Alan Soh aka Humourboi

I am my own columnist, publishing my thoughts!


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Breaking The Sound Barrier (Part 2)

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Breaking the SOUND barrier. Because there is NO you or them.

Through my NTU mentees, a journalist from TODAY came to knew about this project, and approached me to seek my inputs on questions he had about employment for deaf Singaporeans today.

1. What were some of the difficulties you faced during job hunt as someone who is hard of hearing? What was some of the feedback, or comments you heard from prospective employers? Has that changed, why or why not?
My response:
First and foremost, I am not born totally deaf. Hence I am not deaf mute.
I am born with a dead right ear, which means I still go to normal schools communicating with people with my left ear until the days when I was a student of ITE Bishan when I had bacterial infection in my left ear. As such I have to wear a hearing aid.
I am effectively bilingual. I can talk to anyone normally.
I did a cochlear implant surgery on my right ear in 2011.
At that point of time, I somehow knew that it will be MORE challenging, should I apply for jobs in future.
I am thankful that SG Enable and SPD employment support division provides me help.
Often in my younger days, I struggled with the dilemma of making my condition known in my CV to be submitted to employers. Because I am worried – Will it blow my chances of being granted a job interview? Being older now, I am more accepting of my disability and thus making it known in my job applications.
Frankly speaking, till today I hesitate to include phone numbers in job applications because what if I could not hear the recruiters well over the phone? Unless the mode of contact is via mobile text messaging.
Having said so, I still have to be honest about my hearing problem.
Interview sessions are for both parties to find out more about each other pertaining the job opening.
My method is – I try to be more comfortable, and perceive the potential employer “as a friend”, which it takes away the stress of “trying too hard to impress the other party”, and just be myself. The other party would also feel more comfortable. Words will come out freely and naturally. If the other party wishes to converse in Mandarin, I am able to switch effortlessly.
I try to do some small talk first to find something in common between us.
Once there is a common interest, there is rapport built and mood becomes more relaxing.
For sure, I must of course do some research on the employer before attending the interview so that I am able to answer his questions.
This is what I learnt from my journalism module when I studied Mass Communications at MDIS. The interview technique.
I guess, the little advantage which I think I have over other Singaporeans with similar condition is that, I can talk things upfront with employers during job interviews, telling them what I can or cannot do, things which interest me, my working style, experiences which I hope to gain etc.
The first question I always asked, is about communication aspect.
Questions like – Are you open to giving work instructions via emails or whatsapp? How often should we communicate face-to-face?
The feedback I got from employers, often is that “you look normal okay”, “you worry too much”, “nothing to worry about communication part since we can have a normal conversation like this”.
If I do not get the job, I would rather choose to think that I don’t fit the requirements than about my hearing disability. 
I don’t cry over spill milk. I just move on.
I sit down, reflect and do something about my employability skills.
This year I intend to upgrade myself academically so that I can deepen my existing knowledge and skills.
The most important thing is, the deaf individual should display a keen interest to learn something new and be humble.
Having that can-do spirit.
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2. What do you think employers today should change, in terms of hiring deaf persons, or persons who are hard of hearing? 
My response:
Like able-bodied Singaporeans, the deaf community have various talents and abilities.
Very often we Singaporeans tend to look at people, passing judgement first on what they cannot do. These days, we become very critical of others.
I urge everyone including employers to look at surrounding people on what they can do first.
This is the biggest take-away I gain, from my previous job at a social enterprise, interacting with special needs workers.
If we give them opportunities, they might surprise you sometimes. Many of them could be raw diamonds, having innate potential to go far in life.
There is always a solution to every problem, if we are willing to pause, and think harder.
Be open-minded.
Be willing to learn the various communication modes with the deaf and hard-of-hearing such as simple sign-language or using Whatsapp (thanks to mobile technology).
They cannot hear well. They are very visual. Employers can give simple instructions in the form of pictures.
Work processes can be redesigned in a way that these deaf employees can do what they are required to do, bypassing their limitations. 
A little job stress is however essential, to make them grow. No pain, no gain.
If they do something well, praise them publicly for job well done. This will further boost their self-confidence.
Best still after sometime, employer can send them for skills-grading courses to enhance their competencies and self-dignity; and with skills certification, they can command a higher take-home pay.
We also need more deaf role models to be highlighted in mass media.
Sharing their stories of how they overcome odds to become what they are today.
This is to change the perceptions of the deaf community in the eyes of employers and Singaporeans alike.

