{Interview #4} Chong Ee Jay – Cyber Wellness Educator

Chong Ee Jay, 36, is the Manager of TOUCH Cyber Wellness and Head of Volunteer Management of TOUCH community Services. He has conducted more than 300 cyber wellness workshops since 2007, reaching out to more than 15,000 parents, educators and youth workers in schools, corporations and the community.

He represented TOUCH Cyber Wellness as recipient of the Singapore Youth Award in 2011 – the highest accolade for youth achievement awards in Singapore. He is a highly sought-after speaker and trainer in the area of cyber wellness. He is married to a fellow counsellor working with children, youths and parents in tackling cyber related concerns. She is currently studying her Masters in Counselling and they are expecting their first child.

This initiative is part of our 101 Paths to Success series of interviews to gain insight into how successful people came to do what they are doing, and enlighten parents that there is a vast array of occupations for our children to discover. Hopefully it might spark an interest in our children and youths to start their journey of discerning their life’s path.

Your qualifications:


Bachelor in Engineering (NUS)
Masters in Engineering (Bioengineering) NUS
Certifications in Social work and Counselling

Workshop for parents
Describe your job: 

I oversee the cyber wellness department in TOUCH, comprising of 12 full time staff which provides a holistic suite of programmes and services for children, youths, parents, practitioners, professionals and educators. 

I conduct parents’ cyber wellness workshops to help parents be more aware of the current cyber trends as well as to impart practical tips and teach them how to manage and engage their children more effectively in this fast changing digital age.

I also run training courses for educators and social service practitioners to empower them with practical diagnostic and intervention skill sets and domain knowledge as they work frontline in tackling cyber related issues such as gaming addiction and cyber bullying.

Besides that, I’m involved in para-counselling and counsultation, working closely with individuals and families in overcoming challenges at the home front – such as parent–child relationship issues and young parents’ parenting concerns.
How did you find your passion?

Honestly, I never thought I would join the social service sector. It all started more than 12 years ago when I got “dragged” by my university friends to do volunteer work in Mendaki by providing tuition support for low income families’ children. After a few weeks I really enjoyed my time there interacting with their children and being able to encourage them and help them succeed in their studies.

Back then, I already noticed that kids were punching away on their parents’ mobile phones (non smartphones) monochrome screen playing the then-popular game – Snake! I was very intrigued because such a simple game could keep them glued to the phone… what more in the future when phones become more high tech? That’s when the notion of cyber safety came to my mind. 

After I graduated from university, I decided to follow my passion instead of what I had studied. My parents were initially hesitant about my career path because they felt that I would be “wasting” my Masters degree and considering too that my Masters project had secured me a patent. However upon several discussions, they were agreeable to having me pursue my passion. 

I had a good friend already working in TOUCH Cyber Wellness and I volunteered for 2 months as a programme assistant in the cyber wellness enrichment holiday camp. Those two months were really eye-opening and allowed me the opportunity to work closely in mentoring the youths who had excessive gaming behaviours, as well as connecting with parents to help them better empathize and understand their children’ habits and how to manage them.

Since then, I came on board as a full time staff with TOUCH Cyber Wellness and have no regrets looking back at these past 9 fruitful years!
Which aspect of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

To be able to speak hope and encouragement to many parents who are struggling and feeling hopeless in dealing with their children. I also enjoy mentoring the children and teenagers, spending time with them and educating them on positive online behaviours. 
What does success mean to you?

Success in life to me means to be able to be a blessing to someone else. This is a fundamental belief that I have held on to since my university days when I started taking my life more seriously.

Are you involved in any charity / voluntary work?

Yes, I am currently actively volunteering as a life coach to a group of young adults. I also volunteer together with my wife in mentoring a few young adult dating couples and preparing them towards marriage. 
One advice to parents

The best way you can love your children is to love your spouse. And love is spelt TIME.
One advice to teens

YOLO – You Only Live Once… So make your life count for goodness and greatness!
To be a good youth worker (or youth coach), it takes someone… who is passionate and convicted about the importance of the next generation.


