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Do Good

Diagnosed at 14: Life with Pompe Disease

by | 12 October 2017, 5:26 PM

“You’re turning 24? Me too!”

I’d only been speaking with Emily Ho for a whole 5 minutes, yet we had already made a connection. Both of us were born in the same year and we’d established that we were better listeners than talkers. We were similar in many ways, except she was a patient and I was a visitor.

Emily is 1 of 4 known patients in Singapore who suffer from a rare genetic disorder called Pompe Disease. This disease debilitates muscles and affects their ability to function normally.

Most people who have this condition eventually die of respiratory failure because their diaphragm gradually becomes too weak to support breathing. For Emily, her leg muscles have already become so feeble that simple tasks like squatting and sitting are difficult for her. She falls easily and can’t get up without help.

“In the past when I wasn’t using a crutch, people wouldn’t come to my aid immediately when I fell down because I look so normal,” she laughed. “I’d be on the ground until someone offered to help me up.”

Emily had rejected using a wheelchair for many years, but the past 2 years have gotten increasingly tedious for her. She now uses an elbow crutch to help her get around.

Despite her condition, Emily has a very calm and pleasing disposition. There’s a perpetual smile on her face. If not for the elbow crutch, you wouldn’t have known this cheery girl has such a serious medical condition.

Sitting next to someone my age who has to go through bi-weekly treatments for a potentially fatal disease, yet remains so positive about life, was inspiring and sobering at the same time.


“I felt suffocated and angry because I was very lost in my situation,” she told me, “I didn’t know what would change and how I would need to adapt so I couldn’t voice out for help.”

Because she was unable to express her needs, Emily became very moody. However, her church friends were patient and encouraged her to open up.

They encouraged Emily to keep working at what she was talented at and helped her to discover her gifts in graphic design and typography while she was still struggling to find a platform to serve God.

They would opt for handicap-friendly places near Emily’s house when planning gatherings so it’d be easier for her. These friends carry Emily every time she needs to get up from her chair.

“I still do throw my tantrums but they accept me for who I am. I feel God’s love through how willing they are to help me, how understanding, sensitive and accommodating they are.”

Emily not only receives support from her church community but also her newly established support group.

Because of the rarity of the disease, Emily hadn’t known about other patients in Singapore for the past 10 years since she was diagnosed. But an opportunity opened up when The New Paper interviewed her after she received the Hero Patient award last year. The Hero Patient award is presented by the Eastern Health Alliance to exceptional staff, patients and caregivers.

Encouraged by Emily’s openness, three other Pompe Disease patients in Singapore reached out to her and they all connected for the first time.

“It’s good to have a support group,” Emily told me, “It helps to identify with people who struggle with the same issues as I do.”

“This is why opening up is important – so that you don’t go through this alone and somebody can walk this journey with you.”


Witnessing Emily’s spirit of faithfulness, I wondered how she reconciled her present situation with God.

“When I was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, my aunt offered to pray for me and asked if I wanted to be healed,” she explained, “I did, and I accepted Christ.”

But the healing never came. Hearing this made me question: If Emily came to know Christ because she wanted healing, why did she hang on to her faith despite not receiving what she wanted?

She shook her head and laughed as I voiced this out. “There was once after I went back to church, I had a fall right outside the church building. I cried really badly, not knowing exactly why. I just felt a storm raging in me.

“But as I was crying, I felt God comforting me. He told me that when I’m weak, He’s my strength. At that moment I understood while the physical healing had not come – God had healed my heart. He cured me of my heartaches and sadness and I was finally able to move on.”

There have been other miracles since then. The same year she was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, SBS kickstarted the wheelchair-accessible bus (WAB) services. One of the many features that were newly introduced through this scheme was the replacement of steps with ramps. This made public transport handicap-friendly.

And the first bus service that was launched? It goes directly to her school. That made life much easier for her. Previously, she was very reluctant to attend school as it took a lot of effort just to get up the bus.


Pompe Disease is incurable. One can only go for treatments to slow down the deterioration of the muscles, but the treatment requires bi-weekly appointments and each session costs about $27,000. This all amounts to a yearly medical expenditure of nearly $500,000.

“I wasn’t keen on treatment initially. I intended to live as I’d always did because I couldn’t afford it.”

