CS300 : Your Support Means The World To Them


Part 7 : A Miracle In Motion  


Taking on the drive to the refugee camp was not an easy one. For one, I'm used to automatic cars and have not driven a manual car for the longest time. Beyond the psychomotor issue, the greater issue was the children that I'm transporting.

Arriving at the refugee camp, it was a stirring experience. Imagine 8000 people being kept behind a barb-wired fence, the place reminded me of the gloom of a german concentration camp. As we drove through the military check points, children would start running towards the fenceline in anticipation of the things that we were about to give.

Prior to this trip, I had not the slightest idea of the history of these Hmong refugee. So there I was helping out with the logistics distribution of slippers to some of these refugees. My heart was stirred despite not knowing their history, it was something in their eyes which seemed so hopeless.

I returned to Singapore shortly after the trip and I searched up the history and plight of these Hmong refugees.

Watching video testimonials of these hmong refugees over youtube, I understood the pain these people went through. Family members mutilated, raped and tortured to death.
The scenes were overwhelming and tears were rolling profusely down my cheeks. The heart wrenching feeling was beyond words, compelling me to kneel down and pray for these people. I did not know what to pray, I just told the Lord to make a miracle happen for these people.

Unknowing to me, a miracle has already been set in motion.


Reflections On The Mount  


Allow me to take a break from the history series *grinz* and blog something different.

Right now, I'm taking a short break from all the meetings and work, to get some rest in the mountain resort of Genting. For many this a city of sin but to me its my hiding place where I can tuck myself away in a little room to spend time reading and reflecting.

It has been more than a year since I've got a chance to spend some quiet, quality moments to myself.

Just yesterday, I visited my favorite unhealthy fast food joint - KFC to get my fix on the REAL KFC chickens. Something which I miss, somehow the Singapore KFC chickens just do not match up to the taste and flavour of the the malaysian versions

Yes. So there I sat savouring my chicken when I saw this old, slightly senile lady walking into the fast food outlet. She was probably 70-80 years of age and wrinkles were showing all over her face. 2 young KFC staff who were off duty smiled at her and gestured to her to sit next to them. The age gap would easily span 60 years but what that transponded between these malay kids and the old lady was heart warming.

To understand each other, they made hand gestures and one boy used his hands to ask her if she was hungry. She nodded. Before I knew it, the other malay boy made his way to the food counter, reappearing with a small plate of leftover wedges.

The old lady savoured the wedges and the boys just sat there quietly watching her eat. One boy seeing her, walked to the next table to bring her some chilli sauce.

I was terribly stirred as I saw how the actions of 2 young malay boys made a difference to this old lady. The old lady's eyes sparkled with acceptance and it was not the food, it was the 2 young malay boys that made a difference to this lady.

This set me thinking about how sometimes Singaporean kids are so absorbed in their own world that we forget about needs out there.

Its sad when I see our younger generation gaining agression & ambition and losing compassion. So much so that the government get CIPs going in schools and having to remind us to be nice through courteousy campaigns.


Part 6 : A New Yearning  


Through the few months working with HIV children in the orphanage, I realised the importance of the physical touch. I observed many volunteers keeping a distance for the fear of being accidentally infected by the HIV kids.

I remembered whenever I held the hands of the HIV children, they would look at me and gently smile. Its like they have found someone who will accept them for who they are. That simple gesture of holding their hands means so much.

Slowly I learnt that it is the actions which speaks louder than words. A simple sincere hug trancends language, race and cultural barriers. In my heart grew a yearning to reach these groups that have been marginalised, groups that others will not want to reach due to the stigma involved.

Volunteers stay away from the HIV children for fear. I attempt to draw near to bring hope.
Some religious people keep their distance from the prostitutes/drug addicts and likes. I believe that everyone deserves a second chance, a chance to change and lead a new life.

Towards the last week of the stay at the orphanage, I was asked if I wanted to help to drive to a refugee camp. I reluctantly agreed, feeling a sense of attachment and wanting to spend more time with the HIV children.

