Sarah Wong is the founder of Project Embody, which helps youth who struggle with self-esteem and confidence issues. She shared some values she learnt as an organiser and leader.
I and seven team members began Project Embody in February 2020, when COVID-19 started. We had big plans to visit schools and conduct physical workshops. Naturally, we were disappointed when we had to change our plans and move online.
However, we realised that operating online meant we could better cater to youths as many of them spend a lot of time on social media. Although it was initially challenging, I realised that change is part of life. We should make the most of it.
Make real connections
The best part of Project Embody was making connections with my community – youth struggling with their self-esteem, mental health and trauma from childhood. Early on, I realised that I was thinking too much about how to solve problems and not enough about the people we were serving.
Connecting with my community helped me better understand their profiles and needs, and pushed me to continue working with them.
Value your struggles
I had to admit to myself: we weren’t experts. We were 16 and 17-year-old students who had struggled ourselves.
Our campaign materials, like the Wellness Journal, a safe space for reflection, and podcast, hosting our friends to share their experiences, were based on what we felt might be useful for others who are going through what we did, and occasionally continue to.
Look past limitations
At first, I was doubtful. Were we making an impact on our community? Was our mission actually achievable?
But the thing is, we will always be limited in some way, be it time, resources, or by circumstances.
Despite having to balance schoolwork and lofty aspirations, I realised that I could still play my part. To me, giving back is not just about the end product, but the process of deciding that I want to do something about a problem I’ve identified, and giving it my all.
Team Project Embody
PHOTO CREDIT: SARAH WONG
See the bigger picture
While we planned big, we knew we couldn’t do it all. Regardless, we hope that our project inspires other youth to reach out to their peers, initiate a rippling effect of mental health awareness in their communities.
We are not alone. There are people who go through the same struggles as us. We all want to achieve similar things. We can play a part in helping our community.
We dove into the project quite aimlessly. We didn’t have magic to “fix” people struggling with self-esteem issues.
Realising that self-esteem is a formative part of many teenagers’ lives helped steer us towards trying to solve common problems they encounter. We worked on helping them develop self-management skills, which could ultimately push them towards their goals.
Narrowing our scope didn’t narrow our impact. It simply clarified our purpose and propelled us to work faster and harder.