Good Conversation #4 Anthea Ong

Good Conversation #4: Anthea Ong (Hush Teabar)

We met at Real Food at Orchard Central. Anthea had a cup of hot cacao while I decided to go for a healthy Green Vegetable Mix. We started by talking about the young people of today as Hush was involved in this year’s Shine Youth Festival. Anthea commented that it’s heartwarming to see more young people who are socially conscious.

When Anthea passed me her name card, I was surprised by the number of qualifications, achievements, and accolades on the card. As I looked through the list of items on the card, she began to take me on a journey into her life.

She started out as a banker right out of university. She was enthusiastic and hardworking. One day, she looked at the organization chart of the bank and realized that it would take too many years before she could reach the top job in the bank. As such, she was not contended with being a small fish in a big pond.

She left the bank after 4 years. At that point, she wanted to travel and ended up joining an international conference organizer. She did so well that she was made managing director of the Jakarta office in a couple of years. She started her own e-learning company at the age of 34. Between being managing director of the conference organizer’s Jakarta office to starting her own e-learning company, she had a couple of other stints.

The Colossal Collapse

Her e-learning company was able to sign the deal of her lifetime, potentially worth millions. But a technical oversight resulted in the tech giant pulling out of the deal. Overnight, her hopes were dashed. Things also took a turn for the worse when she found out that her husband was cheating on her.

“When I found out that he was cheating on me, my heart broke. It hurt so bad that I thought I was having a heart attack.”

Though she found out, she gave him a chance. However, he still persisted in his infidelity. She decided enough was enough and filed for divorce.

Her ex-husband filed six legal suits against her company. “I was emotionally drained, and financially, I was hit left and right.”

Things got so bad that she only had $16 left in her bank account. Anthea termed this period as a colossal collapse.

“I remember lying on the floor at home, overwhelmed by despair and brokenness. My house was a picture of my life – barrenness. I just had my bed and a refrigerator at home and it was barren. My life had nothing and I felt barren.”

She questioned her identity. “At that point, I realized I wasn’t a CEO, or a daughter who made my parents proud, or a wife who wanted to be loved. I wasn’t defined by all these things.”

The Turning Point

This was the watershed moment for her recovery process. It definitely took time, but she healed slowly. During that period, she got involved in Yoga, meditation, and journaling. She also got involved in volunteering. All these slowly but surely healed the wound in her heart.

Being a beneficiary of yoga, she wanted to share the benefits of yoga to others. She wanted to use yoga as a form of rehabilitation and support. Therefore, she started Project Yoga-on-Wheels, which is a free initiative to teach yoga to people who are at the fringe of society.

She worked with a number of non-profit organisations and charity partners to teach yoga to their clients. This project is still running today.

She also started Circle of Bliss, a weekly group which meets at her place for meditation sessions. Another initiative is the Playground of Joy, which is an enrichment programme for kids. The kids will experience yoga, art, and mindfulness for every session.

Hush Teabar

In 2013, she left her corporate job and started Hush. Despite her vast business experiences, she confessed that the trajectory for Hush is crazy. There were a number of media coverage and many companies were interested in what she was offering. Hush has a simple objective of bringing silence into the workplace.

Hush was launched as a social movement to bring the worlds of hearing and non-hearing together. Hush was also Singapore’s first Silent Teabar and possibly the world’s first. The Hush Experience was designed with the Deaf at the core so they guide us with dignity and love through the uncomfortable world of silence to find ourselves.

Hush has now five deaf hires and one Chief Operating Officer (COO).

“As much as Hush is about making corporates slow down, or empowering the deaf to lead the entire tea session, it is also about the people in Hush who have found a way of finding themselves.”

Anthea has just one simple goal

Anthea has just one simple goal – to be fully used up before she expires. “I want to completely give away my gifts, strengths, and experiences when I draw in my last breath.”

Before we departed, she summed up her life story.

“I would not be where I am today if not for those things that happened in my life. Despite all the hurts and pains, there’s nothing I would change. I’ve learnt to love the true me and see my real identity. My story serve a larger purpose – the purpose of healing.”

The Good Conversations features insights gained through interactions with social entrepreneurs, business movers, top public servants, social innovation experts, and non-profit leaders.

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