Willing hands, giving hearts

02 May 2019 / 11:04 H.

by Tamarai Chelvi

Two friends, one dream and many lives changed for the better

JOANNE Yong and Julia Lee have known each other for over 20 years. Mutual friends brought the once banking co-workers together. Both are of one mind, that “kindness changes lives”. Here they share about their biggest dream “to contribute towards changing the world”. Through little steps and small deeds, they make life a little, if not a lot better, for children at the Drigung Kagyu Rinchen Palri Monastery in Nepal.

Both mothers in their 30s, they have their hearts set on helping the children by raising USD80,000 to build a new two-storey dormitory ” via #ProjectNepal2019.

A little about them ...

JY: I live in Melbourne, left my banking job and am a full-time mother to twin boys. I have and still do volunteer work, helping refugees under the Australian Government Migrant Programme, specifically teaching English and trying to assimilate their lives so they can adapt to the local culture. I practice yoga and love exploring food as part of our living consciousness. I try to integrate Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine with wholesome foods in my daily consumption.

JL: I live and work in Malaysia, am a mother of one little toddler. I enjoy traveling and learning about the different cultures and foods of the world. I started volunteering in orphanages and children’s shelters a few years ago. It was only then that I realised there really are so many underprivileged people n this world, who even at this day and age, lack access to basic necessities like food, books, family, love, medicine, education and shelter.

The flicker and flame ...

JY: I have always loved working with children. But this project came about during a volunteer stint in Nepal seven years ago where I taught English and Math to young children (at this same monastery) for six months. I had left my banking job and within a month I found myself doing something I had never imagined. The experiences are indescribable. Since then, I have been returning every year to spend time with the children; either contributing essential necessities or spending quality time with the young ones who are far away from their home. This was the basis of Project Nepal.

Universe at work ...

JY: I’ve known Julia for years and have always admired her passion for working with children. We both share the same sentiments on how kindness changes lives. One day, instead of sitting on our dream, we decided to work with the monastery that I have been assisting, by providing sustainable living basic needs for the young children to enable them to improve their education and well-being.

JL: I am very blessed and comfortable with where I am right now but I also feel I have a responsibility to do good and give back to the less privileged. It also gives meaning to life. It was when I learned of Joanne’s philanthropic work and her passion for working with children that I was inspired to get involved and work with her. Since we both share a common mindset, we decided to embark on this cause and raise funds.

Aim and objective ...

JY & JL: In essence, the fund was established to raise money to construct a quality and sustainable building to aid in the health, safety and education of the children studying at the monastery. The aim - to create a more conducive living space for the increasing number of boys going into the monastic institution. Briefly, the monastery is committed to preserving and providing a thorough curriculum of Buddhist study, debate and practice, and contribute to the survival of the spiritual and cultural tradition of Tibet, as an educational institution. The monastery also cares for children, particularly those in the Himalayan region, from families living in extreme poverty. It provides them with food, shelter and education.

JL: Phase One of the project will incorporate building a new two-storey dormitory for the children, engineered to withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. It will also provide better living conditions for these children. If funds exceed our target, we will work on Phase Two, towards the building of a communal wash/bathroom. We hope that the people at large will share and spread awareness on this fundraising cause with their friends and family.

Inspirational beings ...

JY: Many have inspired me to give back to the community. I believe that everyone has a compassionate nature within. Meeting people from different parts of the world has shown me how kindness and giving are same in nature. I was also raised in a family where my parents contributed to charities and causes. These values and principles have been inculcated and giving has always been an important aspect within our household. However, the passion to serve humanity probably started after my stay in Nepal back in 2011. Personally, I have been shown kindness and generosity by many and this has empowered me to share the kindness I have received with others and hope they can continue to spread the kindness that has touched their lives with others.

JL: Ever since I became a mother, I’ve realised that education and a safe environment is extremely important for a child’s upbringing and well-being. Poverty is the main reason children are sent to monasteries here in Nepal as they view it as the best opportunity for the child to have a better life - access to food, shelter, education and basic necessities that most families here lack. Hence, I decided to embark on this project to raise funds and help provide these children a safe and happy childhood. Knowing that I will be able to make a difference in giving them a healthy start in life means a lot to me.

Here’s your chance to give back to society. Search for #ProjectNepal2019 on digital media and see how you make a donation. has updates on the campaign and funds collected.


While on one hand, TV and news reports may give the impression of a cruel world, there seems to be a growing show of kindness from companies engaging in CSR, humanitarian work, community service, and good deeds, plus John Does giving selflessly in many ways and means. Check out the survey analysis from Randstad Workmonitor Global Report (Q3 2018) on employees in Malaysian organisations on volunteer work.

* 82% of respondents think it’s important to make a contribution to society by doing unpaid voluntary work.

* 49% of respondents do unpaid voluntary work outside their work hours, whereas 82% would if their employer gave them paid time-off.

* 45% stated that their employer encourages employees to do voluntary work (unpaid), outside their work hours.

* 40% said they get paid time-off to do unpaid voluntary work of their own choice, with 35% of their employer’s choice.

* 84% of Malaysians only want to work for a company that has a strong CSR programme, while 83% believe it is an important criteria, when looking for a job, to work with an organisation that participates in charitable/philanthropic work.

* 73% say their employer actively supports at least one good cause/charitable initiative.

* 90% state their employer wants his workforce to reflect the diversity within local and national labour markets.

* 69% state there is a diversity/inclusion policy at the organisation they work with.

Visit for more insights.

Joanne teaching the children at Drigung Kagyu Rinchen Palri Monastery in 2011.

Julia engages with the children in August last year.

Happy faces don the “ProjectNepal2019” t-shirts.

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