Interview with Sherry Soon, Founder of microvolunteering movement Be Kind SG

(picture courtesy of Sherry Soon)

Diagnosed at 20, Sherry has been a strong and brave woman living with Vasculitis, a form of auto-immune disease. Nonetheless, that is not stopping her from doing good in society and working with various social enterprises in Singapore.

1) Share with us what you studied in university and some of the activities you took part in.

I first studied engineering at NTU due to parental pressure, and left after 3 gruelling years of trying my best to pass the subjects (but failing to). After that, I chose to study business at RMIT-SIM due to pragmatic reasons. Due to lesser time needed for school, I could volunteer as a classroom assistant in Rainbow Centre, play room assistant in KKH and be involved in other ad-hoc events.

2) What is your greatest takeaway from your education years?

You should pursue the course that you want to. Back then, I wanted to study psychology or social work, but didn’t. I was afraid that my (late) mother would reprimand me if I took something that wasn’t deemed practical.

Another takeaway is that even if you did not manage to pursue the course you wanted to, it is not the end of the world. I still managed to have my career in the social service sector, which was what I wanted.

3) What are your hobbies?

Volunteering, crafting and meeting up with friends.

4) What is one quote you live by?

Live life with love.

5) What was the inspiration behind starting Be Kind SG?

Since my teens, I have been involved in various volunteering activities. As I stepped into the working world, many of my friends stopped volunteering. At the same time, I also began to realize that there are unmet gaps in the social service sector. Hence, Be Kind SG was started to get more working adults to volunteer via micro-volunteering opportunities and to shine the spotlight on our less visible communities, such as adults and seniors with intellectual disabilities.

6) How are you coping with your condition now? What do you do to make yourself feel better since there is currently no cure?

Currently, my condition is quite stable after I took a career break. However, my disease can be quite unpredictable. Last year, I sprained my foot when I fell off a curb. Although I did not directly hit the road, I suffered a laceration and had to undergo five stitches in the A&E. The wound took a very long time to heal, due to my poor skin condition caused by 18 years of oral steroids. It was quite frustrating.

All through these 18 years, I have been through many periods of hospitalization during my flares when I could not stand or walk, due to the extreme pain from the ulcers on my feet. The recovery period takes one to two-and-a-half months and there are many side effects from the drugs, ranging from bloating of face, stomach issues, heart palpitations, shivering, hair loss to the more severe ones like osteoporosis, high cholesterol and early menopause etc.

During my flares, I always tell myself that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, though the tunnel may be long and winding. I also motivate myself by remembering the times that I overcame past obstacles, and that I will do so again. Most importantly, it has taught me that life is short and unpredictable. So, we must live life as meaningfully and purposefully as possible, while not forgetting to have fun sometimes too!

7) Where do you see yourself five to ten years down the road?

In five to ten years, I hope to have established a service that is able to plug an unmet gap in the social service sector. On my personal end, I hope to have achieved some of my traveling goals, for example, to travel along the Trans-Siberian route.

8) What is one thing you will tell your past self and your future self?

To my past self, listen to yourself more.

To my future self, always carry the spirit of risk in the things that you do!

9) What advice do you have for young people who are struggling with disabilities or other illnesses?

You are stronger than you think you are. Sometimes you will feel lonely in your struggle, and that’s alright. However, do watch out for your mental health and be careful not to isolate yourself. Be aware of suicidal thoughts and confide to a friend or loved one. You WILL make it through! Treasure your life, because we only have one life, and we should live it as meaningfully as we can, in whatever circumstances.

More about Sherry Soon


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