People matter

  • by 100 Good Things
  • October 7th, 2015
  • October

One of the best things of my job is the people I meet. I said this when I was a travel and wellness writer and had the opportunity to meet visionary, passionate changemakers. And I say this now, in my capacity as a social entrepreneur. I have always been drawn to “the human angle.” Hearing their stories inspires me to do more, to get out there and live the change I want to see.

I remember vividly a life-changing road trip that demonstrated, in a most down-to-earth manner, what really resonated with me.

That afternoon, I chanced upon a wake on a visit to a small, nondescript village off the capital city of Laos. I found the village’s womenfolk had congregated at an open space, cooking up a storm for visitors and the village in general. I was invited to partake in the festivities and sample their feast. Life was slow and incredibly simple, and their laughter and infectious camaraderie, far-reaching. I felt their sense of kinship keenly. Their heartfelt hospitality left a warmth posh hotels could not rival.

That moment, I was connected to another community not too far removed from us. Who, like you and I, harbor dreams and aspirations.

Truth be told, with little talent for foreign language, I can barely communicate with the impoverished communities I work for. Fortunately, empathy transcends language barrier. At where I live, in multiracial Singapore, English is the first language. For so many Third World economies at my backyard, being fluent in the working language of the world is an aspiration many cannot afford.

Prak Vichra the self-taught seamstress pictured here is now able to send her only child, now 12 years old, for English lessons. The widow aspires to lift herself and her family out of poverty. Receiving a livable wage from the social enterprise she works for makes this a reality. Her life is explicitly better because of a work that empowers her and eventually her community.

Would the world become a far richer, less divisive place if sustainability were a standard? Why should it be a lofty idea? You and I can collectively make a difference. People matter. Your purchase matters.

The ethically and sustainably produced merchandise at 100 Good Things are sourced with care, consciousness and understanding. To purchase them, visit 100 Good Things store.

If not now, when?

Sopheak

Bomb brass bangles

I was catching up with a longtime journalist friend and had to ask if she would quit her job and set up shop. After all, she spent all her life covering the coolest and most desirable must-haves in town. To me, it’s a no-brainer only because she has all the contacts and I imagine the clout she can wield is incredible.

Her response was a straight, don’t-you-even-think-about-it no. “You are damn brave to do this” was all she added. Some of us build a comfort zone and safety wall that would take more than a courageous bulldozer to tear down. The inevitable question from friends when they hear of my gig is not the big “why” because, I suspect, they know me enough to ask the obvious. It is an envious “How is it like being your own boss?”

They say living your dream is better than being stuck in a cubby hole. They imagine the boss has complete control of her time and resources, and perhaps, has time to read a book under a coconut tree if she so desires. Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side if you are depleted, dehydrated and forget to water your own backyard.

The truth of the experience defies an easy one-paragraph explanation. There are very real day-to-day challenges that test every ounce of your resolve. There are dark days when you feel vulnerable, spiraling down a tunnel with no light in sight. Certainly, you find that you have to dig deep to find mental strength and clarity. You need to replenish yourself frequently and more than ever.

This is when the practice on the [yoga] mat pays off. Svadhyaya, or self-study, is one of the foundations of yoga practice. What inspires, lights you up and brings you joy? Why do you do the things you do? Your honest answer may very well provide the reason to plod on.

To the Third World person who has limited, or rather, no life choices, fundamental sustenance is the sole reason to hang in there. Sopheak, the silversmith pictured here laboriously crafted this beautiful bangle from discarded bomb casings. He was 26 years old when he decided acquiring a practical skill will ensure a better future for his children. The 42-year-old went from possessing zilch knowledge of metal art to being noted for his fine craftsmanship. From living hand-to-mouth in a rental flat to owning his own house and sending his sons to school. The social enterprise that hires him – and from whom we purchase from – pays him a fair salary and ensures he works in safe space.

What inspires you, the First World being blessed with wonderful material possessions, to live the life you dream of living? And when you do, what will sustain your heart work?

The ethically and sustainably produced merchandise at 100 Good Things are sourced with care, consciousness and understanding. To purchase them, visit 100 Good Things store.

Back to basics

  • by 100 Good Things
  • August 18th, 2015
  • 2015, August

Anahata Yoga

I found myself in a basic yoga class one morning and really embracing the poses and sequence my French teacher had put together. His instructions were clear, concise and laced with a wry humor only the French knew how.

Returning to the basics reminds me yoga is neither about showing off your arm-balancing prowess nor about Instagrammable moments.

Being completely present as you mindfully straighten your alignment elicits a sense of grounding and stillness. Slowing down lets in a spaciousness that can be cathartic. Change can only happen when you make space.

