. I think work gives you meaning — for me at least — and I come to work to strengthen this platform, this idea; make it better, help my younger colleagues make the decisions, choose people, help groom the younger people. This is how we renew ourselves. We are now into the seventh generation of GPs, fourth generation of specialists. We keep getting younger people into the practice, guide them, make sure they do well. And then in due course, they become leaders themselves and they will help us continue this grooming of successive generations of physicians. But well, if [my work] doesn't make sense, not enjoyable, I will stop doing it. Read our interview with Dr. Loo and his co-founder Dr. Alfred Loh about their 50-plus-year friendship: Top photos via Mothership video and courtesy of Raffles Medical Group. Some quotes have been edited for clarity and grammar.
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Stephanie Huang is the only anti-scam hotline officer situated within the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) and she answered over 10,000 enquiries in the whole of last year.Greg Sim, 31, Senior Investigation Officer and Deputy Officer-in-charge of ASC, said, “It’s real-time intervention. The call comes in, sometimes six figures, sometimes S$6,000. We collaborate closely with Stephanie, who acts as the ‘contact point’, to process the information and act on it meaningfully.”“To mitigate these losses, we need to freeze these accounts fast, if not the money will be gone. Recovery of money boils down to luck and speed.”National Crime Prevention Council
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/anti-scam-hotline-officer-recover-money/
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It happened the evening of Oct. 22, 2020. An admin staff from a Singaporean IT company transferred S$6,000 to an unknown bank account, under the illusion that he was liaising with the authorised supplier for their company. The "man-in-the-middle" attack Known as the Business Email Compromise Scam (BEC), or more colloquially amongst officers – the "man-in-the-middle" attack, the scam involved a very specific modus operandi. Scammers, typically impersonating CEOs, financial directors, or in this case, suppliers, would "intercept" communications between victims, and request for funds to be transferred to a designated bank account not belonging to either party. Stephanie Huang, 35, a National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) anti-scam hotline officer, was the frontline officer who answered the call for help. Huang said, "I received the call the morning of Oct. 23, 2020 (around 9am). The director [of the company] was very anxious, asking me, 'I have all this information, but what am I supposed to do to recover my money?'" Using a spoofed email address, scammers had instructed his staff to transfer money to a bank account, controlled by them. Admin staff had not noticed the incorrect email address at first glance; spoofed email addresses used by scammers often include the slightest of misspellings or replacement of letters. It was only after the director had noted the new bank account and called the supplier to check, had they realised that something was off. Added Huang, "I told the director to lodge a police report immediately, while officers from the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) worked concurrently to trace the monies." Greg Sim, 31, Senior Investigation Officer and Deputy Officer-in-charge of ASC, said, "It's real-time intervention. The call comes in, sometimes six figures, sometimes S$6,000. We collaborate closely with Stephanie, who acts as the 'contact point', to process the information and act on it meaningfully." "To mitigate these losses, we need to freeze these accounts fast, if not the money will be gone. Recovery of money boils down to luck and speed." The full sum of S$6,000 was subsequently recovered the same day the scam was reported. 39 enquiries a day As the only anti-scam hotline operator situated within ASC, Huang receives, on average, 39 enquiries a day. Over the whole of last year, she answered over 10,000 enquiries, received through email, phone calls, or live chat. Huang, a former Community Policing Officer for three years, says that she first joined ASC in August 2019, to "make a direct impact" on other's lives. It's not an easy job given that callers are often emotionally frustrated and skeptical of having fallen prey, sometimes even blaming her for getting scammed. One victim, who was retrenched during circuit breaker last year, had called Huang after falling prey to a love scam. While she had initially agreed to follow Huang's advice to validate the scammer's identity, she ended up calling Huang again a few months later, crying and admitting that the guy had broken off communication and she'd lost large sums of money. Said Huang, "I felt very upset, as I thought I'd spoken to her and she'd realised it was a scam, but that didn't happen. Because it'd been a while since she transferred [the money], I could not help her." Sim explains that scammers tend to move monies very fast, making chances of recovery lower once time has lapsed or if money has been transferred out of the country. He adds, "We want the public to understand that scam prevention is also a personal responsibility. If you notice someone who's been using the same account for the past 10 years suddenly request for transferral to a new account, for example, you should do a verification before doing anything." Highest amount lost in 2020 was S$9.1 million In 2019, 373 cases of BEC scams were reported to Police, resulting in a total loss of S$43.1 million. This increased to 422 reported cases in 2020, resulting in a total loss of S$45.6 million. The highest amount lost was S$9.1 million. To prevent BEC scams, businesses are advised to adopt the following measures: Be mindful of any new or sudden changes in payment instructions and bank accounts. Always verify payment instructions by calling the e-mail sender using previously known phone numbers, instead of numbers provided in the fraudulent email. If your business has been affected by this scam, call your bank immediately to recall the funds. Educate your employees on this scam, especially those that are responsible for making fund transfers, such as purchasing or HR payroll. Prevent email compromise by using strong passwords, changing them regularly, and enabling Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) where possible. Install anti-virus, anti-spyware/malware, and firewall on your computer, and keep them updated. To seek scam-related advice, you may call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or go to www.scamalert.sg. Should you have any information on scams, call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit information here. Top image via Unsplash and by Lean Jinghui
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Back in 2014, Eric Koh had to navigate twists and turns when he was looking to marry a Vietnamese bride, involving a less-than-ideal process with a marriage agent.He is now a founder of a Vietnamese bride marriage agency, hoping to bring together Singaporean men and Vietnamese women who are serious about marriage, and doing so in a way that is fair to potential Vietnamese brides.Regarding potential clients who have asked “how much I have to give to buy a wife?“, Koh is quick to cut them off.“You’re not here to buy, you’re here to marry. You give due respect to your spouse, it’s equal. They are not second-class citizens.”
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/vietnamese-bride-marriage-agency-founder/
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PERSPECTIVE: In April 2018, Eric Koh founded B&G Vietnamese Bride Marriage Agency. It was a decision that was largely influenced by his own experience of marrying a Vietnamese woman through a marriage agent in 2014, in a process that he found to be less-than-ideal. Opening up about his experience, Koh shared how he had to navigate twists and turns before finally marrying his current wife, who is from Vietnam. He subsequently established an agency hoping to bring together Singaporean men and Vietnamese women who are serious about marriage. He hopes to do so in a way that is fair to potential Vietnamese brides. It was on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014, that his late wife, Laura Lau, suffered a fatal fall while inspecting the renovations of their house in Pasir Ris. In recounting the incident to me, 62-year-old Eric Koh, the founder of B&G Vietnamese Bride Marriage Agency (B&G), said that it was likely she had lost her balance, falling onto the second floor of their house in Pasir Ris, from a ladder on the third floor. "There was a very loud thud. When I rushed up, I saw her trying to struggle to get up. I asked her, 'What happened to you?' She told me that there was 'pain at the back, pain at the back.' Then after that, she lapsed into unconsciousness." Lau was conveyed to Changi General Hospital, where she stayed in ICU for about two weeks and eventually passed away. Fell into depression In the wake of his wife's passing, Koh fell into depression, becoming a "totally different person" from his usual chatty, people-oriented self. Then-HOD of Student Development at Peirce Secondary School, he said: "I used to look at students. Now, I kept myself in the cubicle. I did not dare to see anyone. I was also shocked. How come I'm like that? Why have I completely lost confidence?" He eventually sought treatment from two psychiatrists and a psychologist, and received a long leave of medical absence. But he was still unable to leave the house. "Even when I stayed at home, I did not dare to step out of my house because I was reminded of my late wife." Whenever he wanted to go for his morning walk, he added, he would break down and cry, unable to control himself. Eventually, Koh's two children, his daughter, 23, and son, 27, at that time, were worried about him being alone at home, given that they were not with him, and he only had their helper and his mother (their grandmother) with severe dementia for company. The family came to a collective decision to find him a new partner. Why go for a Vietnamese bride? Koh told us that it was highly unlikely someone of his age to be able to find a partner in Singapore. "I couldn't tell anyone I was already 56. Nobody will want to marry me. I mean I did not try, but rather, the assumption is that at this age, how to go and find another person?" This led to Koh's own decision to find a bride from Vietnam, a decision that his children also supported. When I asked why Vietnam in particular, Koh said: "I went to Cambodia every year, bringing students for service learning. And I saw many Vietnamese there. The way they present themselves, their behaviour, left an impression on me. Also, I recalled many years ago, I read somewhere in the newspapers, that Singaporeans are marrying Vietnamese wives. So I said, why don't I try that?" Koh reached out to the agent after finding their website through Google. Koh: The first time I met the agent, he brought three girls along His first meeting with the agent started off on an unexpected note, however. The girls had apparently just arrived in Singapore, with Koh guessing that the agent had only just picked them up at the airport. "This agent met me for the first time and brought three girls along! I said, these are not the ones that I want, I'm not looking for all these," he said with a chuckle. "How about these three? Any one?" The agent had asked. "This is not the way I'm choosing a life partner," Koh said to him. "I need to know more about them, the background all that. I think age is also important — I asked for someone who's above 40. But he told me don't have, the oldest is probably 30 years old. Vietnamese marry very young. If they are 40, they will not consider getting married already." Ended up going to Vietnam over the weekend with the agent Koh decided to choose a woman from one of the website's photographs, and go to Vietnam. But there was very little information accompanying the photo however, as only a fake name and the woman's age was provided. Why a fake name? "[They] cannot put the real name because if [they] do so, people will go and search for them, and (clients) do not need the agent already," Koh speculated. Koh was also charged S$1,500 for the trip by the agent, which Koh found "very reasonable" at that time, for a trip over a period of three days. He found himself in for another surprise however, when he met the woman, who was waiting for both of them at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City with her sister. With a laugh, Koh said: "She was 50 per cent different from the photo. He (The agent) himself was also shocked because he had never met the girl, had never communicated with the girl. It was somebody who had so-called 'supplied' him with the girl and he simply put it up on his website." In any case, the woman and her sister accompanied and Koh and his agent to the hotel, where Koh paid for the accommodation of the two women by himself — a decision that he came to seeing as they were from a province outside the city and could not possibly return right away. He met three other women, settled on one, but decided to reject her eventually Afterwards, Koh and the agent went to lunch with the woman, whereupon two more women, called from other provinces, came to join them. But this whole process only made him more uncomfortable. "He (the agent) didn't even ask me about criteria at all...So now I have three ladies having lunch with me, everyone trying to feed me, bringing food to my bowl. So I felt a bit uncomfortable." He decided to give one of them a chance, and took her out to coffee the next day. That was when he found out that she spoke very little English. At that time, Koh did not how to use apps such as Google translate. "Somehow or rather we still managed to communicate through sign language. And my agent was not with me. He left me with her," Koh added. However, he eventually decided against taking her as his wife, much to her disappointment. "She's too short for me physically...she's actually also too young for me, at about 25-26," Koh said, although he pointed out that she had a good character. More importantly, Koh added, she was finishing her architectural degree, which she wanted to give up for marriage. However, Koh refused to let her do so on the grounds that attaining her degree was the dream of her father. A photo of his future wife from his agent was the only information he ever received about her His agent's reaction towards the rejection of the girl was, "Never mind, just change, get another one, you don't have to feel bad about it." "He (the agent) just said he wanted to close the deal and quickly find another one." This brought up Koh's own observation that his agent was "very business-minded" and did not take into account the welfare of the girl. Koh then received another photo from his agent via WhatsApp, this time of the woman who would become his future wife. The photo was also the only piece of information that he ever received from the agent about her, with a complete absence of information on her family. "I knew nothing of her occupation, educational standard, which province she came from, how tall is she, what's her weight, I did not have these essential information." I knew nothing, whether her parents were alive or not, how many brothers and sisters (she had), what are they doing, which province they are from — all this information was not there." As for the meeting with the woman, his agent added that a contact of his would be waiting for him over in Ho Chi Minh to arrange the event and did not accompany him for the journey. Instead it was Koh's own daughter who came along with him, with the airfare alone coming up to S$1,200 for a last-minute trip on a budget airline. Agent's contact brought along another woman Koh's future wife, Le Thi Ngoc Thao, was not the only woman he was introduced to on the trip however. Prior to the meeting with her, another woman was brought to the hotel by his agent's contact on the first day of their arrival in Vietnam. "This lady (the agent's contact) tried to push her own girl onto me, simply because she could earn a commission." In addition, the contact also tried to pretend that she could not find the meeting location that they had agreed upon with Koh's future wife, only to eventually relent at the insistence of his daughter. By the time they finally reached Coffee Bean, "my wife was about to leave," Koh said. "We arrived just in time." Married in two months, by September 2014 Koh subsequently found out during the meeting that Le, who was 30 years old, was also fluent in Mandarin, as a result of her experience from being a supervisor at a Taiwanese garment factory. "That was the deciding point," he said. He was also bolstered by the sentiments of his daughter, who added that he needed someone who could understand him. For Le's part, the deciding factor was the fact that he had brought his daughter along to the meeting, and the fact that he was also a teacher. Recounting Le's perspective: "Other men just come on their own. You brought your daughter who is pretty old already. So I know you are very serious." Afterwards, Koh brought Le over to Singapore to stay for a week so that she could meet the rest of his family and become more familiar with Singapore. Koh clarified that this was not done immediately however, as he had to first undergo a lengthy process in submitting a letter to ICA, along with his own medical report, bank statement, salary slip, income tax and CPF, in order to demonstrate that she was not entering into the vice trade. The subsequent three trips to Vietnam largely revolved around meeting her family, wedding preparations, and the wedding ceremony itself which happened on September 6, 2014. The newlyweds then flew back the next day, on September 7, and solemnised their marriage two days afterwards in his home, which meant that Le could apply for her Long-Term Visit Pass. She then became a Permanent Residence (PR) in 2017. Throughout the entire process, Koh highlighted that his agent had only been effectively involved in his initial flight to Vietnam. "Throughout the whole thing, my agent only got himself involved in the first round. The rest of it all, I did it on my own, including the marriage ceremony (which) my daughter and I went over (for). We did not understand Vietnamese, whatever they said, we just followed. He had not actually seen my wife and had no information about her." Experience influenced how he set up his own marriage agency The experience eventually spurred Koh to set up his own Vietnamese marriage agency in light of what he felt was the agent's inadequacy in providing both parties crucial information about each other. "An agent may not want to provide essential information, simply because he wants to close a deal," Koh said. But this was precisely what he was hoping to change. B&G was thus established on April 1, 2018. This was following his retirement as a teacher, "with the blessing of my church friend, who helped me to register the company," and with the agency's website being established with the help of his daughter's husband. His main source for potential brides is an anonymous partner, with contacts in "almost every province" of Vietnam. This partner, Koh added, is aware of the kind of profiles he is searching for. "I want decent girls, with decent jobs, occupations and a good family background." Instituted a screening process for his male clients Koh also observed that many Vietnamese women had been married to Singaporean men through the recommendations of either their own friends or the men's. But this means there is no screening in place for the men who may or may not necessarily have the means to support the woman with his income, or might still be living with his extended family (which, according to him, is an invitation for heightened scrutiny and tension). Such marriages often end in divorce, he said. For his part, Koh said that he has instituted a screening process for male clients. Requirements that his clients must meet are: Singaporean, Must provide age, marital status, and how much they earn, This includes information such as their payslip, income tax, CPF statement, and whether they live alone or with their family. Earn a minimum salary of S$3,000, and Provide a photograph of themselves. Koh is firm on these requirements and clients who express their discomfort are told to seek another agent. "I need all this information because I want to be fair to the woman," he said. One or two clients have therefore left this way, although most who approach him are already aware of his requirements and usually earn above S$4,500. If the client has given his status as a divorcee, he must also indicate the number of years he has been divorced. According to Koh: "Chances are that they are actually not (divorcees), they are in the process of divorcing, they have not got the final judgement. They want to prepare in anticipation for the final judgement (so) they say, 'These few months I can interact with the girl all that, the moment I get my final judgement, I will marry her." Such a mentality is not fair to the Vietnamese woman, he said. "What happens in the process if you decide to reconcile with your wife? What happens to this woman then? Must have a complete break first. I also need to find out your maintenance. How much you pay to your ex-wife, how much you have to pay for your children, and will your children be with you, or will they only come by on weekends? These are the information that I need for divorcees." Regarding potential clients who have asked "how much I have to give to buy a wife?", he is quick to cut them off. "You're not here to buy, you're here to marry. You give due respect to your spouse, it's equal. They are not second-class citizens." The key to a smooth marriage: Helping your wife with their financial situation in Vietnam What are some difficulties that the newlyweds might face? Drawing from his own experiences, Koh also has a piece of crucial advice to maintaining such marriages: "I always tell my clients, if you settle her problems in Vietnam, you have settled a great problem for yourself in Singapore. Because if your wife need not have to think of a family at home, need not have to worry about her family at home, then your marriage life will be a peaceful one. If not, she will keep on worrying about what happened to her mother, what happened to the condition of her house, the medical condition of her mother, all that." Within three months of their marriage, Koh helped Le to rebuild the house of her mother, from an attap house that had no floor and a door that could not close against the wind or rain. Koh also bought amenities for his in-laws, such as a new sofa and TV set, although he stresses that clients should help strictly within their means. "If you can afford (to do so). You can (for instance) say, just renovate the toilet for them. You don't have to save the whole house, just some essential things." In addressing what he said was a misconception of such brides as "gold-diggers", Koh explained: "The misconception is always that they are gold-diggers, that they are coming here to cheat, they are not serious. I tell my clients, if you ask me whether they are coming here for financial reasons, the answer is yes. If you asked me whether they are gold-diggers, the answer is no. Even my helper (who) comes to Singapore, it's also financial reasons. Are they coming here to steal, to cheat? That's not the intention. The intention is to come here and earn a honest living and send money back. So same thing for these Vietnamese ladies. They want to change the life of their parents, of their siblings. They get married here. And they like Singapore because they heard a lot of good things about Singapore. Singapore men have a good reputation and Singapore's law also has a good reputation. Because in Vietnam, if the husband beats up the wife, they can't seek redress, unlike in Singapore where they are well-protected." Top photo by Matthias Ang
Article
Debt collectors Raymond, Willy, and Win are three burly men with a myriad of tattoos, but they are far from the paint-splashing or pig head-hanging loansharks that are often portrayed on television.For the uninitiated, Unity 81 is a licensed debt collection agency in Singapore that started in 2017.According to them, festive periods, including Deepavali and Hari Raya, are considered the peak periods for them.
