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Sunday, October 17, 2021
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Can a pen change a child’s life?

For the children at Riverkids in Cambodia, a letter can make a bigger difference than you think, says Dale Edmonds.

The letters come in one by one, until there are enough to fill a courier packet to Cambodia, each one with a name and a number carefully written in the corner to make sure they’ll get where they’re needed, translated and hand-delivered to children who don’t have mailboxes or sometimes even homes, children who have never received a letter in their lives until now.
These are the first letters from new mentors: people who are giving a little time and love each month to write to a child they’ve been matched with at Riverkids.
Seeing how much a child concentrates on her letter back to her mentor tells us that every word means a lot to her. For children who are struggling at school and home, our tender words of encouragement will help them go very far in their education journey and succeed in life.
We now have 140 children waiting for a mentor to be matched. Can you be a mentor for one of them?

Yes. Our kids keep every letter, read them over and over and are eager to write back. For almost all of them, this is the first piece of mail they’ve ever received. Knowing someone in another country cared about them enough to write a letter and, most of all, that that person wants to know about them is a big deal to our kids, who are used to being ignored by the world.

Nope. You just have to be kind. You don’t have to be a brilliant writer, or know lots about Cambodia or even children. You’ll just need a working pen and a coffee break to write a letter once a month. We’ll send reminders and keep track of letters so you don’t even have to be organised! Just write with kindness.


Close, but with a twist. Because our kids all come from families struggling with really difficult problems, we think very carefully about how we match you to a child. Shared interests like football, a child’s dreams of becoming a nurse, being the youngest in the family – we look for shared elements to build a friendship on. For the child receiving your letter, you’re special because you’ve been chosen just for them.
The $55/month mentorship fee does help a lot, but it doesn’t go directly to your child so that children who don’t have mentors get the same help and support too.


Email dale@riverkidsproject.org and we’ll get you sorted out. There’s a short form to fill out and we’ll call you to go over some questions about what your interests are, so we can figure out which child would be the best match to you. Then we’ll send you a welcome pack with their first letter and everything you need to get started.

Absolutely! We love matching families – the letters are a wonderful experience to share with children.
We prefer not to do direct age matches, but look for shared interests like football or reading, so the children have lots to share.

That’s exactly why we need mentors like you so our children have a safe place to ask for help.
All the letters are read by us to look out for worrying problems like this. We’ll help the child first, then update you with advice on helpful things to say in your next letter.
Often, what they need is simply to be heard: ‘You miss your mum a lot. I’m thinking of you, and I hope she comes home soon too.’
So get in touch, and see what you can do with just a pen and paper to help a child, and how much it will mean to you.



Foodie Motorbike Tour – Saigon

Combining both elements of wonderfully fresh Vietnamese food and overwhelming traffic, a foodie motorbike tour of the city is a great way of exploring Ho Chi Min City, formerly known as Saigon. Kathy Chamberlain and her party of five paired up with a friendly vibrant all girl group of twenty something year old guides to join the throng of Saigon motorbike traffic.

Surprisingly the evening turned out to be a highlight of our Vietnam trip. We used ‘Saigon Food Tour’ a tour company which has a uniform of bright yellow shirts and helmets and for our tour the guides just happened to be all female. Using their own bikes the pack was an assortment of 100CC motorbikes and step throughs and on friendly introduction we were handed our own pillion yellow helmet . I must admit (sorry guys) that for me, the girl power element removed a certain sense of risk taking associated with the situation.

With motorcycles and scooters the most prevalent means of transport in Vietnam, accounting for 95 per cent of registered vehicles, motorbike traffic is overwhelming. For a tourist pedestrian just crossing the road can be a death defying feat. As a Vietnamese motorbike rider amongst the traffic (surgical) face masks are the norm to protect against breathing difficulties from fumes and sun exposure. In this instance my guide Lee left her mask at home so she could give a commentary and make conversation whilst skillfully negotiating the ‘no road rules in crazy peak hour crush’ traffic environment.

With the 50 kmph speed limit, the peak hour mass generally traverses the city at 30-40 kmph but in the organised chaos there are no road rules except keeping to the right. If as a driver you feel a need to cut several metres off a corner into the oncoming erratic flux or mount the footpath in order to find a quicker route then so be it. Despite a couple of breathtaking moments we all felt that we were in good hands and found it to be an exhilarating experience.

The girls took us past the major city landmarks such as the Independence Palace, HCM City Hall and Post Office, Ben Thanh market, Notre Dame Cathedral and through the cross city tunnel which runs underneath the Saigon River. We made 2 foodie stops nominated beforehand with payment of the tour, the first of which was a café where we assembled our own delicious Vietnamese pancakes. Seated at a long table with our friendly guides interspersed among us, we were given an explanation of the various herbs featured in our dish and our questions regarding Vietnamese everyday life were answered.

