Personalities

Meet John-Son Oei of Extraordinary People Impacting Community (EPIC)

The second "Change The World" feature sees John-Son Oei who builds houses for the underprivileged.

As we have said in the first of our "Change The World" series (see: Rebekah Yeoh), "youth is no handicap when it comes to helping those in need" and this week, we talk to John-Son Oei of Extraordinary People Impacting Community (EPIC).

 

John-Son Oei, Extraordinary People Impacting Community

[On John-Son: H&M Top; Stylist's own cap]

 

What started out as a twice-weekly meet up with a group of friends on how to improve themselves as people later became a starting point for John-Son Oei to start EPIC – short for Extraordinary People Impacting Community.

EPIC Homes was initially meant to be just a project, one that contributes to building homes for underprivileged Malaysian communities, but seven years later, it still remains and is expanding into something more than just building houses for the underprivileged.

And to recognise his efforts, John-Son has also been named one of Forbes Asia's 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneur.

"Our role as the core team is to mobilise, inspire and empower others to help the communities they care about."

Seeing as EPIC was meant to just be a project, what spurred you to continue on with it?

What kept me at it was two very basic realisations that I had whilst doing the project.

First was realising that a lot of people wanted to serve [the community]. There are a lot of people who want to do more than just donate money. Instead, they want to get their hands dirty, give back and see where the money goes.

The only problem with why we don’t see more people helping is because they don’t know how to go about it or what to do.

The other realisation was understanding that EPIC Homes was such an impactful experience for myself. I asked myself, “Why didn’t I get engaged in something like that earlier?”

What did you realise from all that?

I realised that it wasn’t because I didn’t care, but because I felt alone. I felt like the amount of effort I put in would not amount to much.

However, by putting ourselves out there, organising this project, and seeing so many strangers turn up, made me realise that many people do care. at transformed me as a person.

Rather than trying to do everything on my own, I found that there are people willing to help me out. It was thanks to these two realisations that I set out to continue EPIC, making it a platform to allow other people to have the similar experience as I did. it.

How does EPIC function?

Our role as the core team is to mobilise, inspire and empower others to help the communities they care about. We channel that energy and create impact through our community of volunteers.

When we find an issue that we want to solve, we post it up on our website. Then, we get strangers that join us.

If it’s a project involving a higher level of skill, then we will provide a training venue for them. If it requires them to camp out in the wilderness, we’ll give them survival training.

What do you want to achieve out of EPIC?

Our vision is to create an inclusive world full of response-able people, driven by the heart of service. Our society makes it easy for us to put blame on others. With that mindset, it creates a diffusion of responsibility and a lack of action.

I want people to realise that we can do a lot more than we think we can to change the environment that we live in. The idea behind EPIC is to really create a world, where people would look at the issue on hand and say, “What can we do about it?”

 

What actions are you taking as you pave your path forward? 

By being response-able, we’re hoping that people will take the initiative and have the ability to respond to the challenges they face.

It’s a culture that we at EPIC are trying to create. A lot of people think EPIC is all about helping the poor. Actually, the impact goes both ways because it not only helps the underprivileged but also the privileged to be more empathetic.

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If you could change the world, what aspect of it would you change and how would you do it?

This is quite cliché... but I believe at the end of the day it’s about constantly improving myself and believing that whatever resources – channels, networks, scope of influence – that’s been given to me will be able to amplify the person that I am to help influence others to change for the better.

To find out more about EPIC and support the cause, head on to epichome.org.

Photography: Chintoo
Styling: Jeffrey Yan
Makeup: KF Bong
Hair: Cody Chua

 

 

This article is originally published in our L'Officiel Malaysia May 2017 print edition.

To read more exclusive stories, you can get your copy at newsstands and bookstores in Malaysia or subscribe to our digital copy here.

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