https://mothership.sg/2020/02/debt-collector-interview-unity-81/
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"My greatest fear today is if we go to a family member's or a friend's house," I said to my colleague Angela, minutes before we set off to the first house of the day. It was a Sunday (Feb. 9), and while I am admittedly a wallflower, I did not say that because of my reluctance to socialise. On the contrary, we were shadowing three debt collectors from Unity 81: Raymond, Willy, and Win. Not loansharks These men may be burly with a myriad of tattoos, but they are far from the paint-splashing or pig head-hanging loansharks that are often portrayed on television. For the uninitiated, Unity 81 is a licensed debt collection agency in Singapore that started in 2017. "Our company is registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) and we operate within legal boundaries," Raymond, the agency's operational manager, told us. Unlike loansharks, they act as a third-party debt collector for their clients and do not deal with moneylending at all. Proof of debt There are two kinds of debt: Commercial debts (between service providers and clients) and personal debts (between family or friends). In his experience as a debt collector, Raymond shared that he has seen debts ranging from S$1,500 to S$1.4 million. While on the way to the first house, he explained that proof of debt has to be presented before they accept a job. A proof of debt can be presented in any form (even a WhatsApp conversation), as long as there is an acknowledgement by the debtor. Here are also some other requirements: Debt has to be a minimum of S$1,500. The debt must have happened within 5 years. The debtor cannot be a minor. Festive periods busiest This year, they visited more than 50 houses over the first three days of Chinese New Year. According to them, festive periods, including Deepavali and Hari Raya, are considered the peak periods for them. Win said: "The response is definitely better. Some debtors, they are not at home (on normal days) but during festive periods like Chinese New Year, they will come back." Sacrifice for family Them working on the first three days of the festive occasion doesn't just upset the debtors, it also upsets the collectors' families. But according to Willy, it's a sacrifice they are willing in order to provide a comfortable life for their loved ones. "We also want to take care of them, that's why we work." Letter of demand We finally arrived in Kallang, where the first house is located. This also happened to be their first visit to the debtor's house as she had not responded to the letter of demand. Sending a letter of demand to the debtor is a standard procedure and is typically the first step of debt collecting. If the debtor does not respond to the letter after a week, the collectors will then proceed to do a house visit. On a regular day, only a maximum of four staff will go for the visits together. Any more than four and they can be charged by the police for unlawful assembly. Greeted nicely When they knocked on the door of the debtor's unit, they were greeted by a confused-looking elderly woman. "Hello, auntie. Is this Michelle's (not her real name) house?" Raymond asked the woman nicely. Again, the polite exchange was a stark contrast from the loansharks that are often depicted as rowdy and uncouth gangsters. Michelle then came to the door along with her father. Gawking neighbours Willy took over the conversation to explain to them that they are there on behalf of a car rental company to collect a debt of S$1,050. (Note: A car rental company may have multiple debtors. As long as the combined sum owed is more than S$1,500, Unity 81 will take on the job.) After a while, neighbours began to gawk and tried to eavesdrop on the conversation. The sight of three big men dressed in black, it seems, wasn't so common in this quiet neighbourhood. Embarrassed, the father gathered the debt collectors to a quiet corner of the corridor and told them that he'd like to settle the debt for his daughter. After passing crisp S$100 and S$50 bills to the collectors, he was asked to sign a letter to acknowledge that the debt has been paid for. "That was easy," I thought to myself. Before sending us off to the lift lobby, the father apologetically said: "Sorry ah, It's very embarrassing for the family... Neighbours can see..." We exchanged goodbyes and that was, quite inconsequentially, the end of the first visit. The waiting game I must admit, for some reason, it felt a little strange to smile and wave goodbye to a debtor. Win even joked: "You guys are lucky, first house and the debtor is already very, very nice." In reality, the collectors explained, not all debtors are as cooperative. "Out of 10 debtors, maybe around seven to eight will not even open their doors," said Raymond. When that happens, they can wait for a few hours for the debtor to turn up. "Sometimes we have no choice but to wait. The longest we have waited was four hours. But in the end, it's good if we manage to find the debtor and negotiate an instalment plan with them," explained Raymond. Knives in their faces And it probably goes without saying that some debtors have been aggressive. While some debtors have raised their voices, others have pointed knives in their faces or splashed hot water towards them. Despite being physically attacked, Raymond stressed that they do not respond with violence themselves. "If we feel that there is a breach of peace or if it is life-threatening, then we have no choice but to call the police." Nowadays, as an added measure, they are always equipped with body cameras to record their visits. Over S$600,000 in debt Speaking of hostile behaviour, the second debtor we visited was a man who has a commercial debt of over S$600,000. This was their third visit to the debtor. The man initially agreed to a monthly instalment plan but defaulted on payment after a while. After a long sigh, Willy said: "He has provoked us and even acted like he wanted to beat us up." As a precaution, the Mothership crew was also advised to keep a safe distance just in case he would get physical. Fortunately, this visit was rather uneventful, save for a visit by the police. Police called to the scene The debtor had called the police after the collectors knocked on his door several times. When the police arrived, the Mothership crew was told to stop recording any footage and to leave. After 15 minutes, the collectors and the police finally left the debtor's unit. There was only so much they could do, especially since the police was involved. "He gave excuses such as he was cooking and that he was sick. The policemen were also just doing their job to prevent a breach of peace." Default on payment not uncommon Defaulting on payment isn't exactly uncommon. When that happens, the debtors would have to continue with their visits for the rest of the one-year contract with their clients. Once the contract ends, it is up to the client to cease or extend the contract. In this line of career, they have met debtors of as young as 18 years old and as old as 72 years old. I couldn't help but ask — what would happen if a debtor were to pass on before paying off their debt? All of them agreed that it wouldn't be right to collect debts from the family of a deceased debtor. "If they insist, they (clients) can visit the debtor at the hell gate," Raymond quipped. Eighth visit's the charm? By sundown, we were at the third and final house. On a normal day, however, they would have managed to visit eight to nine houses. The last debtor owes a car rental company more than S$5,000 and this was their eighth time visiting his house. And eight times still wasn't the charm. When the collectors knocked on the door of the debtor's house, they were told by his wife that he wasn't at home. Collectors may know more than family She apparently told the collectors that her husband had settled the debt with the car rental company separately. However, Raymond explained to her that this wasn't communicated to them, and the clients would typically prefer for debtors settle the debt with the collectors instead. It was also worth noting that it seemed like the collectors knew more details about the man than his own wife did. Here's a gist of the entire conversation: Collectors: What is he working as now? Wife: I don't know. Collectors: Still doing logistics? Wife: I really don't know what he's working right now. Collectors: Ok, can you give us his phone number? Wife: No, sorry cannot. I don't think he will like that. Collectors: We will give you our name card and let him call us instead so we can negotiate an instalment plan for his debt. But if he doesn't call back, we have no choice but to come again. Wife: Ok, I will make him call you. A neutral party It may be understandable why a debtor would try to avoid a debt collector, especially if they are financially tight. They are hired by the creditor so by default, whatever the creditor says goes, right? That is, unfortunately, a very common misconception. In fact, debt collectors like Unity 81 try to act as a neutral party between the creditor and debtor. "Debtors would think we are always siding the client (creditors). But we are the middle man. We always try to understand the situation on both sides and suggest an appropriate instalment plan." They have even helped some debtors who were facing financial difficulties to find a job so they can afford an instalment plan. "Right now the economy is very bad and some of them may be jobless, so us constantly visiting them wouldn't solve the problem. They can't afford to pay. They can't even afford their children's school fees and daily essentials so we try to help get a job." On a case-by-case basis, the company may even fork out some cash to tide debtors over a difficult period. "If we don't do it, then nobody will." And just like that, the long day ended at around 9pm. The usual time they knock off from work. The long hours at work means that they don't get to spend a lot of time with their family and friends. The nature of their job, of course, makes their family worry for their safety and well-being. But Raymond stressed that it's a job that not a lot of people can do: "It's an honest job and this is our job. If we don't do it, then nobody will." Of course, on their off days, they dedicate most of their time to unwind with their families. A call from a suicidal client He also shared that the people they meet have made their work more fulfilling. One memorable client he had was a suicidal 55-year-old woman. "When she called us, she said that she wanted to commit suicide. We thought it was a prank call but we rushed down to attend to her anyway." When they met her, they found out that she had initially hired a debt collector to help her collect a debt of over S$13,000 from a tenant. On top of not being able to collect the debt, the other debt collector also borrowed a sum of S$3,000 from the woman. "He promised that he will pay her within a certain date but when she tried to call him, there was no response. He blocked her number," Raymond revealed. More than S$16,000 poorer, the unemployed woman also shared that she was a widow and lived alone. "I was tearing a bit when she told us what happened. When she was talking to us, we can tell she was depressed. She was crying and telling us that she would end her life if we don't help her." In the end, they managed to find the collector and agreed to pay a monthly instalment of S$200. Unity 81 also refused to accept any payment from the woman and their boss gave her S$500 to help her financially. Debt-free clients make it worthwhile But it doesn't take a tear-jerking case for them to continue doing what they do. For Willy, simply seeing their people debt-free makes what they do worthwhile. "Everyone also needs money so we want to try help our clients get their money and for debtors to be debt-free. The most fulfilling thing is when you see debtors finish paying off their loans. When you see them feel accomplished, it also makes us happy." Top image by Angela Lim
Article
The S'pore-Hong Kong ATB is currently scheduled to launch on May 26, with 1 flight per day in each direction for the first 2 weeks.Each flight will be capped at 200 passengers.#aviation #travelandtourism #airtravelbubble
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/spore-hong-kong-travel-bubble-set-to-start-on-may-26-2021-with-1-flight-per-day-both-ways/
mothership-sg
The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) is finally set to take flight again. The Ministry of Transport (MOT) announced today (April 26) that the ATB is currently scheduled to launch on May 26, with one flight per day in each direction for the first two weeks. Each flight will be capped at 200 passengers. MOT said: "Since then, the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong has improved, with very few local unlinked Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks. Community cases in Singapore remained very low throughout the time. The risk profiles of both cities are therefore now similar." Both cities will closely monitor the Covid-19 situation from now to the targeted launch date of May 26, and will proceed with the launch if the situation continues to be steady and under control in both cities. What is the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble? The Singapore-Hong Kong ATB is an arrangement which allows travellers to move between both cities without the need for quarantine or Stay-Home Notice (SHN). There will be no restrictions on the type of travel or itinerary, which means that anyone who wants to travel, regardless of reason for travel, will be able to do so. Earlier this month, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that Hong Kong will require travellers leaving for Singapore in the travel bubble to be vaccinated. Singapore does not currently impose such a requirement on travellers from Hong Kong. Originally scheduled to launch on November 22, 2020 The ATB was originally scheduled to start on November 22, 2020 but was deferred one day before (November 21, 2020) following a rise in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong. On December 1, 2020, authorities from both sides then announced a delay to the start of the travel bubble, deferring the launch to beyond 2020. Last week, plans to announce the resumption of the ATB were shelved again at the last minute, according to Bloomberg. Related stories: Photos by Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash Sean Foley on Unsplash
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From now till June 6, 2021, the public can view 14 “larger-than-life” installations along the 36km-long coast-to-coast trail.This public art showcase is titled “The World Ahead of Us” and will see installations across eight nature parks from Punggol to Jurong.
