In the past months this year, so much has happened in the world around us and our lives have been impacted and challenged in ways we have never imagined.
It has become even more crucial for us to go back to the basics, to appreciate and reimagine the world around us through what defines and connects us.
Pillars of Support are about the relationships we have and the building up of each other — From our most immediate families to supporting each other as members of the community and to become stronger together. Beyond our individual backgrounds, race, gender, achievements or merits, we are all People First.
This National Day, we want to celebrate our shared strength, adaptability, and our never-say-die attitudes and appreciate the people who have been with us, supporting us silently while bringing out the best of us.
Join us as we take you on a journey of Reimagination through two of our collaborators to boldly reimagine and recreate the Singapore that you wish to see, while celebrating what it truly means to be a Singaporean.
I did not expect to start photography the way I did. At 12, I was heading to the office for a simple part-time job interview when I noticed a beautiful building in Kembangan. I thought to myself, “Hey, I love buildings and I can actually build something more beautiful.” As I grew older, I realized how much I was into architecture. It was not just about capturing the moment and the beauty it holds at that time. It was the fact that I was already very much into photography when I was 12 years old and I loved capturing something beautiful.As I started to capture photos of the architectures I saw, I started posting these photos on Instagram. People started to comment on my photos and then after a while, it started to gain traction from people, who are not just my friends, (but are now my friends). My work was getting noticed bit by bit and somehow it led to a photography community in Singapore. Back in 2012 most people would think it was not possible to take captivating photos with the mobile phone and they did not take it seriously. Actually, they did not have to take it seriously. I used the iPhone 4 for 4 years and I still very much treasure it. It is all about showcasing the beauty of what I captured with my mobile phone. It does not mean you had to have a good quality phone to be able to beautifully capture pictures with good quality. Just stick to what you have and showcase your skills and quality through it.My twin brother, Yais would comment that my photo is grainy or ‘beras’ in Malay. However, around the time of 2011-2012 when I just started, it was more for fun and I never thought it could turn out as a career later. In 2015, I had my first big encounter with a big brand when Qatar Airways messaged me on Instagram and invited me to the launch of a new aircraft. It was something I truly did not expect as a newbie and it took me a while to believe it was real. After that, I started to meet friends all over the world and it was amazing. When I visit different countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand, I meet locals there who are technically my friends because we have followed each other for so long and being like-minded, we have the same mindset and direction, so it is similar to meeting an old friend. It is an incredible feeling and Yais always comes along with me. They also act as tour guides and take me around beautiful photography spots in their countries. When they come over, I do the same for them. I love doing so and do miss it actually. A lot of people see Singapore as a modern country, with all the city scapes. They are all beautiful, but I love to showcase the people and the beauty of what’s outside Marina Bay. I like bringing them to places like Chinese garden or Yung Kuang flats- the diamond shaped building. Those are the kind of places people would not expect- kind of like the hidden gems in Singapore.There are also purple HDB flats in Lavender near NTU. It felt like paradise to me because I did not think Singapore had these kinds of colours. I feel like a kid when I see the buildings and it is like a playground for me as I can shoot a lot of things there, despite it being a neighbourhood area. I always tell people to focus on their surroundings. It is definitely amazing that I am rediscovering my own country despite it being tiny. I am lucky to have Yais as we do mobile photography together and we are known by our non-conventional photography. We focus on finding unique perspectives and continue shooting with mobile phones despite others getting cameras back in 2016. It was a blessing to not have the financial budget to get a camera indeed.As a photographer, I edit my photos according to how I feel at a particular point of time. My photos reflect my emotions and how I feel brings about very personalised photos with different edit tones or saturation. I take time to respect that feeling I have even if people make comments on my edits. To me, photography is like a mysterious friend you tell your emotions or your stories about, and where I put in my hidden emotions. I don’t expect anyone to understand, but that is how I channel my emotions. I do have a camera now because sometimes clients need higher quality photos for them to print. It was something out of my comfort zone and I am still getting the hang of, but I will continue to post photos with my phone as that is my style. Now I have to segregate my hobby and my job because it is different shooting for myself and my clients. I’m glad though that a lot of my clients like to incorporate creative stuff in their products as it encourages me to keep shooting creatively. I am an introvert and I get stage frights. However, photography has helped me grow into a confident person who delivers lessons to others through mobile photography workshops. As I had always wanted to be a teacher since young, little did I know that I would not be teaching as a teacher in primary school but something that I was very passionate about, which was photography.I do miss giving workshops and