You really want to help those around you. But how do you best do it?
For more than a decade, these are questions I’ve been asking myself daily. Through the experiences of my ancestors, and my own travels, it’s taken me across borders to find the answer. I’m still learning every day.
Through my experiences, I can help you to help others better.
Let’s take a step back.
I was born in Australia in the 1980s, and am the product of generations of extreme sacrifice, followed by extreme privilege.
My great grandparents moved from China to Malaysia during a time of famine, my parents turned down a life of relative comfort in Malaysia to move to Australia, for a better life for their children.
Growing up in Australia, I attended an ordinary public school in Sydney. On my first day in school, I sat next to a boy named Roger. My teacher, Mrs Pickering, told me that Roger couldn’t see colours, so he needed my help. When we were colouring in, I had to help him pick out the right coloured pencils.
To colour the grass, I’d pick out the green pencil. For the sky, the blue.
That year, Roger and Mrs Pickering taught me valuable lessons. Not everyone is like me. Some people do things differently. And yet, all it takes is a little bit of help, and someone can join in with everyone else.
In this story, who is the lucky one? It’s me. The lesson of inclusion was taught to me at a young age. Perhaps if my family had not moved countries twice, and sacrificed so much to make this happen, I would never have been put in this situation. I may not have learnt this important lesson.
All of us, no matter where we were born, no matter what colour our passports, have stories like mine. Our ancestors have given up so much to get us where we are today. This is the common thread that holds us together.
And yet, we still have a long way to go. When I arrived in Cambodia 4 years ago, I was stunned to learn that there was not one single Cambodian speech therapist in country. This meant that hundreds of thousands of people, especially children, could not communicate to their full potential. Either they could not talk clearly, or at all, or couldn’t process incoming communication.
An equally large number of people had difficulties swallowing, where food and liquid would enter the lungs, instead of the stomach. They could contract pneumonia and then die. Without speech therapy, these people were dying young.
I was stunned to learn this because after leaving university and entering the system of international development, I had the notion that we addressed problems like this in a systematic and logical manner.
But somewhere, amongst the billions of dollars of aid money and thousands of non-profit organisations, some people get left behind.
People like Ling, a child who I met in one of the most memorable moments of my life. He is a child who, due to his inability to speak clearly, most assumed would never go to school. But, after just a few months of speech therapy, Ling did go to school for the first time, at the age of 12. Not only this, he started to come second in his class.
After meeting Ling, and realising that hundreds of thousands of children like him lacked access to speech therapy, I founded OIC in 2013. Because even the most vulnerable, the most ignored, deserve their rights to be recognised.
Getting OIC off the ground has been the most challenging, and yet the most rewarding thing I have done in my life.
It has made me question so many things we take for granted. I believe everyone wants to create some kind of positive change in this world. The question is, how best to do it? In a world with limited resources, how do we direct them to where they are most needed?
How do we reach the Lings of the world, those who the system doesn’t recognise?
Are you a company, school or non-profit organisation? Have ideas on the kind of future you’d like to create and would like to discuss it? Get in touch with me via contact form. I’d love to hear from you!