Jeremy Boo

irregular, longwinded pieces

An observation

Last November, in the middle of Serangoon Gardens, nine trees were uprooted and the ground levelled. In its place, a few days later, was a brown zinc revolving monstrosity that was supposed to count down the days to 2011 (but it broke down all the time anyway).

December last year, they  tore down the ugly thing, erected a metal scaffolding, and closed the roads. We are going to celebrate the new year, banners around the estate proclaimed, with artistes and fireworks. The PM is Guest-of-Honour.

Today, nine Cyrtostachys palm trees stood just off-center of the roundabout, in ceramic pots and black transplant bags—while labourers mill beneath their majestic heights, sinking their hoes into the soil and digging deep holes.

The Little Things

When xinMSN syndicated an excerpt of my story, I did not expect many responses.

After all, it was mainly an entertainment portal; how many readers are actually interested in poverty in Manila?

So I was surprised when people begin to grade my article (still five stars, thankfully), but what astounded me was when a reader wrote to me sharing with me how the article had reminded her of her own experiences with her domestic helper whom she had lost contact with.

It was not a very long letter and my story did not make any earth-shattering changes, but this is one of those little things that remind me that what I have chosen to do is worthwhile.

Kindness of Strangers

I am very lucky to have complete strangers writing in to express their well wishes or to direct me to resources that can help me.

Some of these people are former and current employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières whom shared with me invaluable pieces of advice.

So, thank you.

The Straits Times

I’m not sure how long this will be up but there is an online version you may read in its entirety.

While I am gratified to be written about in The Straits Times, there are three corrections I wish to make:

  1. My mother has ALS but she had it for about two years
  2. She didn’t exactly ask me to use my voice to tell stories. She did however support my decision to study journalism before she even had ALS. And even now, she still supports my assignments (even it involves an area of armed conflict)
  3. I wanted to study Mass Communication in the School of Film & Media Studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic since I was 14. A friend pointed out that the math does not add up; I was already in Year Two three years ago.

On another note, some of my peers found the headline quite interesting.

You may also want to read another perspective published by the School of Film & Media Studies in their News updates.

Going overseas alone

The prospect of going overseas to write a story is quite daunting.

I usually work with Xian Jie who takes care of all technical nightmares. Without him, I still expect to make compelling photo stories and perhaps record a few telling videos (definitely with good sound), aside from writing—which I am most comfortable with.

On the contrary, I am not comfortable with putting so much in the hands of technology.

Winning the ICRC Young Reporter Competition

I was frankly quite surprised when the call from Switzerland came to notify me that I won the competition.

After I was told that I was one of 12 shortlisted—and after the long-distance phone interview with a panel of judges which I was convinced I completely mangled, I was torn between hope (that I would actually win), euphoria/confidence (of  winning), and despair (of not daring to expect to win).

I only began to fully appreciate what happened after I saw the ICRC’s press release, official announcement, and Facebook page. The win was in a peculiar state of suspended reality especially since there was an press embargo between the phone call and the official announcement, so I could not share the news with too many people or discuss it freely.

Someone asked me how did I get interested in reporting about humanitarian issues.

I realised I needed to tell stories the day I realised that very few people understand suffering, poverty, strife, and discrimination. Apathy set in and spreads like dry rot. They watch it on televisions and read it on newspapers like a form of entertainment. They study these in books but they cannot imagine that such situations in the world actually exist.

And many of those who have seen such situations with their very own eyes believe in simplistic solutions, turning good intentions into a twisted form of poverty tourism.

I believe that it is when people are able to experience emotionally the lives of others, will they then be able to empathise and truly help in their own capacities.

I find strength in what I do because I have seen how people find courage in the most difficult times.

And that keeps me going.

A recurring thought

I’ll try not to be too depressing.

Jeremy Boo,

Jan 2011