[refer to inspire#8: Buying Happiness (Mak CK)]
I think of the times when I was back in pre-university. Class of about 15 people? I could barely recall details of class, years and so on, but i cannot forget the stories and the people and just some extra special moments. I shared with CK (as I continue to address him) just recently as we reconnected on email how I didn’t enjoy most of school. Not just the days in Junior College, but I did all I could to be creative with my time-table – not your model student. My saving grace was I could write. I could write and write and write about anything (as you can evidently see here). And I had very awesome friends who were generous enough to share their notes for classes i would miss in the college years to come then. So in short, to most peers, i was academically-able. I was mostly, very, very bored and perhaps, …even angry. Questioning life, existence and just the fairness (or lack of) in this world. That was a very strange stage in my life. Which now, that i look back, formed an important foundation to who I am today, and my constant instinct to feel an immense gratitude to every little thing in my God-given life.
Mak, as he now signs off, or, Chun Kit, as I knew him from our school days, was one of those elusive types to someone as myself. …Possibly because i never reached out. In school there was an orientation game (i think), called ‘Angel & Mortal’. Everyone picked a ticket and you were then assigned an Angel (guardian, someone who took care of, i suppose) to someone as you are also to a Mortal (who gets taken care of) to someone else. And the same for everyone so everyone had this duty to take care of another, and a chance to be pampered, in that sense. And the only rule to the game is you were not to reveal your identities until the end of the term or year. I say I have awesome friends, because I was so removed from my class community that I literally forgot to write to my Mortal. And guess who that was, yes it was Mak. I think for that reason, he couldn’t guess who on earth it was. He doesn’t remember most of it. Whew. But he also doesn’t remember how he gave me a pass for attendance in Astronomy club even though i never quite turned up. Just so I could pass and move on without our form teacher Mrs Ho from getting too upset with me, again. I don’t know for sure actually, i think it might be selective memory… in embarrassment of my lack of interest in school altogether.
Anyway, what happened after those 2 years in school?
We all graduated i suppose. My burning questions never were answered, and now i know why they aren’t important, or relevant to my existence. In that wilderness, somehow I found my purpose. And i suppose we all did too. Mak as you see in his interview that he had discovered his ‘calling’ early in his life. And I got signed as a singer with a recording company, went to Taiwan, came back, discovered my horse-shoe birth defect, resolved the contract, co-founded a music school, performed in theatre, events, weddings, released my album in 2010, travelled about Asia to tour White Noise’s music with my husband, then settled in Perth just in the last half a year or so. (The long story short anyway.) Our other classmates, Sam, Leslie, Josephine, Linda, Adele, Yane… occasionally we would meet now and then but Mak and I had never crossed paths until this crowd-funding campaign for Buying Happiness.
The first time I realised he was somewhat in Singapore was when his film ‘Little People Big Dreams‘ was first aired on Channel News Asia (SG). I was so impressed with the movie I had to see the credits. And then yes, the badabing when i saw his name. Now Mak CK isn’t exactly uncommon, so i wasn’t exactly sure. But my husband and I sat watching this, so disturbed, angry, and sad and slightly wasted from confused tears, and it left a huge impression on us… We had just returned from China, we knew from the tone of the film where the director was coming from. It was a successful and skilfully-directed documentary. Personally I have a deep abhorrence for over-sensationalism in documentaries. Which is why i am so careful with taking my time finding a well-meaning (heart), well-informed (smart, equipped) and wwll-directed documentary film. (You know for eg. the difference if you love nature documentaries, and why David Attenborough is THAT good). A writer with a pen, a painter with a paintbrush, a singer with her/his song, and a filmmaker with his camera (and a good team), has the power to make a point, thwart, or un-make one. What made me stop in the whirl of activities over that short stay in Singapore and sat down in front of the telly, was that brilliant balance Mak struck in making his point. Full of heart, but full of understanding at once. Where it required highlighting, there was courage and even boldness. Where it required no