{Interviews} 101 Paths to Success

#1 – Dr Karen Crasta Scientist Associate Prof at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine


#2 – Jeremiah Choy Creative Director Sing50 Concert at the National Stadium

#3 – Elaine Yeo Musician Singapore Symphony Orchestra


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Lesson #22: Confronting death teaches you about life

I’ve been volunteering at a hospice as I’ve always been drawn to palliative care from the time I was a student. This morning, I was pushing an elderly lady around the gardens and she asked me to stop to gaze at the colourful flowers. They brought a smile to her face. Then she spotted 2 little sparrows and she was delighted.


It struck me how alike she is to my kids when they were young. How they would stop to inspect the flowers and burst into childlike wonderment at the beauty of a flower.

It got me thinking. At the beginning of our lives, it’s the simplest things like having the love of mummy and daddy which is most important.

At the end of our lives it is again the warmth of family that we need most. 

How do we end up chasing after all the wrong things throughout our lives? How do we allow our priorities to shift so dramatically?

As I left the hospice, I asked myself, if I was on my deathbed what would I regret? Most likely, I would regret being overly harsh on my kids and yelling at them so much, instead of disciplining them with gentleness and love. Most likely, I would regret the many times I brushed them aside while I tend to all my seemingly more ‘important’ work. Most likely, I would regret choosing to be angry at them instead of immediately forgiving them and hugging them tightly in my arms.


And I asked myself, if I was on my deathbed, what would I be thinking about? Would I be able to easily bring up all the beautiful and happy moments with my family? Would I have uncountable memories of good times, filled with fun and laughter, tears and joy with my closest friends?

At the end of my life, what would I be left with? Things? Titles? Or People?

It takes death to put life into perspective.

And I know, it is the little things which make up L I F E.

However, to live life fully like there is no tomorrow, that is the hard part.


Linking up with:

mamawearpapashirt


Other Thursday lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):



~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Lesson #10: Who’s selfish? The kids or me?

It just dawned on me that all kids are altruistic. Somehow somewhere along the line, they learn the mentality of scarcity and start to hoard things for themselves.

Last week, I was discussing the issue of happiness with them and trying to impress on them that we don’t need material things to be happy, but if we learn to give from our hearts, that’s where we will find happiness. 

We were sponsored a really beautiful shower head from GROHE and I used the opportunity to ask them if they would like to give that up to another child. I made it real to them by telling them that many other children are not as lucky as them to be living in a big new house with such nice spacious bathrooms, and a gift like that would surely brighten up another child’s day. Honestly I was surprised that they agreed to give it away without much hesitation (although #3 did say, “But it’s really really nice, mum”). I’m quite sure that was the end of it for them and they never thought about it again.

But you know what? I thought about it the whole day. Especially when I read your comments on our Facebook page about how pretty it was and how delighted your kids would be to receive it. And I was asking myself why in the world did I suggest to the kids to give it away.

“Give money to the cow?”

I thought back to the other times when I asked them to be charitable and their generosity became apparent to me. The fact that #4 decided to donate her entire collection of rainbow loom charms to raise funds for the chronically ill children without second thought. The previous time when I asked them if they would like to donate any of their pocket money to help the dear elderly nuns, I told them the story of how their convent was old and leaking. #1 did not donate, but the other girls donated between $30 and $120 each, and #5 even told me to take all the money from his piggy bank.

I realise that so long as you tell kids the story behind it, their natural response is to help. Sadly, as we grow older, we become apathetic to other people’s plight. Perhaps if we keep giving them opportunities to practice being charitable it will become second nature to them.

I am still peering into their hearts and learning from them, and maybe one day, I am able to say “Here, take everything I have.”

Other lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?



Linking up with:
mamawearpapashirt


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Willing Hearts (Soup kitchen) – anyone can volunteer!

Every school holiday I try to get the kids to spend at least 1 day doing something for charity. As this June break has been rather hectic, we did not get anything organised. #2 remembered her teacher telling them about Willing Hearts and that anyone can go and volunteer. The good thing is that you don’t need to give them advanced notice and can just drop in and lend a pair (or many pairs) of willing hands!

#2 brought a friend along

Willing Hearts prepares about 3000 meals everyday for the needy, so you can imagine how much chopping, cooking and packing needs to be done.