it is something I look forward to when COVID-19 is over. I like teaching because I get to see how people grow from strength to strength. When I share tips and people tag me on Instagram, it gives me a sense of satisfaction. I also get to encourage the older generation to shoot in the show on Channel News Asia that Yais and I did which was very meaningful to us. It is my journey to continue this as a big part of my life even if Instagram shuts down one day. Photography does come with its own set of challenges. However, I love challenges and I always remember what my father reminded me - there are always challenges and obstacles along the way in life. I feel they are a part and parcel of growing as a photographer. I also always try to remain calm and not react to my frustrations or emotions even when I get ‘hate’ messages from people online who do not even know me. There are also people who copy my work without giving me credit. Again, I stay calm because I do remember my responsibility towards my wide Instagram following so I am careful about what I say online. The lowest point for me was when my parents did not understand what I was doing in the beginning, especially my mother - Yais and I are very close to our mother. There was a period during National Service where we had to book in and out frequently so we did not have much time for her. As a result, my mother felt we did not care much about her. I was at a loss at that time as family has always been my number one priority. It also happened that I was leaving for a military training to Thailand for 23 days and I wanted to make amends because anything could happen when I was there. It was an emotional incident and I started to reflect on planning my day properly so that I could spend time with her. I was also alone at that time as Yais was not around so I was rather sad. I was definitely glad to get it off my chest before I left for training.Despite the challenges, photography also brought me many memorable moments. One such moment was getting invited to an exclusive meet and greet for Manchester United when they were in Singapore last year. I had asked if I could bring along my father and brother as they were huge fans of Manchester United. I remembered how happy my father was and I felt that I would not have been able to give him such happiness if not for what I’m doing now. It makes me smile when I relook the Instagram story of my father and see him being as happy as a child during the meet and greet. The smile on his face was priceless.My family members whom I try hard to bring happiness to through my success as a photographer remain my key pillar of support. My parents, especially my mother, would comment a lot on my photos while my siblings support me as talents in my photos.Not forgetting my Instagram followers who genuinely support and encourage me. As an introvert, I remind myself to acknowledge and thank my followers when I do meet them. The fact is I am shy and serious but friendly, and I do not want to come across as arrogant. Over time, I got used to interacting with my followers who I deeply appreciate as my second pillar of support. I have definitely grown over the past 5-6 years and also outgrown my shyness. I feel that everyone should give a try to do the things that they like to do - yourself can inspire people. Yais is the one who brings out the best in me. In our photography journey, we always try to find our own unique angles and we challenge each other in coming up with new ideas. Because of him, I have learnt to see things in different perspectives and attempted varied photography styles such as shooting with new angles and using human elements. I think without Yais, my photography would be boring. We also are very straightforward with each other and I do let him know when I do not like some of his editing styles like, “Are you colour blind? Why is your editing like this?” He would also openly tell me when he did not like mine. The main idea is not trying to impress anyone but yourself. Once you are comfortable with what you are, you hurt less when people say things to you because you know what you are doing.I feel that working with someone who lives together with you is really something as you do mix your personal emotions with your working ones. We do have ups and downs in our photography journey together and despite knowing him for 27 years, there is always something new to learn about each other in terms of work. I have recently learnt that communication is very important, especially when approaching a project. What is important is the drive to move on together from mistakes and move forward as life has taught me.When things get tough in my work or family matters, I talk to my close friends who are willing to listen and that means a lot to me. I do not usually talk to Yais as he goes through the same thing as me. I have also started exercising recently and going for jogs. Nothing beats being physically and mentally healthy and taking good care of yourself because you have to be there for yourself.If I could reimagine our society, I think people should be true to their emotions and appreciate the people around us more. People sometimes get too caught up with things happening on social media that they forget social media is not real life. For me I personally went through this in 2018 when I spent too much time on social media and did not appreciate life offline. As a Singaporean, I am honestly proud because of the multiracial society we are in. It is uncommon elsewhere and tourists do get a culture shock when they come to Singapore and see different races living together harmoniously. I appreciate the uniqueness of Singapore, its food and Singlish, especially when I travel and see the differences elsewhere.My message for National Day is very simple. I think everyone is struggling somehow and you have no idea what others are going through. Hence just be kind, as it is also as important as taking care of one another.Read Full Story