Second stop was the BBQ cafe where various protein forms, one of which was ‘goat breast’ (goat udder) were ‘barbequed’ by our guides on a ceramic roof tile on our table. We also sampled a lovely lemongrass cocktail and an assortment of ‘sweet soups’ (dessert).

For the US$50pp spent we were well satisfied with the tour which lasted about four hours. It gave us an opportunity to connect with English speaking local people, was culturally enlightening and very entertaining.



Five local music acts worth checking out

Want to get your music fix in Singapore but don’t know where to start? Check out five of our favourite local music acts – fresh from the September issue of ANZA Magazine.

Pictured: Obedient Wives Club



Once a part of local hip-hop groups Urban Xchange and Parking Lot Pimp, and also making up one half of local electronic duo Octover, Vanessa Fernandez now releases music under the moniker Vandetta, traversing electronic and R&B genres. Check out the track ‘Fly’ from her EP released last year, which was constructed using only her voice (including the backing beat) and even caught the attention of US music website Pitchfork. Some may also know Fernandez as a radio personality from local stations 98.7FM and more recently Lush 99.5FM.





Forming in 2011, the provocatively named Obedient Wives Club has been making a name for itself in the Lion City for the last three years. Fans of Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls will enjoy their summery, fuzzy-pop sounds.





Lush-sounding local rock band Monster Cat recently travelled to Sydney to record their latest release, The Violet Hour, with renowned Aussie record producer Tim Carr (known for his work with the likes of Matt Corby, The Cat Empire, Julia Stone and even Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers).





Local producer and beatmaker Fauxe is hard to pin down, with his tunes defying genres from each release to the next. He may only have been around for a short time, but that hasn’t stopped this mysterious music-maker from releasing three EPs last year and another in March this year.





With its layered, math-rock sound and sweet vocals, experimental indie band Atlas has been growing its following over the last few years. Earlier in the year the band played at Singapore’s biggest indie music festival Baybeats, and has showed no signs of slowing down since. One to watch out for.



Redefining Community Giving

In strategic partnership with Community Foundation of Singapore, Taproot Foundation and UBS, Empact is proud to announce our first series of events on redefining community giving.

This is the series for you, if you are:

1. An HR professional, overseeing leadership and talent development in your organisation

2. A CSR or community investment professional, overseeing the community support that your corporation offers

3. The head of a social organisation looking at how to work with the changing trends in corporate giving

4. A philanthropist/foundation representative looking at innovative ways of supporting the community

5. An individual looking at new ways of contributing to the community in a sustainable and effective manner

The series comprises the following elements:

• a one-day conference, aimed at raising awareness of wider community giving and developing participants understanding of what this looks like in practice. This included case studies from organisations who are already engaging in wider community giving, especially in offering skills-based volunteering/pro bono service

• half-day workshops, for corporations and social organisations, which will equip participants with the practical tools and knowledge needed to embed skills-based volunteering/pro bono service into your organisation

• a study to explore the state of awareness and participation in skills-based volunteering in amongst corporations and social organisations in Singapore

To find out more about the series, and to book your place at one of our events, please click here.

We are delighted to be able to offer ANZA members a 20{95a2435e1d5758f6d9d5615cfe8f4203fd5bccff0e058dcf69a7b31d3a698e0b} discount off their conference tickets. Simply enter ANZARCG when booking to take advantage of your discount.

Network With ANZA Members Using LinkedIn

ANZA Members can now connect using LinkedIn. The new ANZA Singapore group is a professional network for ANZA members to share information and advice, job opportunities and mentoring.

Join the group

Pave Your Child’s Way to Success

It is a universal fact that every parent wants the very best for their child, and it is not unusual to look for ways to boost their child’s learning process to get a head start in life. There are three essential things that you can do to ensure your child’s positive growth with regards to their learning.

#1: Encourage your child to inquire when in doubt!

According to research, an inquisitive child always picks things up more quickly than his quieter peers. Richard W. Paul and Linder Elder, co-authors of Critical Thinking: Basic Theory and Institutional Structures Handbook, strongly believe that thinking and the thought process is driven not by the feeding of answers but by active listening and questioning.

This explains why you should provide your child with a nurturing and open environment so that they feel comfortable asking questions. The Australian International School (AIS) understands that encouraging this ethos can reveal different perspectives and widens a child’s scope of learning, leading to greater cognitive development.