Singapore should be truly an inclusive society where we really LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND.

Let’s lift every Singaporean up together. 

3. Why do you think employers might not be overly keen on hiring deaf people? 
My response:
Very often I believe some employers might think that “they cannot hear, cannot listen to work instructions, need to always look after them, as such they cannot make it.”
Or they might perceive that all members of deaf community are lowly educated, have bad attitudes, cannot handle a single job well.
This is a very flawed perception of them. They can be further trained.
Many of them are nice people.
As such, “Breaking the Sound Barrier” project initiated by Wong Jia Rong and his team aims to correct any misconceptions about the deaf, hoping employers across all sectors in Singapore understand that these special Singaporeans have employable qualities too.
The only little issue is – they cannot hear you well.


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Do you tell MFA where you are going when going overseas?

mfa-eregister

First and foremost, this is not a blog entry to do any form of publicity for Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Rather, I see it as a form of generating more public awareness among Singaporeans.

How often, OR do you inform MFA where you are heading to prior to your overseas trips?

How many Singaporeans do that?

This could be the question posed by Ms Joan Pereira, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC during a Committee of Supply  (COS) debate for MFA in Singapore Budget 2017 during Parliament on Thursday 2 March 2017

Mr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for MFA replied, saying that many Singaporeans who travel overseas don’t bother to e-register with MFA. He added that there is a “big disparity” between 400,000 e-registrants and the 7.5 million outbound trips made by Singaporeans in 2016 – and this does not include the more than 16 million overland trips made to neighbouring Malaysia every year.

I may be hard of hearing. Yes I am not required to apply for any exit permit with Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) but I make it a point to e-register with MFA whenever going overseas. Why?

This is so that in the event of any life-threatening situation, MFA in Singapore has a way to locate me, and advises me what to do, be it phone-call/email or text messaging. This is very important especially if I am travelling alone.

Putting Singapore embassies or missions aside, do you know this is a FREE service offered by MFA to assist all Singapore citizens before they step out of the country?

It merely takes few minutes to do it online.

You may be heading overseas for work or studies. The information you provide to MFA will allow its relevant officials to contact you in order to make sure that you are safe and alright should anything happens during your period of overseas travel or stay, and offers you help. Wherever you are in the world.

Mr Maliki said, 8 out of 10 calls that MFA currently receives during emergency situations are from the next-of-kin of Singaporeans who did not e-register, Mr Maliki said.

He gave an example of a Singaporean in China who had not e-registered but later complained that MFA did not reach out to him after a disaster occurred.

Unfortunately, many Singaporeans don’t bother. They take many things for granted. Sigh.
Either they really don’t know about this or just see no need to do it. Or ermm..just lazy?

Personally speaking, although it is a voluntary act, I think this is a matter of personal responsibility. For myself and family members.

Well if anything happens, please don’t complain the Government doesn’t care.

This is the web portal URL for E-register service with MFA – click here.


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Helping people take flight in 2017!

taking-flight

It is a brand new year.

It is time for us to take charge of our lives, and strive to equip ourselves with new skills so that we can be independent and fly high.

A friend of mine has founded a new social enterprise called Taking Flight 启飞, which aims to help provide fair employment opportunities and personal development for disadvantaged youths in Singapore (which includes physically challenged, at-risk and those below the poverty line).

This is achieved through business process consultations with small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) to clearly identify portions of the value chain that could be undertaken by these Singaporean youths.

