The Glamorous Social Servant
The beautiful lady in blue is the Woman of my life, Deon. The lady in Red is the strongest tiny woman I have met in my life yet, Veronica Colondam aka Vera. She wouldn’t be too impressed with this title, but I call her a Giant!
Vera instantly captivated the heart of every woman in the luncheon; relating some of the biggest ordeal that happened to her this week – concerning two of her three precious children battling major illnesses, while staying committed to her speaking engagement to spread her cause across to Brunei. Mothers in the room felt the pain, the guilt and a great sense of gratitude for her showing up.
Hence, whatever she had to say following that story carried weights and empathy with one after another woman holding back their tears(I ensured I concealed every bit of emotion being one of the 6 guys amongst the 250 women in the grand ballroom). Vera did not pass on the chance to give glory to God, in a room full of Muslim women, wiping out all potentials for “sensitivity” because women to women, they connected.
In her presentation, Vera uttered out an impressive score of stats and figures in a mind boggling fashion almost too much for my simple mind to comprehend. Just as I was about to switch off, she threw in videos of real people and real stories of those impacted by her organisation. A masterful performance by an extraordinary woman, worthy of the Princesses’ presence.
I felt that the presentation wouldn’t be complete without questions addressing her credential of being too elegant for the street, hence threw in my unsolicited two cents just before the wrap up:
“You are obviously an intelligent, objective and pragmatic CEO. How do you connect to people on the street at the grass root level looking as glamorous as you do?”
Of course Vera does not dress up the way she does on the street, while setting herself up to dine along with the Princess of Brunei, at the same time giving keynote address to the most influential women in the country. But she understood my question beneath the question.
Whether or not she addressed it fully, I do not remember. I was too consumed with the eloquence of my own sentence that I neglected to hear her answers…
>>> I do not believe Vera brought up the sensitive topic of religion to create a stir. She is way smarter than that. On the other hand, any concealment of her full story would have been an insult to the intelligence of the Brunei’s women. Looking at the overall context, Vera’s achievement will not be complete without the mention of Divinity which plays the central role of the founding and ongoing support of her organisation.
>>> The Gospel said: “Whoever that acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my father in heaven.” Matt 10:26. It is easy to preach to the choir. It’s quite another thing to proclaim your faith to a room full of Muslim sisters. I learned more about courage between the lines than what was spoken that day.
>>> Quote of the day: “Looking at the problem often discourages you. The key is looking through the problem.” Veronica Colondam, Women’s Forum 2010. Amen. She not only said it; she walked.
>>> YCAB’s KPI (Key Performance Indicator) measures the amount of people who gets employment having gone through the program. While most organisations measure quantity, this is an organisation that cuts through the core of the problem and demand the tangible. As a marketing person, I know these numbers are no where near as attractive as those, say the number of people remaining drug free having gone through their program (which would be way higher). This spells courage, pragmatism and integrity to me.
>>> I had the privilege of interviewing Vera before Andrew stole the show on stage. Visit Asia Inc Forum’s newsletter here.
>>> Oh, the unpublished Q&A on my issue with Vera looking “too posh” for a social worker is below. Written rather light heartedly, but she put my stereotypical view to rest once and for all.
Confession: Forgive me, your first impression to me is that you’re too posh to be a social worker. I have met a lot of social workers in Australia, many of them look like (homeless) street people to fit in. I couldn’t take you too seriously with that rich girl’s picture. (I once met a lady social worker who puts herself between an aboriginal man and a white man, to stop a fight.)
Re looking too “posh” for a social worker? Hmmm… I think the nature of our work should not define us! 😀 I refuse that in the name of fashion!
I’m setting the trend among social worker to be fashionable. 🙂 So happy to lead this movement. Imagine mother Theresa holding a Birkin bag! Hahahaha
Well, having said all this, don’t get me wrong, as long as you pay for your own fashion, it’s completely okay. Non profit people are under more scrutiny as when they look nice, people think they’re using charity money to buy fashion. Now that’s a very shallow thinking. As for me, I’m grateful that God has blessed me to be able to represent both worlds, for profit and non profit. I’m the hybrid here, background from doing selfish business to doing selfless business 🙂
Deon often accuse me of not understanding women, Vera will surely not disagree.