Humans of CHC: Fostering a Caring Community That Dares to Be ‘Real’

Humans of CHC was featured on City News’ CHC 26th Anniversary issue. The human behind Humans of CHC tells it all.

Words by Reuel Eugene Tay. View the entire 26th Anniversary issue here.

Personally, it has been quite a journey for me since starting Humans of City Harvest Church (HOCHC) at the beginning of this year. I am extremely grateful to every individual who has shared their stories with me. Thank you for sharing with me (and everyone else in the HOCHC community) stories that are personal and dear to you. It’s unfathomable that anyone would share intimate accounts of their lives with a stranger, but you did. Know that this platform would not exist without your input.

I appreciate your trust in me as custodian of your story and photo. As a tribute piece to all who have contributed (or will be contributing) to the initiative, I would like to share with you how did HOCHC came about, my visions for HOCHC and all other matters related to HOCHC.

This article is also for those who has made HOCHC possible and for those who has encouraged me along the way.

PHOTO: Humans of CHC on City News CHC's 26 Anniversary Issue

PHOTO: Humans of CHC on City News CHC’s 26 Anniversary Issue

How did HOCHC came about?

Serving in ministries can literally impact your life and others around you. Prior to starting HOCHC, I have been serving (and working for a short period) in City News as a journalist and writer. Covering events and interviewing people to get my articles out laid the foundation for my interview skills which came in handy when I started interviewing people for HOCHC.

I was very blessed by Brandon Stantlon’s Humans of New York project. I thought that it was very brave of him to ask ordinary New Yorkers (hard-hitting) questions like “What is your saddest moment in life”, etc. I was and still am interested in anthropology (study of humans) and I love the stories so much that I even bought a copy of Humans of New York coffee table book off Book Depository.

That was when I decided to set up Humans of Singapore. However, someone has already started Humans of Singapore. I mentioned my intention to my cell group member, Elijah Tan who commented casually, “Then you do a Humans of CHC la.” At that time, I retorted him with a “Siao ah?” But the conversation stuck with me and I thought, why don’t I go ahead with Humans of CHC which was essentially combining two things I love; hearing people’s stories, and my church?

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Is HOCHC modeled after Humans of New York?

Yes it definitely is. Unlike some pages which pretend not to be influenced by HONY, I don’t deny getting the idea off HONY. In fact, I want to associate the ideals of HOCHC with HONY. I watched Brandon’s videos on how he conducted his interviews and understood what were his aspirations before I went out to conduct my own interviews.

I do hope that HOCHC will have similar impact in the lives of all who’ve seen the photos and have read the stories as that of HONY – to build a community of the ‘best peoples’ who looks out for one another.

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What kind of stories am I looking for?

Unlike The Straits Times, Today and The New Paper, I do not have a news angle in mind when I interview my interviewees. Every interviewee is free to express themselves without fear of being ‘censored’. HOCHC is and should remain as a platform for members to be ‘real’ with themselves, their family members and their peers.

In a day and age where everything is so superficial (see social media for example), I hope that we can be more open to share our burdens and matters of the heart with family and friends (not necessarily on HOCHC). Being an introvert who finds it hard to share his own thoughts and feelings even with his close friends, running HOCHC has been a journey of discovery even for myself – to be more open to people.

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What kind of question do I typically ask and why?

No two person is the same. Everyone is different and so are my questions to them. I ask questions like “What is your happiest moment in life?”, “What is your saddest moment in life?”, “Tell me about your passion”, “If you can give a piece of advice to a large group of people, what would you tell them?”, “What is your greatest struggle right now?” – to name a few. But the variety of questions are non-exhaustive really. Each question presents interviewees with the opportunity to share with me (and HOCHC community) snippets and glimpses into their lives.

I have had interviewees who told me “This question (happiest moment) is so difficult.” That really challenged and inspired me to keep speaking to these members. Sometimes we don’t think about questions like our happiest or saddest moments, but all these make us who we are – uniquely different individuals.

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What is my vision for HOCHC?

Many people thanked me for starting this initiative. Some also shared with me that HOCHC is a ‘good counter to CHC Confessions’, some ‘Untold stories of ordinary CHC members’, ‘Inspiring stories from our members’, so on and so forth. While I nod in agreement to everything that’s said of HOCHC, I do not have a single absolute objective, vision or direction for HOCHC.

Rather, members should form their own narrative on what HOCHC is to them. But if I can share a ‘vision’ for HOCHC, that would be to foster a community – that runs in tandem to the larger CHC community – where members care for one another and dare to be ‘real’.

