“If you’re waiting all your life, you won’t ever go”
2018 was a whirlwind; not just any whirlwind, but a speeding, tornado-like, hurricane-like year that flattened me in all directions. From being inaugurated into the pioneer batch of Roses of Peace (ROP) Ambassador Programme, to internship with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), to being a part of a youth outreach programme in my school’s Muslim Society, to almost going deaf and being stampeded upon in Foster the People’s and The Killers’ gigs (in that order), to taking up AERIAL at Aerial Fitness Studio, to having to stop Aerial temporarily because of my back, to exploring Bandung and Taiwan. Oh and also, to completing my first semester as a YEAR 4 student in NUS – this is it guys, my days in NUS are officially numbered.
But, 2018 was a rewarding year for me. It was the year I delved deep into social service and civil society. It was the year that I met a bunch of amazing, inspiring people throughout the year, people who have become dear friends of mine, where friendships were forged and deepened over meetings discussing projects and brainstorming ideas off one another, over train rides where we learnt more about each other individually, as a person. It was the year that challenged me the most as a person, for I had to step out of my comfort zones numerous times to connect with people, and to connect on a deeper level, beyond mere superficiality. It was the year where I learnt so much, about civil society in Singapore and about outstanding, remarkable individuals who have devoted a significant portion of their time towards service and volunteerism, for others – be it to help build an inclusive society for all, to provide for those who may be underprivileged, or to foster interfaith understanding and peace within the diversity present in Singaporean society. You see, these individuals and their stories will remain etched in my heart and in my mind, because they have inspired me to do better, be better, as a person. 2018 was an inspiring year, for me.
So you see, when people frown upon civil society in Singapore and about our social system, and upon the powerlessness and apathy of young people, I’ll simply smile and say “look closely again, things might just be changing, a little at a time”. So when people tell me that they feel like they can truly make a difference if they go overseas to help war-torn or disaster-stricken areas, I’ll simply smile and say “look again, you can make a difference here too”. After all, all you can do is try, try your very best, in the smallest of actions you can think of. Because that is where it starts. The work that ROP does, to empower youths of today to become peacemakers tomorrow so as to promote a safe space and foster interfaith harmony among the diversity in Singapore taught me that youths, not just policymakers, can create change. The people behind ROP are incredible and amazing. The work that MSF does, to build an inclusive society and to help build strong, stable families as well as to help those who might be vulnerable taught me the importance of never neglecting the invisible. The work that MSF does is so underrated but at the same time so, incredibly, manifestly important. The organizations that partner with MSF taught me that there is an entire network of voluntary welfare organizations that are doing some of the best work I have seen (in my 22 years of life – that’s not very long I know), to create this inclusive society and celebrate diversity. The work that The Hidden Good does (thanks to my time in ROP, I came to know THG) taught me that perhaps, the best way to raise awareness of social issues in Singapore is not only through reading scholarly articles on the state of the social system in Singapore but also through connecting with individuals on the ground and listening to what they think. And the work that Valour does, to reach out to our beneficiaries of the Jamiyah Children’s Home, to connect with them on a more personal, individual level, to see beyond their past, taught me that that is exactly how you should treat people, without any judgement, with kindness, compassion and acceptance instead.
Despite the anxiety attacks, sleepless nights and tremendous amount of fear and worry, 2018 taught me that silver linings prevail, and that there is still beauty even in the darkest of days. 2018 was the year that taught me a lot of useful, soft skills, things which I would never have learnt by reading truckloads of readings in school, and it deepened my resolve to continue with this even more. I am excited for what 2019 entails, and I hope it will be as fruitful – if not more fruitful than 2018. Bismillah.