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Lionel Dorai, 32, SUSS Communications Alumnus


Lionel heads FutuReady Asia to impart life skills and values to youths, and extend further training for them to manage mental conditions. [Photo: Lionel Dorai]

Be an upstander, not a bystander

For Lionel, a life without giving is a life that isn’t worth living. In his involvement in social and charity work, the former communications professional deploys his savvy knowledge in social and new media to champion the interests of the underprivileged.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Lionel Dorai, and I am 32 years old in 2020. In my free time, I like to exercise, specifically through basketball and swimming. I also enjoy playing the guitar. I love watching good shows and movie trilogies with my family.

I am the Chief Executive of FutuReady Asia, a youth development organisation and social enterprise. Before FutuReady Asia, I worked as a Senior Communications Executive for the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES).

Why did you decide to pursue your career?

Communications has become a part of my identity since I entered the working world. At the same time, I am passionate about helping the less fortunate in society, whether humans or animals. I realised that these two priorities go hand-in-hand, when I made use of my communications skills to help raise funds and create awareness campaigns for various beneficiaries. In this day and age, new media can be an effective tool to make a difference in society and champion the interests of the underprivileged.

How did FutuReady Asia start and what does it stand for?

FutuReady Asia was founded by Delane Lim, Amalina Rozman and Erika Sng back in 2016; I joined in the following year.

It was founded with the aim of imparting life skills and values to youths. We want to train youths to be forward-thinkers who are unafraid to learn and have the initiative to take action where necessary throughout their lives.

FutuReady Asia also has a charity arm which deals with suicide prevention and aims to equip youths with key skills that will help them cope with mental illnesses like depression, which is a growing trend among young people these days.

Please share some rewarding experiences from your work.

In January 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to spread around the world, my team realised that there was a specific group of people in Singapore who were vulnerable to the virus and whom we could help to educate – the elderly.

With this in mind, 20 of us spearheaded the initiative #OpsHandsOn, or Operation Hands On, involving the preparation, packing and distribution of masks and sanitisers to the elderly in Singapore. This was a daunting task which took the whole of February 2020, seven days a week. We started out with a modest goal of reaching out to 5,000 elderly persons. By the end of March 2020, we had reached out to some 50,000 persons – ten times that number. We are proud to have achieved this. It would not have been possible without the use of our communications skills.

What goals are you working towards?

As far as FutuReady Asia is concerned, if there are gaps in society that we feel can be filled within our resources, we will fill it for the betterment of our community.

On a personal level, I believe that a life isn't worth living if it's a life that has no giving. This may sound cheesy, but it is important to remember that fortunate as we are to live in a country as well developed and run as Singapore, we must not let ourselves be blinded to the fact that there are segments in our society that are less privileged.

My personal vision is to always do things that have meaning, however small they may be, and ensure that they add value to the lives of others. As I always tell my team and the people around me, do what you can to be a positive influence to those around you, however big or small the impact.

How has your SUSS experience shaped you and helped you pursue your passion?

Communications is a discipline with many subsets. I was able to cross-apply knowledge gained from the course in my day job. For example, with ACRES, I remember being part of the team managing crises, and utilising my knowledge from the crisis communication module to help me do so. Currently, with FutuReady Asia, I have used many of the lessons learnt at SUSS to engage internal and external stakeholders, and to manage difficult situations.

Many communications campaigns make heavy use of social media, which we studied in class. The strategies covered during lessons were directly relevant to what I was doing, and made the campaigns more effective. One such campaign back with ACRES was a fund-raising initiative called #KeepTheDriveAlive, to raise funds for a new wildlife rescue vehicle. The campaign raised $100,000, which we used to purchase the much-needed rescue vehicle.

Even now, for FutuReady Asia's #OpsHandsOn, we have deployed many communication strategies learnt in class to push the campaign forward – for example, handling the media and using social media to propagate our message to the right target audience.

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