VIP and Angels
Clay Street is a creative place, you can come here and learn pottery - says Alvin Yong, the founder -. We also use clay to set up team bonding activities. For companies, for families, for classes at school.
Alvin uses clay for working with all sorts of people. Starting from kids, their parents, till workers of big corporations. Clay is just an excuse to actually discuss important topics like values, dreams, relations. Among the people Clay Street works with there are also some with disabilities.
I was at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped in 2009; it was recession time, right after the financial crisis. I noticed many visually impaired people were just sitting around doing nothing. I felt sad about them, they were just waiting, doing nothing. They told me they used to work, do some Christmas cards or other things for companies. But during the recession year there was no job. Our company was in quite good stage so I decided that one day every month I would do something good, not business, but charity, volunteering. I started to think about those visually impaired people… what do they have in their mind? How do they imagine love, for example? I got curious. Maybe we could sponsor clay and one day a month play with them. It was an experiment, I didn’t know if they would like it.
Thirty people signed up.
So many! I needed support to organize it. I sent emails to friends explaining everything and they sent it to their friends and people started to answer that they want to volunteer. We started. Slowly we learned how to communicate with blind people. We started with something simple, step by step. And after few meetings they became better. Visually Impaired Potters – VIP - and Angels, my volunteers, worked together. We created bonds, friendship. After few months I had a crazy idea… I said:
- Hey guys, are you really serious about doing things?
- Do you want to have an exhibition?
They got very excited, started to do things which really have meaning. We managed to get some sponsors and we had the exhibition in a big space, everything was done by volunteers. At the exhibition the VIP came dressed elegant, suit, tie, they never had the chance to be recognized as artists. Usually people feel sorry for them, help them, donate money. If you always get donation, your self-esteem goes down. I wanted to change that. The visually impaired but artist, artist with exhibition! They were so proud. We sold a lot of pieces. They all made some money. But it’s not money that matters, it's self-esteem.
Clay Street is just one of the social businesses run by Alvin, both in Singapore and abroad. He is involved in many activities, helping a lot of people around the world. How does he manage to combine all that with being a father and still having time for us for interview, for a vegetarian lunch together, for inviting us to one of the events organized by the company he is actually working for?
I started slowly, step by step. My first project was something small in Singapore. Then, it became something bigger in Singapore. Then, it went out of Singapore. And I was always happy with what I'm doing.
More about Clay street: www.Clay-Street.com