It’s All Child’s Play For Sonia Ong

She founded the Singapore Wellness Association to help people improve their health and wellness.

It’s All Child’s Play For Sonia Ong

Wellness wasn’t a thing in the early 2000s. But Sonia Ong’s interest in holistic health led her to pursue public health as a major at Cornell University in New York. Her course dealt extensively with obesity since it was rampant in the US then — little did she expect to be helping Singapore battle the same problem now.

“Obesity in schoolchildren rose by only 1 percent over 13 years from year 2000. But by 2014, it’d risen by another percent,” shares Ong.

She was especially concerned as obesity leads to a host of problems, both physical and emotional, including illnesses such as diabetes and self-esteem issues. So in December 2014, she established the Singapore Wellness Association (SWA).

Among SWA’s programmes that help tackle obesity, PlaystreetsSG was rolled out in 2016 to encourage kids to get healthy and gain intercultural awareness through fun and games. It was driven by her conviction that “children should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily”.

PlaystreetsSG converts a street — usually Baghdad Street, Sago Lane or Campbell Lane — into a giant playground where families can enjoy different activities. These include traditional games like the Chinese yo-yo, chapteh and Indian board game pachisi, which Ong, 37, feels can help the younger generation better understand Singapore’s heritage. To encourage more people to visit, admission is free.

Banking on the positive response to PlaystreetsSG, she set up Silverstreets and Lovestreets: The former allows the elderly to exercise and bond with their neighbours while the latter gets singles to meet through an active day out.

SWA will also be launching a new initiative, Kaypoh is Kind, in December. Open to 1,000 volunteers, the free mental health training programme teaches participants to identify signs of burnout and depression in those around them so they can better help them cope.

Ong shares: “Burnout has been recognised as a disease by the World Health Organization. That’s why we must pay careful attention to our minds and bodies. Stress management is so important in our fast-paced world, and parents and children must watch out for one another. We must always remember that there are many paths to success.”

To find out more about the Singapore Wellness Association, visit their website.