We arrived at 10.30 am and the place was a hive of activity. There were many groups of teenagers around and they were all busy with different tasks. We walked right in to see what else was happening and there were many aunties hard at work cooking up a storm. A middle-aged man noticed as wandering in and he immediately asked, “Looking for something to do?”

As he saw that my kids were young (7 – 13 years), he gave us the easy job of preparing the beans. He hauled 2 cartons full of beans onto the table and demonstrated how to pluck off both ends and remove the stringy line running through the beans. Within 5 minutes of entering the premise, we had an assembly line going.

1st time plucking beans

All was going well until the kids found some little white worms on the beans. “Worms! Worms!” they shrieked. The gallant SJI boys working opposite us helped the kids get rid of the worms. They had been here since 7 am and came with their CCA mates to clock 5 hours for their CIP (community involvement programme), which is mandatory for secondary school studentsBesides volunteering in the soup kitchen, you can also help with delivery of the meals or collection of the supplies. 

After an hour of plucking the beans, the monotony got to them and when the older boys were needed to help with other tasks like hauling boxes, they took over the chopping which they said was so much more fun.

Taught how to slice with a slant

We were there for 2 hours and the kids were all hot and tired and asked if we could leave. As there was just a little bit left, I told them to quickly finish up the 2 boxes and we could go for lunch.

4 trays of our hard work!

Trays heaped with beans, cucumber, chilli and lots of other vegetables.

By doing charitable works, not only does it enable us to help the less fortunate, but it never fails to remind us to be thankful for all that we have. It’s a sombre reminder for myself and my kids that while we take our 3 meals for granted, there are people out there who don’t have enough to eat.

Sane tip: This is one of the rare few charities which allow children to volunteer. Unless you are turning up with a big group, you do not need to inform them. As this is basically a giant kitchen, it might not be such a good idea to bring very young children unless you are able to supervise them well. The best time to go seems to be early in the morning as things start to wind down at 12. If you go in the afternoons, it would probably be to help preparing the kitchen for the next day’s cooking.

Save tip: A great way to spend a morning with the kids (or several mornings) to do something meaningful during the school holiday, instead of spending on activities to entertain them. After we cleared up and was about to leave, the nice uncle invited us to stay for lunch as there was a mass lunch prepared. If your secondary school kids need the CIP hours, they have forms there and the uncle will sign it for you.

Willing Hearts (Soup Kitchen) 
Operating Hours:

6 am – 4 pm daily

50 Genting Lane
#04-06 Cideco Building
Singapore 349558

As of 1 August 2014, they will be moving to a new premise:

11 Jalan Ubi Block 6
#01-51 Kembangan – Chai Chee Community Hub
Singapore 409074

Thankful Tuesdays:

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” – Epictetus


Linking up with:

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

My bucket list

Following on from my previous lesson about not over-sacrificing and about sparing a thought for myself, I’ve been prompted to write my bucket list in detail. There were so many things I wanted to do over the past 10 years. But as my hands were full taking care of the kids, they were relegated to a ‘Things I want to do when the kids grow up’ list which I stored in my head. A year back, just when I thought #5 was finally going into P1 and I will have plenty of free time while they are all in school, along came dear little Kate. But since I’m hitting 40 soon, I had better start to look at my list seriously and see if I can do one or two things each year before I look back and regret.

1. Take my mum on a pilgrimage

The last pilgrimage she went to was more than 20 years ago and I know it is something she would love to do once more, but dare not even ask for. I figured that if I don’t take her soon, who knows what might happen in future? She’s already in her 70s and may not be able to walk so much as she ages. She has done more than her fair share of looking after the kids, and I think it’s time we show her our gratitude for always being there for us without a word of complain. There will be a lot of logistic issues to work out before I can go, but I’m sure the kids will step up to the plate.

2. Volunteer with Samaritans of Singapore

I’ve always wanted to be a volunteer with S.O.S. to man the suicide hotlines. However, volunteering on a regular basis is still a little tricky at this point in time. I can barely find enough time to spend with the kids especially giving them one-on-one attention, so it’s hard to justify carving out a chunk of time to commit to the training sessions and the weekly hours. Well, guess this one has to be shelved for a couple more years.

