Founder of ItsRainingRaincoats (IRR)
You can’t change the world, but you can change the world for one person.
Tell us your story, how did you get here?
It all began in 2014 when I was driving home and encountered 2 migrant workers caught in a thunderstorm without rain cover in the street near my house. The story about taking them home in my car to give them shelter, and saving one of them a few months later from a suicide charge, was featured on the People of Singapore Facebook page sometime later. It went viral.
The experience made me realise that you can’t change the world, but you can change the world for one person. This eventually led to the birth of ItsRainingRaincoats (IRR) in 2015. IRR has come a long way since then. We have gone from 2 volunteers in 2015 to more than 1,000 volunteers now. More importantly, IRR has galvanised the community towards this cause. To quote the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, “What was a one-woman initiative has now become a nation-wide movement.”
What impact have you made in Singapore?
I was recently selected as a brand ambassador for “A Greater Gift” at Legacy Giving led by the Community Foundation of Singapore. I’ve also been a two-time recipient of the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Award (2017 and 2020), included in Tatler Asia’s 100 Most Influential in the Impact Space for 2020, and won many other accolades along the way. I manage a team of more than 1,000 volunteers in addition to my day job as Assistant General Counsel of Singtel.
What does 2022 look like for you?
2022 looks promising for us as IRR was awarded the “charity” status last year. We aim to launch new projects for the welfare and upskilling of our migrant brothers, besides our popular programs like Mad Wish (learn free English), Starbucks Initiative, SG Flyer rides and other events which run year-round.
We’re also running the laptop drive for migrant workers, helping them with dental and vision consultations, as well as many other initiatives. On a personal level, I hope to improve my swimming technique – something I’ve been putting off for a long time.
What do you love most about Singapore?
I’ve called Singapore my home for nearly 30 years. Singapore is extremely easy to integrate into and is so inclusive and diverse. It feels so Western but yet it’s Asian. It’s with that same spirit that I was led to extend a helping hand to our migrant worker friends, many of whom have been here for more than 10 years and have become part of us. It’s important they feel at home here too.
I also love the large-heartedness of people here. IRR functions thanks to the many amazing volunteers who step up every day and the many other stakeholders and partners who help us do what we do.
What’s the one change in the world you’d like to see?
I’ve always followed and believed in a mantra: ‘You may not be able to change the world, but you can certainly try to change the world for someone.’
I wish for the world to be kinder and a more inclusive place. And we’d like to bring the mindset shift to society and help to integrate and bridge the gap by employing authentic and nimble strategies for the welfare of our migrant brothers. Oh, I’d also like to see more polite and courteous drivers on the roads!
Who is your Local Legend, and why?
My local legend is every Singapore Special: the street dog. I’ve adopted one myself and he’s the most spoilt member of our family! I love that they’re called Singapore Specials. I love that so many Singaporeans and residents adopt them. There are so many wonderful feeders out there as well as animal shelters, volunteers and animal lovers. As Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”