I would like to see members helping, encouraging and praying for one another just like the community of HONY. As the church enters version 2.0, may our members also ‘upgrade’ ourselves in building a community that cares for one another. That members who are better off can extend jobs to interviewees who are jobless, encourage one another, or perhaps even find their other halves through HOCHC.

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Am I doing this alone?

HOCHC was a one-man show for a good 4 months. But as the stories became more intimate, personal and longer, it was becoming difficult to keep HOCHC as a one-man outfit. I am very thankful for my members and beloved friends; Jia Yen, Jia Xyn, Jeremy, Xue Li and Joey who has and is helping me in the transcribing of the stories. Currently, I am doing the interviewing, photography, editing, photo processing and scheduling of posts on Facebook and Instagram while my members are helping with transcribing. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank these dear friends for contributing to HOCHC. The stories will not be published without your help.

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Where do you see HOCHC 2 years from now?

I started HOCHC as a one year project. Depending on the response, I may or may not continue HOCHC. Quite frankly, HOCHC is a very time-consuming project. Besides the interviewing and photographing of interviewees before and after services on Saturday and Sunday, countless hours are also spent transcribing, photo-processing, editing and proofreading the stories. If you like the stories, do like them, tag your friends who may need to read that story, and share them on your own social media accounts.

If you like the stories and photos from HOCHC, give me a shout-out on social media or direct message, and I will know that I have your vote of support. RW

Humans of CHC

Humans of CHC documents the lives of City Harvesters, one story at a time. Find humourous, tragic, happy, sad and inspiring stories and intimate accounts from the members here. Humans of CHC seeks to foster a community that cares and dares to be real. Check out the stories on Facebook and Instagram.

6 Things to Do at library@esplanade

“Huh? What’s there to do in a library other than to read books?” Did you know you can watch films, jam, have a latte and catch free performances at the library? The library@esplanade is Singapore’s first – and very under-utilised – public library dedicated to the performing arts; namely in music, dance, theatre, and film.

With a floor area of 2,308 square meters (smaller than the new Kinokuniya), the library carries some 110,000 volumes of materials – music scores, movie screenplays, play scripts, dance notations, classical and popular CDs and video recordings of films, operas, dance performances and theatre productions. That’s amazing.

Seriously, for a public library dedicated to the arts, I’m sure they could have come up with a better name than library@esplanade, but I digress. For the parents in desperation to find (wholesome) activities to keep these little munchkins occupied during the June holidays, you might want to bring them to the library@esplanade. Here are 6 things you can do at the library to while your time away in a productive way.

1. Catch Free Performances at the Open Stage

IMG_9901 The Open Stage is a zone specially set aside for performances, talks, workshops, exhibitions, film screenings and other outreach events. There are performances and events of all sorts taking place at the Open Stage every weekend (the library team is doing amazing work coordinating all these events week after week!). Singaporeans and foreigners are more than welcome to write in to express their interest with performing an item there. All Open Stage events are free for all and seats are also provided (on a first come first serve basis of course).

Best of all, this platform allows for the unearthing of obscure talents within our humble country. I remembered admiring a Russian pianist working her magic and belting out piano classics on the baby grand piano – a permanent fixture in the Open Stage. The performance was free but it was on the same level as a paid performance, that I can attest to. There are many interesting performances coming up happening over the next few weekends. You can keep track of the latest schedule of events at the library’s Facebook Page.

2. Watch a Film with Your Buddies

IMG_9890 Though notably small compared to its neighbouring library (National Library Board), the library houses an impressive collection of films at its ‘Film Village’. Watch film classics like ‘Gone with the Wind’ or blast aliens with the ‘Men in Black’ and other latest films. Expect to find films that date back to the 50s all the way to films released a year or even months ago. Yes, their film archives are very updated and you can borrow them – for free!

The library is also Singapore’s only public library to possess rated (NC16 and M18) films for loan. There are also three very cozy screening rooms within the library premise for you to book – for a nominal fee of $5.50 per hour. The suggested number of people per room is four, so that’s works up to around $2.80 per person for a two hour film. Sweet.

For the serious film connoisseurs, there’s the closed archive (Asian Film Archive collection, the Arts Alive Collection, special/unreleased films and recordings and ephemera collection). Advance requests can be made to view the collection.

3. Immerse in the World of Dance

IMG_9886 This is truly every dancers’ mecca in Singapore. Here at the ‘Dance Village’, you will find books on videos of dance classics, dance notations and every single dance-related topic you can think of. The Dance Village is conducive for just about every activity (including taking a nap) and is extremely picturesque – I don’t think you can get a bad picture from any angle. Plus, this rectangular-shaped area is fully parqueted. It reminds me of my days of practising jazz and doing across-the-floor with a dance club at the dance studio. Ah, the good ol’ days.

