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.

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.”