Our newly-opened Inquiry Centre provides your child with an exciting and interactive learning environment. During Inquiry Centre sessions, children spend time with their teachers, librarians as well as invited experts to explore areas of the curriculum, like science, geography and history through hands-on practical inquiry. Smaller and more engaging groups facilitate inquiry, allowing your child to absorb every bit of knowledge that they can.

#2: Encourage and support your child’s creativity

We have come full circle in understanding that Music and the Arts are an integral part of any child’s development. There is extensive research on how music connects and develops the brain in exceptional ways. Music education offers something to a child that is indispensable: the opportunity to explore their own creativity and apply this to all aspects of their life. AIS promotes creativity through its in-curriculum Arts program that encompasses Music, Drama and Visual Arts. The role of the music educator at AIS is to lead your child through a process of learning and understanding that is dynamic and inclusive. Using child-centred approaches developed by Carl Orff and Zoltan Kodaly, children journey with an adventurous and exploratory spirit, while they sing, dance and play. An emphasis is placed on the child’s emerging singing, playing and composing in an environment that is safe and encourages exploration. Head of Music, Mr Simon Hughes says “Our aim at AIS is to ensure all children experience musical success at their own level, through aurally based classroom activities that develop their creativity”.

#3: Give your kids a break!

Tonia R. Durden, an Early Childhood Extension Specialist believes that “a wide variety of play experiences is necessary in learning development, especially those that integrate sensory, motor, cognitive and social-emotional experience”. Learning through play is something that we at AIS strongly believe in. We have built this into the curriculum to provide an opportunity for children to observe their environment at first hand, develop and extend their language and creative skills, interact with others, make decisions and solve problems. We also support our students’ physical wellbeing in equal measure, channelling their seemingly boundless energy into fun and exciting physical education activities. Part of every morning is spent in our own large playground engaging in activities such as sand play, bike riding, climbing, balancing and ball games. Children love being outside and exploring so why not take them out for a stroll somewhere exciting around Singapore such as Gardens by the Bay, and encourage them to question and inquire about the fascinating things they see.

To learn more about our curriculum and school, you are welcome to visit during our upcoming AIS Open House Sessions:

• Thursday, 11 September

• Thursday, 9 October

• Wednesday, 26 November

Book a tour online, phone +65 6517 0247 or email admissions@ais.com.sg.

Protecting Your Children in Singapore through Immunization

Before children start school in Singapore, it is important to ensure immunizations are up-to-date. Children are exposed to a range of potentially dangerous diseases due to the large number of people they come into contact with. Therefore, proven and safe protection against diseases that can cause serious illness, or even death, is essential.

The importance of vaccinations
Singapore’s Health Promotion Board advises that diseases can rapidly spread throughout the population and cause epidemics if children are not immunized. While a consistent public health vaccination program has reduced contagious disease to relatively low levels in Singapore, because the country is a major transport hub, it is both vulnerable and receptive to diseases being introduced by travelers.  In fact, studies by health authorities over the last decade have identified that the majority of notifiable diseases that occurred in Singapore such as viral hepatitis, malaria, cholera and typhoid resulted from importation. In support of this trend, the number of cases of tuberculosis among non-residents has continued to rise in tandem with an increase in the number of expatriates and tourists in Singapore.

Under Singapore’s Infectious Disease Regulations two vaccinations, namely diphtheria and measles immunizations, are mandatory for every child residing in the country. According to Singapore’s National Childhood Immunization Schedule, immunizations should be completed prior to a child’s entry into primary school. At the time of registering with a school, a child who has not yet had the necessary immunizations will not be denied enrollment, but parents or guardians will be reminded to arrange these prior to the beginning of the school year.

Know what to protect against
Additional to the mandatory vaccinations, the schedule specifically recommends vaccination against tuberculosis, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, mumps, rubella and poliomyelitis. The Health Promotion Board suggests that while these vaccinations are not mandatory in the country, it is worth seriously considering the range of immunizations available in order to protect children from the ill-effects and suffering associated with preventable disease. These vaccinations can be crucial in maintaining a child’s health, as they help prevent a range of serious diseases in their early years and beyond. Numerous studies have highlighted that even if a child contracts a disease after being vaccinated against it, the symptoms and severity of the infection is generally milder than what it otherwise would be.

The need for vaccinations in Singapore is echoed by the US Centre for Disease Control, which specifically recommends immunization against hepatitis A due to the susceptibility of contracting the disease through contaminated food or water, regardless of the location of accommodation or type of eateries frequented. Likewise, typhoid can also be contracted through food or water sources, but in particular when staying with friends or relatives, or travelling to smaller cities or rural areas,  and is also recommended.