4. Jam or Play an Instrument

IMG_9897Taken with permission

Jammers rejoice. No need to load your Ipads with scores and all when you’re in the motherland of music scores. The Silent Studio uses JamHub Mixer technology to channel all sounds from various electric instruments to the musicians’ headphones so that you get to practise your craft in the heart of the city without having angry library patrons staring down at you. (Good quality) instruments are also available in the studio. The Silent Studio is available for booking at $6.50 per hour.

You can now hold your own piano recital in Singapore’s Esplanade… Well sorta. Get inspired and play something in the Piano Practice Room. The room is available for booking at $6.10 per hour.

Slots for both gets snapped up fast, so be quick.

5. Read, Drink, Love

IMG_9884 “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” said C.S. Lewis. Let’s have both. Crumbs by Two Blur Guys at Esplanade is an offshoot of the renowned burger cafe, TwoBlurGuys. Crumbs by Two Blur Guys also serves gourmet coffee on-the-go. The cafe is readers’ favourite haunt for people watching, reading (or studying) and consuming a light meal. In fact, you can almost find the cafe fully occupied every time.

6. Or Simply, Rest

IMG_9887 This under-utilised library is an ideal place to rest up, enjoy the air-con and recover some hitpoints before heading back to the Marina Bay area. Did you know that the library has a seating capacity for approximately 200 people? Soak into the arty atmosphere, or enjoy the Marina Bay scenery.

Near the entrance, you might have spotted the those red, old looking seats that look like they are from a different era. But those seats are actually the refurbished vintage theatre chairs from the old Capitol Theatre donated by Capitol Investment Holdings and installed in the library in early 2014. RW

The library@esplanade is located at the 3rd floor of the Esplanade.

For more information, call 6332 3255 or check out their Facebook Page.

Interview with Belinda Lee: Star With A Heart of Gold

Brief informal interview with Singapore actress, Belinda Lee for a Humans of CHC story two weeks ago. A very down to earth star with no airs but a heart of gold, I have interviewed Belinda Lee three times and always found her really endearing and pleasant to talk to every single time.  Congratulations on your Star Awards win, Belinda! You deserve it.

“Were there any moments in your life that has shaped or impacted you in a great way through the years? Tell me more.”

“I would say that there were many, many significant moments that have shaped me to be the way I am today. I used to be a very spoilt Singaporean. I used to complain a lot. I used to whine a lot. But it all changed ever since I was thrown into the deep seas in terms of my work. I was given the opportunity to start doing a lot of travelling programmes where I witnessed poverty firsthand. I saw starvation. I saw famine. I saw suffering outside of Singapore and within Singapore. That has totally changed my entire mindset about what life is all about and what is my true purpose in life.

Those were the moments that changed and is still changing me, moulding me and shaping me till this very day. It makes me want to do more. It makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to be a blessing to other people as well. And most importantly, it makes me want to be a voice for the defenceless, for the defeated and for the hurting. And I wish that as an artiste and personality I am able to command that kind of influence to be able to continue impacting lives with what I do.

I think the most important thing is to be very, very diligent and grateful in the little things that you do. You know, we don’t really have to start a foundation, a ‘Belinda Lee foundation’ or a charity organisation to impact lives. What is most important is that we start doing little, little things and, making a little difference in our lives and the lives of the people around us. It starts off with my family members. It starts off with my cell group members. It starts off with a colleague whom I know is troubled or someone whom I know is hurting and needs a listening ear.

So here I am, as a vessel, as a shoulder, as that arm, that comfort for them to come to to find and to seek that peace, joy and comfort from. It starts with these little, little things. I may not be the most influential person on earth but I just hope that with my presence, with my love, the love that I can give and offer.. I hope that this little love would impact the lives of the people. And they in return will go around loving other people and changing lives too.”

Feature: Singapore’s Last Surviving Kampong and Fandi Ahmad

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“I had to put my child on my shoulders and get him to higher ground because the flood got to our shoulders!” mused Mr. Sedek. Back in the old days, Kampong Lorong Buangkok – more passionately known today as Singapore’s last Kampong – was situated next to a mangrove swamp where flash floods hit the low-lying Kampong whenever there is a heavy downpour. The village grounds are a living testament to the Kampong spirit which kept the place going all this while. “We used to come home after school, and worked on filling our Kampong grounds with clement and sand. It was a lot of work, but everyone in the kampong helped made it possible.”

