Entering into 2017 has to be one of the strangest experiences in my life, and I suppose it must be so for many people as well. Firstly, 2016 zipped by at lightning speed for me – the fastest year that I can recall. Secondly, the world apparently has turned upside down, with tumultuous events happening in Europe, the USA and even our side of the world. Many of these events are truly beyond words. Even as I write, the quarrels in the USA relating to the newly-elected President continue with bizarre twists and turns that are truly unprecedented. Who knows what is around the corner for all of us? In uncertain times like these, I have often been asked how we prepare for them. Just this afternoon, a young university student doing a research paper asked me how we manage uncertainties in the economy since they would result in a lower amount of donations. I told him that “we simply manage”. He did not look too impressed. While it is true that we attempt to mitigate some of the uncertainties by working towards a financial reserve, being careful with our spending and others, being a charity simply means that we have very little control over such matters. If one is in business, one can still go out and attempt to profit off whatever products or services one provides; but in charity, we are at the receiving end of the game.
The demand for our work is not dependent on economic or other external circumstances at all. Whether the world prospers or languishes, the people we serve remain in need of help. The HIV+ woman that I just visited last week who was living in a ragtag hut beside the river, occupying the land illegally in Battambang, Cambodia, would remain desperately poor, and ignorant of the outside economic or political circumstances. That old man living alone in a bedbug-infested one-room flat in Bukit Merah would still be bitten by bedbugs every night, regardless of who is in power in the USA or even in Singapore.
In the face of all the uncertainties, we simply plough on with our work, pushing on, solving the problems one at a time. In a strange sense, our work gives my co-workers and me a sense of peace. We know that the need will always be there, it will always be overwhelming, and it will always demand the best from us. I suppose the issues we deal with are as old as humanity itself. So we do not fret about the uncertainties too much; we simply move on and keep chipping at the giant block of wood named ‘Poverty’.
To this end, we have very exciting plans for 2017. We are working towards a very substantial collaborative project with Habitat Cambodia, the details of which are still being planned. We are expanding our existing operations, bringing in many new co-workers to help us reach out to more people. We are looking at new projects, new solutions, and new strategies, all to make a serious dent in the old problems of humanity.
What a God-given privilege it is for us to be able to say that we are given the job of making this world a better place. No matter how the world changes, we will keep working at making it better for all.