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/art-installations-coast-to-coast/
mothership-sg
From now till June 6, 2021, the public can view 14 "larger-than-life" installations along the 36km-long coast-to-coast trail. This public art showcase is titled "Rewritten: The World Ahead of Us" and will see installations across eight nature parks from Punggol to Jurong. Here are some of the installations, commissioned by the Public Art Trust (PAT) under the National Arts Council (NAC). Art installations BOND by Jerome Ng Xin Hao and Zed Haan: Every Seed Carries Within it the Dream And The Blueprint Of The Whole by Hunny and Lummy: Distance Will Bring Me Closer To You by Hanson Ho: [ ] with Dual Possibilities by Vertical Submarine, Justin Loke: 間 (Jiān) by Cheryl Chiw: : Still Travelling by Laniakea Culture Collective: Temporary Escapism by Sam Lo: To view the full list of artworks, you may visit PAT's website or view their Instagram page here. Coast-to-Coast trail For the uninitiated, the Coast-to-Coast Trail is a 36-km trail that spans across Singapore, linking up nature areas, parks and park connectors. Some of these include Jurong Lake Gardens, the new Lornie Nature Corridor and Coney Island Park. Top photos via NAC and @Finbarrfallon
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Speaking to Mothership, Marilyn said that the 2017 holiday trip to Furano in Hokkaido made her crave a non-urban lifestyle which is quite the opposite of the fast-paced rat race that we've grown to get used to in Singapore."This place felt amazingly peaceful and the view of Mount Tokachidake was so scenic. It triggered my desire to lead a non-urban lifestyle."With her husband, then-kitten and beginner-level Japanese in tow, Marilyn made the move from Singapore to Japan in 2019.Read more: https://lnkd.in/gnCeNgv#singaporeansabroad # #travel #tourism #nature #vacation #holiday
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/singaporean-in-hokkaido/
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The island of Hokkaido, Japan is a popular tourist destination for Singaporeans to escape the sweltering heat of the little red dot we call home. But for 34-year-old Singaporean Marilyn Ichihashi, the city of Furano in Hokkaido is not just a vacation destination — it is home. Marilyn lives there with her husband Kanji Ichihashi, 43, and their adorable Singapore-born ragdoll cat named Mountain. Moving to Japan's lavender town If you've never heard of Furano, you might have at least seen photos of it online. It is known as Japan's lavender town (not to be confused with the haunted Lavender Town in the Pokémon game series) for its ethereal lavender fields. And all it took for them to move to the countryside in Japan was a holiday trip to Furano back in 2017. Speaking to Mothership, Marilyn said that visiting the serene city of Furano made her crave a non-urban lifestyle which is quite the opposite of the fast-paced rat race that we've grown to get used to in Singapore. "This place felt amazingly peaceful and the view of Mount Tokachidake was so scenic. It triggered my desire to lead a non-urban lifestyle." With her husband, then-kitten and beginner-level Japanese in tow, Marilyn made the move from Singapore to Japan in 2019. Nearest supermarket is 8km away If you're wondering what it's like to live in the countryside, it's not all peaches and cream. For most of the year, the temperature ranges from 10°C to 20°C (which might be a boon for some, actually). From November to late March, however, the temperature can drop to a chilly -25°C. To start off the day, they would have to shovel through the snow from their doorstep all the way to the driveway, or the snow would pile up and the couple would have trouble opening their doors. Staying warm in the winter isn't as easy as pressing a button on a heater. No, they have to do it old school. Marilyn told us that they would have to drive to the nearby timber collection point, lug it back home, chop the timbers into firewood and put them on a rack to dry. Also, expect to do the laundry often. For a household of two, Marilyn finds herself doing the laundry every other day. "It piles up quickly since you need to wear more pieces and it also takes longer to dry indoors since hanging outdoors is not a choice. Of course, running the dryer is an alternative but Uniqlo's Heattech wear is not suitable for tumble dry." Despite all these, she still loves the winter season — though the locals did warn her that she would probably not say the same in a few years' time. There are also no shopping malls, and the nearest supermarket from their home is a good 8km away, which is like driving from Jurong East to Buona Vista just to buy groceries. In terms of transportation, bus and train services also do not come as frequently as it does in Singapore, Marilyn added. Instead, the more common mode of travel is by car or bicycle. Beautiful views Arguably the best part about living in the countryside? The breathtaking views. "In Singapore, you get a city view filled with lights. Here, we get to enjoy the quiet, scenic view of the farmlands and the mountains. In the night, stargazing can be enjoyed just right outside or doorstep." Their place, for example, has an amazing view of Mount Tokachidake. And while they don't have a lavender field in their front yard, they do have a patch of sunflowers. Beautiful town aside, Marilyn also shared with us that she's grateful to be surrounded by "kind, helpful, and warmhearted neighbours". Opened bed and breakfast in Feb. 2020 After seeing the photos above, you're probably in awe of the Ichihashi's spacious house. The property, however, also doubles up as a bed and breakfast that they run together. They opened B&B Plus+ Shooting Star in Feb. 2020. This was a bold move for both Marilyn and Kanji, given that they both didn't have any prior experience in the hospitality industry. And it is certainly not easy to run a bed-and-breakfast in the countryside. "From front desk, housekeeping, gardening, cooking, marketing, website making and the list goes on. These skills are acquired through reading, research, and on-the-job training since we are both not from the tourism industry." The B&B has four en-suites and is known for its various homely themes and facilities, including a yoga studio. But part of B&B Plus+ Shooting Star's charm is Mountain the resident cat. Surviving on zero revenue Barely two months after their opening, however, the Japanese government and the authority of Hokkaido declared a state of emergency due to the developing Covid-19 pandemic. This meant that they had to temporarily close their accommodation, which translates to no income. Calling it "totally bad timing", the Covid-19 pandemic been one of the biggest hurdles they've had to face since they moved to Japan. She said: "It was very challenging and tough for a new start-up to endure zero revenue." While they had to put a halt to their accommodation business, the couple found other avenues to keep their business going, like offering take-away for curry rice bentos. As a certified yoga instructor, Marilyn has also been holding yoga classes for the local community. As international tourists still can't travel to Hokkaido due to the closed borders, the Ichihashis recently started an online store selling exclusive local treats that they personally recommend. Shipping is also free to Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan for purchases over 4,000 yen (S$49.30). Serving Singaporean food Although Marilyn hasn't been able to return to Singapore for a while, she doesn't get especially homesick as she gets to video call her family and friends back from back home. Something she especially misses, however, is the local food. "I miss Singapore food! Claypot rice, chilli crab, salted egg dishes, nasi lemak, and the list goes on. When there is a chance to return, I think my stomach will explode." Thankfully for her, however, she's skilled enough to whip up Singaporean food and even has a Singapore menu at her bed-and-breakfast. And the response has been pretty good, it seems. "The top ala carte orders are laksa and Singapore bee hoon, while our pre-booked menu is bak kut the and chicken rice. So far the dishes served have come back empty and all our guests look satisfied!" No way they're gonna give up While life has thrown many curveballs at the Ichihashis in the past year, it looks like they have been and will continue to take it in their stride. "We saw the smiles and enjoyment of our guests during their stay here and we certainly hope to be able to continue creating unforgettable memories for them. My husband and I put all of our life savings to make this happen. There is no way we are going to be giving up yet." Top image from B&B Plus+ Shooting Star.
Article
Being a mom (especially of multiple kids) and being successful at work isn’t easy in the least, so when one does this well, it’s always valuable to learn how. CooperVision APAC VP Lisa Yeoh opens up candidly about her journey (not without struggles, of course) in her career and how she found work-life harmony (not balance) to her work and family life. #career #work #leadership #worklifebalance #worklifeharmony
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/lisa-yeoh-work-life-harmony-interview/
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It isn’t easy for a person in power to share periods of vulnerability and imperfection from their lives, but early in our conversation, Lisa Yeoh did just that, and with no qualms whatsoever. It was the year 1998. Yeoh, who is now APAC vice president for sales and commercial operations at contact lens manufacturer CooperVision, was just two months postpartum with her first child when she was sent on a week-long work trip to Hawaii. Why two months? Because at that time, Singapore’s maternity duration was only half what working mothers get today. While her colleagues gushed over how exciting the opportunity she had to stay at a swanky resort for work must be for her, though, Yeoh found herself crying. “[My colleague said] Wow, you get to go to Hawaii! [but] I was so... depressed! Because I had to leave a very young child at home right, and for a week... When I came home, I opened the door, I saw my whole family with koyok on their heads — my mom, my husband — because the baby wouldn't sleep the whole night, looking for me. So that's the pain in the heart when you encounter that kind of situation.” “We were comparing calendars every week” Things got worse when she and her husband both found themselves in regional jobs. Yeoh had given birth to her second child by that point, and she could only describe the experience as “maddening”. Something, someone (in her case, her) had to give. “[My husband and I] were comparing calendars every week. And then we said, Okay... I'm gonna move to a different role that's just Singapore-based. At least one of us was able to go home every night and kiss my kids goodnight. I think that made a huge difference.” But if you thought the Singapore-based role accorded Yeoh more time with her family, you’ve got another think coming: “But it didn't mean I worked less, because I had a bigger team. So you know... you can't manage people in a meeting. You've got to spend time with people one on one, and there are all sorts of people issues, aside from your own family issues or childcare issues.” Going without a helper When her second child, a boy, turned two years old, Yeoh felt like she needed to reorganise her life again — with two kids, her mom, her husband and her, as well as a helper at home, and a career, she confesses she felt like she was “running a circus”. “So I just had to reset that equation and say, okay, what if I can do this with full-time childcare? What do I have to change in my job, or how I manage my day to day? I did that. And actually, mentally, it cleared some space... What I did was to automate things at home — clothes dryer, dishwasher, whatever, just simplify things at home. Cook a whole week's meals and freeze them. Just survive.” She also started her three kids on doing the chores around the house from the time they turned three or four years old: “One thing I feel is Singaporeans tend to protect our kids too much. They have a good life, somebody else's doing the housework. I started delegating housework to my kids early — like, okay, you wipe the dining table after every meal, you sweep the floor, you pick up the trash.” Learning to let go, delegate, and trust Yeoh eventually found herself in a position of significant influence in the company and, she recognised that the key to managing things well was to delegate, let go and trust the people she entrusted with responsibility to carry them out well. Yeoh subsequently implemented steps that helped her colleagues cope with the Covid-19 lockdown period. These include allowing staff to claim one food delivery order per week, block lunch breaks, create gap time between meetings and also take two half-days of quiet time per week for wellness, self-development or an activity that might help them cope. Beyond that, she was also making frequent calls to her counterparts from across the region to check in on them, just to ensure morale stayed reasonably buoyant. “I think giving trust will then replicate in trust and loyalty as well. We started by giving that kind of trust — two half days is a lot of productivity to be giving away, but if by sending that kind of message people understand that you know what they're going through, you just get so much more in the commitment, of the people; they will go the extra mile for you. So we did that (and all the other measures). I would say they're small steps, but they are quite meaningful for the individual micro life situations.” Finding work-life harmony, not work-life balance If there was one thing I could observe from Yeoh’s illustrious career up to this point, it’s undoubtedly how she seems to have been successful at “doing it all”. By extension, I took this ability to mean she has, over the years, been able to effectively find work-life balance for herself despite her challenging job and family commitments. Yeoh explains that what we should be working towards, though, is work-life harmony, not balance — the latter of which accounts only for the element of time (if one goes up, the other comes down). The notion of harmony is, she says, when you end a day feeling at peace with yourself in both work and life. “We don’t compartmentalise work and life separately, but rather to kind of blend them together. And where opportunities are at different times in the day for you to lift one up versus the other, and you feel at peace at the end of the day, I feel that is harmony. That is work-life harmony.” Now, how does she do it in her own life? Yeoh says on a daily basis, her phone keeps reminding her to achieve her 10,000 step target. But on the whole, she sets her work-life harmony targets by the week — because some days are busier than others, so one can work toward achieving certain goals or activities in a given week. “The work hours are not short — they are full time work hours, sometimes you have evening calls — but you try to make your decisions for work-life harmony. I try to do it on a weekly basis, because sometimes on the day, you cannot achieve the objective, right, but if it evens out over the week, then it's good.” Making work-life harmony a national priority Yeoh is so passionate about this that she answered the call to be part of an Alliance for Action (AfA) on Work-Life Harmony. This AfA is one of some 20 (and counting) that were announced after a series of national conversations held last year, organised by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in partnership with other government agencies. These discussions, initiated by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, were collectively referred to as the “Emerging Stronger Conversations”, under the Singapore Together movement. Currently, the AfA group Yeoh is part of is more than 100 members strong — all volunteers, including employees, employers, and HR professionals who are driven to make work-life harmony a national priority. “I know that it's difficult for people in situations where there isn't that trust coming down from the leadership or the management... to leave that battle to an individual is going to be hard; we have to create a movement.” Over the next six months, group members will attend sessions to discuss, learn and develop best work-life practices. They will go on to provide tailored guidance to companies in specific sectors, to overcome sectoral challenges and implement some of these best practices. Overall, the AfA aims to build up a community to support work-life harmony in Singapore and promote best work-life practices, with the ultimate goal of shifting our society’s mindsets toward providing and taking these up. Something Yeoh firmly believes in too: “We shouldn’t be making compromising decisions on family just because of the time that it takes for work. I think we should really have life, you know, and have that long term outlook on life as the guiding light.” So how do you actually make work-life harmony a thing for yourself? Read more about it here and and learn how to make it happen here. Want to be part of Singapore Together and this movement too? Sign up to be a Work-Life Ambassador here and learn more about the AfA on Work-Life Harmony here. This article was sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth to help the writer learn how to find work-life harmony for herself. Top photo, taken pre-Covid, via Lisa Yeoh's LinkedIn.
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As of Mar. 28, 2021, about 2.2 million adult Singaporeans have yet to redeem their SingapoRediscovers Vouchers. Only around 760,000 adult Singaporeans having used their SRVs at least once.Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that there will be no change to the redemption deadline of June 30, 2021 for now, and that the government will continue to monitor the redemption rate over the remaining months, before considering if any extension is warranted.#tourism #singaporediscovers
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/singaporediscovers-vouchers-not-redeemed-march/
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In December 2020, all Singaporeans over 18 received S$100 worth of SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRVs), which are valid until June 30, 2021. However, as of Mar. 28, 2021, about 2.2 million adult Singaporeans have yet to redeem their SRVs, with only around 760,000 adult Singaporeans having used their SRVs at least once. And for now, there won't be an extension to the deadline. This was revealed by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing in a Parliamentary Written Reply on Monday (Apr. 5), in response to several Members of Parliament (MPs). Hany Soh and Melvin Yong of the PAP and Louis Chua of the Workers' Party (WP) asked about the take-up rate, and asked the government to consider reviewing the redemption deadline so as to boost the redemption rates. Only S$108 million spent under SRV scheme According to Chan, more than S$108 million in vouchers and additional expenditure have been spent under the SRV scheme. About S$320 million worth of vouchers were distributed last December. Chan said that there will be no change to the redemption deadline of June 30, 2021 for now, and that the government will continue to monitor the redemption rate over the remaining months, before considering if any extension is warranted. In the meantime, he said that Singaporeans are encouraged to redeem their vouchers early, so that they will be able to use their SRVs for their preferred products and activity time slots. Merchants to encourage use of the vouchers He also said that the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), together with the authorised booking partners and onboarded merchants, will intensify efforts in the next few months to encourage usage of the SRVs. This includes sharing products and promotions across attractions, tours and hotels, through STB and authorised booking partner channels. Chan said that merchants are also encouraged to continue creating interesting products or attractive bundles that will appeal to different groups of Singaporeans, or to work with each other to create such products, in order to make the SRVs more appealing. In response to feedback, STB and the authorised booking partners have improved the user experience for the SRVs by placing additional reminders on child discounts and booking time slots. Making vouchers digital because it's more accessible to Singaporeans In addition, Chan explained that the SRV was designed as a digital scheme in order to make it readily accessible to Singaporeans, bringing up the fact that many Singaporeans are familiar with making online purchases. A digital scheme also allows merchants to manage their capacity to be in line with safe management measures and helps to minimise fraud. "There have not been any cases of fraud or profiteering detected thus far," he said, in response to Yong who asked about potential fraud cases. For those who need more guidance, Chan said that the authorised booking partners provide booking assistance at more than 60 locations across Singapore. Chan said that the government will continue to review and enhance the redemption process "where necessary". Top image via Unsplash. Related Stories
