Making an Impact with Purpose

– How One Person with Purpose Can Impact the Lives of Many.

Our Senior Training Associate, Angie Ang, is known as the go-to person for the creation and curation of lesson plans and training materials for our startup bootcamps. Indeed, having been heavily involved in Brunei’s startup scene since 2016 when she began providing pro bono legal advice and mentorship to startups, Angie has contributed significantly towards shortening the learning journey for many startup founders. She has also been endeavouring to make a positive impact on the lives of many in her community, including the mobilisation of a monumental relief effort for flood victims in Tutong (a district in Brunei) last year. But more than this, her initiative is also a shining example of how it only takes one person with purpose to move mountains.

We caught up with Angie to find out how a single phone call led to a rescue/relief mission for 88 families that involved more than 50 volunteers and a fleet of 25 off-road vehicles…

What was it that spurred you to help Tutong’s flood victims?

Angie Ang (AA): I’ve been doing donation drives for underprivileged communities in Brunei for a few years now. In fact, when COVID-19 initially reached Brunei’s shores, I was part of an initiative that focused on getting necessities to children and youth without families. When the second wave of COVID-19 hit Brunei, I was deployed by the Bruneian government as a frontliner to help with the nationwide food rationing effort. And it was during this time that I realised that lots of families didn’t even have access to necessities. Moreover, these families usually have an average of seven to eight individuals – children, elderly, and even differently-abled individuals – under a single roof. To make matters worse, Brunei had been having heavy rains and thunderstorms continuously for more than a month, leading to bad flooding in the more remote areas of the country. So when my cousin called to tell me that food rations were not reaching these remote regions, and that there were at least 88 families stuck in flood zones with no proper access to the main towns, I didn’t hesitate to help. This was because I knew I had capacity and the means to make things happen.

“…I didn’t hesitate to help. This was because I knew I had the capacity and the means to make things happen.”

So how did you go about making things happen?

AA: I work with several national youth organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that focus on youth development and empowerment. Hence, I mobilised youth volunteers from Sukarelawan Belia Brunei (Brunei Youth Volunteers). For logistics support, I reached out to the Core Team committee in the Young Professionals Network Brunei, and the Majlis Belia Brunei (Brunei Youth Council).

For transportation, I roped in my cousin who heads the Support and Recovery Team (SART) Brunei – a group of regular off-roaders who took it upon themselves to form a team to rescue drivers and vehicles that get stuck whilst off-roading. And because SART’s members have vehicles built for extreme terrain and conditions, they’ve worked with the fire brigade, police department and the army in relief efforts for villages in remote areas.

Lastly, I looked at the corporate network which I’ve built over the years. Specifically, I approached Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) teams in pharmaceutical and F&B MNCs with offices in Brunei.

What were some of your biggest challenges in this relief effort and how did you overcome them?

AA: One of the biggest challenges was cutting through all the government red tape to make sure that everything was legitimate and transparent – especially during this COVID pandemic. This is because of the rise in number of scammers organising fake donation drives to take advantage of kind-hearted souls who just want to help the community during this pandemic. Therefore, although I knew people in the Bruneian government’s Covid Relief Team and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, I had to be mindful keep everything above board. This basically meant keeping everything on record so that I could prove that I wasn’t receiving any favours from the government for my efforts. This took up a lot of time and caused a lot of stress within my team –mainly because we wanted to help all the affected families ASAP. There were also many internal hurdles that the team had to overcome. One of these was defining what items constituted a “necessity”… Bread? Eggs? What else? After extensive discussions, we managed to draw up a reasonable list of daily items that a regular family would need.We then had to look for a venue (for the public to donate items). But – thankfully – it took us less than 48 hours to secure one and to confirm all the logistics. However, this also posed another huge challenge – making sure any member of the public who came to donate items had their mask on, stayed in their car, and adhered to the drive-thru method we implemented for donations. This was especially important because I wasn’t going to risk any one of my volunteers contracting COVID. Moreover, we were already shorthanded at the time…

Last but not least, what lessons did you take away from this initiative, and how do you think these can be applied at work?

AA: Although everything started with the phone call from my cousin, making the impact that we did required working towards a purpose – one that was shared by everyone involved in the relief effort. Consequently, this led to better teamwork. And as the saying goes “teamwork makes the dream work”!

“…making the impact that we did required working towards a purpose – one that was shared by everyone involved in the relief effort.”

On a more personal level, this initiative gave me more insight into my strengths and weaknesses, as well as the limits of my capabilities. For example, due to an injury, I wasn’t able to be part of the convoy distributing the items to the villages. Hence, I had to learn to be patient, not worry too much, and trust that the team would be able to deliver the items to where they were needed. I’m also proud to say that being honest about my weaknesses and seeking the help I needed did me more good than relying on my strengths alone!

This article was originally published by Golden Equator People Experience Management Team