But I decided to channel my effort to where its needed the most and there I went. It was this short 3 day trip that put a new yearning in my heart.


Part 5 : The Charting Of A New Course  


So on that simple orphanage link I click and soon enough, I found myself struggling to decide between a 3 week trip to Europe or a 3 week volunteering work with HIV children.

In that moment, I made a decision to do something meaningful between jobs and hopefully make a difference in the lives of these little ones. I went ahead with the trip to Thailand and I spent the next 20 days in the orphanage which will chart a new course for my life....

Lets rewind a couple of years from here so you can understand the context.

Back in 1997 during one of the worst market meltdowns, my family was badly affected causing us to downgrade and I had to sign on with the Navy to help support the family. Deep inside, I was very upset.... upset with God for my entire family had been fervently serving in church.

I spent nights in my room asking God why does it have to happen to my family, didn't God say that He has good plans for us ? It was a big let down. I had to even shelve away plans to enroll into bible college CFNI(my dream bible college) and I ended up with the Navy despite disliking sailing.

Why the Navy then ? The navy had a small amount of shipboard allowance and this was what that attracted me - so I could earn a few more bucks to relief the financial strain on my family.

My dreams were shattered, I found myself in a 6 year bond to a place and facing an uncertain future. So deep inside me, I was disgruntled with my lot in life.

Now fast forward to 2007 in the Thai orphanage.

The orphanage had a dining hall which doubled up as a chapel in the evenings. So on my first evening there, I joined in but stood behind to observe. The little ones skipped into chapel and when they started the service.

The children started singing, it was terribly out of tune, the music was overwhelming, it was a mess. But I found my eyes welling with tears.....

The little ones who were infected with HIV from their natural parents are like lives which have been given a death sentence. Many would not live past their teens and all of these HIV children know of their impending fate. But yet they could still lift their hands and praise God.

By any comparison, they would have all the right to be disgruntled with God but they were not. What then gave me the right to be disgruntled ? I have so much more....


Part 4 : 40 Days Of Annual Leave  


In the first month of tendering my resignation, I was offered an exciting job which pays an small 10% increment above my last drawn salary. Not to mention traveling opportunities, shorter working hours, medical and dental perks.

Oh yes, I missed out the best part, the salary is just the basic pay. This new work consist of a heavy commission component which can easily double-triple the basic.

Now blessed problem - What to do with the 40 odd days of annual leave ?I spent :
- 6 days in Bali diving among beautiful reefs.
- Taking short break in the mountain resort of genting
- Taking breaks and parties till it was almost tiring *grinz*

But that still leaves me with 25 days .... I started googling for holidays in Europe but it just did not seem right, finally I gave up searching.

Being a typical food loving Singaporean, in a simple few keystrokes, I went back to my favorite food blog to see what else I can indulge in. I saw this little link on the side of the blog, about an orphanage that dealt with HIV children, so there I clicked......


Part 3 : Letter On The Table  


Through the nights of tears and deep reflection, I found a new direction in my life. Things took an exciting turn from there.

Returning to Singapore, I finally mustered my courage apply the brakes on this relentless rat race of life. I walked up to my boss's office and tendered my resignation. It was not an easy task. My bosses all urged me to reconsider, but I had to politely decline.

From the time where the resignation paper was on the table till the final release, it took about 2-3 months. But the beautiful part about workaholics ? I had accumulated 42 days of annual leave.

So there I was having the headache of having to decide on how to use up the 42 days of annual leave. Not knowing that the decisions that follow, will bring me on a roller coaster ride.


Part 2 : Re-examined My Life  


Through the entire uphill climb, I struggled to understand why a man would choose happiness over material gain. After all, material gain would bring you happiness. Wouldn't it ?

This man, though he lived poorly, he was true to himself and followed his heart.
While on the other end, materially I was well-to-do but deep inside I felt so poor. I just wasn't happy.