I thought my photography journey started through Instagram and that was rather recent, but I realized it actually started in 2010 when I experienced photography using a family-owned camera during an overseas family trip where I was ‘appointed’ as the camera man. The camera was sold away when I was 17, and I was pretty sad as I loved using it. It was my twin brother, Yafiq who inspired me to pursue photography professionally when he first invited me to an InstaMeet gathering. There, I was inspired by the aspiring photographers who all took their own photos except me. It was then that I decided to create my own kind of photography style and pursue creative photography to showcase different perspectives of things till today.As a professional photographer, I prefer to shoot photos of architecture rather than that of nature since Singapore is known for its inspiring and beautiful architectures. I feel there is a lot of room to explore and play around with architectures. Besides, I’m used to lines and grids in my IG feed so it is easier for me to conceptualise my photos through architectures. Most of the photos I took are unplanned as most are heavily inspired by the location I’m in. Taking photos of nature is more unpredictable as it changes all the time and it is harder to know what to expect from it compared to architectures where you can envision how you want it to be. My editing style is very different from my brother in terms of colours as at times, I prefer less saturated and mellow photos while Yafiq prefers higher contrast and more structure in his. At times, Yafiq does not like my editing and he even thinks I am colour-blind. We are not always a fan of each other’s work, but we like what we have done individually, so we will still post it. Recently, I’m trying out a different style on my last 6 posts as I want to do something fresh for myself. I like to see how my Instagram feed looks like for my own satisfaction. It is my personal achievement and I want to like what I see.People do compare between me and Yafiq. Usually, I do not mind the comparing unless I happen to be emotionally down. It does affect me then. Other days, I am perfectly fine about the comparison and could not care less. As a photographer, I started my professional photography journey later than Yafiq. One of the major challenges is getting my family to understand and accept the fact that I do photography full time and professionally. Another challenge is us being judged by other professional photographers who do not take us as seriously because we do our shoots with smart phones. They feel that our photography skills are limited because we use smart phones to shoot. We can use professional cameras to shoot. It is just that we prefer smart phones because of its convenience. It is also a challenge when we have to compete against photographers who use professional cameras when it comes to commissioned jobs. For example, if they need the photos to be in very high-resolution for larger print formats, it may not be possible to do so with phones. On the other hand, shooting with smart phones gives me new opportunities as I do receive invitations to teach photography using smart phones. I have encountered some setbacks in my photography career although they were not the lowest points I faced. Once I had 2 clients who did not like the final photos I produced and it was disheartening to know that. There were misalignments in the expectations, and they didn’t manage to see the message I was trying to tell in the photos. However, it’s part and parcel of life. We just move on and become better versions of ourselves as photographers. Another incident that affected me more was when I lost a rare opportunity to travel to a country that I have never been before during a campaign by a well-known brand because someone I know got selected instead, when that person was already involved in another competitive brand’s campaign. In the end, I took it as it wasn’t meant to be and there might be better opportunities waiting for me out there. When the going gets tough, I tell myself to be positive and that I can prove my worth. I also receive a lot of encouragement and positive feedback from my followers on Instagram which also keeps me going. Most importantly, I have to overcome my own hurdles in this photography journey.The most memorable experience in my photography journey was being a part of a Channel News Asia project “#DontForgetMe” where Yafiq and I were invited to teach a group of elderly how to take photos with mobile phones. It is something that Yafiq and myself will never forget. We do photography but at the same time, we have always wanted people to benefit from what we do. We did not know if we were going to be paid but we did not really care about that as we really wanted to do it out of passion and sincerity.It was quite a challenge as I remember the first day of the shoot was also the first day of fasting month and we had to be there at 8am. We first had to teach them the basic functions of using a mobile phone such as how to save contact numbers before we proceeded to the photography part. The photos taken by the elderly were eventually exhibited and it was very inspiring. We wished the exhibition was longer as It really felt very satisfying and we were so grateful to be given this opportunity. Some of our followers (I prefer to call them my Instagram family) watched the episodes and sent us positive comments - one of them who owned a cheesecake business even sent us a cheesecake to encourage us. It was delicious! I thought I was a very patient person, but this experience taught me to become even more patient. Another thing I have learnt from this is that we have taken for granted the fact that we grew up with technology and that everything is so convenient for us. We also realised that the pioneer generation has been neglected and we didn’t think how they have been coping without these technologies. We will never forget this meaningful experience!In my photography journey, it is Yafiq who brings out the best in me. Although we are very competitive, we will try and help one