For more information on immunizations and how to have the costs associated with them covered by your health insurance, please contact Pacific Prime Singapore today.

Read more about Pacific Prime.

Email: singapore@pacificprime.com
Phone: +65 6346 3781 

A common expat achilles heel – Plantar Fasciitis

A health problem that has struck Kathy Chamberlain and indeed many expats ‘of a certain age’ soon after their arrival in Singapore is the very painful and inconvenient condition of Plantar Fasciitis (pronounced fash-ee-eye-tus). 

Apparently striking more women than men, often it is upon the sufferer before they know what or why it has struck. Symptoms occur in the form of painful heels particularly on rising from bed in the morning or after sitting for a period of time and is actually caused by an inflammation of the plantar fascia, or the band of muscle under the foot. This muscle band may have small tears and inflammation from recurrent strain, causing pain and swelling in the foot. It can occur in one or both feet and is often accompanied by tight achilles.

Plantar Fasciitis is most commonly seen in people who make poor choices of footwear for a length of time. In the case of many expats it can occur because the muscles in our feet and ankles are unused to spending so much time on hard ( though deliciously cool ) tiled surfaces either bare foot, wearing thin soles ( flip flops, sandals) or any unsupportive footwear. It can also occur in people who have a short calf musculature or a poor ankle range of motion.

Once the condition exists, it can last for an average of 6 weeks and can recur. So it pays to look after our feet!

Prevention is always best, so be mindful of spending time barefoot on hard floors and wearing unsupportive shoes like flip flops.

Treatment and relief options include rest, applying ice to the foot, stretching the calves and massage. Ibuprofen may be used to ease the inflammation but of course won’t treat the actual issue. Stretching the arch of the foot first thing in the morning by bending back the toes, applying ice by rolling a small frozen drink bottle underfoot and massage using a tennis ball on carpet are particularly helpful. Lastly be kind to your feet and try to lose any excess weight.

Specific advice can be sought from a doctor or podiatrist.

A Quirky Take on Diagnosis

The thing about using the tool called ‘diagnosis’ as a method for understanding is that it is in danger of doing the exact opposite – ‘understanding’ I mean.

It’s a very good tool for separating out the slow from the fast, the usual from the different, the sick from the well (bearing in mind the relativity of terms) but Diagnosis does all this organising at what cost exactly?

If knowledge is power as they say, does the knowledge of a diagnosis bring increased power to the individuals concerned? I suppose it depends on which side of the diagnostic fence you sit on.

There is no doubt that diagnosis can often bring comfort. “Thank goodness all those years of professional training haven’t been wasted,” says one. “At least I finally know what or who I am now!” says the other. So comfort has been achieved. But has it brought insight?

One benefit of a diagnosis is that, at the very least, it puts a marker down and unequivocally defines reality – doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately, not necessarily so. It’s much more likely to provide you with a snapshot of the reality of our times – the times we live in – which is a different thing altogether.

For example, a professional Journal I subscribe to ran an article recently, telling us all how medical prescriptions for anti-depressants had risen, yet again, in England to just over 53.3 million within 2012/13 – whilst in 2008 the figure was 35.9 million. So are we all getting more depressed as the twenty first century rolls on, or are diagnostic prescriptions just getting too big for their own boots and a wee bit too enthusiastic for their own good – as well as for the good of our health too?

I noticed a similar phenomenon during an academic exchange visit to the USA in the early 1990’s. At the time, I’d never heard of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) but the University Psychology Group I sat in for a morning were well familiar with the term as if they were talking about their home town or one of the family.

Back in the UK, most of my colleagues had little awareness of this diagnostic classification either. Nearly twenty five years later it’s now a very familiar ‘psychiatric disorder of the neurodevelopmental type’, Wikipedia informing us that, ‘despite being the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children and adolescents, the cause of the majority of cases is unknown’. One can reasonably deduce therefore that an awful lot of certainty is being invested in relative ignorance.

Which all brings me back to the fundamentals of my earlier question – does diagnosis actually help the situation at hand? Does it assist and enrich understanding? Because what we should be talking about here is a serious attempt to really understand the nature of a particular person who, at this particular juncture, has a life concern.

Instead, with so much talk of ‘disorders’ we’re in danger of becoming problem fixated and forget that there’s actually a human being buried underneath all this diagnostic verbiage. Is there a psychiatric term for such a condition I wonder?

What is a ‘Disorder’ anyway? Apart from sounding most unsavoury, as a term, it appears to describe the completely wrong type of socks to warrant inclusion in the orderly sock drawer. It certainly doesn’t present itself as a country you would care to visit or a state of mind you would likely aspire to.

