by Alena Yeo on

Sometime last year, we were told by our school that we had to do a compulsory internship during the semester break and we were allowed to outsource for companies on our own.

But by December, I was still in Germany for an exchange programme, panicking about where I was going to intern, who would accept me and which company held the same beliefs and motivations as I did.

I began digging. My interests lie in documentaries, more specifically features about people. I found a few mini documentaries on The Pride, a content portal run by Singapore Kindness Movement, that I really enjoyed.

One in particular was about a beach cleaner. I love the beach. If you know me, you would know that before Covid-19 hit, I would be at the beach almost every week, relaxing with my friends at night, enjoying the sea breeze and just chilling till the wee hours. There is a secret spot that I always go to and it is always clean. Despite the many nights I spent there, I never once thought about who cleaned it.

After watching the video and hearing the stories told by the cleaners, I knew who kept our beaches clean.

And I knew where I wanted to do my internship.

So I emailed The Pride when I was still in Germany and they replied so quickly that I started panicking again because I wasn’t home yet for the interview in January.

I was nervous because I hadn’t gone for an interview in years but to cut a long story short, I got the job. Then I got worried again because Covid-19 struck and I feared that I wouldn’t be able to start my internship in May. Thankfully, despite Covid-19 and the circuit breaker, they still decided to hire me as an intern.

Fast forward 10 weeks, and I’m writing this on my last day of internship. There is a bittersweet feeling hovering over my head. On one hand, I’m happy to have time to work on my own projects but on the other hand, I am really going to miss working at SKM.

It is funny because between working-from-home and the circuit breaker, I haven’t actually physically met some of the people in my team. Yet we get along as if we’ve known each other for a long time.

Every Monday, we have a meeting to discuss ideas on what articles to write or in my case, what videos to make. Right off the bat, I was given the freedom to pick my own projects and to execute them without any micromanagement. I was amazed that even though I was an intern and new to the team, they saw me as an individual with ideas and trusted my skills in publishing my own articles and videos.

During my shoots, I was able to meet interesting people who have others in their hearts. People who have struggled and fought to help those weaker than themselves. It was inspiring to hear their stories and to be a part of it, to help tell their story.

At one of my shoots, I met a trio of young Singaporeans who are suffering from Topical Steroid Withdrawal. Even though I was busy making sure of my angles and checking the sound quality of the shoot, I still had time to be moved by the grace and humour they showed as they told their stories to my colleague Serene.

At another, I met the owner of a cocktail bar and listened to him share about the struggles he and his team went through during the circuit breaker. I was inspired by his commitment not only to do right by his team, whom he called his “family”, but also to keep up the morale of his customers, by offering home deliveries of his bespoke cocktails.

Shooting a video at a cocktail bar was a memorable experience during my internship
Photo credit: Serene Leong / That’s me on the right, shooting a video at a cocktail bar off Keong Saik Road.

And just like how that cocktail bar owner, Yugnes, made his team feel more than just employees, so did SKM welcome me into the “family” of their own.

In a short span of time, they made me feel as though I was truly part of the team even with the weird working-from-home situation. Instead of immediately shooting down my ideas, my editor always gave me the chance to work on them and improve them.

I didn’t want to waste the trust and freedom I was given; I told myself to use this opportunity to speak out about things that matter so I kept myself updated on what was happening in Singapore and in the world.

I started to empathise more with people and the issues they faced and learnt to focus on the positive things that have come about during this pandemic. Aside from shooting videos, I wrote about issues close to my heart, like the local theatre scene and battling against plastic pollution.

I am naturally a pessimistic person. But I’ve learnt to look for silver linings, And this has not only made me more positive but has given me hope that a better world is possible.

Being in an environment where everyone’s intention is to spread kindness showed me that there are more caring people than I thought. The fact that everything that is done at SKM, no matter how big or small, is for others and not for profit or fame, is very heartwarming for me. This in turn has inspired me to show more kindness to others, online or off, in my own life.

What I’m really grateful for is meeting the people in SKM. Team chats and weekly meetings were never a dread and I always found myself smiling or laughing during our calls. The way we celebrated birthdays was an experience (exercising together on a Zoom call to a Great Singapore Workout video that was shot before I was born!) I will never forget. The affection they show and the way my team members poke fun at each other shows me that these are people who care about each other not just as colleagues, but friends.

My internship experience at Singapore Kindness Movement, SKM
Photo credit: Serene Leong / The SKM “family” celebrating Kindness Day SG in May. That’s me in the top left corner!

I didn’t expect it and I’ve never thought that I could describe an internship this way but this has been one of the most wholesome experiences of my life.

I came to SKM to tell stories to inspire others, but I’ve left with a story and an inspiration of my own.

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