Not all heroes wear capes. Meet the unsung heroes of our millennial generation who remain in the shadows, but are making a difference in their own unique ways – whether it’s defying gender roles in traditional trades, starting an eco-friendly movement, or contributing to a cause they deeply care about. These are their stories.
Lyn Ng, 26
“Woodworking is a tough skill to learn and many people may think that it’s a trade mostly for males. But throughout my time in the industry, I’ve come across many female customers who enjoy the hands-on experience of woodworking just as much. It’s like breathing new life into pieces of wood that people don’t want anymore, and that to me is the beauty of upcycling.
There are bound to be disadvantages being in a male-dominated field where machines and furniture may be deemed too heavy for us to handle. As a female carpenter, we just have to approach woodworking from a different angle and explore ways to ease the process of doing things. Taking on woodworking is definitely something I will never regret doing.”
Gary Lau, 27
“Growing up in a single-parent and low-income family was tough. My mum had to work two jobs, thus she lacked the time to supervise me. All my predicaments led me astray and I ended up being part of a gang. Seeing people with tattoos feared me, so I felt that having them would make me stronger. It wasn’t until I was sent to Boys’ Town that I gradually turned over a new leaf.
However, I don’t wish to hide my tattoos. They have taught me many valuable lessons and gave me a meaning to live. They have shown me the ugly and positive sides of the world; how people would see what’s on the outside than what’s on the inside. People tend to discriminate those with tattoos, but I feel that every youth has the right to make their own choices and we should respect that.
I, too, want to be a role model who can connect with people who come from similar backgrounds. Rather than being rooted by the expectations of others, I hope that they can grow as mature individuals and lead more fulfilling lives. In the future, I aim to run my own organisation to better engage youths at risk and create a more gracious, discrimination-free society.”
Melissa Lam, 26
“The Bamboo Straw Girl… is what people call me nowadays. My real name is Mel and I sell reusable bamboo straws under the alias @bamboostrawgirl. I was inspired to start cutting waste after meeting people working on organic farms, where they have to be conscious about their usage of everyday essentials like shampoo and detergent as these would directly affect the land they farm on. It made me think: what about us in the city? Don’t our actions somehow affect our land too?
My intention of producing bamboo straws is to get people talking. It’s an amazing conversation starter that gets them thinking about so much more than just straws. When I first started out, there was barely any interest. But gradually, people are getting more aware of environmental issues and I hope they will keep the conversation going.”
Seow Shi Jie, 19
“Being a volunteer at SPCA has been extremely rewarding for me in so many ways, as I have grown to understand animals so much more. I am also very grateful for the bond and companionship I have with them. When I first started volunteering, it was quite a challenge for me as I had little knowledge of animals and was actually afraid of big dogs. But over time, they showed me how loving and trusting they can be. I have found volunteering my time at the animal shelter very fulfilling and I hope more people will step forward to be part of a team that gives these shelter animals a second chance in life.”
Tan Ming Jie, 25
“I have always aspired to be involved with music professionally. Prior to this, I spent my teenage years writing and performing with my former bandmates. However, I soon came to the realisation that I am more comfortable writing and producing music for artistes behind the scenes than playing a show in front of a crowd. The downside to braving a road less travelled is that it can be a very lonely one; I often think about my peers socialising with their fellow colleagues while I sit in the studio alone.
Despite that, it never felt like I was sacrificing anything. I was fortunate enough to have found my calling at a young age which allowed me to begin paving my own journey towards a career in music. My family expressed their concerns initially, but with time, I was able to convince them that I’ve created a profitable avenue whilst doing something I love.”
Joshuah Lim, 22
“I loved the whole idea of storytelling ever since I was a kid, which got me into filmmaking. I’ve also had my personal battles with cancer, and as a young man knowing that I might die soon, it really humbled me. Not allowing myself to fall into despair, I’ve come to accept my condition and learned to fight alongside it.
I started working on my first short film Chiak shortly after having my bone marrow transplant, so the concept of not letting a disease define your identity really struck a chord with me. It’s about dementia and how we should accept our loved ones for who they are even in difficult times. The inspiration behind it was a mixture of my own experiences surviving cancer and my grandmother’s battle with dementia.
If I could create another production, I would love to do one that portrays the struggles of a primary school kid. In our society, I find that there are huge pressures placed on the next generation so it would be great to delve into the thoughts of a young mind.”
Amanda Tan, 33
“It has always been a natural thing for me to create. It started with doodles as a child, then photography and writings… and I never looked back. As an artist, exploring the idea of self, emotions and mentalism is something that comes naturally to me. “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” – these are fundamental questions we as human beings ask.
I have my own battles with anxiety and OCD. But here’s what I can tell you: it’s a double-edged sword. My conditions make me feel crappy and trapped, but it also makes me detail-oriented, hypersensitive to nuances of human communication at work, and helps me power through all kinds of ways of problem-solving. It’s my superpower. Through my exhibition The Deepest Blue as part of Breaking Waves, I hope to spark a conversation about the states in which life puts you in. We love to live in our own safety bubble; life is hard, but sometimes we just need to converse. Let’s discuss.”
This article was adapted from Teenage Vol.30 Issue 3, out on newsstands now!