That’s until she was miraculously provided with a medical sponsorship. However, it is ending this year. If the renewal process falls through, she will have no choice but to stop the treatment.

Emily’s face is somehow still smiling as she shares this with me. She asks me to pray with her, that her medical sponsorship will come through again. “But I know that no matter what happens in the future, God is with me and He will always help me.”

I thought about what she said. Her response to trust God in the face of adversity demonstrated a profound truth: God does answer prayers. Perhaps not in the way we expected it, but He has his own ways and purposes.

If you would like to reach out to Emily or make a donation, please visit her Give.Asia page. You can also view her artwork on her Instagram.


Siqi often loses her footwear in the office. She is also known for her loud sneezes, huge appetite, and weird sound effects. Happens to be a writer too.


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Do Good

Finding the star in every special need

by Gerald Png | 25 September 2018, 5:19 PM

Gerald is the founder of Soul Food Enterprise, a social enterprise which is currently housed at the Enabling Village. Soul Food’s mission is to equip, employ and empower persons with special needs so as to give them a platform to contribute to, and be included meaningfully into society. Over the past 10 years of operation, they have trained and worked with 18 young people with special needs.

My daughter Cheryl was born in 1992. Everything was good until she was about two and a half years old, when we observed that something was amiss in her development. Finding our that she had developmental delays turned our world upside down.

One question I had was: “What am I going to do now?” What could I do for her?

As I spoke to people, did my research online, and tried to process the myriad thoughts in my head, I could feel God showing me the way: I needed to focus on Cheryl’s strengths and abilities, rather than her inabilities.

When she was 11 years old, Cheryl would peek into the kitchen to see what I was doing. As I was the cook of the house, I invited her to putter around in the kitchen with me – stir soups, cut things … That was how I noticed she was interested in cooking.

Could this be a possible vocation for her?

When she was in Grace Orchard School, which caters to students who have been diagnosed with Mild Intellectual Disability (MID) and those with Mild Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), I offered to support her form teacher in her Home Economics class.

During a class, when they were making pizza, I had the opportunity to meet her classmates and observe things. I noticed some of them struggled to spread out the cheeses and the condiments on the pizza dough.

It got me thinking: If we started a café or a production kitchen, we could get different persons to do different things, and the collective effort of all could result in a delicious soup or dish.

That is where it all began. My desire to help my daughter fit into society had now expanded to her friends.

When Cheryl turned 13, she started attending Tanglin School, a school by the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN). I began to think more seriously about the possibilities a cooking space for young people like her.

But I had no experience running a restaurant, much less a social enterprise. I had only ever been an employee, and not even in the food and beverage sector. Still, in 2008, I had a strong sense from God to get going.

One day, during my devotions, God said to me, “What you can do for Cheryl, you can also do for her friends.” It would not just be about creating food. It would be about the souls impacted by our food, those who would eat it – but especially those who would make it.

That was the year I registered Soul Food Enterprise as a business entity.

I started very small, but along the way, God sent me much encouragement. When I was trying to find a place to house the restaurant, I received a call from the Housing Development Board. The person on the line said, “Mr Png, I heard that you are looking for a shop space for your project.”

I hadn’t spoken much to anybody about my idea, so I was surprised that news had travelled so far. After submitting a simple proposal to them at our first meeting, the surprise grew as they took out a map and asked, “So, where would you like to open your restaurant?”

I told them that we needed to find a location near a train station, as our team members with special needs will need to travel by themselves. We settled on a place at Commonwealth that was available for the next five years.

So that was how we started: A little dining area for 15 people and a very small kitchen to learn and work in.

Six months before our five-year lease was due to expire, we had some guests from the National Council of Social Services (NCSS). While they ate, they asked us about what our plans were going forward.

I told them about our expiring lease, and our need for a larger dining room and kitchen space. I was hoping to take Soul Food to the next level, where we could train more people in the kitchen and for front-of-house services.

We needed to give the kids in our employment the space and training to gain real mastery of skills, whether in preparation and cooking, or customer service – skills they could carry with them for life.

I really believe this visit was from God, because soon after we were invited to take up a space at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru. We now have a dining space that seats over 50 people comfortably and a 750 square feet commercial training kitchen.

I try to be a faithful steward of this social enterprise that allows young people with different needs and abilities to punch above their weight. Soul Food has given many of them opportunities that would otherwise not have come their way.