That evening in the mountain resort of Berastagi, I sat quietly on the porch of my room and prayed. Tears started to well in my eyes as I re-examined my goals in life and how far I've gone away....


Part 1 : The Uneducated Man  


I was doing well by all standards while I was with the Armed Forces, earning letter of commendation for life saving, medals and was entrusted various critical development projects.

I committed my entire life to my work - working late into the nights and weekends. Unknowingly, I was on a spiral on the deadly rat race of life, where material gain took center place in my life.
It all suddenly took a crashing stop when I took a short holiday in the mountain ranges of Berastagi, Indonesia.
I met Erwin, who became my friend and mountain guide in my expedition. Walking with Erwin, he spoke about how beautiful nature is, the mountains, the trees, the streams etc etc. As I looked around, it was nothing impressive. I've traveled extensively and it can hardly compare to the beauty I've seen.

The trees looked just like the stuff you get in Pulau Ubin and its hardly attractive.... not to mention beautiful. In my mind, all I wanted was to reach the mountain top... nothing else.... nothing else mattered apart from the goal.

As we walked on, Erwin wearing his oversized jacket and tattered shoes revealed to me that he chose this mountain guiding job because he LOVED it - Even if it means that he does not get a whole lot of money from it.

I was simply taken aback.

Taken aback because Erwin could speak English and this translated to higher employability anywhere in that area. Not to mention the pay would be attractive as well.

Why would a man choose a more strenuous job and give up material wealth ? This just did not make any sense.


Kick Start Of Our Campaign !  


Over the next couple of weeks, we will be launching a series of awareness campaigns in the form of videos and emailers to all our dear supporters.

This campaign is special as it also marks RADION's 1st year anniversary in humanitarian relief operations.

RADION was envisioned by 2 young Singaporean Christian men who have a desire to reach communities which are commonly forgotten by the masses. RADION started out with a dream to send just 3 boxes of clothes to what it is right now - delivering tons of relief in a single outreach.

We have journeyed thus far and impacted thousands of lives with the little we receive. We cannot do it alone, we need your support to continue impacting lives.

The year ahead, we'll need to raise SGD12,000 monthly just to sustain basic operations cost. We cannot do it alone.

Over the next few weeks in the blog, we'll recap on our efforts and how people like you have made a lasting difference in lives of the forgotten.

Trip Testimonials  


Review By : Phyllis Xie (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)

This trip has been quite an adventure, an experience and a learning process for me. I am very thankful for the first few days of preparation where the team came together to address some issues and consolidated on our programs. This trip has surfaced the strengths and weaknesses of the team and the things that hindered the team from drawing closer. Things were run at a high pace and I saw myself being pushed over the limit.

Though physically tiring, yet I am glad to see that the little things that we do; visiting an elderly woman can bring so much joy to her. I was exposed to hunger, poverty, broken families but yet I saw that in spite of these circumstances, they still had a reason to hope and they cling on to it. As I hear the destitute women/windows share of their struggles and how much injustice were done to them, my heart was shaken and there was a sense of compassion of love that flowed out through me, just wanting to give them a hug and tell them that everything would be alright. Each day was truly an experience as the team went through up and downs together in striving to reach and bless the Hmong people.

During house visitations, I was amazed at how strong some of the families were, in trying so hard to make ends meet. Though we could not do much for them, but I realize that the power of love; a hug and a touch can strengthen and comfort them, knowing that someone cares and love them.

It was a joy to bring the children out for an outing for 2 days, building friendships and bonding with them. These children came from destitute homes. Though language was a barrier, but I sensed that every individual kid had a story to tell, a struggle or hurt that was unknown behind a big smile. All the more, this compelled me to want to love them more and more. I was so touched when they wrote notes and draw pictures to me when we left the village. In essence, that was love. It was love that brought the kids to open up, trusting us.

It was love that brightens up their inside out.

Phyllis Heng
SOLEAD Graduate. Campus Crusade Staff Coordinator.

