18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
A Little Empathy Goes A Long Way
The common misconceptions of union leaders are those that are outgoing, loud and assertive. Today, we shatter the misconception with a self-professed introvert, Ted Woo, a union leader in the Housing and Development Board Staff Union (HDBSU).

1. Could you bring us through your daily role?

My work as the Higher Technical Executive in the Land Clearance Section revolves around managing and maintaining acquired vacant Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) properties.

After the announcement of the SERS estates, it will take some time for the flat owners to vacate the premise. During this period, my role is to carry out frequent checks on those units until it is ready for demolishing. This includes ensuring that the vacant units have proper mosquito preventive measures implemented and to report on any traces of possible break-in/ vandalism as well as carry out external and internal maintenance checks on these units under my management.

HDB has been progressively moving towards digitalisation transformation in the recent years. As a move towards digitalisation, I had the privilege of being part of the pioneer batch in the HDB’s Drones Project where I became a Certified CAAS Drone Pilot.

With this project, we are able to digitise the checks with the drones to pinpoint traces of break in or theft. This has also allowed us to save a tremendous amount of time and effort. On average, we are able to check an entire block within 10 to 30 mins.

2. What do you do as a union leader and how long have you been volunteering at Young NTUC?

Currently, I am an observer in the HDBSU’s Executive Council, Chairman of Young HDBSU and the Secretary for HDBSU Sports and Social Secretariat.

On the ground, we organize events to bond the union as well as understand their challenges and issues they face. As for activities, since everyone has different interests, we try to do a variety of events to engage different groups of people. People with the same interest will naturally come together at the respective events and this is a way they would bond.

One recent event that we did was a tea appreciation workshop where we got Coffee Bean to host the event. We also organise some sports activities where union members can bring their families together for a day of sport.

Recently, I also took up a facilitator role for Young NTUC’s Traineeship Programme where I get to speak to new trainees and understand their new experiences and concerns.

3. Please share with us some of your highlights volunteering at Young NTUC

It was the first Project Refresh that I participated in last year. This Project Refresh was organised by Young NTUC & North East CDC with the purpose of engaging the residents at the nursing home through a series of art and craft engagement. Young NTUC also took the opportunity to set up the Christmas tree and gave out goodies to the residents to celebrate the upcoming Christmas.

What makes this Project Refresh so special and memorable was because on the day of event, my wife was called back to work. As it was too sudden, I had no time to look for a caregiver and I had to bring along my then 2-years-old boy to volunteer with me at the nursing home. I was initially worried that he will become cranky due to the new environment and the crowd. However, I was surprised to see him enjoying himself and interacting with the residents through the activities.

At the end of the event, the smiles I see from the residents makes me feel happy and the event unforgettable. Of course, the shared moment I had with my son, and seeing him bringing so much joy to the people around, specifically the elderly made the whole event even more memorable.  


4. What keeps you motivated in volunteering, and taking on so many different roles?

Innately, I always want to make Singapore a better place to live and work. That was the reason that led me to volunteer at the start. If you asked me today would I have imagined myself taking up so many different roles, I would say never in my wildest imagination.

I am thankful to have gained the trust of many to be entrusted with so many different roles. These roles have added meaning to my work and life, and allowed me to learn many different things that I believe would have otherwise not been able to.

The people that I met in this union journey are what motivates me the most. They lead by examples, the passion that lived in their hearts to help the members greatly motivates me to become one of them.

5. Please share a quote that you like or you live by?

One of my favorite quotes is “Listening is often the only thing needed to help someone.”

I used to think that whenever my friends share problems with me, I need to listen and respond. But as years go by, I slowly realised that often, what they need is just a listening ear and a heart to understand them. This other quote really resonates with me as well, "God gives man two ears and just one mouth."