 

Together with the job match, Taking Flight will look to value-add to the persons in the following areas:

i) Personal Development (such as On-boarding, Workplace training, Continuing Education)

ii) Financial Development (such as Coaching/ Mentoring by experienced volunteers, financial literacy skills)

iii) Career Development

 

The social enterprise has currently started efforts in the financial industry to take on a few different roles starting March 2017. This pilot effort will provide part-time employment for a duration of 3 months before review and scaling.

Looking for Singaporeans or Permanent Residents who are:

– aged 18 years old and above,

– able to speak simple English with anyone outdoors,

– can be from disadvantaged families, physically-challenged, deaf, or youths-at-risks,

– IT savvy enough to use a smartphone or a tablet PC.

If you or know any fellow Singaporeans who have a keen desire to break out of their cycles to become someone strong and independent one day, would like to occupy free time slots to earn some income on part-time basis, this is the place for them to start embarking on a journey of personal transformation.

Working hours are flexible. The jobscope is doable and it pay wells.

The founder has more than 15 years of prior work experience in conceptualisation, implementation and reviewing of the Youth Sector Development Framework and establishing grant relations with many non-profit organisations in Singapore.

He is not looking at 20 individuals, in fact more than 100.

To find out more details via a non-obligatory chat over a cup of friendly coffee, or to express interest, you may e-mail me at alan.soh@hotmail.sg or Mr Yap Keng Hwee at yapkenghwee@yahoo.com.


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Quick Thoughts on LBGT

Pinkdot Singapore

He could not tolerate 2 men kissing, so the 29-year old man became angry and went on a shooting spree killing 49 fellow human beings who were in a gay bar in Orlando with a rifle gun. It happened this week.

What wrong did these people do to end up being killed tragically?

It chills me when I see there are people among us who cheered the shootings made by the American killer, thinking along the line that “oh these LGBT people really deserve to die, if only we can do the same to the same group of people here in Singapore”.

Why do we have people in this world who just could not accept differences among us?

 
Please allow me to see things in an objective viewpoint.
Who started the “war” in the first place? Very often, I think it is the non-LGBT group especially the very conservative ones with a religious perspective.
 
Group A don’t offend Group B, yet Group B keep attacking Group A.
It is natural that Group A would rebut back, seeking equal treatment actively.
 
This is because Group B cannot tolerate the existence of Group A.
(Of course I don’t deny the fact that there are some LGBTs who keep pushing the boundary line.)
 

Come on, we are all not saints.

 
Among people in the LGBT group, they could be our brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunties, sons, daughters, or very close friends. They did not offend you but are you going to end the relationship simply because of their sexual orientation?
 
Ask ourselves – are we willing to sit down and talk openly with them in the first place, seek to understand them without any pre-judgement? Are our eyes blinded by misconceptions? More importantly, do we respect and accept them for who they are? Are they friendly to you? Do you still love them the same as before?
 

It is regrettable that there are people in this world who just don’t understand the simple saying – “Treat others as how you would like to be treated”.

 
Many of us are not patient, and don’t listen enough to understand the other party. Some of us simply look at matters from our own perspective. Cannot give and take.
This explains why conflicts or wars still exist in many parts of the world today. 😦


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Inclusiveness. Perception.

A recent survey commissioned by Lien Foundation reveals that in these 1000+ respondents, only 1 in 10 Singaporeans is confident of interacting with a child with special needs. 50% of the adults polled are comfortable with having a child with special needs in their children’s class. And finally, only 8% of the people polled are willing to make a child with special needs feel welcomed.

What does it say about us? Why? Why this discomfort? Is it because of misconception, pre-judgement or stereo-typing? Thinking that people with special needs among us are “stupid”, “unable to contribute to society”, “always depending on others for help”, “can’t achieve much in life” or “better not to be seen and heard”? Why are there Singaporeans not walking the talk about inclusiveness in the Lion City?

In my course of work, my interactions with Singaporeans with special needs often made me go awe. Because I discovered some of them have hidden talents. Most importantly, these people are easy to get along with. They are very friendly people. I feel at ease talking to them.