Review By : Kenson Tan (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)

One of the greatest things it made me realized was how blessed I am to be able

to get an education. The people have very little hope of ever getting a better life

because they can hardly afford to get a good education.

I know that it may sound strange, but I was indeed surprised with how much I enjoyed

getting dirty and enjoying the natural breeze along with 10 kids loaded onto a songthaew.

It was just so different from what I am used to, that I found it fun. I thought it was funny how

after spending a day in the dirt, literally being covered in dirt, that I would come back to get

clean and be sad that another day was over! And while it brought me a great sense of

thankfulness to be born an Singaporean, I wish that sometimes I had the contentment that

they have. They live in a dump, and they don't know any different. But I didn't see them

complaining or whining, instead they were laughing and playing and making us feel

very welcome.

There is a certain satisfaction in a hard day's work, helping to better the lives of people

and in the end, getting blessed yourself. I didn't really have any disappointments from

my short stay there. The trip on the whole is an awesome experience that I wish could go

on longer.

Kenson Tan
Singapore Polytechnic Student Leader

Review By : Vera Tan (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)

The eleven day trip to Phetchabun has been one of the best trips that I had in recent years- it has been an eye-opening, impactful and fulfilling experience for me. What struck me during this trip was how much willpower that the Hmong people had. No matter how adverse the circumstances they have been through, they are willing to push on with their life and this is what really encourages and inspires me. As I looked at the Hmong people, it really struck me at how much gratitude they had for things. Just a simple gesture such as a hug or a smile or a simple act of kindness could bring hope and comfort to these people. I remembered that when we brought the kids out for an outing, I bought some snacks for the children. As I passed the snacks around for the children to share and enjoy, it really brought joy to my heart as I saw how their faces lighten up with happiness as well as gratitude as they were eating the snacks. It just showed how much appreciation they had for the snacks that they were given. Thinking back, it just showed that how much gratitude they had for simple things such as food. This incident taught me the lesson of not taking things for granted.

This trip will be a trip that I will always remember as it has been the most amazing eleven days ever! And kudos to Radion International for such a spectacular trip! :]

Vera Tan
Singapore Polytechnic 2nd Year Media and Communication Student

Review By : Aloysius Lim (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)

The 11-day trip to Phetchabun was one of the most challenging, exciting, and fulfilling experiences in my life. Each day brought new challenges, pleasant and unpleasant surprises, and great adventure as the team worked together to serve the Hmong people.

During the first phase of the trip, we visited the homes of several destitute individuals and families. These people struggled to survive day by day, and did not have the means for a secure, comfortable future. Many of them were elderly folk with no family and who were unable to work. Some carry the scars of emotional or physical hurt from their past, with no hope for the future. The scant physical conditions that they lived in was pitiful; but the troubles and despair in their lives was truly heart-wrenching.

There was nothing that we could do to take away the hurt in their hearts or heal their pain. We simply did whatever that was within our power—a smile, a hug, a gift of food to say that we care. Yet it was these simple things that touched their hearts in profound ways.

One old lady told us how lonely and painful she felt, and how nobody has been able to help her for years. She had lost all hope in life. We listened to her, cried with her, and simply loved her. She was amazed at how much we loved her—even more than her own step-children did—even though we were strangers. She had caught a glimmer of hope for her life, knowing that she was no longer alone. Deeply moved, she called us her children, and welcomed us to come back again. We left for the next house with tears of joy, and a deep gratitude for the impact that we were able to achieve through the simple things.

There were many other stories like this. Whether we were visiting the destitute, taking children out for a day of fun and excursion, or distributing food to the needy, I saw the same principle at work. We did not have any expertise in counseling or child psychology, any complex community development programmes, nor any other grand schemes. All we had to offer was our love. And that was enough to touch lives and bring new hope to a world of despair.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, sincere love is worth more words than anybody could count.

