Cultivating empathy and compassion with Etch Empathy
Do you realize that the society that we live in now is so focused on academic and status that we forgot about other areas? There has been a decline in empathy and compassion, especially for the younger generation. As parents, we have been so focused on bringing the bread home, getting the kids to get good grades, we forgot about the importance of others.
What does it mean to empathize?
What is compassion?
Have you really teach your kids since young about these topics? Has it ever cross your mind talking to them about these? Our world has comes to a stage where there is a deficit of empathy and compassion. No doubt, it may be due to the complicated thinking of we human beings that resulted in this. Nonetheless, empathy has to be taught, practiced and developed. There are books and movies that teach you about empathy and compassion. Another way to learn is through Etch Empathy which is a nonprofit social enterprise in Singapore that cultivates empathy for poverty eradication. It is one of the many social enterprises in Singapore that is supported by the DBS Foundation. To find out more about the foundation, please click on this link asiaforgood.com.
Who is Etch Empathy and what do they actually do?
Etch Empathy was launched in 2013 by the current CEO, Mr Aaron Yeoh. The word Etch stands for Empathic Thoughts, Compassionate Hands. Their mission is to advocate for the vulnerable communities, cultivating empathy and inspiring positive social actions in both children and adults. To know more about Etch Empathy, you may check out their website here.
How do they do it? We took part in the Hack for Good Learning Festival organised by Youth Corps Singapore and Etch Empathy is one of the companies participated in this festival. They conducted 4 main simulations where they brought in facilitators who are in that situation to interact and bond with us about their life and, boy, it opened our eyes really wide.
- Blind Simulation
2 young visually impaired students came to share how their life living in darkness is all about. Before we joined them in the darkness in the simulation, we spent some moments with them getting to know them a little more. Smarties have always been curious how the walking stick works and assist the blind. On this day, their questions were answered and we have many missing puzzles got pieced up. Greatly appreciate them for explaining and answering our questions without any reservation.
- Deaf Simulation
During this simulation, we couldn’t really ask questions as per normal. The whole room was silent. Instead, we have to write and the facilitator will reply in writing as well. The facilitator who came to share his story was happily showing us pictures of himself and about his love of cycling. He was born deaf but that did not deter him from living a normal live like us. From him, we learned that nothing is impossible as long as we have the positive mindset.
Before it ended, we were taught simple sign language so that we will know how to communicate simply with people who are deaf. Our teacher even tested our knowledge within that short time frame with some guessing games. It was fun!
- Aging Simulation
As for aging, the senior speakers were not feeling well. Therefore, Aaron himself came out to guide us with the simulation and explained to us how the aging suit works.
Frankly speaking, it was tough! With the aging suit and the aging spectacles, I realized how tough it was at the aging stage. I couldn’t even walk or stand properly. Smarties looked worried while we were struggling with the tasks and I was slightly screaming in pain. From this simulation, we realized why the seniors tend to isolate themselves from everyone else. Every movement was so tough that you don’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere.
With the aging spectacles, the sight was horrible. I cannot imagine having the cataract or/and aging eyesight. I have a better understanding of why my mum has been asking us to read to her even though she’s wearing her spectacles after attending this simulation. I guess even with the aid, it doesn’t help much either.
- Poverty Simulation
The last simulation was poverty. We were all wondering how it will go. With a bowl of rice in our hands, we were all seated on the floor and waited. Very soon, the facilitator came and we chatted. She shared about her life as a single mother and being the sole breadwinner of the family. It was tough.
One of the focus areas was about their meals. During the down periods, all they had for their meals are rice with salt, warm water and ikan bilis. She brought out the ingredients and we had a go with our rice. It doesn’t taste that bad but can you imagine having it at every meal and every day because you can’t afford anything else? That moment, we felt blessed because we get to enjoy different types of food at different meals and on different days. I’m not saying posh restaurant but even at a food court or hawker, you are still able to choose what you want to eat.
After attending all the simulations, we are able to empathize with these people to a much greater degree. We felt very fortunate and blessed that we have all the senses. We are able to choose our meals and have it. But for these people, they can’t. I am glad that I have smarties took part in this event as they got the close-up experience and contact with the people. They got to see and experience how they align or differ from others. It allows them to discover what others’ perspectives may be.
Etch Empathy does an awesome job in providing such great opportunity and environment for common people like us to develop the sense of empathy for others. Empathy and compassion are lifelong skills that will help us understand others who are with different backgrounds and respond to them positively. Therefore, please do not ignore these important skills.
*To find out more about how DBS works with various social enterprises to innovate and make the world a better place, contributing to global sustainability do check out their website at DBS Innovates.