We should focus at what these people can do, NOT what they cannot do. Like anyone of us, some of them are born with different gifts. From there, we can redesign job-scopes to cater to their strengths. They are a hidden pool of potential talents, if we give them opportunities to develop their abilities. They are raw diamonds.

I always believe disability happens only if I am disabled in the mindset, not my physical limitations. Of course people are entitled to their own opinions at the end of the day.
This is beyond my control.

At the end of the day, it is about our perceptions. How we see this special group of people. It is a matter of our willingness to understand these fellow Singaporeans with special needs.

Let us open our hearts and minds.  They might just surprise you with their abilities. 🙂


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Pre-Singapore General Elections 2015

Singapore Polls

Singapore 12th Parliamentary Term General Elections (GE) take place tomorrow 11 September 2015.

It is Cooling-Off Day today where all political parties are forbidden to do further campaigning in order to allow voters to calm down thinking rationally about their choice of vote.

All 89 Member of Parliament seats are contested. No walkovers.

29 electoral divisions. 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and 13 Single Representation Constituencies (SMCs). 24,000 first-time voters.

It is the day in which 2,460, 977 eligible voters including myself will decide and cast our votes at 832 polling stations. The day which we all have been waiting for (and yes, yayyy..another long weekend). You see, the Polling Day which falls on Friday 11 September 2015 is a declared public holiday.

Several months after founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s demise in March and the recent Golden Jubilee national celebrations, I believe this is going to be a GE closely watched by Singaporeans and political observers locally as well as internationally. After 8pm tomorrow, would we be seeing another watershed election results? I don’t know. But I have a gut feeling that the voting results could be “historic”.

The current GE campaigning news from various political parties are so electrifying, in my own words. Sparks fly. Political views are also expressed actively by netizens on social media platforms.

Given what we have seen in GE 2011, I think Singaporeans today have gained much political consciousness than before. Many of us understood that we are part of the Singaporean Family, thus having a stake or say in our country’s future via the ballot paper. Many schooling and working youths started having active discussions on national issues. As such, some of us somehow now believe strongly that they can effect a big social change through voting, by voting for credible opposition parties.

Sharing a post made by a friend in Facebook, she says there are 12 questions for us voters to think about.
1) Are you prepared to accept the possibility of a freak election result where the Opposition forms a coalition government since many people assume that there will always be enough people to vote the incumbent into government, thus it will still be safe to vote for opposition? Your vote could be the swing.
2) Will you be comfortable for the current slate of Opposition candidates to speak on Singapore’s behalf at international affairs/functions and forums? Can any of the current opposition candidate be able to make us proud like Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman during his recent interview at St Gallen?
3) Why do the Opposition mostly focus on domestic issues and not international matters? Are they only capable of handling domestic issues? What are their views on world affairs as Singapore is very dependent and vulnerable to her external environment? Will they be able to engage and talk in depth with other world leaders and business leaders?
4) Are you confident that the Opposition can continue to maintain our existing good international relationships with other nations, especially given the sensitive relations with our neighbours and the big countries? How will they handle the haze from Indonesia and the water issue from Malaysia etc? They cannot conveniently tagged on the solutions already provided if the incumbent party is voted out of government.
5) Is it so important to have a different voice in Parliament just for the sake of it regardless of the quality and credibility of that voice? Does this voice truly speak for the people or merely to serve their personal agenda or grudges against the ruling party?
6) Are you looking at the big picture or do you only care about the details? If Singapore does not have enough water for its people, do you think we will still be sitting here complaining about MRT service breakdowns? Without existing framework of stable and strong government, social harmony, economic prosperity, do you think you will still complain about foreign workers? We might have to be foreign workers ourselves.
7) What are some of the knee jerk reactions if the ruling party is voted out of the government? Probably market will react, foreign funds will flee Singapore immediately, our Singdollar currency might lose its value and our investments will drop. Do you think investors will risk their money and wait for the new government to prove itself? No investor likes a politically unstable country. Look at Malaysia. As soon as a whiff of a political unrest is detected, the ringgit went into a free fall.