more, there was that perfectly unspoken-ness, better than silence. The social issues he highlighted were important, but yet you could see, he understood in necessity too. I saw this as a film that might be from a certain soul I had come to know in the past. As I recall from school, Mak had that sort of sensitivity, and brilliance and definitely that unassuming quiet confidence when he is on to something. Even from afar, I was convinced that there was familiarity from the note in that film. That was when i started noticing ‘his’ work. Not until these few months did i start seeing pictures of him when he worked on his crowdfunding campaign ‘Buying Happiness’. That was when I wrote to him. It was an awkward place to start. For a start, how did Chun Kit become Mak, … and the stuff one reads on wikipedia which I was later informed by Mak that he wasn’t aware of such an entry. I wrote to say hello but also to express my deep interest in this project and my desire to help. (You can too. Write to: email@example.com) And it was really nice to check in to class again. :)
I could see why when we look at numbers, logistics, our eyes are placed on knowledge not understanding. That ‘cliche of poverty’ that the film seeks to tackle can only be successful if the veil of facts was removed, and we saw John get out of trouble with legislation, Upendo whipping up a client’s hairdo, Happiness putting those wonderful embroidery on the pillows… and so on… but as long as we had no time, no time to open our heart, to listen to these stories as we did as children with nothing else in this world, we can’t feel, and it becomes a piece of unfortunate news on your twitter feed over bak chor mee (Singaporean -classic cuisine, minced-pork noodles), or that small talk over happy hour beer, or at family conversations sandwiched with who’s with who and whose baby is turning 1. And then they are forgotten like dust in the wind. And their non-existence as real as before you heard the news. So, watch it. Watch the trailer. Listen to what John has to say. Empathy is the first step. And then compassion. Just as faith is only applicable when one believes before he sees, an opportunity for the orphans can and must come with our belief, our fund, our help, our prayer before it could even happen, and of course, as with everything else, they have to decide. My heart is going to these 9 orphans over these 3 years. But. They will need more than 3 years, it is their journey. Mak, understands this, and is using this opportunity to do more than just for his friends. I feel for this strongly because above all, these social issues at large persist, and without our hearts’ awakening to care, and knowing our power and voice to make a difference, it won’t happen. In fact, like a disease these cliches deepen over time as habit and tradition perhaps, and become so difficult to be undone. The film will tell the story as it is from our response to care, to give, or to ignore.
If you are a Christian, I beseech you think of James 2:14. And if you are not, then you have nothing stopping you to move into action if you first feel.
I end of this article with an excerpt from BuyingHappinessFilm.com and a quiet prayer.
‘Some believe that aid has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty. While others recognise that much of this aid works, but it is often conducted in an extremely expensive and inefficient way.
“Just give the poor cash” is an old refrain. But new evidence produced by groups ranging from nonprofits to the World Bank suggests that giving cash grants to the poor are as helpful, or even more effective, when it comes to reducing poverty. Data contradict familiar concerns that men drink their cash away, that the uneducated poor struggle to make sound decisions, and that handouts make people ever more dependent on aid. Studies have shown that the world’s poorest people do not squander cash, even when there are no strings attached.
Aid is a global issue that is more timely now than ever before. Donors and volunteers question the effect of their contributions. Corporations, nonprofits, research groups and even politicians are divided on aid practices.
The film confronts viewers with their actions or inactions when it comes to aid.’
The first funds will go directly to the 9 orphans from the orphanage in Tanzania, to help them kickstart their ‘new lives’. The rest is dependant on many, many things. Mak will film their processes over 3 years. With or without our help, the film will be a powerful instrument in revealing something about the aid industry. But you do have that much power even in your inaction, and are never so removed that you couldn’t make a difference.
But. I’m rooting for each and everyone of them.
Thank you Mak, so proud of you, classmate of 95A02, NJC.
[refer to interview with Mak, inspire#8: Buying Happiness (Mak CK)]