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With more and more of the world’s super-rich buying up super-high-end housing here and seeking Singapore as a safe haven, the issue of the wealth gap has returned to the fore. Our resident contributor CEO, Advanced MedTech’s Abel Ang, looks at how our government has, and can take steps to tackle it here.#LessonsOnLeadership
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/inequality-capital-distribution-singapore/
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COMMENTARY: In Singapore, where the number of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWI) has risen, how has capital been redistributed? Writing for Lessons on Leadership, a new series hoping to inspire the next generation of Singaporeans through the stories of Singapore’s many successful business leaders and entrepreneurs, Abel Ang writes about capital redistribution strategies in Singapore and Covid-19 being an inequality-leveller. Abel Ang is the chief executive of a medical technology company and an adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Business School. Singapore is the global headquarters for Crazy Rich Asians the world over. It is no coincidence that the eponymous film “Crazy Rich Asians” was set here, given the country’s significance and importance to this group of jetsetters. According to Knight-Frank’s Wealth Report 2021, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWI) in Singapore rose by 10.2 per cent in 2020. The report defines UHNWIs as people who have more than US$30 million (S$40.2 million) of assets to their name, including their primary residence. Singapore, safe haven for the super-rich The pandemic has increased Singapore’s desirability for this elite group. I quote Knight Frank Singapore's group managing director Wendy Tang, who said to The Business Times: "Singapore remains an attractive destination for the globally mobile, and the steps our government has taken to keep the country safe from the virus… has elevated its standing among the world's wealthy, and further cemented the country's traditional safe-haven status.” This small group of very wealthy people is described in the documentary entitled “Capital in the 21st Century”, which was digitally released late last year. The film is based on bestselling author and rockstar French economist Thomas Piketty’s book of the same title. The 800-plus page tome, first published in French in 2013, would become a global phenomenon with 3 million copies sold. Despite these healthy-looking sales figures, the Wall Street Journal says it also happens to be one of the most unread books of all time. The discovery of this documentary, therefore, has been a godsend for me, allowing me to give up my repeated futile efforts to complete reading the book and invest just the 110 minutes needed to watch the film. In the film, Piketty makes the case that we live in a grossly unequal world today, where 1 per cent of the population holds 70 per cent of the world’s wealth. The last time the world had such an unequal distribution of capital was in Britain during the 18th century, where the capital distribution gap between the aristocracy and the serfs was significant and insurmountable. The sad reality: the wealth gap cannot be overcome Given the unequal distribution of capital to start with, Piketty drives home the point that it is nearly impossible for this gap to be overcome because the returns on capital are faster than that of economic growth. Simply put, the profits, dividends, interest, rent and income arising from capital holdings will trump anything similar that a country can generate for the majority of its population. This leads to the owners of capital (like UHNWIs) accumulating wealth faster than the rest of the population, because most of the population relies on economic growth to give them a better life, and does not have the same access to the starting capital that UHNWIs have. The documentary also introduces the Monopoly experiments of social psychologist Paul Piff, who studied players who were given unfair advantages in the game and won. In the course of play, players who had the unfair edge exhibited dominant body language, were louder, and behaved more rudely. So what does any of this have to do with our ultra rich friends? In Piff’s further research, he found that “the rich are way more likely to prioritise their own self-interests above the interests of other people”. It is unlikely, therefore, that UHNWIs will proactively seek to redistribute their capital to bring about greater equality, making the role of capital redistribution fall onto the shoulders of government. Piketty believes that capital redistribution needs to go beyond simplistically taxing the rich and giving to the poor — institutions like the government need to create a more level playing field of public policies and dynamics for the masses to thrive and gain access to capital. History shows us that if we want society to be cohesive in a peaceful and harmonious way, inequality cannot be too high. According to the documentary, the two world wars in the first half of the 20th century were great levellers of inequality because wars destroy capital and reshape power relationships as governments play a greater role in every aspect of a country. How these trends panned out in Singapore Piketty provides evidence of how the growth of the middle class in the West traced its origins back to World War I. Until 1914, the middle class did not really exist. Over the next 40 years after the war, there was a steep increase in purchasing power, and a group who were neither rich nor poor, but who controlled a substantial share of the available capital came to exist. Along a similar trajectory, after Singapore’s independence in 1965, there was tremendous growth of the country’s middle class, with many people moving out of kampungs into Housing Board apartments, with the trend of a growing Singapore middle class continuing well into the 1990s, with more than 80 per cent of the population owning their own homes. In recent years however, inequality has quietly crept into Singapore. “High inequality reflects several features of our economic development over the decades,” according to Linda Lim and Pang Eng Fong in a commentary on education and inequality in Singapore in 2018. In response to this trend, the government has made fighting inequality a top national priority. Covid-19 as an inequality-leveller in Singapore Fortuitously, Covid-19 has given Singapore a chance to make a quantum leap forward in fighting inequality because the government heeded Churchill’s call to “never waste a good crisis.” The similarities between a world war and Covid-19 as an inequality leveller are stark. Capital is destroyed as sectors like aviation and tourism go through massive disruption from curtailment of travel. Power relationships are transformed as the government has had to implement various measures in contact tracing and restricting how people gather, in order to keep people safe. A massive capital redistribution funded by our past reserves The efforts to stem the economic bleed arising from the war on Covid-19 has resulted in massive capital redistribution in Singapore, partially funded by Singapore’s past reserves. When you take a step back, it would appear that the redistribution has been structured in the areas of Work-Live-Play-Learn which are non-exhaustively described below: 1) Work – Jobs Credit where the government supported all active employers in Singapore. The wage support helped employers to retain their local employees and multiple tranches were provided for various industries with support levels of up to 70 per cent in some instances. 2) Live – Care and Support cash payouts to all Singaporeans to help with household expenses during a period of extraordinary economic uncertainty. The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) also provided self-employed people with quarterly cash payouts of S$3,000. 3) Play – Singapore Rediscovers Vouchers. S$100 of tourism vouchers were given to all Singaporeans aged 18 and above to experience local attractions and to breathe life back into a tourism sector walloped by the pandemic. 4) Learn – SG United Traineeships. 76,000 jobseekers were placed into jobs and skills opportunities through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills package between April and December last year. The best way for new graduates to learn is to apply the skills that they have been taught. This program will go a long way to preventing a Covid generation of workers from appearing in our workforce later. During the Budget debate in February this year, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat additionally announced that there is scope to review wealth taxes in Singapore. Such wealth taxes like Member of Parliament Foo Mee Har’s suggestion of a one-off wealth tax to fund Covid-19 measures, or the restoration of estate duties, could help accelerate further capital redistribution in Singapore. Will this help the middle class in Singapore out a bit more? Overall, I think that Piketty would look upon Singapore’s Work-Live-Play-Learn approach to redistribution favourably. Continued distributions using the model, coupled with an intelligent set of wealth taxes, could form the basis for a “Capital 2.0” approach for reducing inequality. If executed well, this model could help build, strengthen and support Singapore’s middle class in the years ahead. Researchers at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy found in a 2019 survey on Singaporeans Perception of Class, Wealth and Status that there is a “relatively low degree of resentment toward the wealthy” leading them to conclude that “the majority of people are broadly content with the ways in which resources are distributed within society.” Not everybody needs or wants to be crazy rich. But with good capital redistribution strategies, we can create the pathways for those who aspire to become Crazy Rich to do so, while maintaining social cohesion and stability in Singapore. Top photo via R ARCHITECTURE/Unsplash,
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Zoo nutritionist Francis Cabana’s job, in a nutshell, is to provide the over 15,000 animals in the four parks under Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) — Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park — with nutritious food.Cabana says the animals at Wildlife Reserves Singapore are the pickiest animals that he has ever worked with.“I mean that in the best possible way, because it means that they get everything they want!”#scienceandenvironment #wildlife
https://mothership.sg/2020/06/zoo-nutritionist-wildlife-reserves-singapore/
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Not every zoo has a wildlife nutritionist. "Some think that's just an extra expense," says Francis Cabana, a wildlife nutritionist with Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS). "Some think that someone else — a zookeeper — can do a nutritionist's job. Or [a] veterinarian can do a nutritionist job. And some just don't see the importance, which is the saddest reason of all, I think." Cabana's job, in a nutshell, is to provide the over 15,000 animals in the four parks under WRS — Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park — with nutritious food. As with humans, good nutrition in animals prevents diseases like diabetes, kidney issues, and cavities, as well as weight problems. And while it might be impossible to recreate the diet that animals have in the wild, it is wholly possible to recreate the nutrients required in their meals. Picky animals at WRS "Let me tell you something about Wildlife Reserves Singapore. I have never felt so rejected in a zoo in my life," says Cabana, over a video call with Mothership. "These animals are the pickiest animals I've worked with as far in my career. And I mean that in the best possible way, because it means that they get everything they want!" Animals in WRS have access to such a wide variety of good food that when Cabana tried to change their diet and make it healthier — more often than not, removing things that actually taste very good — they're not impressed. The trick, says Cabana, is to introduce new elements in their food slowly. The smarter the animal, the slower you have to do it. For instance, when Cabana and his team wanted to change the diet of the Orang Utans, swapping out chicken, rice, Milo, and bread for vegetables and beans, it took four months. "Because we had to go, like, so slow. Every week we would change five per cent of the diet." Going slow doesn't mean that the animals don't notice the difference. Cabana says that the Orang Utans would look at their keepers with puppy eyes, begging for their Milo and sweet fruits. "So these keepers have to be so mentally strong to resist these cute animals that they love. But this is master manipulation. It's because these animals are so brilliant, they're so smart." Never-ending journey of learning and reviewing animal diets Cabana calls his work a "never-ending journey", having to constantly review diets because of new research being done all the time. In fact, that's the main draw of his work, he says. "My favourite thing about being a nutritionist is that I can and I will learn for the rest of my life," says the self-proclaimed geek. "I will never know everything about nutrition for all the animals, it's impossible. So it keeps me really motivated that I will learn something new every day. And not just read something, but I will actually [be] able to learn something by doing it and then seeing the outcome myself." A lot of his work has to do with communicating with keepers and animal curators to find out not just about the conditions of the animals, but also how they're doing, and how their lives can be more enriched. This is also a challenge for Cabana, as there is no universal guide for feeding wild animals. If the zoo receives a bongo (an African forest antelope), for instance, a nutritionist has to do a lot of research to better understand the animal's dietary habits. What is its digestive system like? What does it eat in the wild? What nutrients does it need? The job of a nutritionist is then to put together a diet plan that consists of the required nutrients, and to package the different foods into tasty and attractive meals. Even individuals of the same species may not react to the same food the same way. Take for example Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the two Giant Pandas at the River Safari. Kai Kai isn't a picky eater. "He eats his bamboo, his bamboo shoots, his pellets. He's just not picky," says Cabana. Jia Jia, on the other hand, knows what she wants (or doesn't want). "When she gets bamboo she will look through the leaves and pick out and just bite the leaves that she wants. And some days she's just not in the mood." Trying to figure out what food attracts an animal requires a lot of experimentation, and sometimes, frankly bizarre solutions. Over the course of his career, Cabana has found a rather strange method of whetting the appetite of reptiles. Reptiles, he says, usually feed on mice. "If you open their heads and you expose the brain, it just drives these reptiles insane. There's something about the smell, and they just go straight for it. So I think the weirdest thing I've ever fed was mouse brain." Cabana says that he is most proud of his work with pangolins. Notoriously picky, pangolins feed mainly on Weaver ants and termites. "So there's something in [ants and termites] that makes them realise, 'Hey, this is food! This is tasty!' and we don't know what that is yet." However, Weaver ants are farmed mainly in Indonesia and Thailand, making it quite a rare commodity. And so Cabana and his team have to work hard to recreate a diet with a nutritional value similar to their ant diet. It's still an ongoing project. Cabana and his 13-man team of nutritionists have been conducting palatability studies, mixing "anything and everything" into the diets of the pangolins at the Night Safari, in order to find out what exactly entices them to eat. They have even tried including pineapples, based on a study of echidnas in Australia. So has the team found the magic ingredient for its pangolins? "As soon as I find out, I'll tell you!" Cabana laughs. Six tonnes of food processed daily As you can imagine, feeding so many animals requires a lot of food — six and a half tonnes daily, to be exact. That's about three lorries full. "It includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dry feed (like pellet, leaves, grass), meat, and fish." Most of the fruits and vegetables that WRS prepares for its animals come from Malaysia. And so, when Malaysia went into lockdown in March, Cabana had quite a headache. "You know, the first day that Malaysia announced its [Movement Control Order], I did not sleep for a week," Cabana quips, adding that it was hard to get confirmation that the fruits and vegetable supplies would continue to come in each day. "So every morning was like will the sun rise or will it just never rise? We didn't know what would happen," he said, grimacing. Thankfully, save for a few minor disruptions, the fruits and vegetables continued to arrive daily. However, even if things had gone south, Cabana would have you know that WRS has at least six back up plans involving supplies from different countries like Myanmar, China, and Indonesia. "I think the biggest change is that now I call my suppliers every day or every two days to be sure everything is okay," he says with a twinkle in his eye. "So they probably think I'm harassing them, but my priority is to make sure that food comes in, so I'm going to continue to harass them." Speaking of a lockdown, the WRS nutrition team has still been going to work, albeit in split shifts with reduced manpower, even though the parks are closed to visitors for the time being. The animals still have to eat, after all. Having less manpower does require some compromises. The team has less time to do research projects and monitoring of animals' body condition because they are now 100 per cent focused on food preparation, says Cabana. "Once the split team (arrangement) is over, and we're back to our normal manpower, then we can resume all these really cool activities that they enjoy doing." Talking about his nutrition team, Cabana has nothing but praises ("They're like machines!") for the folks who assist him in preparing food for the animals. "These people are super robots. They will take sweet potatoes, carrot and like cha cha cha! Masterchef-style and chop everything — perfect size, perfect cube — in the exact amount that the animals need. It's amazing. And they know exactly what needs to be cut. And then they put the food inside a different lunchbox so every animal has a different lunchbox." In fact, meeting his entire team is one of the things that Cabana misses the most, aside from his regular kopi si kosong at the zoo's Inuka Cafe. Reducing food waste Dealing with so much food every day means that there is a large amount of waste. But Cabana is determined to change this. Black Soldier Flies In 2019, his team was able to reduce food waste by 49 per cent, and they have plans to bring that figure up to 75 per cent. They do this by ensuring that animals are not given excess food, and by using Black Soldier Flies to convert their waste into compost. Check out how Black Soldier Flies help transform food waste at this insect farm in Singapore: Aside from producing compost, the Black Soldier Flies are also useful because their larvae can be used as animal feed. Cabana says that "animals love eating those larvae." And then there are those branches and leaves that animals discard from their food. 250kg of these are left over every day. Cabana's team started to put them into a chipper to produce wood chips that are used for animal bedding. 'Ugly' food In a bid to do their part of food sustainability, the wildlife nutrition team has also been procuring 'ugly' food — fruits and vegetables that are not pretty, but edible nonetheless. Aside from helping to prevent food waste, the use of 'ugly' food is more affordable and sustainable in the long run. "So those are some of the things that we're trying, but this is a journey and I hope that I'll have brilliant ideas in the future. If you have some, please let me know!" As we conclude our chat, we ask Cabana if he has a few words for our readers: "I want to say 'thank you so much for your support.' I can say this with 100 per cent certainty that we all miss you very much. It's a very strange feeling going to the zoo and there's no visitors, there's no one there. Because, although we do a lot of great stuff for the conservation of animals, we're only one part of it. Another part of it is you. It's the Singaporeans and the tourists that come and visit and support us. So I thank you in advance for the support you've given us, and for the support you will continue to give. And remember to eat less sugar!" Top images courtesy of WRS. Stories of Us is a series about ordinary people in Singapore and the unique ways they’re living their lives. Be it breaking away from conventions, pursuing an atypical passion, or the struggles they are facing, these stories remind us both of our individual uniqueness and our collective humanity.