Sometimes it feels like they climb two steps, only to fall back a step. We may think they have honed a skill because they have rehearsed it a hundred times. Then, suddenly, they seem to forget how it is done, and we have to start all over.

But I always say that is okay. We are here to scaffold them, and it requires a very different kind of patience.

Honestly, while we teach them skills, we are also learning about each of them. I may know how to wash plates or make a soup, but I also need to know enough about them to ensure they can apply the skills I teach them.

In the future, I would like to be able to say this of Soul Food: “Our success is attributed to every young person with different needs and abilities, supported by neuro-typical managers and supervisors.”

The first thing I advocate in the restaurant is inclusion. It is not about “us” or “them”, but rather how we, as a team, can be inclusive. It is about people with special needs and people who are neuro-typical working together, and how we can continue to leverage on each other’s strengths.

The crew, who have different needs, look to their neuro-typical team leaders for direction and guidance. At the same time, the team leaders look to the crew for support for operations. We aim to build up – not to tear down – each other, all the while looking for the other’s abilities and strengths.

Our motto for Soul Food is “Made by Many Hands”. I think it is most befitting as, truly, everyone has a hand in the business.

At the end of the day, this is a Food and Beverage business where things have got to be sleek and professional.

We have to mindfully address challenges concerning efficiency in customer service and food production by reviewing and tweaking our business model periodically, so as to allow our diverse team time and space to manage changes.

I have found that the best form of learning is hands-on – we model the skills so those with special needs can understand what and why they need to do things a specific way. And I believe we have been successful on the whole.

Our frontline service team members are always affirmed and praised by our diners. Moreover, I think people enjoy visiting Soul Food because they know that everything is prepared with love and authenticity.

Through this 10-year journey, I can now see God more clearly, I can now trust Him even more. To would-be employers of people with special needs, I have this to say: Keep your eyes open in order to understand them. Employ them believing that they can contribute.

Do not just offer them menial tasks such as cleaning the toilets or the tables and chairs. Instead, explore possibilities beyond what you think possible, and encourage them in their journey.

I am thankful that Soul Food is now in a position to showcase the abilities of our young persons both in the kitchen and at the front-of-house. These skills took a lot of time and effort from the whole team, but by believing and persevering, we now see the fruits of our labour.

So seek to include and understand people with special needs. Find the star in each of them.

Gerald’s story is from “Call Me By Name”, a collection of 23 stories of Singaporeans with special needs, and their families. It was curated by the Family Inclusion Network, a group of parents and volunteers with a heart to embrace persons with special needs and disabilities.

The book will be available on Gracework’s online store from September 1, 2018 onwards. 


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Do Good

Exploring the greater world of good

by | 17 September 2018, 5:18 PM

Love travelling and mission work – and wish you could do both at the same time? We met up with Actxplorer, a Singaporean social enterprise that brings travellers and locals from developing nations together to create positive social impact on communities. We interview Danielle, Mindy and Jeremy – 3 Actxplorers in their twenties who have made this their full-time job.

Where were you on your faith journeys when the call to do this came?

Danielle: I was the person with a 5-year/10-year life plan all laid out. When the opportunity to stay on in Actxplorer came after my internship here, I hesitated initially even though it was a good fit of my skills and interests, because it did not fit my understanding of how my career would look like. However, God taught me to trust Him with my future, so I eventually decided to stay.

Mindy: It felt like God answered my prayer of many years of finding a job that combines education, youth engagement, sustainable development, and travelling Southeast Asia. Yet, I hesitated as it meant a huge pay cut, a change in lifestyle, and to be honest I was not even sure what I was getting myself into. Risk-taking always accompanies faith. I took the risk and am still keeping the faith.

Jeremy: To be honest, I was at a point where my faith mattered little to me. I was preoccupied with life, and I let it get the better of my faith. Being on this journey has given me the opportunity to meet many overseas missionaries and Christians, and seeing the good that they’ve done has helped reaffirm my faith, and I am slowly but surely taking steps back to God.

Danielle (centre, bottom) in Hin Laat Village with NUS students and their homestay host

What has your life mission and vision always been? How did this fall in line with that?

