Prior to being Executive Director of Stroke Support Station (S3), Ben Yeo had worked in various companies where he drove fundamental change and growth. mosAIC talks to Ben as he shares his next steps for the organisation and how he’s looking to leverage S3’s comprehensive therapy and wellness programmes to help clients regain normalcy in their lives.
1. What was your previous work experience before you joined Stroke Support Station (S3)?
I began my career in the government sector as the Head of the Mapping Unit for the Singapore Armed Forces, before moving to the private sector. Since then, I have been involved in the early development stages of various internet initiatives. This includes the founding of Netrust Pte Ltd, the first Internet security company in Singapore, in 1997 and the formation of Compaq (now HP) eCommerce Centre in Shanghai in 1999. Subsequently, from 2000 to 2017, I held the Regional Managing Director role at MIMS Group — a healthcare information provider in the Asia Pacific region.
2. How has your experience in your previous roles prepared you for your current role?
My career has generally revolved around start-ups and business transformations, including setting up Netrust, digitising paper maps and revamping MIMS (originally known as Monthly Index of Medical Specialties) from a traditional print publisher to an online healthcare portal. On top of that, the 16 years in MIMS have also given me a chance to develop cross-cultural relationship management skills as well as gain a deeper understanding of the best practices in the different healthcare systems around the Asia-Pacific region.
In many ways, Stroke Support Station (S3) is like a startup. It is a relatively new charity which has been accredited as a provider for subsidised centre-based services only last year. Skills acquired through the various startup initiatives and the cross-cultural relationship management at MIMS, have equipped me to work with my new, yet experienced, team to define, provide and transform the services for community stroke rehabilitation in Singapore.
3. What are some of the new plans you have for Stroke Support Station (S3)?
Our mission at S3 is to help stroke survivors and their caregivers to ‘Re-learn and Enjoy Active Living (R.E.A.L.)’ for a better quality of life. With this framework governing the work that we do, we hope our clients can progress towards normalcy in their lives and re-integrate into the community. The S3 R.E.A.L. programmes consist of a series of therapy and wellness programmes that includes physical rehabilitation, mental wellness, social support and financial assistance (for rehabilitation) and other areas.
Our plans for 2020 will cover these four broad areas:
a. R.E.A.L. Therapy
In our therapy sessions, every S3 member will be provided a customised set of programmes and these include conventional therapies as well as machine-assisted therapies such as exo-skeletons and anti-gravity treadmills.
We have a dedicated team of seven experienced Allied Health Professions Council-licensed therapists consisting of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech-language therapists. They are placed in our two centres at Enabling Village and Jurong Point Shopping Centre. Having these experts in the field will certainly place us in good stead to become the community’s stroke rehabilitation specialists in Singapore, which is our ultimate aim. Together with a support team of Programme Executives and Therapy Assistants, we seek to provide the best possible care for our stroke survivors.
b. R.E.A.L. Wellness
Our R.E.A.L. wellness programmes consist of a series of activities that aim to provide social-emotional support in rebuilding confidence and fostering mental resilience in stroke survivors and their caregivers. For stroke survivors, we understand that it can be a long road to recovery which makes it very easy for them to give up. Hence, the group-based nature of this programme can help increase motivation and promote togetherness as these survivors fight on in life. They are also crafted for those who are survivors in the maintenance stage (where they are able to adapt to their new lifestyle for at least six months). At the same time, members who are in active rehabilitation (an exercise-based programme to improve functional ability) can also enjoy the interaction with their fellow stroke survivors in these programmes. We are looking to add horticulture, music, and art therapy on top of ongoing programmes such as modified sports and yoga.
c. R.E.A.L. Care
This July, we are planning to launch our R.E.A.L. Care programme, in the hope that the care hotline and website can act as a reference point for stroke support. The R.E.A.L. Care team consists of social workers and counsellors that seek to help stroke survivors and caregivers cope better with their situation. This serves as a comprehensive information centre to link stroke survivors and caregivers with care buddies who are recovered survivors or experienced volunteers. In addition, the team runs the S3 Financial Assistance Programme where we provide additional assistance on top of government subsidies for therapy programmes and transport costs. This is to ensure sufficient aid for stroke survivors who are unable to afford even the most subsidised rates or those with interim financial issues.
Last but not least, S3 hopes to work with the Silver Generation Office and various grassroots organisations to reach out to stroke survivors who have dropped out of rehabilitation prematurely or may be isolated and feeling depressed at home. We aim to offer therapy or wellness programmes to help with their rehabilitation or at least arrest any deconditioning (a physical and/or psychological decline in function).
4. Tell us something about yourself that not many people know about?
My last 25 years were mostly spent in management roles where I did not have the opportunity to dabble in areas that I have interest in, such as technology and programming. S3 is a startup with limited IT support and as a result, this necessitates my involvement to explore productivity tools for the team and technology solutions to keep track of our members and their progress. During this Circuit Breaker period, I have also found time to evaluate, more comprehensively, technology and programming for the organisation. It is quite fulfilling to turn my hobby into something useful for S3.
5. Do you have pets and can you tell us about them?
With a household full of children and a hectic travel schedule, having a pet was a luxury that I did not consider. However, seven years ago, my son adopted an abandoned dog that was scheduled to be put down. Tummy is a Cojack, a cross between a Corgi and a Jack Russell. Abused and abandoned, he was initially extremely aggressive whenever anyone went near his food and bark (way too loudly for a small dog) at strangers, other dogs, etc. Over time, everyone in the family fell in love with him and his antics. With everyone working long hours, it became my ‘job’ to give him his daily walk. He has gotten too old to go for his walks now. I didn’t think I would miss going for those walks, but I do.
In summary, prior to joining S3, I had little awareness of stroke as a disease or the challenges faced by stroke patients. As I work with them over the last few months, I am encouraged by the efforts that both stroke survivors and caregivers put into regaining normalcy in their lives. In the same vein, I hope to be able to marshal the best of what S3 can do to help stroke survivors and caregivers re-integrate into the community.