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She cries for days, but quits job to do more

WHEN Miss Frieda Chan returned from a week-long trip to Sri Lanka two years ago, she checked herself into a chalet on Sentosa - alone.
There, she cried for three days.
The 31-year-old is a social worker.
She was so moved by the stories of loss and grief she had heard from the victims of the tsunami disaster that she needed some time to get a grip on her emotions.
Miss Chan said: 'During the trip, I held everything in because I was there to help. I couldn't afford to break down.
'But when I came home, all the stories just hit me.'
Miss Chan, who has a social work degree from the National University of Singapore, was in Sri Lanka in early 2005 as a volunteer. She trained the locals to counsel victims of trauma.
One story that remained etched in her memory was that of a woman who had just given birth seconds before the tsunami struck.
She recalled: 'Medical workers who attended the training recounted how they just grabbed the newborn baby and ran for their lives.
'The woman, who was undergoing a Caesarean section, had not even been stitched up when the tsunami hit.
'The medical workers had no choice but to leave her lying in the surgical theatre, still bleeding, to die. There was nothing they could do to save her.'
The tsunami, which hit the shores of Sri Lanka, parts of Thailand, Indonesia and the Maldives on 26 Dec 2004, claimed about 200,000 lives.
Miss Chan could not forget her experience in Sri Lanka. And last July, determined to do more for tsunami victims, she quit her full-time job with a private youth organisation, where she was paid $2,100 a month.
At that time, she had already set up a voluntary welfare organisation called Life Community Development (LCD), which is aimed at getting Singaporeans involved in volunteer work.
She does not draw a salary from LCD, which is now a registered charity.
She said: 'Some organisations just give fish to the needy. Others teach them to fish. My hope in setting up LCD was not just to teach them to fish, but to teach them to teach others to fish.'
When LCD was first started in late 2004, MissChan spent her Saturdays volunteering at a local school, trying to work with disinterested and at-risk youths to get them to care for others and make themselves useful.
But what started as a local voluntary outreach project eventually went beyond Singapore's shores when Miss Chan's network of friends and volunteers started coming back with stories about their experiences in tsunami-hit countries.
'One of my volunteers was doing extensive work in various countries like Aceh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
'On each of her recce trips, she would come up with ideas on how we could step in to help.'
Early last year, after several recce trips, MissChan and her group of 20 volunteers decided they had the resources to match the needs of the victims in the Maldives.
The organisation then approached the Singapore Red Cross, which was administering the Tidal Waves Asia Fund, to finance their proposed projects.
They spent $31,000 to install water tanks for 136 households in the Maldives.
Since then, Miss Chan and her volunteers have also given about 34 fishing boats to some 900 fishermen in Banda Aceh. They spent $212,500.
Another $43,000 was spent on some 1,300 mango seedlings for the people of Maldives to start a plantation, as a source of income and food.
The group also spent $4,000 on library books for the children of Maldives.
In July last year, after Miss Chan quit her job at the youth centre, she was jobless and without income for two months.
'I depleted more than half of my savings, but it was worth it because I wanted to put more energy into my volunteer work.'
Still, she had to pay her bills.
So last October, she started doing freelance training work at schools, earning $600 a month.
Then two months later, she started a franchise business, which earned her up to $3,000 a month.
'Right now, I'm doing freelance work and getting jobs with flexible working hours, but my main focus is still my volunteer work.'
Miss Chan's group of 20 volunteers include doctors, engineers, businessmen and psychiatrists. There are also social workers, teachers and university lecturers.
She said: 'My vision for the organisation is that our resources will continue to multiply themselves.
'We help 100 people, and these 100 will go on to help 300 others, and so on.
'Right now, it's great because I'm still putting my social work training to good use. I'm not just a volunteer, more like an unpaid social worker.'

WorkSource: The Electric News

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