A friend, Derek Liang (some of you might know him as Yiquan), has just launched his novel “Three Gems”. It’s a pleasure to have worked on Derek’s book, and an honour to be asked to pen the foreword.
I have had the pleasure and honour of knowing Derek over the past decade or so. Back in 2007, we were fellow volunteers involved in organising the Deafinitely Boleh Carnival under the auspices of the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf). Back then, he was just one among many volunteers I encountered during my own stint in the social service and special education field spanning 15 years. But Derek turned out to be that bit different from most others.
It was only much later, upon reading the draft manuscript of the book you are holding now, that I realised the sheer range and depth of his voluntary tour of duty. From his university days onwards, Derek has given his time, effort and expertise to the special needs community in a diverse range of roles and with different welfare organisations in Singapore. Derek was a befriender with youth residents at the Singapore Boys’ Home, organised activities for and worked directly with persons with intellectual disability at MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore), and gave tuition to deaf and hard-of-hearing students with his school (Nanyang Technological University) as well as helped in projects with SADeaf.
This account of volunteering with often neglected, misunderstood and underserved groups, based on Derek’s real-life experiences, is an engaging one. It is also an important one which offers insights into their respective worlds, and shows the universality of the human experience in spite of all the outwardly superficial differences among us. From his vantage as a veteran volunteer, Derek also offers something novel – a rarely articulated and honest look at the ups and downs, as well as joys and disappointments, of the practical aspects and emotional journey of volunteering.
As a person, Derek has that quality of treating as equals those he worked with, and he is never patronising or condescending. Instead, he consciously tossed aside stereotypes, made the effort to see the bigger picture and delved into the smaller but equally crucial personal details – the unique circumstances, backgrounds and personal stories of the people he interacted. By showing how volunteering benefits the giver as much as the recipient, I hope Derek’s book inspires more to step forth and contribute to worthy causes. In its own quiet way, this book also pays a heartfelt tribute to all the volunteers out there who have been selflessly doing crucial work for little recognition and reward.
Lastly, I am proud to know Derek as a friend, a fellow volunteer, and – most of all – as a big-hearted person who serves others with respect and compassion.
50% of the sales proceed of the book will be donated to Prison Fellowship Singapore. You can support the cause by ordering the book.
eBook order: https://www.kobo.com/sg/en/ebook/three-gems
Softcover book order: http://threegemsnovel.weebly.com/order-here.html