#HI2020: One Bag at a Time With Jaslyn Quek and Victoria Neo

Hindsight is 2020 (#HI2020) is a ground-up initiative founded and led by SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business Class of 2020 graduate Jessica Lee Yi Ling. In this series, she uncovers personal stories of resilience, courage, and love amidst the crazy year that was 2020. Through the reflections and learnings shared in #HI2020, she hopes to empower internship and job seekers to improve their status quos and encourage aspiring entrepreneurs and volunteers to pursue their passions in 2021.

 


 

By Jessica Lee, Alumna, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

 

They often say that two are better than one, and it rings true with these two; when Covid-19 led to the pair taking a rain check on their personal plans, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business Final Year students, Jaslyn Quek and Victoria Neo chose to become rays of sunshine to over 300 elderly through their project, #STAYSAFEAHMA.

Here are three key things you will learn:

  1. We can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone.
  2. Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.
  3. Great people do things before they are ready.

 

Share with me one thing that people don’t know about your #STAYSAFEAHMA partner.

Jaslyn: Victoria takes time to warm up to people so she may seem all quiet and mild. And because she carries herself well, she exudes the “It Girl” aura, so people quickly get intimidated. She is actually very caring and affectionate! People also do not know that she has a heart for the elderly and enjoys doing community service. She is also a huge fan of drag culture and can braise a duck.

Victoria: When people look at Jaslyn, they probably think that she’s very cool and nonchalant about life. In actual fact, she’s super kind and one of the bubbliest people I’ve ever met. She’s a joy to have around!

 

2020 was a crazy year for everyone. How has Covid-19 affected you professionally and personally?

Jaslyn: I attended school and completed an internship from home, which were entirely new experiences for most of us. It was a time of emotional and mental adjustments as we navigated uncertainty. I learnt to be kinder to myself and consider that as personal growth. In retrospect, I feel like it was a fruitful year for me. I believe in experiencing some struggles and tough times in life in order to come out stronger. I had a lot of time to be alone with my thoughts and it feels like I did more overall.

Victoria: I was looking forward to my Exchange experience in Barcelona but it got cancelled. My internship was also affected as the role I applied for was involved heavily in brand activations and events which couldn’t happen. Job market was bad too. However, during this period, Jaslyn and I managed to start our own small start-up, Kiholo Club, a beach lifestyle label.

 

During circuit breaker, the two of you also founded #STAYSAFEAHMA. Share with us the back story.

Victoria: One night over dinner, my father shared about a migrant worker he knew who was struggling and stuck in Singapore due to the pandemic. That story made me feel that I had to do something for the people who were hit hard by the pandemic and were in need of help. I then reached out to Jaslyn and we started putting plans in place together to help the elderly, whom we both have a soft spot for. Growing up, both of us were very close to our grandmothers, who taught us the importance of love. Hence, we decided on the group as beneficiaries for our cause.

 

“We felt compelled to roll out a project we could call our own, take care of these seniors and let them feel recognised for their continued contributions during the pandemic.”

 

Jaslyn: In my case, I was experienced with community service and helping the elderly. With the elderly in our community being vulnerable to Covid-19, some of them still needed to work due to their financial situations. Knowing this, we started diving deeper into figuring out what the elderly need and how we could help. We felt compelled to roll out a project we could call our own, take care of these seniors and let them feel recognised for their continued contributions during the pandemic.

 

How was the response like from your family, friends and the larger community?

Both: This was our first time starting a social initiative of our own. It was overwhelming but we felt so gratified. So many people wanted to do their part and help in various ways—lending a hand, donating items in kind and monetarily. It goes to show that people just needed a platform that speaks to them to take action. The response exceeded our expectations; while we had aimed to raise $2,000 in one week, we managed to raise close to $10,000 in just three hours.

We were also pleasantly surprised to receive media coverage from CNA, independent media Crazycat, and even in SMU newsletter Campus Buzz as well as Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Urbanwire.

 

Tell us about your most memorable #STAYSAFEAHMA experiences?

Victoria: The priceless reactions from the elderly—seeing their smiles made all the hard work worth it.

Jaslyn: I share the same sentiments as Victoria. It was heartening to watch other initiatives sprouting and people coming to us for mentorship, proving that doing good causes a ripple effect.

 

What are some lessons you’ve learnt and gained co-running this project?

Victoria: Communication is very important when running a project with a partner. And although things may seem tough or difficult, the payoff will definitely bring about satisfaction.

Jaslyn: A team is one unit. It’s crucial that both parties in a team can

  1. Vocalise limitations and be honest with the other about it
  2. Trust and care for each other
  3. Rectify situations and move forward together.

 

What are some misconceptions that you think people have about starting a social initiative?

 

“Everything will flow naturally if your conviction stems from the root of your being.”

 

Both: It is not as complicated and tough as you imagine. Your reason for wanting to start a project and the conviction to follow through are essential. Hold on to that, stand your ground and don’t let the naysayers get to you. Everything will flow naturally if your conviction stems from the root of your being. Don’t stop, you may not know it yet but you’re impacting this world! Just do it—even if it may seem small, it’ll impact at least one person and that is enough.

 

Do any of you have experience volunteering beyond activities organised by the school? Tell us more about them.

Jaslyn: I’ve volunteered in the arts scene, at equestrian therapy at Equal Ark (elderly pillar, which promotes emotional and mental wellness for elderly who have depression or dementia), marathons, independent projects by friends and at many other events. Many places could do with an extra pair of hands and will be happy to have you if you’d just ask!

 

Comparing the 2019 and 2020 versions of you, how do you think you’ve changed or grown?

Jaslyn: I’ve definitely learnt to slow down.

Victoria: I think I’ve matured and my outlook in life has also changed.

 

As the final interviewees for #HI2020, share with us your takeaways from 2020 that you are applying in 2021.

  1. Take care of yourself and the people around you.
  2. We can never be prepared enough.
  3. Focus on and invest in good energy and be unapologetic about having to discard the negative.

 

 

This article has been adapted from LinkedIn for republishing on The SMU Blog with permission. Learn more about Hindsight is 2020 here.

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