In some quarters, ‘condition’ has replaced ‘disorder’ in a brave attempt to simply describe the existence of a circumstance rather than getting all pejorative about it. In other quarters, there is an even braver movement towards asking the person concerned how they themselves would like to explain their predicament? Apart from sounding like a well-mannered and civil thing to do, this also represents a shift towards encouraging self-definition – self labelling if you will – rather than being obliged to accept the label imposed on you.

Which leads me to a personal confession of sorts – as well as to the source of my own diagnostic training.

I think – I’m pretty convinced actually – that my father had an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He was OCD. There we have it. It’s out there now and there’s no going back. Completely escaping diagnosis or course, because by all accounts and for want of a better phrase, he was as sane as you or me – if that’s anything to go by. Yet my belief is that definite OCD traits were part of my Dad which he carried around with him for probably all of his adult life – along with other parts of course, that in sum total made him the man he was.

How do I know this?

It wasn’t difficult really. I knew it well before I knew about it, so to speak. As a child, I remember sitting in the back seat of our Morris Traveller waiting for my Dad to get in and drive us off somewhere. He, in turn, would still be glued to the front door, obliged to lock it, unlock it, then lock it again, this cycle repeating itself over and over again. Sometimes he would also have to touch the door handle for a specific number of times too. My Dad stuck to the spot, his son observing his behaviour, always fascinated and often irritated. My Dad finally forcing himself to break away from the gravitational pull of this mental entrapment to turn and face the anxious consequences of the unknown – from which (we all know deep in our hearts) there is no final escape.

Arriving at last to the car I would often challenge him accusingly. “What were you doing?” knowing intuitively exactly what he was doing. “Nothing,” he would say. “Just locking up.” Although only young, I knew what he was doing perhaps as much or even more than he knew himself. Because I was an observer of another’s behaviour and it’s safer that way when you’re trying to understand the workings of yourself at the same time.

I knew, because I could feel his anxiety. I knew because it was my anxiety too, the only difference being that mine wasn’t being played out so openly at the front door for others to see. I could see his so clearly because I could feel my own so acutely.

Because if you think about life – about the process of living – too much, it can be frightening – indeed overwhelmingly so at times. There is probably an optimum level to think about your life. Too little, perhaps your life is too unexamined and you could do with letting a bit more in! But too much thinking can make you realise how precarious your safety actually is. In other words, it’s OK to walk the narrow edge of life just so long as you don’t look down too much or too often, but once you do, then the wobbling is liable to start and after that there’s surely only the fall left – or so you fear.

My Dad’s OCD, in its own way, protected him. He over-examined his life, saw how scary it actually was as a result and because he persisted in looking, he found that he needed protection. He found a strategy of success to counter his existential crisis – being all quite logical really – when you think about it.

So in conclusion, perhaps one way to more fundamentally understand others is to start up your very own self labelling society. Find a fitting label and try it on for size – for a short while at the very least. Noticing your own ‘Disorders’ (because I’m sure we’re all riddled through with many) and diagnosing them may not be a bad thing to do at all. It could actually be a good thing. Empathy and a deeper level of understanding others could be one result?


Dr Geoff McNulty
Senior Lecturer in Education, Guidance & Counselling at James Cook University, Singapore.

Read more about JCU.

New Sky Gym to open at Loewen Gardens

For parents looking for kids gym classes, Sky Gym will launch a gymnasium in a newly developed space at Loewen Gardens in September. It will feature a nine metre long tumble track trampoline.

The Sky Gym outlet will cover 250 square meters of floor space and contain a wide range of gymnastic apparatus to cater to children from 12 months to 7 years of age. 
Sky Gym has been providing general gymnastics classes to kids in Singapore since 2005. Its programmes are tailored to the needs of children at many different levels. 
“Sky Gym at Loewen Gardens will be among the largest and best equipped gymnasiums in Singapore catering specifically toward young children,” says Kevin Lam, Gym Consultant, Sky Gym. “Gymnastics offers children many benefits, from fitness and flexibility, to confidence and discipline. We will be offering a range of programmes geared toward aiding the development of children in a fun, rewarding and non-competitive environment.”
Sky Gym will initially offer three programmes; Gymtots, Kindergym and Recreation programmes first before providing higher levels. All session are run by qualified coaches who teach the children progressive skills and monitor their progress closely.

Why not try it out at Sky Gym’s Open Day on 6th September. 
There are 2 sessions: 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm.

More details on Sky Gym please call 62554230.

75A Loewen Road, 
Loewen Gardens,
Singapore 248844