Danielle: I could never imagine myself working in a typical office. It’s just not in my personality, so I guess God knew and blessed me with an “atypical” job as I committed this part of adulting to Him. Also, over the years, God has revealed to me a heart for missions — and Actxplorer is good training ground for that.

Mindy: For the most part of my twenties, I’ve been fascinated by the rich geography and diversity of cultures of our region, and with it a desire to share it with others. I was an educator in high school, and right now I believe that I still am an educator, but in the field – the Southeast Asian field!

Jeremy: I’ve always had the goal that my future job would be something that made a difference in people’s lives, whether through medical research from my field of study (Pharmacology), or now with Actxplorer. Although travel often can be tiring, the trips are almost always meaningful and help create change all around.

Mindy on a visit to Yayasan Prima Unggul, a entrepreneur training school for outstanding but economically poor students from Flores and Papua in Jakarta, Indonesia

Describe a moment on the job where you knew you were really called to do this work.

Mindy: We bring many young people on different kinds of trips around Southeast Asia. My moment was seeing young people develop empathy for communities, gain new and deeper understanding of social issues plaguing our region, wanting to do something about them – and ultimately seeing that we can make positive impact in the region in just 2-3 years.

One of my favourite moments was seeing a group of Singaporean secondary school boys and girls dressed in Papua traditional wear, performing to a Papua song that they’ve learnt with their new Papuan friends.

The Singaporean students were really hesitant, shy, and grumpy at the beginning, but the Indonesian students were persistent in engaging them, encouraging and pushing them to overcome their insecurities. Witnessing the transformation, friendships built, and intercultural exchanges was an affirmation for me that night.

Jeremy: It was during one one of my first University student trips in 2017, doing educational work in a school within a poor district of central Vietnam. On the second last day of our 2-week trip, nearly the whole school gathered to wish us well.

Many tears were shed, and many students shared how fortunate they felt to have us teach at their school. I realised then, that even though our work was simple, and somewhat short, but the lasting impact we made will stay with the students.

Jeremy working on a community-based tourism project (in collaboration with SMU) in northern Vietnam

What do you think God is doing in your own life through this work?

Danielle: God is giving me His lenses to have His heart of compassion. I do foresee a potential struggle where I get caught up with doing but neglect my own relationship with Him — so it is important to do what I do with the motivation of pleasing Him and not people, as well as work with a consistent effort to involve my heart and emotions, rather than delivering project after project, deadline after deadline.

Mindy: God is teaching me to get out of my comfort zone, and to use the talents that He has given to me. It is also about learning to trust in Him, and to depend on Him in all aspects of our work. It can be daunting to lead people on trips and to have constant self-imposed pressure to make sure that our work has positive impact on the communities we work with and also for the travellers. And when we are in the field, the environment can be unpredictable, many things can happen, yet God is always there with us and I take great comfort in that.  

Jeremy: Through my work, He is teaching me perseverance and compassion. Sometimes, I have the tendency to give up on things midway when it gets difficult. Knowing that giving up means giving up on the people who we’ve supported helps me to persevere and do the best that I can.  

I do this work because I believe that more light needs to be shed on the good works being done, and there’s only so much you can relate with someone simply through media. Being on the ground, and being apart of people’s lives is totally different, and the fruit you gain afterwards, whether physical or emotional, will stay with you for a lifetime.

Danielle on a field studies trip (with NUS) to visit the ethic minority of Moklens in southern Thailand

What have you learnt that you hope to impart to this generation?

Danielle: I have learnt that we are really privileged, and we are not entitled to what we have. We have a responsibility to steward what God has given us! If we have been given 10 talents, we are accountable for how we have used these talents when we meet God face to face – so if you are intelligent, if you have a gift in a particular area, or if you have a burden for a certain group of people, act on it! Make full use of it for good, and don’t bury it in the midst of your busyness.

Also, I want to encourage people to start making responsible decisions, and do not think less than they should just because they are “lazy”. These decision often affect lives – if we waste less, if we choose our travel destinations and activities more wisely and responsibly … Our actions bless people more than you can imagine.

Mindy: Everyone can play a part in alleviating the social issues we see in our world today. There are a lot of opportunities to serve, locally or beyond – only if you seek them. Be proactive in seeking opportunities to serve in areas that God has put a burden in your heart for. Speak to likeminded people. Go for talks and exhibitions. Watch documentaries. Read to make sense of the world. I think it’s also very easy to lose sight of God in the midst of doing, so be prayerful always and make sure that God is at the centre of all the action!