For most of us, we need to consciously and conscientiously remind ourselves to bring that awareness to daily living so the calm we find on that mat won’t be as fleeting as sensual pleasures. On days when I am too caught up in nailing that peacock pose, I miss the bigger message, what yoga calls vidya, or clear seeing. It is a good day when your limbs can fly and the stars above are in perfect alignment. It is a good day when customers are lining up to buy your goods and a s**** day when nothing moves.

How can our state of being be so dependent on external stimuli, on what goes on outside? Returning to the fundamentals allow you to cultivate an inner steadiness. There is tremendous power in knowing you can lean onto your own strength in moments of vulnerability.

The ethically and sustainably produced merchandise at 100 Good Things are sourced with care, consciousness and understanding. To purchase them, visit 100 Good Things store.

Birthday reflections

  • by 100 Good Things
  • August 5th, 2015
  • August

The story
of life is quicker
than the wink of an eye
The story of love
is hello and goodbye

So sang Jimi Hendrix. Whether as a Buddhist, yoga practitioner or social entrepreneur, the fragility and impermanent nature of life is not lost on me as I chat with producers I work with. They share with me their founding principles and tell me why they choose this challenge-fraught path, and I, having spent two decades in a publishing career wielding a pen, still relish a good tale or two. Their lives are interwoven with mine though we live thousands of miles apart.

How can it not be? We consume rice from Thailand, vegetables from Malaysia, spices from Indonesia, fruits from Vietnam. Every seed planted, every ounce of pesticide administered, every intention and action impacts a chain of life. Leaving the planet a livable place for our children should not be a lofty idea left to the territory of the wealthy and idealistic.

As Singapore celebrates 50 years of independence on August 9th, I am blessed to be able to reflect on the progress we have made and the road ahead. I am able to tell my children “You are lucky you never went through water rationing like your mother did!” as I struggle to teach them the value of water conservation.

Just a few hours of plane ride away, millions still do not have access to clean water, let alone one that comes straight out of a tap. Through no fault of his own, the guileless First World child deems it fun to line up with a bucket to collect water for the day’s needs.

The First World community, while caught up in the whirlwind known as Life, has the capacity to dig deeper and make a difference. Impermanence is a fact of life, as Hendrix so poignantly sang, but conscious commerce is one powerful tool that can leave a more enduring presence. Simply because our purchase decision impacts so many lives, many of whom reside at our backyard.

This National Day, we want to thump our hearts and tell the world we are privileged to be born in Singapore. We also want a more conscious and compassionate society because we the citizens of Singapore – as the Singapore Pledge goes – can build a society based on justice and equality.

Happy Golden Jubilee Singapore!

The ethically and sustainably produced merchandise at 100 Good Things are sourced with care and understanding. To purchase them, visit 100 Good Things store.

Return to the kitchen

  • by 100 Good Things
  • July 23rd, 2015
  • 2015, July

balm

Nutritionist Cyndi O’ Meara says we can heal a nation by going back to our kitchens and cooking. “It is our empowered, divine honour to be in the kitchen, to feed our family, to heal a nation.”

Bone broth, spices and herbs are a regular feature in my household. I believe in replenishing our bodies by returning to the basics, eschewing processed food whenever possible and practical. I love making personal care products in my little kitchen (in fact I have had more success making body potions than sweet treats). What’s not to love? You need just a few choice ingredients, a few minutes and you are rewarded a nourishing balm you can eat off the jar (if you so desire).

Then I met a gentleman who shares my penchant for minimal-ingredient personal care products. Like me, he obsessively researches his ingredient sources. And very much like me, he understands just because it [seemingly innocuous chemicals] is common does not mean it is right or the truth.

He has been teaching Cambodians displaced from the redevelopment of Boeung Kak Lake how to make body balms with everyday kitchen tools and food ingredients from the market. Completely eschewing hi-tech gizmos, he looks to traditional cultures for answers and comes up with a range of balms I am madly in love with.

I love his deeply nourishing three-ingredient lip balm. There’s a Baby Calm Balm I use even on myself. The star, in my opinion is his petroleum-free, paraffin-free, essential oil-infused Relief Balm. I would name it Miracle Balm if I were audacious enough. It is miraculous on bug bites.

Above all, this gentleman provides the impoverished and illiterate with the dignity of a useful job that pays them fairly. Certainly it’s a labor of love and I admire his intentions. We all believe we can change the world, one good thing at a time.

Visit 100 Good Things store to purchase this range of handcrafted virgin coconut oil-based body balms. The ethically and sustainably produced merchandise at 100 Good Things are sourced with care and understanding.

Facebook
Facebook
INSTAGRAM