3. Volunteer with Make a Wish Foundation

I heard about this many years ago and found it so meaningful. To grant children who are terminally ill one last wish before they leave this world. Perhaps I can find out if we can do this as a family, although the last time I checked, it didn’t seem suitable for kids to be involved in this.

Pondering life’s meaning

4. Work in palliative care

Ever since I got acquainted with this aspect of Occupational Therapy as a student, I knew this was the area I wanted to work in. We were working with a lady who had a few months left to live, and she wanted to record down all the things she wanted to say to her little daughter. That touched me so profoundly, to be able to help somebody fulfil their last wishes and to have the privilege of sharing their last days.

(Baby step: I’ve started volunteering at a hospice once a week, till Kate goes to school and I have more time to work.)

5. Set up a cosy hospice for children 

There is a hospice in Melbourne where the children and their families can check in to a wonderful environment at the last leg of their terminal illness. Perhaps we can have a homely children’s hospice here too. A place where the best medical care is provided at a cosy non-medical setting. A place where parents can safely put their child at while they get some respite from the over-whelming burden of caring for a sick child. A place where there are volunteers to spend time with the siblings and extend care and counselling to them too, in their struggles in coping with losing a brother or a sister. A place where there is so much going on for the children – play, activities, fun, with a whole lot of love. A place where life is celebrated, no matter how short it is, and where the focus is not on extending life, but on bringing the most meaning to the last days of their lives. I don’t quite know how this would materialise, but still, good to have a vision!

6. Give talks

Not only do I enjoy writing, I very much enjoy talking. We used to get cold feet before a presentation, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop. When I was an undergraduate, I had the honour of giving a speech to the heads of departments of all the faculties in my university and I actually had a great time speaking to such an audience. Maybe I will look into giving some parenting talks but don’t know if anyone wants to listen to me, ha.

These are more frivolous things which I wish I had more hours in the day to do them.

7. Voice-overs

I was reading about this as a job, and I would get such a kick out of hearing my voice on some automated machine. Will try that some day, just for the fun of it! I’m sure the kids would have a great time laughing about this one.

8. Attend cooking classes

I can’t cook to save my life, but I do wish I could cook nice meals for the family. When they were younger, they were happy to eat what I prepared. But now, they can tell that their mum’s cooking skills are really amateurish (especially my eldest), although I’m slowly getting better with the help of cookbooks. I really like how in some families, the mums or grandmas can cook so well that the whole family looks forward to coming home to mum’s home-cooked meals, even when they are adults.

9. Attend talks and seminars

There are so many interesting talks and workshops going on, and I love to learn and open my mind. Be it in investing, health and nutrition, or lifestyle issues, I wish I had time to learn more.

10. Take up piano lessons with Kate and #2

I did pass my Grade 8 piano exams, but I was taught the boring rote learning way. All technical. I want to be able to play by ear, to really make joyful and exuberant music. I taught the kids some basics, and #2 seems to have a flare for it. If we have excess cash, it would be lovely to enjoy some good piano lessons as a family.

11. Stay at a wellness resort for a week

Something like Como Shambhala, with 1 or 2 close friends. The Bhutan location sounds incredible for such a retreat. How indulgent. My 45th birthday present perhaps.. when Kate would be fine with me gone for so many days.

12. Spend a weekend at a semi-silent retreat

In our lives, there’s just too much noise, too much distractions (especially with so many kids!) I really like the sound of silence, where I can think, contemplate, and grow my faith. And to listen to my inner voice. What bliss. Don’t ask me why, but I still feel guilty spending time away from the kids for my own pleasure. Sigh. Occupational hazard.

13. Take a trip on the Orient Express

I’ve always wanted to experience this since I was a teenager. There’s something just so charming about luxurious rail travel. Must be the great advertising. Someday, someday.

Ok, done. I will pin this up somewhere and like how they say, when you visualise it daily, it will materialise. 

Go ahead, write your bucket list. By penning it down, there’s a higher chance it will get accomplished. Don’t know about you, but I find great satisfaction in crossing things off one by one! And as life coaches will tell you, to make your goals happen, you need to declare it to people around you so that you will be held accountable. I’ve just declared it to so many people, hence they will surely be realised 😉 Let’s do this together, folks. Let’s live lives without regrets. Carpe diem!