Jeremy: I hope that my generation will come to understand that they shouldn’t always focus on themselves. Life is so much more than social media and luxury. You can find just as much meaning and satisfaction when you put others before self.

Mindy in Myanmar trying out wood carving. We were this uncle’s first foreign students!

What’s next? 🙂

Danielle: Continue learning and growing at Actxplorer, and experiencing what it means to worship through my work.

Mindy: “Actxplore” even more opportunities all around Southeast Asia, and possibly Nepal and Mongolia soon!

Jeremy: For Actxplorer to grow even more, and open up offices in more cities so we can create greater impact.

Sign up here to join the inaugural Actxplorer dialogue series on November 1, 2018.

Hop onto the Actxplorer platform to find and book activities that are fun and beneficial to communities. Proceeds go back to funding good causes and supporting the local community. For enquiries on customised trips and social impact workshops, or partnering with existing social enterprises, you can drop them an email here.


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What would you give to walk in power and love?

by Wilson Barnabas Koh | 28 August 2018, 1:15 PM

“Do you have any pain in your body?”

One of the boys in the group of young people who had been drinking when we approached them pointed to his friend and said, “Can pray for broken heart or not?”


My friend Joyce proceeded to prophesy over the young lady in the area of relationships. The girl’s eyes suddenly widened and she exclaimed, “I felt a warm sensation and a sense of peace in my heart.”  Her friends were amazed.

This prompted another of the guys to share. “I am a believer,” he said. “But I have backslided.”

Joyce then prayed for him, upon which she saw a word appear in her mind. “I saw the word ‘music’,” she said. The guy was astonished. He used to lead worship in church.

“The Father’s arms are always wide open to receive you,” Joyce told him, and when someone else in the group declared a sprained ankle, she asked him to pray with her for the boy, who received healing!

The first boy was astonished. How was it even possible that God could work through someone like him? Joyce wasn’t surprised – she was a “normal” believer in Jesus too. It was all about knowing his identity as a son in the Kingdom of God.

This is just one out of thousands of testimonies we have heard over the past few years.

As believers, we are called to fulfil the Great Commission by going out to reach the lost (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19-20). Yet more often than not, we stop short at inviting people to the church for evangelistic services so that someone else can do the work for us.

The Great Commission is the responsibility of every single follower of Jesus Christ. If you are in Christ, you are anointed, appointed and chosen to go. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, it was meant for every believer to be His witness (Acts 1:8).

No one is excluded. This includes you and me.

To be His witness is different from “doing” witnessing. Some believers switch on their ‘outreach’ mode during outreach activities. Once the event has ended, they switch back to their ‘usual’ mode, which is their real self. Witness is a thing they do, not a thing they are.

When we know our identity, we stop waiting for another evangelistic service or outreach event – our whole life becomes the outreach.

And people can discern if you are truly loving them, or simply putting on “outreach behaviour”.

It is our desire to see believers walking in their identity 24/7 as sons and daughters of the most High, where there is only one consistent mode of living: Lifestyle Christianity.

When we know our identity, we stop waiting for another evangelistic service or outreach event. Our whole life becomes the ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18). Our whole life becomes the outreach. Our lives are constantly reaching people wherever we go and in whatever we do. It’s a lifestyle!

You can be reaching someone while you are getting the groceries in the supermarket. You can be reaching someone at your workplace. You can be reaching someone when you are in the elevator. You can be reaching someone wherever you go, as you go.

“And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:7-8)

Our ministry has seen thousands of people ministered to everywhere we go – in cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, foodcourts, malls, petrol stations, buses, trains, planes, Grab cars, elevators, toilets, over the phone with telemarketers … We’re bringing Jesus to the whole of Singapore.

We have seen multiple ailments healed: Spines straightened, deaf ears opened, myopia corrected, cancer removed, autoimmune disease gone, the lame walking.

Jesus has called every believer to represent Him (John 20:21) so that the world will encounter the love of the Father and be reconciled to Him (2 Cor 5:18). Jesus walked in authentic power and love throughout His life on earth. Everyone who came to Him was not only loved, but also healed and delivered (Matt 8:16-17).