Back in its heyday, the Kampong grounds stretched on for two to three miles all the way to Punggol and was home to hundreds of Chinese, Indian and Malay families all living harmoniously together. “We knew everyone within a three kilometre radius. And we used to play lots of football at the old Woodbridge Hospital football field with other kids from neighbouring Kampongs. One of the boys we played with was Fandi Ahmad.” Pointing to a clearing opposite their house, Sedek told me that used to be a huge fishing pond where the Chinese would rear fishes and line them in during Chinese New Years for the annual festival feastings together with other non-Chinese inhabitants of the Kampong.

Majority of the residents have moved out of Kampong Lorong Buangkok through the years, leaving less than 20 families still residing in the once noisy village. Although Mr Sedek has moved out of the Kampong, he continues to visit his aunt who resides in the Kampong regularly to this day. “As long as our landlady keeps this place, we will too.”

Perhaps one day, the 50-year-old Kampong will cease to be, but the fond memories and the community spirit forged in the Kampong will live on in the hearts of its occupants and their children whom those stories are fondly told and relived.

Writer’s Note: While the photos have not been watermarked, all rights belong to the photographer (me). Requests for commercial use of photos will not be entertained. For requests for editorial use, kindly email me at reueleugenetay@gmail.com. 

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Feature: One of Singapore’s Finest Eating Spot, Lavender Food Square

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“I raised two children all the way to university through this business!” exclaimed stall owner Mr Chng. Chng operates the famous Whitley Road Fish Ball Noodle stall in Lavender Food Square together with his wife. Home to some of Singapore’s most popular hawker stalls like Kok Kee Wanton Mee, Whitley Road Fish Ball Noodle, Albert Street Prawn Noodle, Miow Sin Popiah and Carrot Cake, and Kin Turtle Soup, there is something here for everyone here at the iconic 24-hours hawker centre. With more than 30 stalls in operation and spacious space, Lavender Food Square can feed and accommodate as much as 800 patrons at any given time. Other features include the iconic high ceilings, retractable shelters and wide screen television sets broadcasting the latest football matches.

Built back in the early 1980s, Lavender Food Square was initially established as Bugis Square. The food centre was closed for renovation to fix its public drainage system which used to clog up and cause flooding when it rained. It later reopened in 1992 as the iconic Lavender Food Square that we all know today. A place of good food for most, a source of livelihood for some, many of the hawkers have practically been with the food centre for decades. Chng himself had been with the food centre for two decades. The shutters will come down over the legendary food centre in the later part of the year. One thing is for sure, Lavender Food Square has had a good run, and its memories will remain etched in the hearts of those who was satisfied by its savoury delicacies.

UPDATE: Period of photoshoot and interview was conducted in early 2014. Lavender Food Square is no more, teared down to make way for an office building.

Writer’s Note: While the photos have not been watermarked, all rights belong to the photographer (me). Requests for commercial use of photos will not be entertained. For requests for editorial use, kindly email me at reueleugenetay@gmail.com. 

References:

http://mothership.sg/2014/03/lavender-food-square-at-jalan-besar-closing-down-to-make-way-for-rent-seeking-capitalists/

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7 Things Every Introvert Needs to Know On His First Job

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Starting on a new job can be a rather scary experience. Not for the extroverts for sure, but definitely for the introverts. I mean, it’s a new environment, you have to pick up things from scratch, and you have to above all else… make new friends and talk to new people (including your bosses and your bosses’ bosses). “What if I don’t do well at the job?” “What if I don’t pass the probation?” The self-doubts that echoes in your mind are almost deafening.

This week marks my first week at a new job. Not that it is my first job, but as an introvert, starting on a new job can be quite a daunting experience. And I am sure many introverts will concur. But you know what? You are a champion. Here are 7 things every introvert needs to know while starting out on his first job. This article goes out to all the introverts; the dreamers, the Jedi masters and the people who secretly wish they can make the world a better place.

#1. You beat your competitors to get the job

I was heading home when I received a call from one of the companies that interviewed me. They told me that they would like to offer me the job and asked if I would like to take it up and come in the following month. I told them I needed time to consider. They then told me that I am their “first choice”.

If you’re about to commence on your new job at an MNC or SME, realise this. You are your company’s first choice. More often than not, introverts tend to give themselves less credit than they should. But you must know that you are not the only applicant for the position you are currently in. For mainstream positions like marketing, HR, sales and finance, there were probably more than a dozen potential candidates shortlisted after rounds of interviews. Prior to that, there were probably hundreds of applicants or more who applied for the job. But from that huge pool of applicants…. You got the job!

