Andrea Chan, 34, is a counsellor by training. She regularly organises intervention programmes for people with mental health conditions and those living in financially vulnerable families. She hopes to help these communities by destigmatising mental health stereotypes and easing social mobility for them.
She started the Upper Room Project, providing counselling and education for youth to help them understand their mental health conditions better. Andrea is the recipient of the Outstanding Award at the Woofoo Asian Award for Advancing Family Well-Being 2020. She shares some values that she has learnt along the way.
Dreaming is free. When you dream, you open up a world of possibilities and hope for yourself and others. You’re a lot more motivated and end up doing a lot more when you dream big. I have two big dreams for vulnerable families: financial resilience and building children’s capacities beyond academics. I also want to strengthen the quality of mental health interventions available in Singapore.
I never set out to change the world. I don’t think I will ever be able to on my own. But I desire to make a difference in the lives of those I encounter, one at a time, especially in the areas of mental health and financially vulnerable families. To anyone who thinks that what you want to achieve is too overwhelming, I encourage you to start with the next person you meet! Then the next!
The journey is difficult. It is often littered with challenges and obstacles. When things get tough, remember why you started doing what you do in the first place. Remember the excitement and that dream you had when you first started.
When I was 17, I started travelling overseas with my church to many places like Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia for weeks and months. There, I was exposed to the impact of war and poverty on people. I knew then I wanted to go to these countries to work. But I gave myself one year in Singapore to gain skills.
During this one year, I came to realise that the suffering I saw in those nations also happens within ours – the Singapore I saw as my safe place. Since then, I have focused on serving Singapore, and what’s happening in our own backyard.
To commemorate that spark, I reread my employment letter. Every time I feel tired and jaded, I would look at it and remind myself why I decided to become a counsellor.
Always love people instead of looking at their flaws. Everyone is imperfect, so don’t stop loving people just because of their imperfections. While serving others, you can get frustrated because they aren’t always appreciative. I try to look past that and just love them as they are. When people know you genuinely care, they will usually soften and warm up towards you.
Life is of the utmost importance. I often come across youth who might think that life is meaningless and that there is nothing to live for. In these moments I like to remind them that as long as there is life, there is hope, dreams and the potential for change. That there are many facets to life, not just what society defines success to be, and with family and a good community, there is so much to live for.
Being busy and doing the same thing over and over again doesn’t mean that you are making an impact. Always evaluate what you are doing and if you are effective in making an impact. Every year-end, I take a period of time off to reflect on two things: what things have I done that were effective and impactful? What are social trends that I need to look into so that I can draft a possible solution?