The Cross is not a revelation of our sin. The Cross is a revelation of our sonship.

People often say: “But I’m not Jesus. I can’t walk like Him!” Well, while Jesus is God who came on earth to save us, He also came to show us how we can live like Him. He did not just die for us. He also died as us, so that we can be like Him.

The Cross is not a revelation of our sin. The Cross is a revelation of our sonship. Jesus died to restore our value and identity as His sons and daughters. But if we do not know who we are, we will not be able to live according to who He had created us to be.

We were created in His image. We were sons to begin with. By His perfect sacrifice, Jesus has redeemed us back to that position. Now He is calling us to represent Him.

To represent Christ is to walk like Him – both in character and in power. The world can walk in a measure of love but without power. The enemy can walk in a measure of power but without love.

But only we as believers can walk in both power and love.

When we know our identity, power and love will flow naturally out of who we are in Christ (Mark 16:17-18). This is not only reserved for the pastors, evangelists and leaders, or the fivefold ministers – we yearn to see everyday believers in Singapore awakened to their true identity as sons and daughters.

For Singapore to walk in her destiny as the Antioch of Asia, every believer has to participate. For there is no spectator in the Kingdom of God.

Christ in you is the Hope of Glory. Christ working through you is the manifestation of His glory.

When we realise who we are in Christ, we can represent Christ effectively to the world. When people see Christ in us, they encounter hope and turn to Him.

Wilson is part of the team that is hosting the School of Power and Love, founded by evangelist Todd White. The 3.5 day equipping school has been run more than 100 times in the States and other countries, and takes place for the first time on December 5-8, 2018.

Early bird pricing ends October 10, 2018. Register for it here.


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Do Good

Some save Batam: Taking the heart of Singapore beyond our shores

by | 8 August 2018, 4:58 PM

It’s barely 8AM and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal is already swarming with people. We’re there to catch the second earliest boat to Sekupang, Batam, where we’ll be visiting a community house in the slums called Noah’s Ark.

Taking us to Noah’s Ark is Isaac Ong, whose involvement in Channel 5‘s The Final 1 and The Voice (SG/MY) has increasingly put him in the spotlight over the years.

The youth director of Emmanuel AOG, who recently sang with S.H.E’s Hebe Tien on China’s Come Sing With Me, is no stranger to social media influence – he often speaks in various church circles and leads the FOPx worship team.

Isaac leading worship at FOPx Worship Night 2018

Isaac also happens to have bought the community house – which he refers to as an eco-learning shelter for the children who live in the slum – as part of his humanitarian work through Colours Global, a company he set up at just 23 years of age.

“I was in Batam with Habitat for Humanity, and one day when we were driving around we passed by all these schools that were not painted, and I thought to myself, it’ll be so easy to paint them – I could do that!” he tells this story with trademark candour.

“And I felt God speak to me then from The Message version of Matthew 5:14, that I was going to start a company to bring out the God-colours in the world.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” (Matthew 5:14)

“The second thing He told me was: ‘You’re going to buy a house’ – which I definitely didn’t have money for!

“So I asked for a sign if any of this was really from Him, and when I got into a cab on the way home a few days later, the song on the radio was ‘True Colours’! And that’s how I started Colours Global.”

Although there was no sign of “the house” for the next 5 years, Isaac wasted no time furthering his love for helping the less fortunate, partnering organisations such as the Singapore Girls’ Home and a non-profit in Batam that serves the children in over 40 slums.

Isaac spending time with little children in Batam (Photo credit: Isaac Ong)

From the outside, Isaac, who turns 30 this year, is easily a wonder boy of sorts with an unattainable track record for the regular Singaporean. But this assumption is quickly fading just an hour into our trip.

“When I say we, I often mean me!” Isaac confesses with a laugh when I ask him who’s the ‘we’ he keeps referring to with regards to all the work he’s been involved with.

“I went on a mission trip to the borders of Thailand and Myanmar at 17 years old and that’s where my eyes were opened and my love for the poor started.”

And it’s been one person’s show of love and kindness ever since. Mission trips across the poorest parts of Asia in between school terms, self-funded social movements to care for the marginalised in Singapore … Nothing extravagant – just simple acts of seeing beyond oneself.

Isaac on one of his mission trips overseas (Photo credit: Isaac Ong)

When we arrive at the port, he suddenly slips out of sight and returns with Rotiboy buns for all of us.

