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Reflection, Social Change

Home away from home

Weaving through the streets of Siem Reap on the back of a tuk-tuk at 4.30AM in the morning, warm humid air brushing my exposed skin, I reflected on the past few days on this side of the world. Watching the local people get ready for their day, each as if telling a part of their stories, helps you understand Siem Reap at a deeper level. Some have a proper shop while others sit next a stack of drinks and gas/fuel in plastic bottles waiting for their next customer.

I am constantly challenged and inspired by my overseas trip. Two months ago, I made a quick trip to Vietnam and the beautiful country showed me what strong resilience and sense of community look like.

image (1)Leaving Hub right after that trip is a highly emotional decision, however, having experience what I’ve experienced so far on this trip, I regret not for a single moment.

Between all the buzz and energy surrounding the communities I quickly became a part of while in Singapore last week – the prospective and current founders of Hub in Asia, and Hub Singapore core team and community – I also found a smaller community whose selflessness and generosity left me very inspired and moved.

During the day, these guys work in the background. Some, social entrepreneurs who are Hubbers and the rest is the security guard and cleaner who in Singapore’s still existing although not prominent social class system rank quite low. Rengga, the security, left behind her two young children and husband, who works in a palm oil estate, in their hometown Malacca in Malaysia in search for more money in order to support her parents and the children. This means sacrificing playing mother to her beautiful children. She sees them once every month if she’s lucky, otherwise she speaks to them on the phone every night. She guards Hub Singapore with a lot of love and pride literally 24/7 and helps around where she can including doing the dishes. And although she seemed fearless, when asked what her biggest fear was, she looked me in the eye and in a worried tone, “that my children will be angry at me when they grow up because I was never there”.

That broke my heart.

After dark, this micro community comes out. I had the fortune of joining them for dinner on my last night. There was Rengga, “Uncle” the cleaner, Hayward and myself. Hayward, a humble and inspiring young Tassie, was the co-founder of One Cent Movement before he decided to leave the team and now planning his next steps. Each of these guys bring a story to tell – each of them far away from home, far from or disconnected from their family and/or holds the burden and fear of financial insecurity. However, whatever they lacked in materials, they had abundance in their unconditional love, support, admiration and generosity for one another.

We had take away and joked together like a family in an empty Hub Singapore before they jumped in a cab with me to drop me off at the airport. Rengga had never been to an airport, ever – I’m at one almost every 3 days. I was rather speechless for the rest of the ride.

So while the tuk tuk make its way through the dusty streets of Siem Reap, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the things I have and all the people who have loved me unconditionally and inspire me every day to keep going.

More importantly, as I said in my TEDxMacquarieUniversity talk, if we can all build a home, whether physically or virtually, for someone broken to feel loved, accepted, belonged, trusted and inspired, we can change the world. Because everyone is capable, sometimes some people just need the right space for them to be unleashed.

imageSo, as I reflect on all the homes I’ve built with all the amazing people I’ve worked with, whether that’s at Hub Melbourne & Sydney, and Soften the Fck Up or ones I’ve been invited to be a part of like at Hub Singapore, I am so proud that Hub has become a home beyond the misfits of the economy, the social entrepreneurs, innovators and intrapreneurs, but is now also home to those who feel like they’re outside the mainstream for whatever reason.

I left Singapore very inspired, very incredibly humbled and although I still am not a fan of the concrete jungle or the cab drivers, I am very moved by the communities in the beautiful island city. Should I move back to Asia, that is the question.

PS: Rengga have always had the dream of starting her own restaurant/food store in Malacca but lack the capital. I am planning to check to see if she’s seriously committed to it, and if so maybe crowdfund a modest loan for her capital? Thoughts?