Mooncakes and Conversations

— Germaine Ong, Planning Director, Singapore 

As a socially responsible company, WE takes great pride in our efforts to make the communities where we work healthier and happier, and this is something I personally love about our agency culture.

Right now, in many parts of Asia including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, we are celebrating Mid-Autumn festival – a harvest festival observed on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar – coinciding with a full moon.

Traditionally, the making and sharing of mooncakes (round pastries with a rich, thick filling of red bean or lotus seed paste and a salted duck egg yolk in the middle to represent the moon) is one of the hallmark traditions of the Mid-Autumn festival. As a result, it is also a tradition of many agencies in the region (including our own) to send mooncakes to clients and partners as a way to say thank you.  

However, this year, WE Singapore took the radical move not to send mooncakes to our clients. Instead we sent our clients a note wishing them a happy Mid-Autumn Festival - and let them know that we gave mooncakes on their behalf to 60 senior citizens at Xin Yuan Community Care, a charity committed to providing regular financial assistance and therapeutic, health and educational support to the elderly and children from low-income families.

I was one of the lucky dozen who spent a Monday lunch hour delivering the mooncakes and chatting with the ah mas and ah kongs (Hokkien colloquialism for grandmas and granddads) of the community center. I'm not going to lie - I initially very felt awkward interrupting them on their lunchtime, but with older folks, food is almost always a suitable opening gambit for hospitality and conversation. 

Mooncakes in hand, I chatted them up - and oh, they had such stories to tell. Everyone I spoke to made it a point to tell me how much they enjoyed staying put in Toa Payoh where they've had the same friends and neighbors for decades, despite their children and grandchildren urging them to move out and live with them instead. 

This warmed my heart, as Mid-Autumn is about togetherness - the proverb ‘月圆人团圆’ literally means that the roundness of moon brings people together - and it was such a privilege to share in the community spirit that bonds these folks and keeps them feeling happy and secure in their heartland. 

I left with tales of life in Toa Payoh, fashion advice from an 84-year-old maven, and affectionate scoldings to have a second child before it’s too late. Also – a renewed sense of the meaning of community.

Props to my boss, and MD of the Singapore office, Jeremy Seow for leading this meaningful move away from our typical - but not particularly traditional - mode of marking Mid-Autumn as an agency. We hope to make this a regular occurrence, and I'm sure my new friends will have even more stories to tell me next year.