8) Why do you want to give your vote to a new and unknown candidate who did not even contribute to the community before and yet penalize the person who has been serving the community through grassroots work? Have he or she earned it? Some candidates only appear every 4-5 years when election fever comes.
9) It is very easy to be popular by saying what people want to hear and promise to give more, but it is even more courageous to implement the right policies for the nation long term and be unpopular short term. Nobody like to be the one to give hard truths but someone has to do it.
10) Is there a perfect government in this world? Ask yourself – why are countries sending their diplomats to study from a small little red dot if our government didn’t get most of it right?
11) Do you want a paralyzed parliament which is often bogged down with bickering over short term national issues to gain political points from voters? You need a government with foresight and do long term planning. Marina Bay, Changi Airport expansion, PSA ports etc cannot be built in a one election cycle. Do you think a weak government fighting for political survival will have the time for these long term projects?
12) Why do we have to keep striving to be among the best of the best in the world? Would other nations or MNCs or investors bother with Singapore if we are just mediocre? There are so many big cities around the world with many natural and human resources, so how does Singapore stand out if we are just average? What captures the world’s attention about Singapore? As our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loonghas said, the work is never done, there are still many more peaks to scale. Can we afford to remain stagnant and be complacent as a little red dot?

I feel that election votes are not really meant for individuals to express their unhappiness towards the Government whatsover. They are actually meant to be a representation of the Member of Parliament (MP) you want to help taking care of you and your neighbourhood areas, the MP whom you want in Parliament debating government policies as well as potentially a Cabinet minister who would have to head a ministry, or represent Singapore overseas at official functions.

More importantly, the vote you cast is about the ideals of country leaders whom you want to lead Singapore forward. Is it about capability or track record? No. Is it about the leader who make great speeches? No. It is about choosing the right people who have decided to sacrifice their personal time, stepping forward willingly to serve you, their fellow Singaporean.

It is about the attitude and the heart.

For Singapore. For all Singaporeans, present and future generations.

For US, the world was never the same again after 11 Sep 2001. Wheras for Singapore, the world might never be the same after 11 Sep 2015?

We shall see the results tomorrow. 😉


Latest Note (13 Sep 2015):

A total of 2,304,331 votes were cast by Singapore electorate, of which there were 2,257,016 valid votes and 47,315 rejected votes.

In this election, there were 9 political parties contesting, namely People’s Action Party (PAP), Workers’ Party (WP), National Solidarity Party (NSP), Reform Party (RP), People’s Power Party (PPP), Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Singapore People’s Party (SPP), and Singaporeans First Party (SingFirst). And 2 independent candidates as well.

The ruling party PAP had a landslide victory, winning 69.9 percent of the valid votes – the best performance since 2001 and a 9.8 percent surge from the 60.1 percent it got in GE 2011 when it lost Aljunied GRC to WP, an opposition party. It confirms a two-third majority in Parliament.

PAP has won back Punggol East SMC which was formerly under WP in the Punggol East By-elections 2013.

The overall poll results were quite a surprise for many Singaporeans including myself.

Here is a quick glance at the vote results. (News Source: Channel NewsAsia.)

An overall view of Parliament seats won in Singapore General Elections 2015.

An overall view of Parliament seats won in Singapore General Elections 2015.

Party share of votes in the constituencies contested in Singapore General Elections 2015.

Party share of votes in the constituencies contested in Singapore General Elections 2015.


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The Great Hello Kitty Craze

While the haze is still ongoing, there is another great thing happening among Singaporeans in Singapore.

People living in the Little Red Dot are madly in love (are they?) over a toy cat with no mouth.

Macdonalds started its 4th time promotion — selling a series of 6 Fairy Tales Hello Kitty toys on 30 May 2013. This marketing promotion coincides with the current June school holidays meant for primary and secondary school students.

Macdonalds did the very first Hello Kitty promotion in 1996.

For this current promotion, as long as a customer buys an Extra Value Meal set, he or she is entitled to purchase the soft toy at S$4.60 each. The maximum number of the toy sets each person can buy is 4.

