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Start Something That Matters

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

I picked up the book "Start Something That Matters" by Blake Mycoskie on the way to Bali with Li Ling five years ago. Blake is the founder of TOMS shoes. The book started with the TOMS story and how the business model "With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One" and carried on with him sharing very sensible tips to starting a business that makes a difference.

I was really inspired by the book, and shared the idea with Li Ling. Being in the carefree environment of Ubud allowed us to dream a little. We thought of how we could produce camera accessories involving the local community and benefit them. At that time, we were living in Surabaya and it would have been a good stepping stone to doing something with the Indonesian community. Alas, like most dreams, they were parked aside, not actioned, after we finished our holiday and returned to life as it is. Inside me, I thought, at least we dared to dream, but also felt disappointed that we found it so hard to take that first step.

That first step that is scary, letting go of the known and free falling into the unknown. That first step that I braved myself to take when I started my photography business last year. At the very start, this book was at the back of my mind, and I wanted to find ways where I could apply the same principles to my business. I knew I wanted to give back to society with photography eventually, but I was not sure how.

While I was exploring different ideas on this, some kind souls from BLKJ found me to shoot for Singapore Hospice's #Instagood campaign to raise awareness about palliative care. Palliative care is care provided to terminally ill patients, most of which are near the end of life. Through the shoot I got to meet really amazing individuals in the form of patients and caregivers and encountered inspiring stories and lessons on life that made a deep impact in me.

I realised at the end of the shoot that I might have found my way of giving back. It did not have to follow the exact model as TOMS. I approached Singapore Hospice Council with the idea of offering free family photography to palliative care patients and was happy that they were on board immediately. My thinking was, if I'm able to sustain my business and continue to be a photographer, I would be able to continue doing this for patients and their families. Not the same "One for One" model, but definitely a way of starting something that matters.

I'm sharing here a series of photos of Mr. Ng and his family. Mr. Ng has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, where significant damage to the lungs have affected its ability to function. When I met him, he was breathless just moving from the bed to the chair. Mr. Ng had missed the graduation ceremonies of both his daughter and son, so he had requested for a graduation photoshoot as one of his last wishes. Thanks to the good people of St Andrew's Community Hospital, this wish came true.

Family photography matters.

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