That’s where I realise that Colours Global is Isaac Ong.

Just one boy who’s made caring his career, be it caring for those in the media space where he’s also called to, caring for the hundreds of young people under his care in church, or caring for the child who runs up to him in a slum.

The good news is: Anybody can care. And for Singaporeans, all it might take is a 45-minute ferry ride.

A bird’s eye view of the slums on the outskirts of Batam

Noah’s Ark is just a small part of a bigger project to bring education to the slum children in Batam,” Isaac explains as we travel to the slum district. “The organisation Colours Global partners with has efforts in over 40 slums, where volunteer teachers get on bikes and ride into these villages to give tuition to the kids there.

“Most of the children who are born in these conditions don’t usually go to school – their parents expect them to help support the family. So they’ll grow up fishing, farming … But in more dire circumstances it’ll be illegal activities such as prostitution.”

It was 2 years ago, during one of his trips to Batam that Isaac was invited to view a slum house that his friends from the partner organisation were interested in buying.

One of the slum districts in Batam

“They didn’t know what God had told me about buying a house 5 years before that,” he recounts. “And they weren’t trying to get me to invest in it either, because they knew I barely had any money!”

Buying the house would have given them space to set up a permanent learning space in that slum, where children from that community and neighbouring ones could gather daily for enrichment lessons.

But for Isaac, this stirred something in him from the first time God had spoken about Colours Global: “You’re going to buy a house.”

The slum house, barely the size of a studio apartment, cost about SGD$3,500. That would mean sacrificing a majority of Colours Global’s funds – that is, Isaac’s main livelihood.

Noah’s Ark, the community house that sits by the river at the edge of the slum

“But I knew in my heart that it was the house,” Isaac says, conviction in his voice. “So when I got back to Singapore I immediately called them to say I was going to write a cheque to buy it – because if I took any longer, I might’ve changed my mind!”

So at the age of 28, just as God had said, Isaac Ong bought a house.

The moment we arrive at Noah’s Ark, the children start to trickle in. It’s Saturday morning, so there aren’t any programmes on, but they’re clearly used to gathering there with Rudy, one of the two Bible school students who lives there to serve the community full-time.

“We call it Noah’s Ark because it’s the last house on the edge of the slum that’s by the water,” Isaac shares as we toured the little house that had been thoughtfully painted with animals walking two-by-two.

The little community house that is Noah’s Ark

“It’s also a place where the children can find refuge when they are in trouble.”

Setting up Noah’s Ark is just a start on taking the education initiative in the slums to the next level. Since late last year, Isaac has been assembling teams from Singapore to come over to Batam to hold 2-3 hour children’s programmes – also called Noah’s Ark – at the 40 other villages.

“It’s like a travelling circus where the kids can come down and learn music, drama, arts and craft, play games, which exposes them to English and math … And the parents get to see how their children respond to learning.”

Isaac hanging out with the community children at Noah’s Ark

“Many used to be quite unwilling to send their children to school, so in turn the children think that school is boring and go out to work instead.

“But with this Noah’s Ark programme that we bring into their community, the children have so much fun and when their parents see that, they realise that education is important and good for their kids.”

That’s how he hopes to be part of a larger move of God to save these children off the streets, and one day out of the slums – into a greater hope and future.

It’s an invitation open to all Singaporeans, Isaac tells us. And as usual, he’s keeping it simple: Follow him on Instagram (@isaacong) and he’ll be posting details on participating in the Noah’s Ark tour very soon.

“What’s one ferry ticket and 45 minutes to come to Batam, right?”

Saying goodbye to the Noah’s Ark kids

As we say goodbye, the children take our hands in theirs, placing the back of our hands on their foreheads as a sign of respect.

Moved by all that I’ve heard from him today, I find myself returning the action, which startles the little girl who’s greeting me. “This is usually done to someone senior,” Rudy explains. Someone of a higher status. But that’s not who I am, or what I want to be seen as: In God’s Kingdom, I am no higher than anyone.

And this is the spirit Isaac walks in, whether he’s on stage or in the slums, which makes him the true voice of a generation: He’s always serving, always loving.

Always bringing out the God-colours in the world.


Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.


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by | 1 August 2018, 1:44 PM



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