SINGAPORE – About 400 people attended a charity high tea and fashion show on Feb 16 organized by the students from the three Secondary Four Normal stream classes at Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) Secondary (Toa Payoh). The theme of the fashion show was to "Celebrate the IJ Girl" and what she stands for – truth, justice, love.

Net proceeds from the sales of the tickets amounting to slightly more than $13,000 benefited the IJ Centre, Clementi, a charitable organization that provides care for young children. It is part of the Infant Jesus Homes & Children’s Centre.

According to the CHIJ Secondary Vice-Principal Mrs Mathews Shu Quo, "In the 1960s, fashion shows were an annual affair [in CHIJ], and some of those who were involved are now doing very well in the fashion industries. We decided to bring back the fashion shows and give students this opportunity [to be involved]."

When Vera Celine Ong, a training executive with Wing Tai Retail and a member of the Student Development sub-committee in the CHIJ Alumni Association was approached to do a project to raise the level of self-esteem of the Secondary Four Normal Stream girls in the CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh), she came up with the idea of having a fashion show, which included vocal and dance performances. Producing a fashion show would also give the girls a glimpse of the working world.

Together with Samantha Kuntaryo, a homemaker and fellow sub-committee member, they mooted the idea to the form teachers, who then asked if the students were interested in such a project. They were.

The project was kick-started with a two-day workshop held in Oct 23-24 last year, which focused on bonding the 80 students together with their mentors from the IJ Alumni. These ex-IJ girls came from all walks of life and brought their diverse corporate and life experiences to the students.

The students were divided into teams, each of which had the guidance from at least two mentors, some of whom were working with 15-year-old girls for the first time in their adult lives.

"We struggled to find the right balance between mentoring, coaching, and outright giving them instructions as well as being their friend," shared Samantha. "At times, I was disappointed that things were not moving as fast [as scheduled]. In the corporate world, things get done efficiently with speed. But it doesn’t work that way with 15-year-old girls. Fortunately, we had advice from the vice-principal and teachers, that in the end, everything will work out. They had such faith!"

Charlotte Kwok, one of the models, revealed that the most difficult part of the project was "to have to stay back till such a late time in school for rehearsals", and that it was "hard to sacrifice a lot of time". But when it came to the actual fashion show, she said, "I felt so much excitement and exhilaration! Everyone’s staring at you and you can’t mess it up!"

Charlotte also learned a number of life experiences from her involvement. "You have to have a lot of patience, and you have to be available at easy notice for whenever people need to contact you," she said.

Sarah Almodiel, a member of the publicity committee, found that "getting all the separate parts to work together smoothly" was the most challenging aspect, but "seeing everyone enjoy this" made it all worthwhile for her.- By Daniel Tay


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