Article
New Zealand recently announced a rise in their minimum wage to NZ$20 (S$18.88). The previous minimum wage was set at NZ$18.90 (S$17.80).They will also be raising taxes on the top two per cent of earners in New Zealand - those who make over NZ$180,000 (S$170,000).#taxes #newzealand
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/new-zealand-raises-minimum-wage-increase-taxes/
mothership-sg
New Zealand recently announced a rise in their minimum wage to NZ$20 (S$18.88). The previous minimum wage was set at NZ$18.90 (S$17.80). According to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood, the rise in minimum wage is expected to boost wages across the economy by NZ$216 million (S$204.2 million). He further stated that this will lift the incomes of around 175,500 New Zealanders. “There are many Kiwis who earn the minimum wage who have gone above and beyond in our fight against COVID. I think everyone agrees those who served us so well during lockdown – including supermarket workers, cleaners, and security guards – deserve a pay rise.” They will also be raising taxes on the top two per cent of earners in New Zealand, those who make over NZ$180,000 (S$170,000). The tax rate on income earned over that amount rises to 39 per cent. Previously, everyone who earned over NZ$70,000 (S$66,200) paid a tax rate of 33 per cent. This new tax increase is predicted to bring in NZ$550 million (S$520 million) to the economy in 2021. Other changes include: - The starting-out and training minimum wages will rise to NZ$16.00 (S$15.13) per hour, to remain at 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage. - Student Allowance payments will increase by 1.15 percent. - Annual General Adjustment to increase Foster Care Allowance and the Orphan's Benefit and Unsupported Child's Benefit by 1.15 per cent. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
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Pamelia Chia, who spent a year at homegrown Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant Candlenut and the now-defunct Lollapalooza, shares with us the stress of restaurant kitchens and the magic S’porean wet markets have to offer for cooking.Sadly, though, the number of customers who visit wet markets has been dwindling. A 2018 NEA survey found that only 39 per cent of Singaporeans visited a wet market in the preceding 12 months.And this isn’t surprising, to be fair — wet markets just don’t appeal to the young because of the better sanitation, air-conditioning and clearer pricing that supermarkets bring.While Chia understands this phenomenon, she cannot come to terms with it.“Sometimes it’s the physical thing that remains and the spirit that disappears. We really have to think about what is important about wet markets and what exactly we want to retain,” says Chia.#restaurant #markets #food
https://mothership.sg/2019/08/wet-market-book-pamelia-chia-interview/
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"People think that Gordon Ramsay is putting on a show but it's real," quips Pamelia Chia as she sips her kopi. We're sitting together at Heap Seng Leong coffee shop on North Bridge Road in the early morning on a recent Tuesday. Here, time seems to pass as slowly as the lazy ceiling fan above, the air thick with the scent of coffee and condensed milk. It helps also that our fellow clientele consist chiefly of elderly men quietly perusing their newspapers. Even though she doesn't live here anymore (Chia is now based in Melbourne, having moved there with her husband), she makes it a point to come here whenever she's back — it is, she confesses, the only place where the coffee does not give her anxiety. Having worked in three kitchens at the homegrown Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant Candlenut and the now-defunct Lollapalooza, the 28-year-old is very familiar with what goes on behind the scenes at restaurants. Working in a restaurant sucks, she says candidly, because in an ironic way, the sense of hospitality one gets from feeding people is not translated into the kitchen. A "crushing" industry "It's not what you think it is and sometimes I feel a bit jaded and disillusioned about it and I feel like getting out, to be honest," she says, who currently works at a restaurant called Carlton Wine Room in Melbourne. Scarfing down canned curry with rice within a five-minute lunch break, a fully-grown man breaking down in the kitchen, and the sound of kitchen machinery triggering heart palpitations in a young cook — these are just a few of many experiences Chia shares with me from her friends about how brutal restaurant kitchen work can be. Chia counts herself fortunate enough never to have experienced horror stories as bad as these, but she says she certainly struggled in the first six months at Candlenut as a line cook trying to get used to the rigour and high standards there. A food sciences graduate from the National University of Singapore, Chia was a pastry chef at Lollapalooza before it closed, and so counts her "real training" as having begun in Candlenut's garde manger (cold kitchen), charcoal grill and curries section. She shares one of her tasks early on was to cut kaffir lime leaves "thinner than a hair" for garnishes: "I couldn’t get it, and the thing was that I would only have two or three hours to cut everything to expectations. I was doing it again and again — thank God my husband had a kaffir lime tree and I could practise but I felt like dying. It was so difficult." On another occasion, a mentor held up a can of crab meat for Chia to smell. She gave it a sniff and thought it smelled fine. The mentor told her, however, that it had just the slightest hint of going bad. "I was like, how do they even know? Holy sh*t, these people are scary, man!" laughs Chia. Despite the intimidating work environment, Chia stresses how blessed she was for the opportunity to work at Candlenut. Apart from the opportunity to really cut her teeth in the F&B industry, Candlenut was one of the rare places that treats its staff like, well, humans, thanks to its chef-owner Malcolm Lee. "Even though the restaurant industry is so crushing, he knows first hand what it means to lose loved ones because of this obsession (with Michelin stars). It pushed him to realise, ok I need my staff to spend time with their families. They can't just sell their souls to my business." It is one of a few restaurants to implement a four-day work week for its staff, as well as a mandated 30-minute long staff meal every day, says Chia. And that's why even though she doesn't work there anymore, Chia's launch for a new book, Wet Market to Table, was held at the celebrated restaurant up the hill on Dempsey Road. A book that teaches you how to shop at the wet market So yes, what's a chef doing writing a book? Wet Market to Table is a cookbook that teaches readers how to buy and cook with uncommon ingredients that are surprisingly commonly found at local wet markets. Chia saw this as a creative reprieve from the demands of restaurant work, and in some ways, a story of her twin loves of home cooking and the wet market. From tatsoi (also known as fu gui cai) to fingerroot (also known as temu kunci), the book, which she first dreamed up about two years ago, offers ideas on how to use these unfamiliar yet readily-available fruits and vegetables from our wet markets. Take mountain yam, one of her 25 featured ingredients, for instance. Chia says it is used by yakitori chefs as it has the amazing ability to imbue minced chicken meat with a silky texture. And here's another little known fact: Jiro (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi) uses a bit of mountain yam in his famed tamagoyaki. Chia observed that there was a dearth of information on these local and regional ingredients for the modern home cook. "When I was at the market I wanted to know what to do with belimbing or buah keluak. There is nothing modern. You just go to Popular, pick up a S$2 book catered to aunties and in the recipes you have things like MSG and chicken stock powder and immediately you're like turned off. I saw a gap in the market. I felt that someone has to write the book and I didn't want to wait for someone else to write it." Chia's recipes are modern indeed. Flipping through her book, you will find a smooth hummus made with borlotti beans, a buttery croissant loaf infused with laksa leaf pesto, and a very tantalising-looking smoked salmon pasta flecked with green dragon vegetable — definitely not your usual home recipes. For each of the ingredients, Chia covers their various names, their availability and tips on selecting, storing, and preparing them. Here's where she offers us a pro-tip for shopping at a wet market: Know what you're entitled to. "When I went to the wet market at first, I didn't know my privileges as a buying customer and I would just say can I get that and they would just bag it up," she says with a slight grin. That's completely different from what market regulars do. "They will ask to butcher this, debone that or skin this, so they really get their money's worth," she says. At the fishmonger's stall, for example, you can ask for a fish to be filleted or butterfly-ed. There is a great deal of versatility and knowledge available in a wet market, which Chia says is one reason why people shop there. A humiliating experience And here's another: Don't be a snob. "When I first went back to the wet markets, I remember it was so humiliating," says Chia with a laugh. She recounts one of her early trips as a rookie chef to a wet market to buy ingredients for a bouillabaisse (a French fish stew). Armed with a precise list of ingredients down to the last gram, Chia asked for 600g of mussels from the fish stall. "No 600g. Only 1kg!" said the fishmonger before dumping a kilogram worth of mussels in a bag and demanding S$10. "I was very affronted! I was like oh my God, so brash. I was not used to it. Growing up, everyone was so civil and then you go to the market and it's very raw and just in-your-face. The uncle was like '小妹第一次煮饭啊 (is this your first time cooking, little girl)?'. Is it inexperience that you don't know that we sell one kilo of mussels??" It was a stinging experience for the professional cook and for a very long time, Chia did not dare to step back into in a wet market. But equally embarrassing was her complete lack of knowledge about local ingredients like the roselle and moringa, which her husband, an urban farmer, would bring home: "To not have your roots as a cook, I find that it's a bit humiliating. If you're unable to be as comfortable with those ingredients as you are with ingredients from the West, then what does that make you as a chef?" Discovering casual wet market camaraderie & relationships as a child Chia's experience with wet markets actually goes back to her younger days, when she tagged along with her mother on marketing trips to the now-defunct Lakeview Market at Marymount. Chia describes herself as a "passive buyer" who watched as her mother bantered and chatted with the various stall owners. Nonetheless it was an experience that she remembers well, involving the usual slab of char siew she would buy to nibble on and the fishmonger who would call her "Assam Fish" affectionately because she loves eating assam pomfret. "It's very interesting because it's a very casual relationship," Chia adds. "They might never know your name in real life but they just know you by your face, by what you like to eat, and I think there's that 人情味 (human touch) that you can't replicate in a sterile setting like the supermarket. It's a very natural thing." But wet markets are disappearing There are 83 wet markets in hawker centres operated by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators at the moment. Sadly, though, the number of customers who visit wet markets has been dwindling. A 2018 NEA survey found that only 39 per cent of Singaporeans visited a wet market in the preceding 12 months. And this isn't surprising, to be fair — wet markets just don't appeal to the young because of the better sanitation, air-conditioning and clearer pricing that supermarkets bring. While Chia understands this phenomenon, she cannot come to terms with it. She tells me about a time she went online to find out what Singaporeans think about wet markets: "There was this person from RJC (Raffles Junior College) who wrote something that was quite shocking: the government should abolish wet markets because they don't fit into our clean and green image. I was so angry! Why is it that we put on this sanitised image and eradicate parts of ourselves that seemingly don't fit?" The unfortunate thing is, though, it does seem like wet markets are destined to disappear eventually. "Sometimes it's the physical thing that remains and the spirit that disappears. We really have to think about what is important about wet markets and what exactly we want to retain," says Chia. Can wet markets appeal to a generation of supermarket shoppers? The wet market way of life, like the habit produce sellers have of hanging their drinks by the side of their stalls, is a product of its time. But other things like the vast knowledge, the casual, longtime human interaction and relationship-building should be retained. Chia also believes that the Singaporean wet market should also keep up with technology to appeal to a new generation of local grocery shoppers. And in some ways, that's already happening. Chia says her mother, for instance, noticed that some supermarkets like Sheng Siong have in-house fishmongers. She also tells me about 34-year-old Jeffrey Tan, who runs a place called Dish The Fish at Beo Crescent Market. At his stall, the young fishmonger vacuum packs his fish for customers so it's easy to handle, offers a WhatsApp subscription service that updates regular customers on the latest catch, and also conducts cooking classes to teach people how to prepare certain types of fish. Singaporeans should be proud of our regional produce There are many reasons why people might cook with ingredients from the wet market. Many do it because it is cheaper. Others do it in the name of sustainability (if you think about it, buying at the wet market is the OG way of buying only what you need). For Chia, it is a pride in the rich produce our region has to offer — a feeling unfortunately not shared by many. "A lot of the restaurants that have this talk on 'local' are fake. Sorry to burst your bubble," she says with a laugh. "A lot of these restaurants that say that they support regional or local ingredients — when you look at their menu, there’s a lot of imported produce, and then for garnish, a few local flowers. It's not coherent." However, there are a few that do do so with aplomb. Her eyes brighten at the mention of Mustard Seed, a fusion restaurant at Serangoon Gardens. She rattles off a series of dishes: Prawn hor fun with a sauce inspired by the famous Kok Seng Restaurant sauce, nasi ulam ochazuke which features nasi ulam in yong tau fu broth, a market vegetable salad inspired by gado gado. Chia says it is her responsibility as a writer and cook to help broaden people's imagination on our local ingredients and inspire pride in what we have in our wet markets. She relates an anecdote she heard from her former boss at Candlenut to illustrate this point. "Malcolm was doing a food festival alongside other restaurants. His dish was very simple, crab curry and steamed rice. The other restaurants were doing things like espuma (foam), sculptures, molecular gastronomy, bak chor mee that is not a bak chor mee, things like that. And at the end of the night, all the chefs finished their day's work and they were all starving, they didn't go eat at the espuma or whatever. Malcolm told me that all of them came to his stall and they were just stuffing their faces like little boys they were like, wah rice ah shiok! They started like pouring the curry and stuffing their face and everything was gone. And he was like, that moment really cemented what he is as a chef. It's being very quietly proud of what you have as a nation, as a region and being confident." Almost made me want to hightail it to my neighbourhood wet market to start seeing what I could learn too. You can get a copy of Wet Market to Table from Epigram here. Top photo by Rachel Ng.
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Singapore will be adopting stricter noise limits for Singapore-registered vehicles from Apr. 1, 2023, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Apr. 7.Currently, vehicles registered in Singapore must comply with noise limits stipulated in the Environmental Protection and Management (Vehicular Emissions) Regulations.The regulations set limits on the maximum noise level that can be emitted by motor vehicles of various classes.From Apr. 1, 2023, NEA will be adopting internationally-recognised standards from the United Nations (UN).These standards are "generally more stringent than Singapore’s current standards".This comes as part of NEA’s initiatives to reduce vehicular emissions, so as to improve air quality and safeguard public health.#environment #noise
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/nea-noisy-vehicles/
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Singapore will be adopting stricter noise limits for Singapore-registered vehicles from Apr. 1, 2023, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Apr. 7. NEA will also tighten the emissions standards for both local and foreign motorcycles. Currently, vehicles registered in Singapore must comply with noise limits stipulated in the Environmental Protection and Management (Vehicular Emissions) Regulations. The regulations set limits on the maximum noise level that can be emitted by motor vehicles of various classes. The limit for motorcycles, for example, is 94 decibels, while the limit for motor cars, station wagons, and taxis is 96 decibels, or 100 if the engine is at the rear end of the vehicle. The current limits are benchmarked against the European Union (EU) and Japanese standards, said NEA. Noise limits from Apr. 1, 2023 From Apr. 1, 2023, NEA will be adopting internationally-recognised standards from the United Nations (UN). These standards are "generally more stringent than Singapore’s current standards". They also involve an improved test procedure that is more reflective of "actual driving conditions" and accounts for non-exhaust noise more accurately than the current standards. NEA said that its announcement was being made in advance so that the motor industry would have "sufficient lead time to obtain motor vehicles that are able to meet the new noise requirements." The stricter noise limits will only apply to vehicles registered after the date that the standards are adopted. Vehicles registered before Apr. 1, 2023, as well as foreign-registered vehicles, will continue to be subject to the noise limits currently in force. For such vehicles, the new UN noise limits will only apply if they are less stringent. Meanwhile, vehicles registered before July 1, 1999 will continue to have more accommodating standards. For example, a licensed motorcycle registered before July 1, 1999 can emit up to a maximum of 106 decibels. NEA said that it would review the standards "in due course" for vehicles currently in use, and that the industry and owners would be given "sufficient time" to adjust to tighter limits. Emissions standards for older motorcycles NEA also announced that older motorcycles, namely, the ones registered before July 1, 2003, would be required to meet higher emissions standards from Apr. 6, 2023. These higher standards will also be applicable to foreign-registered motorcycle. This comes as part of NEA’s initiatives to reduce vehicular emissions, so as to improve air quality and safeguard public health. The new restrictions are as follows: NEA said that "most motorcycles will be able to meet the tightened in-use emission standards", provided that "proper maintenance" was done. As for local motorcycles registered on or after July 2003, the standards are already on par or more stringent. NEA also reminds owners of affected motorcycles to get their vehicles serviced and inspected to meet the tightened emission standards, at VICOM Inspection Centre, JIC Inspection Services, and STA Vehicle Inspection. NEA will also tighten the emissions standards for both local and foreign motorcycles. What happens to motorcycles that do not meet the standards? NEA said that enforcement will be carried out through random emissions testing at land entry checkpoints and during enforcement blitzes. Local and foreign motorcycles that do not meet the standards will be subjected to the same fines. Foreign motorcycles with a number of outstanding fines for vehicle-related offences may also be denied entry into Singapore at the land entry checkpoints, NEA said. For more information, refer to NEA's announcement here. Top image via Anderson Djumin on unsplash
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Singapore Prison Service (SPS) officer Helen Lim has an experience she can never forget: Speaking to a former inmate out of committing suicide.A former inmate she supervised, Chan, contacted the SPS and asked to speak to her specifically.Chan had requested for Lim because she was perhaps one of the few trusted individuals he could approach without feeling judged.The two then held an intense conversation over the phone, with Chan pouring his troubles out to Lim, saying that he had difficulty readjusting to life back at work and with his family.Wanting to engage him and stop him from doing anything rash, Lim kept talking to Chan, and managed to keep him on the phone.Highlighting the positive aspects about his situation at work, she also suggested ways he could improve his relationships with his wife and son.By the end of the phone call, she calmed him down and convinced him not to take his own life.While Lim acknowledged that there is not much she or her colleagues can do should their supervisees themselves not be motivated to change, she still presses on, knowing that her persistence in following through with all her supervisees will pay off, and that some will eventually change.
