Our Star Volunteer for March: Miin Hwang

By : Karen Fernandez  

‘good egg’ n.Informal. an agreeable or trustworthy person. One ‘good egg’ at Aidha must surely be long-time volunteer, Miin Hwang, who has remained steadfastly with Aidha since 2010. From Aidha’s early days at Nassim Road, then at NTUC, and now at UWC, Miin has been a loyal and passionate supporter of Aidha’s journey. In her typically understated manner, she quietly and efficiently takes on the projects that come her way, from planning the logistics of moving over 300 students from NTUC to UWC, scouring properties around town in search of a new Aidha admin office, to installing Windows on our laptops, organising an office recycling bin, hanging up pictures, and most recently, helping project-manage the set-up of our new campus management database system. Miin has long become our go-to person because we know that any task will get done fast and reliably. Combined with a wicked sense of humour, Miin is a volunteer we are always glad to see every Monday and Tuesday and feel very fortunate to have on our team.

1. What brought you to Aidha?

I’ve always been a strong supporter of education, women’s empowerment and poverty relief. I tried volunteering with several different organisations, with different causes and of different sizes, from the small to the very large. Aidha was the right fit for me. Apart from the cause, I liked that there was an office environment and I liked the culture of the organisation.

2. What made you stay with Aidha this long?

I like the culture, the people I work with on the team and the fact that I have many opportunities to try a wide range of projects. I never get bored as there are so many new things to learn all the time. Last year, for example, while helping to look for a new office, I’d never visited so many grimy buildings in my life but I learnt a lot about the commercial property market. Right now, I’m working with the team on a new database for the campus, working with offshore developers and testing user acceptance although I don’t have an IT background. Another project I enjoyed was helping with the training of our trainee volunteer team and improving campus processes. It’s been satisfying to be able to use my work experience to contribute to the growth of the organisation. One interesting thing I have definitely learnt is how to make things work for less! It’s all about creativity and problem-solving.

3. What are two of your most memorable moments at Aidha?

There have been so many, it’s hard to single out just two! Yesterday in the office, a young couple who had just married, Jeremy and Andrea, presented a cheque to Aidha for nearly $10,000. They had asked their friends to contribute to Aidha instead of giving them wedding presents. That was a very special moment because they could have easily spent it on a nice vacation or on furniture for their new house. In January of this year, we had another amazing moment when we found out that although we didn’t win the Our Better World campaign, a donor had decided to send $10,000 to Aidha anyway. Also, one of our individual donors decided to sponsor 30 student scholarships after last year’s graduation. It is very inspiring when you encounter such generosity and support.  

4. You have been at Aidha for a few years now and must have seen many changes. What three words would describe Aidha then and Aidha now?  

The words that best describe Aidha’s early days would be ‘growing, developing and learning’. Aidha’s Nassim-Road days were quite chaotic, as we shared the black-and-white bungalow with three other NGOs. On Sundays, power cables ran everywhere as we set up for the computer workshops. There were three separate Compass Clubs going on at the same time, right next to each other and it‘s a wonder anyone could hear anything with the noise levels. When we ran out of space, we simply lined the breezeway with more plastic stools. During the monsoon season, we used shower curtains to keep out the rain, but then the noise of the rain on the curtains tended to drown out any videos that we were playing for the classes! As we started to grow and space was limited, we conducted Module 2 sessions at AustCham and things had to be carted down the road in a shopping trolley. But everyone loved the place as there was a garden, and people used to hang out there all day. The words I would use to describe Aidha now are ‘passionate, purposeful and effective’. Aidha has come such a long way from those days!

5. What is your wish for Aidha in the next three years?

In every positon I have held, I’ve always tried to make things better, cheaper and faster. For Aidha, my hope is the same: that we will be able to deliver our curriculum sooner than its current 18 months; cheaper, with more subsidies so that more women can enrol in our programmes; and better, because I hope that our programmes will continue to be relevant to our students and result in better knowledge retention, increased confidence, and higher wealth creation.

6. What is life outside of Aidha like for you?  

Apart from spending a lot of time with my family and friends, I have several hobbies that keep me busy. Diving is a new passion. Last year, I obtained my PADI license and did my first open-water dive in Pulau Cebu, which was great fun. A dream would be to go to the Maldives to dive. Photography is another passion and one day, I’d love to be able to combine diving with photography. Right now, I’m happy photographing land- and street-scapes everywhere I travel, which incidentally is another great love. I want to start macro photography soon, taking pictures of bugs and insects, which some of my friends find quite hard to understand! I also love reading and cooking.

This article is translated from Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore-based Chinese language newspaper by our helpful volunteers and friends.

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