That calls for a celebration! Unless you applied for some rare weird ass job that no one applies for, or you applied for a queer position with the longest job title like ‘Director, Head of CEEMA (Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa) and Latin America Equity Focus, Institutional Client Group – Fundamental Equity, Corporate & Institutional Banking – Global Markets,Deutsche Bank AG’ (2008 longest job title).

#2. Your employer sees your potential

The reason why you got the job and the other confident and smart-looking candidate who sat beside you at the waiting room didn’t? Your employers and superiors probably see your raw, hidden potential or the value you can bring to the company. Is it your deep analytic skills? Is it your management skills? Or your ability to work with minimal supervision? Could it be your uncanny ability to crunch numbers? Or your ability to write like Shakespeare? It could even be that your employer likes your character and demeanour!

The bottom line is, your talents and potential contribution is invaluable, and your employer sees your potential. So go on, give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

#3. You can do better than you think you can

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson

When Marianne wrote this, she must had been referring to us introverts, I’m certain. You my friend, are greater than great. You can excel at the job beyond your self doubts and wildest imaginations. You will make it!

#4. Your colleagues would like to know you and help you

Okay, this one is a little tricky because it really varies from company to company. Some companies are buried up to their neck when it comes to office politics. But I would like to think that most aren’t, at least not the company you’re joining. So far, most of the colleagues that I met in my jobs are nice and do not mean any harm. As introverts, we are often very comfortable in our own skin, having our meals alone, travelling alone, drinking coffee and having cake alone (Yes!). Taking that huge step to get to know new people or even ask for help can be rather intimidating.

But, know that many of your colleagues would like to know you better and be your friend. They would also like to help you settle into your job and render you help when necessary. Take a step of faith. Say hi. Ask for help if you need help with activating your email (I know). Who knows, an amicable friendship may blossom from there.

#5. You bring much value to the company

Many of the world’s greatest minds and history makers are introverts. Think Albert Einstein, Mahaatma Gandhi, Warren Buffet, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Steve Wozniak and of course, Steven Spielberg! Bubbling is their mind full of ideas that have the potential to take the world by storm just as it has for the past centuries.

I can’t help but think that the world would be less bright and less brilliant without introverts. Think of a world without Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Harry Potter, e=mc2 and theory of relativity, slavery abolishment, Google and ET the movie. And you know what? You are associated with this class of people.

#6. Your emotional make-up gives you an unfair advantage

Ever had people teasing you for being difficult to understand, or that you are ‘too sensitive’? Take a longer time to respond because of a longer thought process? Well what do you know, that could very well be your advantage! Being sensitive allows introverts to read the atmosphere in the boardroom ahead of anyone else. That ‘sixth sense’ or intuition gives you a heads up, creating some lead time as to how you should respond in your body language and choice of words. You play a pivotal role in diffusing the situation in an intense meeting room atmosphere.

Introverts often have high empathy too, making them great employees in the lifestyle industry. Think about all the disastrous PR crises that took national headlines in recent years. An introvert would not have make that boo-boo.

Being difficult to understand isn’t so bad either. Again, Facebook, Microsoft or Apple would not have existed if people who were ‘difficult to understand’ did not exist. And of course, longer thought process gives you adequate time to think through what you should say to your client and your boss instead of being like that straight-shooter colleague who’s always saying the most inappropriate things at the meeting.

#7. You will do well at the job.

After all is said and done, I just want to tell all fellow introverts, “You will do well at the job”. Scrap that. Let me rephrase. “You will do exceedingly well at the job.” Now repeat that to yourself, out loud. In 1994, Japanese researcher, Masaru Emoto performed a series of experiments and observations on water and the physical effect that words, prayers, music and environment have on the crystalline structure of water.

Emoto then hired photographers to photograph the water crystals in their before and after state. The water crystals were beautiful and gorgeous when they were showered with loving words, peaceful music and prayer but deformed when they were exposed to hateful words and loud, unpleasant music. The average human is made up of 60% water. Now, quickly start thinking of positive words to say to yourself! Positive (and negative) thinking verbalised out loud is like giving yourself a self-fulfilling prophecy.

All in all, introverts are very important to every company, big and small. You can’t have a company filled with extroverts. It would be far too noisy and far too little work done (Opps!). So, if you are an introvert about to start on your new job, or are already working, remember this 7 things. Now go conquer the world!

References:

http://hereisthecity.com/en-gb/2008/06/03/whos_got_the_longest_job_title/

https://urbantimes.co/2014/01/most-famous-introverts/

http://www.fastcompany.com/3032028/the-future-of-work/7-famous-leaders-who-prove-introverts-can-be-wildly-successful

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/13/famous-introverts_n_3733400.html

http://www.highexistence.com/water-experiment/

http://highability.org/the-gifted-introvert/