I first knew Amelia as the founder of openjio, a community of young change-makers with a shared concern for social causes and underserved communities. Their Telegram channel regularly shares events related to different social causes to over 3,000 subscribers.
As we spoke over lunch during a hot afternoon, I learned more about her fascinating journey and her unique path.
Amelia’s story is an improbable one. But her story demonstrates the possibilities when you explore opportunities and expand horizons to the fullest.
University is often a transformative time for many, and this seems to be very much so for Amelia as well. Before university, she was shy and quiet, often cautious about finding the right words to say. But university helped to change this for the better.
“Entering NUS was a dream for me, and I wanted to make the most out of it.”
Amelia had a fulfilling university experience. She joined Sociology Society, planned for Sociology Camp 2015, and spearheaded volunteer projects. These experiences helped her build soft skills, connections, and discover her passion for community work.
“Being part of those projects helped me to open up and made me recognise the influence I have as a person.”
From these experiences, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career with purpose and tackle social problems. To do this, she took a path less travelled.
After graduation, Amelia took up a full-time internship with a social enterprise. Amelia readily admits that taking a gap year was not a deliberate decision. Instead, she saw it as a good time to take risks and do something different, while she was still relatively young. This was, however, not without its share of struggles.
The first of which was financial challenges. Her parents were unsupportive due to the low income from the internship. While her friends were generally supportive, they could not relate well to the financial concerns Amelia faced.
Indeed, when we dream of pursuing risky ventures, financial concerns often hinder us. And these concerns are certainly valid. While money might not the most important factor, it weighs heavily on our minds.
“A mentor once told me, money can’t solve all your issues but it can solve at least 90%, so you can focus on the 10%.”
Another significant struggle Amelia faced was one of self-worth. This was especially significant when she did not receive replies from job applications. To make things worse, she had negative thoughts and felt depressed.
“The conversation I had with myself revolved around ‘I’m not good enough’. I felt like I was lagging behind my peers who already found their full-time jobs. So it was really stressful.”
She started to overcome this struggle by reframing these thoughts and becoming kinder to herself. Taking a small step each day, and acknowledging that small progress helps. To stay centred and present, she listened to podcasts by Brendon Burchard and Jim Kwik, and meditated almost daily.
Despite the struggles, she remains grateful for the gap year experience.
“I’ve met so many people who inspired and supported me till today, and I would have never met them if I didn’t take this gap year!”
Amelia’s passion for social issues and the community has been evident throughout university. But it was only until after she graduated that she started openjio in August 2018.
It started with some curiosity and boredom.
“I remember going for 2-3 events a week because my timetable was pretty empty and I was bored. I went for events such as social enterprise conferences, panel discussions on inequality and dumpster diving.”
At these conferences, she discovered the fascinating world outside of university. As she interacted with speakers and participants, she was inspired by their lives and stories.
“I felt so inspired and energised by what these people were doing!”
Excited to share these events, she created an Instagram poll to find out if her friends were interested to join a related Telegram channel.
A massive 99% voted yes. And openjio was born.
Often, taking the plunge and starting new ideas come from a mix of passion, opportunity, and support.
Amelia had maximised her time in university life, with both university activities and external events. What advice would she give a freshman entering university?
“Go out of the university.
Go make friends with more people outside the university – working adults, elderly, children, etc. The perspectives you get will be really different, and it helps you to envision the kind of life you want to live.
Keep in mind 1 thing you would like to achieve out of each conversation, but also give space to grow your objectives. For example, do you want to learn about how people overcome their challenges, or how they discovered their passions? Let your curiosity guide you.”
Post-university, new graduates often go through a period feeling directionless. Having had similar experiences, what advice does Amelia have for an upcoming graduate?
“Find out what gives you energy and what drains you and use that as your compass to create the job you want.
I use the word ‘create’ and not ‘get’ the job you want – because everyday, you get a chance to create opportunities for yourself.”
She ends off with a favourite quote:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
— Viktor E. Frankl
“I believe that great leaders have the mental flexibility to shift their responses to make the best out of every situation, even the most dire ones. They have a vision which they are committed to, that which drives them instead of their feelings.”
We were lucky to interview Amelia and learn from her interesting life and career experiences thus far.
Show your support to openjio by joining their Telegram group or following them on Instagram.
They have just started their podcast OJ Connects, featuring changemakers and social leaders, do check it out too!
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