another. I also feel my phone brings out the best in me since I can use it to pursue something I like.With National Day approaching, I would like to reimagine a different kind of Singapore. It may seem that Singapore is a very green city but we are not doing enough. For example, look at how we manage plastics. I hope that Singapore can become a more environmentally conscious country starting with the bigger supermarkets stopping the use of plastic bags. If other countries are doing it, Singapore, a smaller nation should be able to do it too. Although we are encouraged to bring our own shopping bags, we are still not doing enough.. Personally, I do feel frustrated and bad when I forget to bring my own bags.Other than being kind to our own environment, I think it is very important to be kind to one another too as we need one another to grow. No matter how a person is, we should just be nice as it will lead to a positive mindset and is gratifying. This also means having the ability to appreciate our diverse cultures. For example, when I was visiting Kuching, Sarawak, a Malaysian lady mentioned she wished there are food courts with both halal and non-halal food - most food courts in Malaysia only serve halal food. For us, our food courts have both, we eat together and we accept one another.As a photographer, I do reimagine Singapore to become more futuristic and build more cool architectures in upcoming years so that I am able to capture more intriguing architectures through my mobile phone lenses.My plan for the future is to become a better version of myself. As for my Instagram family, I want to tell those who like my work that it is not always about the gadgets. Just start with what you have.Read Full Story
No stranger to championing doing good for strangers, Azlina has been running #SmileSalamSg since 2018 as a platform to bring smiles to anyone, anywhere, anytime. For Azlina, a self-committed Kampung Chief, the journey with KampungKakis started with a request from a Chinese elderly woman who contacted her for help regarding a trouble with the TV. She ended up going over to the elderly woman’s house and taught her how to adjust the sound from the tv remote and the cable tv remote. This incident got Azlina thinking if there are other individuals who are doing the same, offering such help to their neighbours at each housing estate or block, especially those who are not tech savvy. Chancing upon KampungKakis through social media, Azlina took the opportunity to make KampungKakis her debut platform to organise community events, to bring neighbours together and kindle good relations with each other. During the circuit breaker, Azlina's work with KampungKakis and #SmileSalamSg also inspired her to start Project Neighourliness to offer her assistance to those who needed her help. Her efforts at distributing small goodie bags as a way of introduction gathered good and lasting neighbourly connections and responses, especially for the elderlies living alone.Read Full Story
Amid worrying news of COVID-19 and rising restrictions in Singapore, a simple, heartwarming act of love and kindness could make a whole world of difference. Two neighbours, Mr Lim and Ms Hazwani, were matched as buddies by KampungKakis and overcame difficulties together. Mr Lim extended help toward the young mother, who is the sole carer for a family of five, by way of financial support and career guidance. Not stopping at that, Mr Lim even involved his friend to help Ms Hazwani with job seeking. His kind assistance alleviated the emotional stresses and helped the family of five out of their financial woes. Anyone who comes to know of Mr Lim’s servitude would certainly feel his heart in it and better know this kampung spirit that could meld Singaporeans together better, regardless of differences in background, gender or ethnicity. Recounting his interactions with Ms Hazwani:“Over the past 3 weeks or so my friend, who is also trying to help her find a job, and I lent her some cash. I send her EID greetings ytd (yesterday) and she replied twice, the second time with a smiley emoji. Besides money, I think the young lady would need help and possibly emotional support to run the family and care for her children. It’s quite a predicament she is in and she seemed cheerful but I sense some tiredness in her. It’s a bit hard for me as a man to relate to her but I will try.”Read Full Story
The COVID-19 pandemic left many feeling socially isolated as the circuit breaker was previously implemented to enhance social distancing. Many individuals and families, if not information and technology savvy, might feel lost and disconnected from the community and helpless during this trying time. Mdm Fauziah and Mdm Kavitha are neighbours who have been matched by KampungKakis as buddies in a buddy system which has been crucial during this COVID-19 crisis.Mdm Kavitha, a friendly kaki volunteer, has been providing Mdm Fauziah moral and emotional support through regular phone calls and sharing food. She also assisted Mdm Fauziah’s family by helping them navigate community resources that were distributed during the pandemic and circuit breaker. Mdm Fauziah’s feelings of isolation and loneliness were effectively dissipated and was inspired to pass the torch on in the future, emulating Mdm Kavitha’s kind-hearted ways.Mdm Fauziah recalls acts of Mdm Kavitha warmly: “I’m very grateful to Mdm Kavitha and #KampungKakis who have come forward to support me during this difficult time. I feel less lonely and isolated during this difficult time. I hope to be able to help other neighbours in future as well, by baking cookies and giving out to them. That is my dream.”Read Full Story