https://mothership.sg/2019/09/singapore-prison-officer-helen-lim/
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Singapore Prison Services (SPS) officer Helen Lim has an experience she can never forget: Speaking to a former inmate out of committing suicide. Convinced a suicidal former inmate not to take his life Speaking to Mothership, Lim recounted an occasion when a former inmate she supervised, whom we shall refer to as Chan, contacted the SPS and asked to speak to her specifically. Lim was Chan’s first officer who had counselled him during his sentence. She was also there for him during his mental breakdown about three years earlier. Chan had requested for Lim because she was perhaps one of the few trusted individuals he could approach without feeling judged. The two then held an intense conversation over the phone, with Chan pouring his troubles out to Lim, saying that he had difficulty readjusting to life back at work and with his family. His wife, who suffered from schizophrenia, questioned him incessantly whenever he returned home from work. To make things worse, Chan faced discrimination at the workplace too, due to his criminal record. He said his employer micromanaged him, and that his colleagues kept their distance from him. Wanting to engage him and stop him from doing anything rash, Lim kept talking to Chan, and managed to keep him on the phone. Highlighting the positive aspects about his situation at work, she also suggested ways he could improve his relationships with his wife and son. By the end of the phone call, she calmed him down and convinced him not to take his own life. After the life-changing phone call, Chan went for subsequent counselling sessions and family intervention. He has since gone on to find success as an events manager. All in a day’s work This episode might sound like one of those feel-good, uplifting stories that we hear from time to time, but it is part and parcel of Lim’s work at the SPS. In the course of her decades-long career, Lim has encountered numerous inmates who were in jail for various offences. Previously, as a Chief Personal Supervisor, she ensured the safe custody and rehabilitation of the inmates under her charge, ensuring that inmates under her care adhered to daily routines while she and her team of officers attended to their requests for programmes and support where needed. Now, as a Reintegration Officer (RO) in the Community Corrections Command (COMC), she oversees her supervisees on the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme (MAS) -- a programme that might sound like a mouthful, but is crucial to former inmates who wish to settle smoothly back in their lives after prison. Her workplace also includes the homes of her supervisees, where she assesses them to see if they are ready to progress to the next phase of their supervision plan. Praised by inmates for her genuine concern While it is never easy dealing with people, much less trying to counsel people who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law, Lim has performed exceedingly well at her job. Over the course of her 30 years of service in the SPS, Lim has received countless compliments from inmates for being attentive to their needs, and for supporting them at a time when they were largely isolated from the rest of society. And what has sustained her for this long is a passion for the work that she is doing. Lim desires to effect lasting change in people and help them lead better lives after they get released from prison. Such care and emotional support that prison officers like Lim give to inmates are crucial to helping them rehabilitate and reintegrate into society. But despite the satisfaction she gets when she sees her supervisees settling into their new lives outside of prison, being a prison officer does come with its fair share of challenges -- as with all other jobs. Feels for inmates when they reoffend Lim recounted to Mothership the times she felt “heart pain” when she saw the inmates she worked with in the past reoffend after their release, even though it does not happen very often. For instance, one was caught just a day after his release, while another was caught in less than 10 days. They were both incarcerated for more than five years previously. Lim lamented: “Why have they not learnt their lesson? When I say “heart pain”, it’s not because I’ve feelings for them. Just that as a human being, I don’t know why they are so adamant on taking drugs. They know the harmful effects and repercussions (of doing so), yet they still choose to take it again! There are plenty of things that they can do, yet they choose to do nothing.” But Lim has never thought of giving up on them. Pressing on in her role as an intermediary between the inmates and the world they are trying to fit back into, she remains as dedicated to her job as the day when she first started. Joined SPS to make a difference in people’s lives While Lim had always aspired to be a uniformed officer since young, she took the plunge and applied for a position in the SPS when she saw a recruitment ad by chance. The ad, which likened the role of a prison officer to saving people, one life at a time -- much like “The Starfish Story” -- inspired her to want to make a difference to others’ lives. She said: “I am certain that this was my personal calling -- to keep Singapore safe by deterring inmates from causing more harm to themselves and their surroundings. I hope to change their mentality and help them understand that their criminal behaviour are not tolerated in our society.” A few decades down the road, Lim’s choice has proven to be the right one for her. Lim said she looks forward to her job every day. Having the ability to contribute to Singapore’s criminal justice system excites her, Lim said. She added that while her parents had initially discouraged her from joining the SPS -- as with all other well-meaning parents as they were worried for her safety -- they later grew to support her career choice, even telling her to “be fair and show kindness to everyone”. Seeks to upgrade her skills constantly But despite being recognised and commended for her patience and dedication, Lim has not grown complacent about her role. Rather, she has constantly sought to improve her skills so she can better connect with former inmates and guide them. For instance, she went back to school in 2007 and obtained a Diploma in Correctional and Management Studies. Since then, she has continued to go for additional counselling-related courses to improve her counselling skills. Such skills have come in handy for her day-to-day work with the inmates, and helped her engage with inmates more purposefully. Biggest challenge at work is to motivate & inspire inmates Lim said the biggest challenge that comes with her job is to “motivate and inspire offenders to change their way of thinking and belief systems” using the tools at hand, such as rehabilitation programmes. For former inmates to be effectively rehabilitated, she firmly believes in the importance of aftercare as they need support to help them transition smoothly to life outside of bars. But Lim acknowledged that there is not much she or her colleagues can do should their beneficiaries themselves not be motivated to change. Despite the difficulties involved, Lim finds a sense of satisfaction from receiving words of gratitude and countless invitations to attend her supervisees’ pre-release graduation ceremonies. “I enjoy hearing my supervisees reflect about their lives and their past,” she said. Knowing that she has made a difference at the end of the day, Lim is convinced that she is on the right path, and is even more motivated to continue her outreach to the inmates. No regrets As their RO, Lim will also contact their family members to find out more about her supervisees, and to better address their expectations about life outside prison so as to facilitate a smoother transition. But more than that, Lim will listen to their grievances and struggles, and will also offer her advice on managing their incarcerated family members better. When asked if she has ever regretted taking up this job -- after all, a role that centres primarily around human relations is never easy -- Lim gave a definite “no”, without needing to think twice. “I am convinced that with my abilities and by genuinely following through with all my supervisees, some of them will change. And this will lead to a ripple effect in his family, and in turn, the community.” Top image credit to Public Service Division This sponsored post by the Public Service Division brings relief to the writer knowing that there are still people in Singapore who care.
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Staff-served food lines have resumed as of Monday, April 12, at food and beverage outlets, corporate and work-related events, and events in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry.Despite this, buffets at weddings, funeral services and social activities within corporate settings are still not permitted.This is according to guidelines sent out by the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore.Some buffets that have restarted include Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts and StraitsKitchen at the Grand Hyatt Singapore.However, they have been restarted with certain safety measures in place.#hospitalityindustry #hotels #buffets
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/buffets-singapore-return
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Buffets have resumed in Singapore more than a year after they were stopped when the circuit breaker period kicked in on April 7, 2020. However, they have been restarted with safety measures in place. Staff-served lines Staff-served food lines have resumed as of Monday, April 12, at food and beverage outlets, corporate and work-related events, and events in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry. But buffets at weddings, funeral services and social activities within corporate settings are still not permitted. This is according to guidelines sent out by the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore. Some buffets that have restarted include Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts and StraitsKitchen at the Grand Hyatt Singapore. Diners cannot have contact with food These measures mean that diners must not have contact with food. Servers will be in charge of dishing out the fare. Plastic shields or other barriers, such as sneeze guards, are to be placed over the food served and servers must wear masks and cannot handle the food with their bare hands. Desserts can be selected from a dessert trolley that moves around the dining area, while beverages are served at the table after they are ordered through a digital menu. Diners queueing for food must also have their masks on. They must maintain a 1m distance from the next person in queue. There must also be a 1m distance between the queue and the nearest seated diner. The establishments go as far as ensuring one server assisting each diner per buffet line to ensure that plates are not passed back and forth between various staff members and diners, The Straits Times reported. Other rules Corporate and Mice events have additional rules. For corporate events, each food line can serve up to only 50 people and no mingling is allowed. A safe management representative must be present. For Mice events, attendees are split into zones of up to 50 attendees. Each cohort among the 50 attendees can have up to 20 people. The same cohort must join the same food queue. If a single food line is used, attendees from different zones cannot be served at the same time. Top photos via
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Here’s our latest #LessonsOnLeadership interview, featuring the second and third generation leaders of the family behind the heritage Ya Kun International brand. Here, they explain to us how they grew their founder/father/grandfather Loi Ah Koon’s Telok Ayer coffee stall into an internationally-recognised household name, and why they decided to hire a CEO who isn’t from the Loi family.
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/lessons-on-leadership-ya-kun-jesher-loi-adrin-loi-interview/
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Here's a little known fact: The CEO of beloved Singaporean heritage brand Ya Kun is neither Singaporean nor related to the family of Ya Kun's founder, Loi Ah Koon. The person running the show for about five years now is Toshiya Tanaka, whom Loi's grandson Jesher Loi is quick to qualify is "more Singaporean than he is Japanese". Tanaka-san — as he is known in the company — fits well into the Ya Kun culture, says Jesher. He's patient, collaborative, has a wealth of experience (20 years in the F&B industry, in fact), and brings a decidedly Japanese quality to his work: A keen eye for detail. "My dad is very careful to hire people he feels can integrate well and improve the culture." That's not to say the Loi family isn't in the picture. They still own Ya Kun, and are still very much involved the day-to-day running of the business. Loi's son, 66-year-old Adrin Loi, is now Ya Kun's executive chairman, steering the kopi chain in terms of strategic direction. 36-year-old Jesher, Adrin's son, serves as director of branding and market development. The Loi family has been engaging outsiders to run the business for years now. "On our own, we are very limited in terms of our resources," says Adrin, in a video call with Mothership. Also, he notes that family-run businesses can suffer blind spots because of their inherent bias, so there are benefits to having an outsider — someone with the right skills, proficiency, and talent — to run the business professionally. This willingness to acknowledge personal shortcomings and open up the family business is just one of the many qualities that enabled Ya Kun to evolve from a one-man coffee stall to a global franchise spanning 14 countries. Breakfast of the masses First opened in 1936 as a coffee stall at Telok Ayer Basin, the kopi and toast business was a significant milestone in Loi Ah Koon's life. It was the culmination of a decade of menial hard work that the Hainan native undertook as a kopi assistant after he arrived in Singapore in 1926. And while the clientele was varied — coolies, merchants, moneylenders, police inspectors and boat operators — the food at that tiny coffee stall was pretty standard: charcoal-grilled toast with kaya, eggs, and kopi. There's a reason why this breakfast combination is still a favourite among locals today. The kopi gives you a caffeine boost, the bread gives you energy, while the eggs provide protein. It's a complete meal that can keep you going until lunch, Adrin explains remarkably simply. Adrin remembers helping out at the coffee stall as a young man, alongside his seven siblings, doing anything and everything — from collecting money to washing plates and cups to even delivering fresh kaya from home to the stall. The work was taxing in many ways — Adrin remembers that his father would often sleep on his coffee stall's counter, just so that he would be able to wake up on time to catch the morning crowd. "My dad and my mom, they really supported us in our education, supported until our marriages. This is something that we are very grateful to our parents for." Pulled back from the brink of shutting down In 1972, the coffee stall moved from the Telok Ayer Basin to the Telok Ayer Market (present day Lau Pa Sat) where it was renamed Ya Kun Coffeestall. In 1984, Ya Kun moved across the street to the Telok Ayer Transit Market and 14 years later, it moved to Far East Square, thanks to a serendipitous stroke of good luck. The year was 1998. The land the Telok Ayer Transit Market stood on was due for redevelopment. The government gave hawkers at the market two options: Relocate to another food centre or close down your stall and be compensated S$16,000. S$16,000 was a lot of money back then, Adrin reminds us. The family was seriously considering the offer to shut Ya Kun down because Loi and his wife were getting on in age. Right at that moment, though, a longtime customer, one Chia Boon Pin from Far East Organization approached the family with an offer: Come sell your kopi and kaya toast at our soon-to-be-opened Far East Square at China Street. The family was not persuaded. Aside from the huge jump in rent (rental fees at Far East Square was about 30 times higher than that at the market), the family was also afraid that it would not be able to draw a crowd. A market naturally draws people who are looking for food but a shop in a mall is a different story. However, Chia was persistent. He offered the Loi family a shop at Far East Square completely free-of-charge, confident that the coffee stall would thrive. The family went ahead with the offer and poured S$10,000 into the shop to renovate it, filled it with secondhand furniture, and flooded the mall with posters announcing Ya Kun's opening. Chia was proven right on Ya Kun's opening day at the mall. "When we opened the shop — before we opened the shutters — you know what happened?" Adrin says with a grin. "Long queue outside, seriously! Then once we opened, people were rushing! People wanted to be served first because after eating they wanted to get off to work." How successful was Ya Kun at Far East Square? The business broke even just two weeks after opening. Right place, right time, and a whole lot of passion The new start at Far East Square was also the opportunity for Adrin and his brother Algie to take over the business from Loi senior. Under Adrin's leadership, Ya Kun expanded, first by opening a second outlet at Tanjong Pagar, and then selling franchises from the start of the new millennium. Today, there are over 70 Ya Kun outlets in Singapore, and 70 outlets overseas. What originally started out as a means to support the Loi family has boomed into a household name synonymous with Singapore kopi culture. What's behind this family heritage brand's success? "I would say actually, that we are very blessed because the Ya Kun story is no different from any coffee shop," says Jesher. It was simply the right time, the right place, and the right opportunities to branch out. For instance, he points out that today, the concept of "food streets" in malls — basements filled with a variety of F&B options — is prevalent today but back in the early 2000s, it was still a novelty and the trend coincided with Ya Kun's timely decision to sell franchises. Working at the frontlines Luck aside, there are of course values that the kopi chain abides by. For one, all employees who join Ya Kun have to spend two weeks working at a Ya Kun outlet to gain perspective, Jesher shares: "Once you experience the heat and taking a bus at 11pm to go home, or having to wake up at 5:30am, it really changes your perspective, your marketing campaigns, your ideas, your views. You need to know where the action is on the front line. Until you know the front line you can't make clear decisions in the office." He would know. The 36-year-old jumped into the family business after returning from California where he studied music. Working at the kopi station was the hardest, he says. It wasn't mastering the kopi recipes per se that was difficult, but having the various permutations of kopi ready at his fingertips in a high-stress environment. "That's why [the staff in the kitchen] really have kung fu because it's just so familiar, they can do it without thinking." What Jesher can tell us from his own experience on the frontline (of Ya Kun's shops) is it takes about a week to learn how to make kaya toast, and as long as a few months to master kopi. His cousin Asher, on the other hand, tells us he took one whole year to learn how to brew a good cup of kopi, suffering burns and cuts on his hands in the process. Asher joined the company in 2000, rising through the ranks at the Far East Square outlet to become a store manager. Today, he oversees seven outlets. Working at the store is incredibly rewarding, says Asher, even though he doesn't brew kopi or toast bread as often now. He loves seeing satisfied customers at the outlets, and enjoys maintaining relationships with Ya Kun regulars. Both Asher and Jesher are quite aware, however, that young folks today would not find working with a kopi and toast chain very sexy. The environment is hot and noisy, and according to Jesher, the profit margins are slim. A career with a place like Ya Kun is one that would be borne out of passion and heart — something that all three Lois stressed throughout our interview — and so all recognise the significant difficulty in attracting new blood to join the company. Even within the Loi family, there's no telling if the fourth generation will be willing to pick up the mantle. "My kids are so young, it's hard to [determine] what their passions will be. I don't even know what this business will be like down the road," says Jesher. "We just want to preserve heritage" The biggest value that Ya Kun abides by, one that has sustained it for 85 years, is probably its insistence on staying true to its heritage: kopi, kaya toast, and eggs. There are seasonal menu items that pop up now and then — like its range of Toastwiches (go for the Rendang Chicken one) but its core products aren't likely to change anytime soon because the chain prides itself on "giving every generation a taste of what heritage is like," says Jesher. "At the end of the day, we're not meant to be trendy. We don't build ourselves to be edgy, trendy, or keeping all the trends. We just want to preserve heritage." This is why Ya Kun firmly eschews automation in the production of its kopi, kaya toast, and eggs. Toasting the bread, roasting the coffee beans, and brewing kopi are all processes still done by hand because people like that human element, says Jesher. For older folks, there is a sense of nostalgia (a.k.a the good old days of 10¢ kopi) and for younger customers, Jesher hopes that warm sense of home evoked by kopi and kaya will help them establish their own new memories with the chain. Just think about the first time you had Ya Kun or the people you were with the last time you visited a Ya Kun outlet, he says: "I realised that because we are so brick and mortar, we're actually integrating people's memories into the shop... I feel like that's where I find my fulfilment — we create this space for you to fill with your memories." And in this way, the grandson of Loi Ah Koon sees it as his duty to steward his grandfather's labour of love, regardless of whatever role he is in. Which is why he also doesn't rule out taking the reins of the company one day. "I want to do the best that I can do, but I don't want to say that [being CEO] is my dream. But if one day I'm called to step up, I have to be prepared to do so." Lessons on Leadership is a new Mothership series about the inspiring stories of Singapore’s business leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as the lessons and values we can learn from their lived experiences. Stay tuned for our next interview with Richard Eu, chairman of Eu Yan Sang International, out next month. Top images by Bryan Cambo, courtesy of Ya Kun.
