|What does it take to make the world a better place? Passion, determination and tough love.|
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Wednesday, 2nd May 2012
People tell me I have the attention span of a gnat; these days, I think it’s down to that of a mini-gnat, our minds flit from thing to thing as fast as our hands flick from devices to devices.
Yet, I surprised myself last Saturday when I managed to sit through at least 20 Powerpoint presentations, one after the other, over five hours and paid attention to well, not all of them, but most of them.
The speakers that lost me were the ones who rambled or became self-indulgent. But I put that down to passion – when people get carried away with something they’re obsessed about and forget everything.
And there was certainly no lack of passion among the speakers Humaneity had assembled for its first “Humaneity Inspires” event. That, and determination.
As I listened to their stories of how each of them was trying to make the world a better place, I realized that with passion and determination, you can achieve almost anything.
Take Louis Ng of ACRES, a Singapore-based charity which fights for animal rights, whose life was changed after he saw sun bears being milked for their bile. He dumped his career and now is the highest-paid employee at ACRES earning S$2,100 a month. “We come to work not to make money but to make a difference.”
Bridget Tan founded HOME (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics) to fight for the rights of migrant workers. Her stories of maid abuse in Singapore – a Burmese maid who lived in a cage just like the sun bear – left many squirming in the room.
Masami Soto, founder of Singapore-based social enterprise Buy1GIVE1 (B1G1), decided to leave her country in her 20s when she realized “we spend all the time getting, and when we have, we re not happy”.
So she travelled in search of meaning and learnt one thing. “We are all the same.” She returned to Japan and asked herself, what if I stopped buying, what if I became self-sufficient? She moved to the countryside and lived in a village.
“There was a big sense of trust for the future and I knew if I got into trouble, people would help. I could live there forever, have my own rice field, then I thought what about my friends and family?”
That’s when she realized humans cannot be self-sufficient, “we need each other”.