Mr Aloysius Lim
Cornell Alum 07 (M.Eng. Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, Information Technology)
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore

Review By : Chen Yining (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)

One of the things that struck me the most is this: we always expect children to learn things from us, yet we are the ones that learn so much more from them. I am humbled yet at the same time ashamed to see how the little ones give so much out of the little that they have. A lollipop may not mean much to us; it may even be considered a rare treat for many of them. Yet, they choose to bless us, as a token of their gratitude/love.
Even though there was the language barrier, I truly believe that actions do speak louder than words. A hug, or even a smile, it means so much to them. To know that someone out there still cares.
From visiting the destitute and distributing food, to serving the villagers at the BBQ, it warms my heart to see how these children with broken pasts could be used to touch other broken lives. All because they were given a second chance in life. =)

Chen Yining
Singapore Polytechnic Student
Student Leader

Review By Dr Choo Weng Chuk (Outreach Jan 08)

Drab, and ringed by coils of barbed wire and a high fence, the refugee camp was rectangular in shape. No visitors were allowed into the camp.
I was there to experience what it was like to look after refugees, even if it was only for a day and a minor act of compassion. The purpose for the outreach was straightforward: to give a cup of malt and biscuits each to about 1000 Hmong refugee children. This effort might seem minor, even trivial, to many of us. I soon found out it was not. It was an event that 3000 children of this camp looked forward to eagerly. We quickly settled down in a large thatched hut just outside the camp to boil water and open the packets of Milo and powdered milk, and tins of biscuits. All these provisions were made possible through generous donations by Singaporeans to Radion International, which was founded by Eugene Wee and Benjamin Goh, two exceptional young men in their late twenties who had decided to travel a path less

Without continual donations from supporters, we would not have been able to give something, no matter how small, to the 1000 Hmong kids and to see their beautiful and innocent faces that day. The pictures speak louder than my words can of the emotions each one of us felt that day in Huay Nam Khao Refugee Camp.

Dr Choo Weng Chuk worked in companies such as OCBC Bank and multinationals such American Express and MasterCard International. Following his last position as General Manager, Southeast Asia for MasterCard, he ran his own management consultancy, focusing on the Balanced Scorecard. He developed the student course material on Strategic Management for Singapore’s Open University, which was well received.

Review By Francis Ong (Project Last Christmas Dec 07)

The Christmas relief mission was one of the most inspiring yet humbling life experiences thus far, and it
was made possible in no small measure by the professional and committed team at RADION International.
One is touched by the outpouring of gratitude of the Hmong people just knowing that someone
out there cares, as well as being humbled by their fortitude in surviving under such dire circumstances.
I have no doubt that good people like RADION serve an important role in giving the refugees strength and hope
for a better tomorrow.

Francis Ong
MBA Student NUS

Review By Franziska Schroeder (Project Last Christmas 07)

When a friend of mine asked me, whether I would be interested in spending this year’s Christmas in a refugee camp in Thailand providing milk and cookies to little children. I immediately knew that this would be an incomparable experience in my life.In my family, Christmas is the most important time in the year. It is the time when all the family comes together to spend a peaceful time with love and happiness. Since I could not join my family this year, I needed an adequate replacement.

When handing over the cookies to these little children’s hands and receiving their little gestures of gratefulness my eyes felt watery and although our skin burned under the hot sun. It felt more like Christmas than it ever did before. The more faces passed by the more emotional I got and when the military finally forbade to distribute chocolate milk on Christmas Eve.
I struggled with a feeling of aggression and helplessness.I want to thank RADION for giving me the possibility to join this mission. The several briefings and debriefings
helped a lot to prepare for the next days’ challenges. My due respect goes to our team leader Eugene, who did not only a great job within the camp when ensuring an enduring supply of milk and cookies for thousands of little
children hands, but who also gave us some insights in the Hmong and Thai culture. I therefore give my sincerest recommendations for the following trips. It is an experience that not only broadens the mind but even leads to a re-evaluation of “normal” things that have been determining our ordinary lives so far.

Thanks RADION for that impressive experience.

Franziska Schroeder
MBA Student NUS