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Dr. Khoo Kim Choo: Children are the light of my life

21 Sep 2012

Dr. Khoo Kim Choo, Outstanding Singapore International Volunteer 2012 Special Commendation Award recipient, sheds light on her journey as an early childhood care and development pioneer.

Dr Khoo working with pre-school children in MyanmarI started off as a trained social worker specialising in children and families, and eventually embraced the early childhood field. It was then that I realised how much I love working with children. They are absolutely the light of my life because their disarming innocence and spontaneity are so simple, yet profound and enlightening.

Since the early eighties, I have worked with educators, parents, related Ministries and other stakeholders on developing and executing a holistic approach to early childhood education. It is so important to involve parents and the community because programmes that do so often ensure long-term gains for the children.

Before I started volunteering with the Singapore International Volunteers (SIV), I worked with various local and international organizations within and outside Singapore. My 16 years with the NTUC Childcare Group offered great opportunities to initiate exciting projects like RTRC Asia, and other programmes involving training and community projects.

The valuable experience that I have gained from working with UNICEF, UNESCO, Save the Children and other international agencies, government and NGOs on regional programmes involving “training the trainers” has facilitated a natural progression for me when I was approached by the SIF to be an SIV and  join a specialist volunteer team in Vietnam. I enjoy working with SIV because we are really into it for the long haul and we get a better feel of the issues in this way. It is a very meaningful experience and the process and outcome very satisfying.

When I think about children, I don’t only think about children in Singapore. I remember how depressing it was for me, when I was on a UNESCO project in Cambodia, seeing aged men with young girls. The slum children lived among thieves, murderers and prostitutes and started working from a very young age. Although the community lived in difficult circumstances, people do the best they can.

During the course of my work, I was sometimes asked, “Why not donate money instead?” My answer has always been that money will always run out but ideas are far more valuable and will last forever. Training the trainers programmes empower communities in a sustainable way and multiplies the effect of what we do.

Whatever challenges I encounter, I tend to just deal with them and move on. I have never ever thought about giving up. There will always be challenges to face, but if we see each challenge as an opportunity to learn something new – new skills, new ways of working with people, new ways of looking at things – then we can calmly look at it and figure out how to best deal with it.

My mantra is to be able to do the highest good for the most number of children and families, wherever they are, in my own small way. I am currently working with the team on a resource publication for pre-school teachers in Myanmar. Thereafter, we embark on a project to train teachers on teaching English to pre-school children in Myanmar.

Click here to watch her video

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