"Children are gifts from God. And God's gifts to us come in different packages, but He does not give us things beyond our abilities. He sends help too," shares Soek Ying, a mother of four, including Ryan, who is in his 20s, and on the autism spectrum.
I got to know Soek Ying who runs Singapore-based social enterprise MustardTree.com.sg through another social entrepreneur friend Lydia (@theclayday) last Christmas. Our exchange was brief back then, but I remembered her sharing about how as social enterprises grow, sometimes, because of expectations of funders and corporates, beneficiaries may become the "faces of the social enterprise", with work done by volunteers. I remembered how she shared with such conviction to give opportunities to special needs youths to train them with craft skills and give them a sense of self-worth.
I sat down with Soek Ying this month to understand her journey as a mother. Back then, information on autism was limited and fragmented, and her husband Barry and her deciphered most information themselves. However, while they were shocked to find Ryan on autism spectrum, they came to terms quickly with it. Acceptance, to them, is very important.
R: You were in a corporate job you enjoy and with great prospects! How did you manage both work and taking care of Ryan, and three other kids? I am so surprised that you have four children!
SY: We had 2 helpers- 1 to specifically help with Ryan, and another to help with the household. I have also always told my helpers that our priority is our children; we may close an eye on certain things related to household chores, but not with our children. We have been very blessed to have helpers who have all doted a lot on Ryan!
We also had very good parents support system, and supportive and understanding extended family and friends who really helped in alleviating a lot of mental and emotional stress.
It also helped that structures were put in place- example an excel sheet on what time Ryan does what, so that anyone who needs to stand in to help can quickly refer to what needs to be done at home.
When you have children, lifestyle expectations as a family also matters. After some time, you realise that you don't need that many suits, or that many travels.
R: How did MustardTree.com.sg start?
SY: There wasn't much options for Ryan when he turned 18. The only suggestion given was to put him in a daycare centre; there was no more possibility of school for special needs youths in Singapore. I felt that there was so much potential in Ryan, and didn't want to limit him by putting him in a daycare centre. Ryan is blessed with good fine motor skills, we learnt crafting ourselves, and translate into bite-sized steps for Ryan. We also received help. A Bible study group friend who stayed in the East, would travel all the way to the West just to teach Ryan how to sew.
We felt that there are others in similar plight, and want to empower youths like Ryan with comparable craft skills and give them a sense of self-worth.
R: Could you share with us more to understand how is it like to work with special needs youths?
SY: Individuals with special needs have different ways of perceiving things (you could think of it like this - I like to work with loud music, someone else doesn't).
It is good to have a structure and set repetitive tasks for them, as it helps them to be calm and can complete the bite-sized tasks broken down for them, further giving them confidence. We also allow them to use creativity when there is more luxury of time, for example, they can choose the colours of flowers in a bouquet. There are of course, days when they may have tantrums, or have to keep redoing an item.
**If you're interested to understand more about autism not being a linear spectrum, i.e. autistic and not autistic, you may read more here.
R: Do you think that love, especially love as a mother, is a choice? Or it is a capacity that comes as a mother?
SY: Everyone has the capacity to love - self-love is also a form of love. It's where we want to extend the love to. The greatest love is Jesus dying on the cross for us.
Thank you Soek Ying, for sharing with us a glimpse of how your grit and love for Ryan overflows to others in similar plight. And how God indeed supplies through the community around ♥ There are those who sustain us, and with their love we sustain others. Not that one is greater than the other, but that Love empowers us to love others.
This Mother's Day, Mori collaborates with local Singapore social enterprise MustardTree.com.sg for our Mama's Day Specials gifts sets. MustardTree hand makes petite dried flowers encouragement card with wooden cube stand (great for display), and they are bundled with Mori's vegan leather pouch handmade by mothers in the Philippines who used to sew rags for a living.
Check out and preorder our Mama's Day Specials Gift Sets that are both functional and inspirational here, ending 25 April, 2021!