Article
Having seen and heard stories of how her brothers with autism were ostracised and bullied in school, Debra Lam was worried that by association, the same stigma would spread to her.But over the years, she has had a change of heart.Together with her boyfriend, their organisation, Society Staples, now works toward changing perceptions as a whole, in the hopes of creating a society where people with disabilities are seen as part of the mainstream.#autism #nonprofits #community
https://mothership.sg/2019/05/society-staples/
mothership-sg
You might assume that having grown up in a family with two brothers on the autism spectrum, Debra Lam would be predisposed to championing causes involving people with disabilities (PWDs). For the 26-year-old, that wasn't the case. In fact, throughout much of her adolescence, Lam admits she wasn’t too fond of her elder and younger brothers. Describing herself as a “very, very privileged student” who was often nominated by her teachers for extra-curricular educational opportunities, Lam couldn’t understand why her elder and younger brothers weren’t doing as well as her in school. She says: “It never occurred to me that my brothers were actually having challenges due to their disability. But the perception I got was, ‘Oh, my brothers were just lazy.’ And that’s why they were just not performing, and as a result, they didn’t get any opportunities.” More than that, Lam was also embarrassed by her brothers’ disabilities. Having seen and heard stories of how they were ostracised and bullied at school, Lam was worried that by association, the same stigma would spread to her: “In primary school, I didn’t dare to tell people I actually had brothers who were special, because I saw how my brothers were bullied. Both of them went to mainstream schools, and were bullied quite badly. And I kind of got the impression that if people knew I had brothers who are special, they are going to treat me differently as well." "Why do you think that of your brother?" Enter Lam's boyfriend, Ryan Ng. The 28-year-old first met Lam when they were in secondary school. He was the only other person she knew who had a sibling with a disability. Ng’s younger brother has William’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterised by distinctive facial features and intellectual disability. While it took Lam a long time to come to terms with her brothers’ disabilities, Ng’s perception of PWDs was very different. Lam says: “I was just blabbering about how annoying my brothers were and all of that. And then [Ng] came back and was just like ‘Why do you think that of your brother? I love my brother, I think he’s amazing.'” Indeed, if Lam’s childhood experience with her siblings was marked with a struggle to accept their disabilities, Ng’s could be characterised by blissful ignorance: “Ryan has always lived in this perfect bubble where he thought everyone was super accepting, super embracing.” On a mission to forge an inclusive future Today the couple are the co-founders of Society Staples. It is a social enterprise that seeks to foster greater social inclusion for PWDs in Singapore. Its establishment speaks of the journey and growth that the pair have been through together. For Lam, it involved coming to terms with and embracing her brothers for who they are. For Ng, it meant recognising that society is not as inclusive or welcoming to PWDs as he had always thought. It’s no surprise then, that these two narratives seem to be the driving force behind the company's mission to “create an inclusive future where every PWD can maximise his/ her potential and be embraced as an integral member of their society”. Society Staples mission Founded in 2015, Society Staples runs events and programmes that are designed to spread awareness of the challenges that PWDs face, while encouraging participants to be more inclusive. They are perhaps best known for their signature team building programme that involves simulating either a visual or hearing disability for participants and getting them to paddle a dragon boat. Additionally, they also manage and train the Different Dragons, a dragon boat team made up of both PWDs and people without disabilities. Happy-go-lucky beginnings Ng first became aware of the need for an organisation such as Society Staples in 2011, when he came across a news story reporting on a group of special needs teachers making nasty remarks about their students. Lam says: “He was really, really affected, and when he saw that and he shared that article with me. I responded and I said 'Oh this is my everyday reality'. And to him, he was like 'No, if this is really what’s happening then we better do something'.” That something was dragon boating -- a sport that both Ng and Lam were passionate about. Lam adds: “So because both of us were dragon boaters, he had this idea and he said when we tell people we are dragon boaters, the kind of impression and the comments that we get is like ‘Oh, it’s so tiring, it’s so draining, it’s such a tough sport.’ And to Ryan, he was like, if we can train up an entire team of people with disabilities in dragon boating and they can perform as well as anyone else, that will really be making a statement that they’re not different.” With that, Ng pitched his idea to an online youth ideas competition before roping Lam in when he managed to make it through to the final round. “I was having my poly exams so I didn’t join him [during the preliminary rounds of the competition]. I remember I walked out of the exam hall, and then I looked at my phone and he was like ‘Hey! We’re going to pitch at the finals like two weeks later.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about? What is this finals that I didn’t even sign up for?’ And he was like ‘I told you about this dragon boat team?’ And I was like ‘Oh my god, you’re real? You’re serious?’” Really won competition Going into the finals, Lam did not think they stood a chance. The other two teams in the finals -- decked out in suits and ties -- were from NUS and SMU, while Lam and Ng, joined by a friend who was still secondary school, had decided that business casual would suffice. “Just a shirt and a pants,” says Ng with a laugh. “Even the secondary school boy had to borrow his father’s clothes... His clothes were all baggy.” “I don’t know how. Amazingly, we won,” says Lam. She says: “I still remembered when I was going up the stage to actually take the cheque I was in complete disbelief, and when I was coming down the stage I was scolding Ryan! I was like ‘Now you got me into this whole sh*t, and now we actually win.’” Lam’s recollection of their happy-go-lucky beginnings are punctuated by Ng’s laughter. He adds that she no longer had exams, and hence no longer had any reason not to help him. The Deaf Dragons With the money they won from the competition, the couple started a dragon boat team in March 2012 called the Deaf Dragons, with a crew made up entirely of deaf individuals. The team quickly gained prominence, finishing first in the adaptive category of the Club Crew World Championships in Hong Kong, a mere five months after they first started training. And while this was -- by all definitions -- an impressive feat, Lam and Ng had bigger things in mind for the team. They didn’t just want to show that PWDs had the capability to paddle a dragon boat. They wanted to demonstrate that PWDs could compete and hold their own against crews manned by paddlers without disabilities. By 2014, Lam and Ng decided that the members of the Deaf Dragons needed to be putting in some extra work in the gym if they were to reach the levels required to be truly competitive. They put together a gym programme for the athletes to complete on the days when they were not having team training. Challenges in training “They responded and they said ‘Coach, I don’t know how to do these exercises’,” recalls Lam. “Very ignorantly, I replied, ‘Oh, just go to YouTube and check out the videos, right, there’s a lot of how-to’s’. Then they responded back and said, ‘I tried but I don’t understand the videos.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s strange why?’ And then they said, ‘because there’s no subtitles.’ That's when I realised that -- I mean gymming is such an essential part of being a dragon boater. And yet just because there are no subtitles in a YouTube video of how-to’s, the entire deaf community is just axe-ed out of it.” The realisation led Lam and Ng to explore the possibility of opening a gym catered to PWDs. The pair had discovered that apart from difficulties understanding YouTube video tutorials, many PWDs were struggling to find accommodating gyms. “We heard stories of blind people being turned away from gyms even though they know how to operate the machines. They were being turned away for safety reasons -- the staff didn’t know how to work with them, so they turned them away. Last time in our ActiveSG gyms, when you go in, you actually had to sign in and write your personal details and all that. And we were thinking, someone with a developmental disability -- like autism or other intellectual disability -- there is just absolutely no way they can do that.” Misunderstandings and misconceptions However, after some time spent researching the feasibility of a specially catered inclusive gym, the pair concluded that the problem lies beyond meeting the fitness needs of PWDs. Lam says: “I think PWDs were worried that they were going to be looked at differently. Like people are going to stare at them. And the general public were just not comfortable existing in the same space. I think part of the reason why society is currently at this stage is because there’s really no flow of information. People don’t understand people with disabilities, they have no chance to interact, and there was just so much misunderstandings and misconceptions towards this community.” This was certainly true even for someone like Lam, who grew up under one roof with siblings on the autism spectrum. Lam admits that even till today she is still envious of friends who have siblings without disabilities, and the close relationships they are able to have. Another inclination she continues to fight is the notion that her brothers will end up being an inconvenience to her life: "I still hold the thought of feeling like my brothers will be my responsibility someday. So if you carefully hear the words I'm using right -- like responsibility -- I think if you ask Ryan, he doesn't see it as a responsibility." Having harboured misgivings towards them for much of her life, it took an intentional sustained effort to reverse years of prejudice. Lam says: “There wasn't one big ah-ha moment. Instead, it was the continuous interactions I had with the community that deepened my understanding of them and autism, which made me rethink the perspectives I had of them. Having access to information was also very powerful. I finally understood that the characteristic traits of my brothers that frequently annoyed me were all part and parcel of autism, and more importantly, it is also not something they would be able to control or change. That really shifted my opinion of them from thinking they were just plain lazy and couldn't be bothered to one that was more compassionate and understanding towards them.” Changing perceptions as a whole It was this “big shift” in her thinking that gave her the drive to start Society Staples with Ng in March 2015. The goal was no longer about finding solutions to isolated problems that PWDs were facing within society. Rather the small outfit -- Lam and Ng are joined by a third colleague, Bernice Lim -- Society Staples now works toward changing perceptions as a whole, in the hopes of creating a society where PWDs are seen as part of the mainstream. Running the social enterprise has been a very steep learning curve for the trio, with each of them performing functions far beyond their official job scopes and having to pick things up on the go. They've also received help from programmes, such as the Philip Yeo Initiative (PYI), a platform for developing individuals identified as part of the next generation of leaders. "PYI came in to help us to understand how can the growth be maintained or where should our next path be" explains Ng. As part of the initiative, Lam is currently being mentored by Aw Kah Peng, the chairman of Shell Singapore. "She has very, very sharp business acumen sense. So, every time we want to do something new and we go back to her right, she very quickly grasps the concept and she can then poke and identify where are all the gaps, where are all the holes and we start targeting that. So, she really comes in to help us to strengthen the whole business proposal. We're really very strong in the social impact right, but its really in the business side that social enterprises falter in." Start being inclusive Readers who are interested can engage Society Staples for their services which include team building activities, corporate social responsibility programmes, and staff training. It might sound a little ironic, but for Ng, the end goal of all these programs is a Singaporean society “where we can stop being inclusive”. “Because being inclusive brings across inconveniences. The day where it comes where everybody no longer feels that these are inconveniences, everybody feels that, ‘Hey, this is just the norm’, is the day that we stop being inclusive. It’s the day we can stop using the term.” Will that ever be the reality in Singapore? “Not in our lifetime, for sure,” begins Lam before Ng interjects. “[It’s a] question mark,” he says. Lam’s admiration is obvious amidst the jesting and laughter: “You see, he’s optimistic right?” More information on Society Staples can be found on their website or you can drop them an email at [email protected] Top image by Andrew Koay
Article
This will be the third major investment by a global pharmaceutical company, strengthening Singapore's position as a leading hub for biopharmaceutical manufacturing.Read more: https://lnkd.in/gCYWadi
https://mothership.sg/2021/05/biontech-manufacturing-facility-singapore/
mothership-sg
BioNTech (Biopharmaceutical New Technologies), the German biotechnology company behind the development of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, has plans to set down roots in Singapore. This was announced by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on May 10 during a doorstop interview. Ramping up production capability in the region Chan revealed that BioNTech will be establishing its regional headquarters for Southeast Asia (SEA) in Singapore. And with support from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the company also plans to build a fully integrated mRNA manufacturing facility here. This new facility will be able to produce a range of mRNA vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases and cancer, and have end-to-end mRNA production capabilities across drug substance, drug product and fill-and-finish. Its estimated annual capacity is several hundred million doses of mRNA-based vaccines depending on the specific vaccine. With its location in Southeast Asia, the facility will also provide a regional and global supply capacity of BioNTech's mRNA-based product candidates, as well as a "rapid response production capability" for the region to address potential pandemic threats. Chan added that the partnership with BioNTech strengthens the resilience of Singapore's supply chains to safeguard it against potential disruptions from other parts of the world. "There will be new viruses that will emerge in time to come. And what we need is a strong R&D partnership to make sure we continuously evolve our products in a timely fashion to serve our local and regional markets. And the mRNA technology is very exciting new technology because it has drastically reduced the time necessary for us to produce a vaccine compared to many conventional methods. So this will also strengthen the portfolio of different vaccine production technologies that we have in Singapore as part of the ecosystem." Could be operational as early as 2023 BioNTech's Singapore office, as well as the commencement of the construction of its manufacturing facility is estimated to take place this year, subject to planning approval. The company estimates that the facility could be operational as early as 2023, and will create up to 80 jobs in Singapore. Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech, said that Singapore provides an "excellent business climate, growing biotechnology industry and rich talent base". Singapore strongly welcomes BioNTech's plans to establish its manufacturing facility here, Beh Swan Gin, Chairman of EDB added, as the "investment will enable Singapore to develop capabilities in an important new therapeutic modality". This is part of the country's strategy to grow its biopharmaceutical industry. Related stories Top photo from Pixabay
Article
Trips to the shopping malls used to be a chore for 7-year-old Nabil Rifqi’s family. Whenever they went to one, Nabil would break away from his family and begin to either run around aimlessly, wail, roll around the floor, or a combination of all three.To defuse the situation as quickly as possible, his parents would coax him so he wouldn’t cause a bigger scene.However, passers-by would still stare disdainfully, probably thinking he was just another naughty child.But Nabil wasn’t acting out for attention or being mischievous.What his parents didn’t know was that Nabil was experiencing an autism meltdown, as he had yet to be diagnosed then.#autismawareness #autism #parenting
https://mothership.sg/2019/04/special-needs-autism-singapore/
mothership-sg
Trips to the shopping malls used to be a chore for 7-year-old Nabil Rifqi's family. Whenever they went to one, Nabil would break away from his family and begin to either run around aimlessly, wail, roll around the floor, or a combination of all three. To defuse the situation as quickly as possible, his parents would coax him so he wouldn't cause a bigger scene. However, passers-by would still stare disdainfully, probably thinking he was just another naughty child. But Nabil wasn't acting out for attention or being mischievous. What his parents didn't know was that Nabil was experiencing an autism meltdown, as he had yet to be diagnosed then. What is autism? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability that affects a person's ability to "make sense of the world and relate with others". Symptoms vary from person to person, but people on the spectrum can face social communication difficulties and/or restricted and repetitive behaviours such as: Making/maintaining eye contact Expressing emotions Expressing themselves non-verbally Fear of crowds Gauging personal space Ritualistic behaviours Extreme interests in specific topics Need for unvarying daily routine Resistance to change Nabil's parents, 37-year-old Nadzifah Zainal and 39-year-old Muhammad Hilmee, first noticed signs of ASD in Nabil when he was four years old. He had delayed speech and displayed behaviours like avoiding eye contact. His mother shared: "We received some feedback from his preschool teachers and noticed that he gets very fidgety and does irregular things like knocking his head against the wall." "Why me?" As a pair of concerned parents, both of them brought Nabil to see a child psychologist and after describing his behaviour, he was diagnosed with ASD. Upon hearing his diagnosis, Nadzifah had a cocktail of negative emotions. "I was very sad and disappointed, I asked myself: Why me? Why our family?" At that time, she was also reminded of a particular visit with her gynaecologist. When Nadzifah was five months pregnant with Nabil, the water level in his head was higher than the normal range. This also meant that the chances of Nabil being born with Down syndrome were higher. "They asked us if we wanted to check if he had Down syndrome, and if he did, we had the choice to abort him." A month later, the water level in his head went back to normal, much to the family's relief. But this memory keeps popping up in her head. "At the back of my mind, I keep wondering if this particular event could be the cause of him having autism." She is aware, however, that the cause of most autism cases cannot be identified. Early intervention The "shopping mall problem" was also solved when the psychologist recommended the family to bring him to spacious places like parks and playgrounds. "We tried that and he just ran freely and happily and we had no worries because he wasn't disturbing anyone. He just needed space, not crowds." After her visit to the child psychologist, Nabil was also recommended to start on the Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC) as soon as possible. EIPIC is a programme offered in several institutions in Singapore that provides therapy and educational support services for children who are six and below and have special needs. The programme aims to overcome a child's developmental delays to better prepare them for primary school. While they were glad that there were avenues to help Nabil, this also served to be another obstacle for the family. Father took a month of unpaid leave Getting into an early intervention programme meant that the family had to make certain sacrifices. For one, Nabil's EIPIC centre required a caregiver to be with the child at all times. Because of this, Nadzifah had to quit her job as a dental nurse to become a stay-at-home-mother. Financially, it wasn't an easy decision for the family as they had to transition from living comfortably with two incomes and now, to survive on just one. And it was especially difficult for her to leave her career of 17 years as it was a job that she was truly passionate about. "I love my job but I love my son more, so I had to make this career switch. I also put my hats off to other