“Our biggest regrets are not for the things we have done but for the things we haven’t done”  – Chad Michael Murray


Linking up with:
mamawearpapashirt
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Gardens by the Bay with some very special children :)

We organised an outing to take a group of children with intellectual disability to Gardens by the Bay. We went to their group home the last school holiday and played games with them. This time we decided to take them outdoors for some fun. A total of 4 families joined in, and 1 more couldn’t join us but chipped in to help us defray our transport and food cost. (Thanks, Sam!)

All of my kids came along, and 3 of them brought along a friend each. I like to expose our kids to children who are not as fortunate as themselves to help them develop empathy and compassion. The kids were first briefed about the children we were going to receive so that they would have an understanding of what to expect and so the younger ones will not blurt out any remarks which may hurt the feelings of the children.

We started the evening by heading over to Texas Chicken for their dinner. We had called earlier to pre-order the food and everything was smooth and orderly. Besides Texas Chicken, there is a row of casual dining including Peach Garden noodle house, Hill Street coffee shop and Union Square café serving hotdogs. Sprinkled throughout the Gardens are various cafes and they even have Satay by the Bay.

We bought tickets to the Sky Way bridge and queued to go up. Tickets are at $3 for children and $5 for adults. You can either take the lift or walk up 7 flights of stairs. Some of the kids were afraid of crossing the bridge and we encouraged them.

 

We all made it over to the other side and were greeted with this beautiful scenery. We saw a different side of our friends as they laughed and posed for pictures. They were all in high spirits as they mingled freely with our children. Some of them are so sweet and endearing and they seem to have no cares in the world.

After we descended from the Sky bridge, the children formed a big circle and played Frisbee at the empty patch of grass in front of the exit of the bridge. Then we distributed lanterns and walked as a group around the gardens. We passed a koi pond with lots of fishes.

As we walked, we came to this humongous statue of a sleeping baby. It seemed to be floating in mid air! This 7 ton bronze cast sculpture is gifted to the Gardens by renowned sculptor Marc Quinn.

Further on, we saw some huge and colourful dinosaurs. Of course, the boys were drawn to it. The dinosaurs are made of cloth and there seems to be light bulbs inside it. It is probably an installation for the mid-autumn festival.

We reached the end and we walked back to the Supertrees as there was a simple 10 minutes light and sound show. There is one show at 7.45pm and one at 8.45pm. It is nice to just sit back and relax with your family and friends and take in the whole atmosphere. Somehow, it reminded me of my childhood where we used to watch the musical fountain in Sentosa. 

The kids were getting tired and asked if we were going home soon. We told them yes, right after we send our friends up their van. Time to say our goodbyes and till we meet again next time!

You can book this wheelchair transport service for $200 per outing. It can accommodate 1 wheelchair and about 5 family members. Would be great to take wheelchair-bound grandparents out for a birthday meal or to see the Christmas lights. Each van can take a maximum of 3 wheelchairs.

One of the mummy asked if anyone wanted to go and have dessert at Sogurt as the kids did a great job of mingling and taking care of our friends. All of them shouted “Yes!” Didn’t they say they were very tired… ?

Sogurt is a DIY yoghurt place where you first choose the flavour of your yoghurt then you add the toppings. Payment is by weight. I instructed the kids not to take too much as they often can’t finish it and besides, it would cost quite a lot! They were good children, and they didn’t over-do it. It cost me $30 for the 8 of them. (Remember to ask for the 10% student discount).

Do let me know if anyone is keen to join us and I’ll keep you informed about our outing the next school holidays!

Sane tip: Gardens by the Bay is a large grounds and the kids can have all the space they need to run, roam, and shout as much as they like. I’m going to take them back there again with their bicycles!

Save tip: Pack a picnic, throw in their wheels and a Frisbee and you’ll have great fun all for nothing!


Silveray Pte Ltd

www.silveray.com.sg
Tel: 93845566

There are a lot of wheelchair bound elderly around who have been kept indoors as they cannot afford the transport to go out. Do take a look at the silveray website and contact them if you are able to sponsor a silveray ride.

Sogurt
(several outlets)


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore  ~