KampungKakis is a ground-up initiative co-founded by us — Mae Tan, Denise Tay, and Michelle Lau, three ladies who are passionate about helping others. How KampungKakis works is really simple. We are a neighbourhood buddy system that matches a neighbour-in-need to a kaki nearby who is willing to help, based on location and needs. This can be as simple as buying a meal, purchasing groceries, navigating continually changing information and resources, etc. What led us to start this initiative are our individual stories: Mae: Before I was diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease and virus was nothing more than case numbers on the news media. Only after I was tested positive and witnessed the suffering of older patients while hospitalized, did I realize the damage and impact that this virus would wreck in our community. Inspired by the healthcare heroes who treated me and risked their own safety to be on the frontlines, I felt compelled to pay their kindness forward in our community and do what I can to help Singapore recover as one #SGunited. Thinking about how the elderly and vulnerable families are not as digitally savvy and foreseeing how it will be difficult for volunteers to travel across the island with tighter lockdown measures, the idea of a neighbourhood buddy system, KampungKakis, was born! Denise: Having moved from Beijing to the US for my MBA exchange program right before the COVID-19 virus pandemic unfolded, I felt relieved but at the same time worried for my friends and their families in China. Hearing about my friends’ first-hand experiences in their hometowns, especially one from Wuhan, made me think about my family back home, and vulnerable groups who have been impacted by the crisis. While serving my SHN after returning to Singapore, I was very concerned after learning that Mae, a long-time friend of mine, was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was hospitalised. The moment she shared with me her idea and inspiration for starting KampungKakis, I immediately volunteered to be part of her team to launch this initiative, together with Michelle. Although I had to juggle classes, assignments and interviews, I knew I wanted to do something for people in our community who need help but might not know where to turn to for support. Michelle: I met Mae through an RC mask distribution exercise and was very inspired by her story as a COVID-19 survivor and her keenness to make a difference to our vulnerable seniors and families who are struggling during this difficult time. Together with Denise, we brainstormed on KampungKakis, an idea to connect neighbours to provide and offer practical assistance. We launched it within a week with the support from the grassroots, similar community initiatives and several social service organisations. I really enjoy being involved in community activities and strongly believe that the neighbourhoods we live in have multiple strengths and assets to be tapped on. I am also always intrigued by how olden Singapore was, bustling with the true essence of kampung spirit, and wondered how could I play a part in keeping the spirit alive. In my experiences as a neighbourhood volunteer, I witnessed the power of neighbourliness and community friendships, which I hope the KampungKakis platform will help spread across Singapore. Since starting the initiative 2 months ago, we have received an overwhelming response from over 630 volunteers island-wide. We are deeply moved by these volunteers who have stepped forward to support their fellow neighbours, especially during these difficult times. We have, however, been experiencing challenges in raising awareness and reaching out to those who might need help (kakis-in-need) who are less digitally connected. It has also been a challenge to avoid duplication of community resources as there are many white-listed initiatives that fulfil similar objectives. The fast-changing circuit breaker measures also made it tough for us as we had to continuously update our processes to ensure regulatory compliance and that everyone is protected when giving and receiving help. By actively connecting with other community initiatives (i.e. GoodHood.SG, Contribute.SG and NVPC, Beyond Social Services etc.), putting up posters on the RC notice boards, and collaborating with food-court merchants, our hope is to reach out to less tech-savvy residents who might benefit from a kaki in their neighbourhood. Launching and operating KampungKakis has been a very humbling and huge learning experience for our team. From understanding how to communicate with our kakis-in-need, supporting and engaging our volunteers, to managing day-to-day operations and expanding our team, the three of us have been learning on the go. Working through these challenges has proved to be difficult at times but hearing the heartwarming stories of our matched kakis, and seeing the enthusiasm of our volunteers in stepping forward as ‘Kampung Chiefs’ to bring KampungKakis to their neighbourhood keeps us motivated. Some of our kakis-in-need shared with us that they are very appreciative of KampungKakis as it made them feel that they are being cared for and listened to in their own communities by their own neighbours. For some of them, having a supportive neighbour who looks out for them is like a silver lining during a crisis situation. We may not be able to put a solution to every problem, but it can mean a lot to have someone who is willing to listen to your struggles and lend help in any way they can in a non-judgemental and compassionate way. We hope that KampungKakis reignites a spark of the kampung spirit and no one will feel like a stranger in their own neighbourhood. In our fast-paced society that is becoming more technologically-inclined, we might end up neglecting those who find it difficult and intimidating to adjust to these changes around us. Our vision is that, by connecting neighbours, they can utilise their own strengths and community assets to help support those in need. This can help to lighten the weight on formal VWOs and to focus resources on those who need it most. We also hope that more Kampung Chiefs will join our team and take charge of their own communities, to build stronger bonds and long-lasting relationships among neighbours. - For more information about KampungKakis, visit their website at https://kampungkakis.org/.Read Full Story
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