stay-at-home-mothers out there, it's a tough job." But she wasn't the only one who made sacrifices. As she was serving her notice, Hilmee also took a month of unpaid leave so he could follow Nabil for his early intervention sessions. "The Nabil you see today is different" The sacrifices made seems to be worth the while as the parents think it has been the "greatest" decision to put Nabil through EIPIC. After going through the programme, Nabil has learnt to express himself and can start a conversation with others. Hoewever, Nadzifah also stressed that she knows that any form of early intervention or therapy won't get rid of his autism, because there is no known cure for it. For the family, as long as Nabil can improve on himself, that is enough of a milestone. "The Nabil you see today is different from a few years back. It may seem like a small step, but we can go to shopping centres again, which is a big improvement for all of us." Hurtful comments While his condition has improved, Nabil still has his meltdowns from time to time. And when that happens, people tend to stare, which used to make the family more conscious of how he behaved. But the family is more composed now, because they now know how to alleviate his meltdowns and at the very least, it gives them a chance to educate others about ASD. "People should mingle with special needs parents and find out what it is like to walk in our shoes." The hardest comments to take in, however, comes from their own family. The family were invited to an outdoor family gathering and as parents of a child on the spectrum, they have their own routine to care for Nabil. "We know how our children behave, so my husband and I will take turns to eat while the other keeps an eye on Nabil." However, during the family gathering, some of the extended family members volunteered to take care of Nabil so his parents could relax for a bit. While in the care of others, Nabil ran across the main road and stopped right in front of an oncoming taxi. In the end, the parents had to bear the brunt of their relatives' comments. "They said things like: 'Why don't you get him a toddler leash? He looks normal what. Why can't you control your children?' If that came from an outsider, it's fine because they don't know and we can educate them. But it came from family whom I thought knew of his condition, so it was very hurtful." Family keeps her sane However, her loved ones remain to be of utmost importance, as they also happen to be her support system. One of them, of course, is her husband: "My husband, he's the most optimistic and steady person. I tend to overthink but he will always remind me to chill and to take things one step at a time." And then there's her family on her mother's side, who has always been involved in her children's upbringing. "My aunt's family have always been there for me. Apart from helping me to fetch Nabil home from school and taking care of him while I'm away, my aunt has also given me words of encouragement to keep me going. They are blessed to have these great relatives." Acceptance is everything Nadzifah used to worry for Nabil in the event where she and her husband are no longer around. Fortunately, her concerns were allayed when Nabil enrolled into Pathlight School, an autism-focused school that teaches mainstream academic curriculum as well as life readiness skills. "His school teaches him all the basics and daily life skills, so I don't have to worry as much." But she still doesn't know how society is going to treat him. "Autism awareness is already there, so now is the time for people to get to know them and accept their differences. They're not as "mischievous" or "weird" as what people make them to be." And she hopes her personal motto would help other parents who are also raising children on the spectrum. "I keep these three values close to my heart: patience, acceptance and acknowledging that everything happens for a reason." Top image courtesy of Nadzifah Zainal
Article
On Apr. 14, 2020, a week into the Circuit Breaker, Singaporeans faced a new reality: wearing masks when going out becamecompulsory.The new rule came into effect from 7:30pm that day, immediately after the announcement, and penalties were quickly put in place.During the press conference, reporters asked a pertinent question: when will compulsory mask-wearing end?In response, health minister Gan Kim Yong said that mask wearing may well continue after the end of circuit breaker.Fast forward a year, and this is exactly what happened. Wearing masks in public remains compulsory, and for the most part,it has become a part of our daily lives.Our writer, Jason Fan, takes us through a detailed trajectory of mask-wearing in Singapore since the start of Circuit Breaker till now,and provides insights into the elusive question - are masks here to stay?#covid19 #circuitbreaker #singapore
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/one-year-wearing-masks/
mothership-sg
On Apr. 14, 2020, a week into the Circuit Breaker, Singaporeans faced a new reality: wearing masks when going out became compulsory. The new rule came into effect from 7:30pm that day, immediately after the announcement, and penalties were quickly put in place. During the press conference, reporters asked a pertinent question: when will compulsory mask-wearing end? In response, health minister Gan Kim Yong said that mask wearing may well continue after the end of circuit breaker. Fast forward a year, and this is exactly what happened. Wearing masks in public remains compulsory, and for the most part, it has become a part of our daily lives. Masks didn't appear necessary at first for healthy individuals The April 2020 announcement was a big deal, as many were initially conflicted on whether they needed to wear face masks in the early days of Covid-19. Sure, most people understood the necessity of wearing one if they were sick, or had Covid-19 symptoms, but many felt that masks were unnecessary for healthy individuals. Not everyone thought that way, however. Some began loading up on available masks in true Singaporean fashion, emptying the stocks of many retailers as early as January 2020, even before the first confirmed Covid-19 case was announced here. Opportunists, keen to make a quick buck, began to resell masks at ludicrous mark-ups. In response, the government reminded the public not to panic, and to only wear masks if they were unwell. Shortly after, the government announced that it would distribute four surgical masks to all households, to alleviate panic-buying. Even then, the message was clear: only those who display symptoms or were sick should wear the masks. Apr. 14, 2020: The dawn of masks By April 2020, the situation had changed. Amid a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in Singapore, and with increasing medical literature indicating that wearing masks in public was essential in curbing the spread of the virus, the government said on Apr. 2 that it was reviewing its stance on masks. On Apr. 3, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the nation, announcing the Circuit Breaker measures, which included shutting down most workplaces and all schools. PM Lee also said that the government would no longer be discouraging people from wearing masks in public. Less than two weeks later, mask wearing became a requirement and no longer merely a recommendation, first in selected venues like supermarkets and shopping malls from Apr. 12, and then in all public places from Apr. 14. With 447 new cases of Covid-19 announced on Apr. 15, a staggering increase over the numbers just two months prior, there was simply no time to lose. Not everyone accepted the new rules While the majority in Singapore understood the necessity of wearing masks to prevent further spread of Covid-19, some who were opposed to the rules. It didn't take long before these individuals made their views known. On Apr. 15, a mere day mandatory mask-wearing was enforced, a video of police officers dealing with an unmasked woman in a wet market emerged. And if you were not living under a rock, you might remember her as the "Sovereign" woman, who declared that rules do not apply to her, because she was a "sovereign". The case was so high-profile that Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam had to weigh in, noting that those who consider themselves a "sovereign", or basically those who feel the law should not apply to them, should not live within society. This was not the only case. Many people refusing to wear masks continued to make the headlines throughout 2020, with such cases still occurring even in March 2021. Businesses began coming up with innovative masks If the headlines were to be taken at face value, it may appear that Singaporeans are highly adverse to wearing masks in public. Fortunately, these cases appear to be in the minority. After all, if you go outside and look around, you would likely see most people wearing masks with minimal fuss. While there may have been more resistance initially, mask-wearing has largely become a norm in Singapore. For many, gone are the days that you walk out of the door, forgetting to wear a mask. It has become second nature now, just like how you don't generally forget to wear shoes when you leave your house. In fact, face masks are so normalised that many companies began to capitalise on this, by coming up with various modifications to the humble face mask. Uniqlo launched a quick-drying AIRism mask in August 2020, which was designed to be both comfortable and safe at the same time. Around the same time, an enterprising company called Pefore launched face masks inspired by the National Day Parade (NDP), despite not being part of the official NDP 2020 merchandise. And if you want to stop smelling your own breath while wearing your mask, you can always buy a reusable mask that comes with an inner pouch for a fragrance sachet of your choice, in order to make the experience more comfortable. Perhaps the best way to gauge how prevalent masks have become is to simply look around you. While many people in early 2020 wore generic disposable face masks, many individuals today wear various custom masks, with a wide variety of colours and designs. Masks — used primarily to combat Covid-19 — are now also a fashion statement. You can get various accessories like mask pouch or a mask chain. There are even breathing guards that help you breath better when wearing a mask. Mask regulations worldwide are mixed While wearing masks in public may have become ubiquitous in Singapore, the same cannot be said of the rest of the world. More than a year after Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic by WHO, mask regulations are pretty much all over the place globally. For example, Spain only recently introduced stricter face mask laws, making masks mandatory in public, regardless of the distance between people, in a move that resembles Singapore's own announcement a year ago. On the other hand, Sweden made headlines earlier this year when officials in Halmstad municipality forced a teacher to remove their mask, and prohibited the use of masks and other protective gear in schools. While the municipality eventually backed down, similar mask bans kept popping up in Sweden, with many being instructed not to wear masks. Even within countries itself, mask-wearing can be a divisive issue. One may need an excel sheet to figure out where you need to wear a mask within the U.S., given how every state has its own set of Covid-19 regulations. While certain states such as Mississippi has lifted all mask mandates, allowing businesses to operate at full capacity without any additional rules, states such as New York continue to require residents to wear masks in public places, especially when riding public transportation. On a brighter note, some countries have begun lifting mask restrictions, due to an improvement in their Covid-19 containment efforts. For example, those in Victoria, Australia no longer need to wear masks in shops, although they are still required to wear them on public transport. When can we go out without masks? The golden question remains: when will Singaporeans be allowed to stop wearing masks? Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer. One way to predict what will happen is to look at what other countries are doing. For example, Israel currently boasts one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with more than half its population having received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to CNN. The country has implemented a system known as the Green Pass, which is essential for any Israeli to access many popular public places, such as gyms, restaurants, cinemas and sporting venues, among others. Only those who have either received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, or have recovered from a previous infection may apply for the Green Pass. But in case you think that having a Green Pass in Israel means one can go back to pre-Covid-19 times, you are only partially right. Although having the Green Pass allows you much more freedom, compared to not having one, face masks remain mandatory. This means that at least in Israel, being vaccinated does not mean that you'll be free to go to public places without masks, at least in the near future. Given that the Green Pass is only valid for six months after the individual took their second vaccine dose, it is perhaps indicative that Israel may review its rules on face masks in the future, possibly after more studies have been done on the transmissibility of the virus after vaccination. Masks are likely here to stay If we were to simply look at Israel as an example, it may seem unlikely that Singapore will allow the public to stop wearing masks, even after reaching significant vaccination levels. After all, this is the prudent thing to do, as it is currently too early to tell whether the vaccine will prevent the transmission of the virus. In simpler terms, we still don't know whether a vaccinated person can still carry and transmit the virus to others, even while they avoid infection themselves. And even if Singapore drops mask regulations altogether (one can always hope), we'll probably still see masks pretty often. Face masks may be required when you take a flight, and when you enter other countries, depending on the rules there. So if you're itching to travel in the near future, it may be best for you to keep your face mask stash ready. Given how Singaporeans have largely gotten used to wearing masks, it might be surprising to see Singaporeans completely abandon face masks, even after the end of the Covid-19 threat. After all, the Taiwanese first began wearing face masks during the SARS outbreak in 2003, and even after the threat subsided, face masks were still a common sight in public, for those who are sick, and do not wish to spread their germs to others. This habit ensured that during the early days of Covid-19, the population was able to wear masks en masse, which was a key reason for the success of Taiwan's Covid-19 efforts. For the Taiwanese, there was (and still is) little stigma to wearing face masks in public; it was simply the easiest and most practical way to protect oneself in case of a pandemic. Given that masks may not be going away for some time, it may be better to spend time figuring out which mask designs you like best, rather than anticipate the end of masks, at least in the near future. Top image via Temasek Foundation/FB..
Article
Vicky Faith posted a photograph chronicling her father’s time as a bus driver through his SBS Transit Ltd employee cards over the years, from when he was first employed in the company 37 years ago till now.Vicky’s father - who declines to be named - decided to join SBS Transit in 1982 as he enjoyed driving and serving people.He also loved the feeling of being in charge of a bus as he didn’t want an office job that would require him to face a boss all the time.The most memorable part of his job is getting to witness his regular commuters growing up, getting married, and even becoming parents.#careers #jobs #singapore
https://mothership.sg/2019/05/sbs-transit-driver/
mothership-sg
On May 5, 2019, Vicky Faith posted a photograph chronicling her father's time as a bus driver through his SBS Transit employee cards over the years, from when he was first employed in the company 37 years ago till now. Here it is. Along with the photo, she wrote: My dad proudly took out his SBS Transit employee card for past 37 years... Obviously I am too young to even recognise the logo on the first card. And he is still a proud SBS driver who greets passengers who board his bus. Responding to queries by Mothership, Vicky shared a little more about her father and some of the reasons why he has stayed on in the job for so many years. Passion for driving and serving others Vicky's father - who declines to be named - decided to join SBS Transit in 1982 as he enjoyed driving and serving people. He also loved the feeling of being in charge of a bus as he didn't want an office job that would require him to face a boss all the time. When he first started driving, he drove bus service no. 3 towards Jurong East. He then changed to bus service no. 8 in 1990, and has been driving that bus service ever since. Over the years, Vicky's father enjoyed adapting, changing and growing along with the company and the new technology implemented with his job. The most memorable part of his job has been getting to witness his regular commuters growing up, getting married, and even becoming parents. Strong sense of pride for his work Despite being 61 years old this year, Vicky's father wants to work as a bus driver for as long as he can and has no intentions of retiring anytime soon. Vicky shares with us that her father has a strong sense of ownership as a bus driver because he sincerely cares for his commuters and feels a strong sense of responsibility for their ride experience and safety. Whenever he makes a mistake such as driving off only to realise that someone was running for his bus, he would feel regretful and share these incidents with his family. However, Vicky's father is also very pleased when commuters show their appreciation for him. In 2015, a commuter drew a card for him, which Vicky then shared about in a Facebook post. Appreciate our bus drivers Most people might not get to witness first-hand how hard bus drivers work, and may therefore focus more on their shortcomings, like when the buses do not arrive on time. As a bus driver, Vicky's father constantly needs to adjust his sleeping hours in order to stay alert and ensure commuters' safety while on the roads. As a result, he seeks the understanding of commuters for any mistakes he might have unknowingly made in the past. Likewise, Vicky's father hopes that more people would take the initiative to write in to the company to share any good experiences they might have with bus drivers, as it would give them more motivation to better do their job. Sweet. Top image courtesy of Vicky Faith on Facebook Content that keeps Mothership.sg going ?? This is Subtle Asian Traits - Singapore Edition ?? Maybe can steam fish with this and make gr8 ginger recipes. ? What do you do when you're told that your days are numbered. And you are only in your twenties. ?? How to teach your mother to be the tech genius that she really is (so she doesn't keep pestering you with her 101 questions) ❤️?❤️ Hit (on) your friends at a human whack-a-mole here.
Article
Singapore is exploring the possibility of mutually-recognised vaccination certificates with several countries and places, including Australia, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung.However, Ong cautioned that vaccinations make up only one aspect of pandemic control. Social distancing, contact tracing, quarantine facilities, and testing capabilities are important aspects as well.#vaccination #covid19 #travel
https://mothership.sg/2021/04/vaccination-certificate-with-australia/
mothership-sg
Singapore is exploring the possibility of mutually-recognised vaccination certificates with several countries and places, including Australia, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung today in Parliament (April 5). "These certificates can be physical or digital, and we will need them to be secure, tamper-proof and verifiable." However, Ong cautioned that vaccinations make up only one aspect of pandemic control. Social distancing, contact tracing, quarantine facilities, and testing capabilities are important aspects as well. Much going on behind the scene with regard to travel bubbles The minister was responding to Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng, who asked for more details on the digital vaccine passport system between Singapore and Australia, and travel bubble arrangements with countries that have the Covid-19 pandemic under control. In his reply to a follow-up question on which countries Singapore is currently negotiating travel bubbles with, Ong said that while many public statements are made from time to time, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. He added that the government will inform the public when there is significant progress made, and when there are significant things to announce. Must consider if a country is safe Ong also said that aside from having a tamper-proof, verifiable vaccination certificate that is mutually recognisable between countries, the first thing to consider is whether a place is safe. He listed several countries as examples — Brunei, New Zealand, and Australia. "So that is the first and foremost criteria: Is a place safe? And if it is moderately safe, then we can talk about with vaccinations — how far do we lower the risks, and what are the relaxation can we accord?" Top photos by Photoholgic on Unsplash, Shawn Ang on Unsplash
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