Fairy Tales Hello Kitty

Since the beginning of the June school holidays, many youngsters are crazy over it. The haze which begun a week ago, did not deter many from going all out to get their hands on the soft toys.

Since the 1996 promotion, hundreds and thousands Singaporeans are crazy over the toy. 

Due to these Hello Kitty toys being limited edition ones, sad to say, quite a number of Singaporeans today have become profit-driven black market re-sellers.

These opportunist buyers purposely went buy many sets at the very first sale day of each toy, to re-sell them to other people at a higher price. They understood that if there is supply, there will be demand for it. They knew that there will be others who are genuine collectors, desperate enough to be willing to spend $$$$ to get their hands on these Hello Kitty toys. Thus these Singaporeans will re-sell the soft toys on various internet forums whatsoever.

Imagine this – A S$4.60 Hello Kitty selling at S$150 or more on the black market. Ridiculous.

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Unbelievable, isn’t it?

They deny the genuine collectors the opportunity to buy the Hello Kitties.

Perhaps you the reader might say, well that is human nature. Yes, I do agree with that. We will see such kind of people wherever we go, wherever we are.

Singaporeans are very kiasu (scared to lose). If they know that the 24-hour Mcdonalds outlets are selling them at 12midnight, you will see them start queuing as early as 8pm or 9pm. For other outlets which sell them at 6am in the morning, you will then see Singaporeans willing to queue overnight for the toys, be it rain or haze.

In addition, these young Singaporeans will use their smartphones to call their friends, use their private cars/motorbikes to drive around to go check out “the whichever Macdonalds outlets which have the shortest queues” and get friends or family members to jump in the queue. =P

Within 1-2 hours of the sale (be it 12midnight or 6am), the Hello Kitties at the fast-food restaurants are sold out completely. So it was a “game of who start to queue the earliest” in order to buy the Hello Kitties.

hello kitty1

The above picture is taken at 3am yesterday. Of the Macdonalds outlet which is located just opposite my block of flats. To me, this is insanity.

Haha. I didn’t go queue for it because I am not drawn to this marketing promotion.

Crazy people, isn’t it?

And being unhappy over the issuing of queue number coupons and the number of Hello Kitty toys one buyer can get, you see some unreasonable ugly Singaporeans hurling abuse at the restaurant staff. Worse still, you will also see people buying the Mcdonalds set meals, only to throw the food away into the dustbins — just to get the toys! @@

My goodness. I am sad that there are fellow Singaporeans who are like that.

Furthermore, they are causing inconveniences to people like me who want to go there to have a just simple decent meal. Awwwwww….

Because of profits, McDonalds brought in the toys thus resulting in “ugly war among us”.  They said these are limited edition ones, zooming in at the kiasuism mentality among Singaporeans..

I understand people might hate me for saying this but I feel I must say this.

I strongly urge the senior management of McDonalds (SG) to STOP all these Hello Kitty toy promotions in future. Please don’t bring them in anymore. No more Hello Kitty!

It brings out the worst and ugliness of humanity in Singaporeans, many of whom are profit-driven. And no basic reasonable manners towards McDonalds outlet frontline staff when emotions run high.

If McDonalds (Singapore) senior management don’t know how to implement well-thought preventive measures, then I say —  they might as well don’t bring in these soft toys anymore. Please. No more Hello Kitties in future. 

Ever since that disastrous 2nd Hello Kitty promotion in year 2000, haven’t the Marketing Team of McDonalds Singapore learnt their lessons?!?!?! @@ *roll-eyes*

Go see the Facebook Page of McDonalds Singapore. Many netizens are lambasting at it for not taking enough measures to prevent black market re-sellers, and create fair buying.

Such madness. All thanks to this fast-food restaurant for bringing in a toy cat with no mouth. Since 1996.

See how some of us Singaporeans have become, for the sake of getting the toy? Sacrificing sleep, getting all agro with each other, getting the police involved, and antagonising the poor restaurant outlet managers. Why?

:/ *shakes head in dismay*