Together with her friends, Christine co-founded Women On A Mission, a non-profit organisation that combines challenging, self-funded, expeditionary travel to remote locations, to raise funds and awareness in support of humanitarian causes.
Since 2012, Christine and the WOAM team have conquered the Everest Base Camp, the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, the Himalayan Tsum Valley, and the frozen Gulf of Ob in Siberia. Christine is also a Marketing Consultant for Temasek Trust (the philanthropic arm of Temasek Holdings), and the Chief Marketing Officer of iRaceMedia. This amazing mum-of-four authored “The Smart Girl’s Handbook to Being MUMMYLICIOUS”, a motivational guide to post-pregnancy fitness.
You started WOAM with your friends, Valerie and Karine. How did you come up with the idea of empowering women by challenging yourselves?
“In 2012, after Valerie, Karine and I trekked to Everest Base Camp with six other adventurous women, raising awareness and funds for women survivors of war, we felt the whole experience was so transformational and meaningful that we decided we simply could not stop there. So we decided our mission would be to continue to inspire women to leave their comfort zone, their families and homes for a certain period of time, while pushing their limits in an effort to rally support for a worthy cause. As a result, Women On A Mission was born, and it evolved naturally into something bigger and more meaningful.”
How does WOAM’s expeditions raise funds?
“We raise funds via our treks and events. Prior to each expedition, each new team member sets up an individual fundraising page that is directly connected to a charity we support. We also organise fundraising events in Singapore with the support of sponsors and often conduct auctions, sell tickets or collaborate with artists on projects.
Recently, at one of our fundraisers for the UN, we hosted Dr Anousheh Ansari, the first self-funded woman astronaut to fly into space, and last November 2015, as part of our fourth expedition, we trekked in Siberia with the nomadic Nenets reindeer herders of that region. This was the first time in history that an all-female team accompanied the Nenets on one of their yearly 60-km journey across the frozen Gulf of Ob, which is a bay of the Arctic Ocean located at the mouth of the Ob River, deep in the Arctic Circle in northern Russia.”
WOAM has conquered some of the toughest treks in the world. What’s up next in 2016?
“This year, we are looking at another very exciting expedition. We’re aiming to become the first all-female team to trek across Iran’s Lut desert. It is the hottest place on earth with record ground temperatures measured at 70.7 C, and also one of the world’s driest places. This expedition takes inspiration from some of the world’s celebrated explorers like the great Marco Polo and British explorer Wilfred Thesiger. During this next journey, we will be traversing vast star dunes, uneven meteorite fields and gigantic salt plains travelling an average of 25 km per day during a period of 10 to 12 days. It’s going to be quite the adventure!”
What drives your team forward when the going gets rough?
“International statistics show that one in three women experience physical violence in their lifetime, and worldwide, up to 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls. Annually, two million women and girls are trafficked, while girls make up two-thirds of children who are denied primary education. These challenging expeditions help to raise funds and awareness for women survivors of war and abuse (who we champion via an organisation called Women for Women International). In addition, we also organise inspirational events and workshops here in Singapore, and in Nepal. To date, we’ve raised more than half a million dollars for the causes and organisations that we support, such as AWARE, the Singapore Committee for UN Women, and Aidha, a local NGO that empowers domestic workers.”
“We are all ordinary people who want to do extraordinary things. I believe we can all make a difference, one person at a time.”
What is your vision for WOAM?
“We want to keep growing our network of volunteers and increase our support of AWARE’s sexual assault care centre, and the Singapore committee for UN Women’s anti human trafficking initiatives. We also hope to get more involved regionally in programmes that will help abused women in my home country, the Philippines. Ultimately, I hope that the work we do will encourage more women to speak out about issues that are important to them. I also wish for more men to get involved with gender violence issues – sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual abuse of
children are often seen as women’s issues when, in fact, they are also men’s issues.”
As a working mum of four kids, how do you balance it all? You even found time to write a book! What’s your day like?
“I try to be very organised and each week’s schedule is planned out very carefully. It includes time for all my work projects, which are numerous and quite diverse; what needs to get done for the children in terms of their school work; extra curricular activities; doctor’s appointments; play dates; and birthday parties, as well as time for me to exercise and do errands; fit in my work appointments; and finally, time to read; write articles; connect on social media; and work on my second book. Each day is different and there’s never a dull moment. Generally I pack in as much as possible in one day.”
Any personal tips on time management?
“For the last 15 years or more, I have religiously handwritten all my goals, resolutions, dreams and favourite quotes in a notebook. I take it out every weekend and reread it to get a renewed sense of inspiration and direction. I find that this helps me to focus my energy on what I want to work on for that year.”
With so many balls to juggle, how do you stay connected to your kids?
“I still read stories before bedtime to my two younger children who are eight and six years old, it’s something they still enjoy very much and which I used to also do with my two older children, now 15 and 13, when they were younger. I try to schedule one-on-one time for a special outing with each of my four children once every couple of weeks. And whenever the school needs a parent volunteer for a special outing, I try to go as often as possible since it makes the child so happy to have their mum with them. It also allows me to get to know their classmates a little better.”
What would you say to someone who’s keen to bring about positive social change – but unsure of where to start?
“I believe everyone has a distinct mission inside him or her, one that has the capacity to inspire. Ask yourself this question: What is your mission in life? Sit down and think about what you truly love, and how you could contribute to society with your own special talents. So if there is something you have been wanting to start, don’t hold back. If there is an opportunity that presents itself to make more of a difference, reach out for it with all your heart, now is the time.”
For more real life stories of inspiring women, read One Woman’s Mission To Make Singapore A Kinder City, 4 Courageous Women Share How They Conquered Their Fears and “I’m Proof That Cancer Survivors Can Still Lead A Healthy Life”.
Text: Candy Lim
Photos: Eddie Teo