The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

  • More thought-provoking stories that inspire
  • Independent, free and member-supported
  • Vote for, pitch and commission stories
  • Member engagement with our journalists

To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Singapore therapy cats / providing comfort and companionship

By: Kirsten Han - Photography by: Tom White - Posted on: May 28, 2018 | Featured

Singapore’s feline therapists are providing comfort in a nation slow to grasp the need for mental healthcare

The Love Kuching Project cat therapy programme brings friendly, trained felines to nursing homes, schools and centres for children with special needs

Russ’ first day on the job, and everything is amazing. There are lots of people around and plenty to investigate: fingers tapping on tables; mobile phones with their bright, colourful screens; aunties who gesticulate and chuckle. He darts from one side of the table to another, his eyes bright, drawing laughs from the assembled group.

Cat therapy might be for the benefit of humans, but it also appears to be great fun if you’re a two-month-old black-and-white kitten.

Once a month, the residents at the Ren Ci Nursing Home in western Singapore enjoy a visit from the volunteers of the Love Kuching Project and their therapy felines. Elderly residents, some in wheelchairs, cluster around a large table on which docile cats sit, ready to be petted and cooed over.

It’s part of an ongoing arrangement between the nursing home and the cat welfare group to liven up the residents’ days and give them more opportunities for interaction and stimulation. Love Kuching Project isn’t the only group to bring animals to Ren Ci, either – they also have regular dog therapy sessions with local dog shelter SOSD (Save Our Street Dogs).

“We’re one of the early ones to partner with these [animal welfare] groups. The elderly benefit because there are studies that show these interactions help,” says John Tang, Ren Ci’s manager of corporate communications.

Animal-assisted therapy, or pet therapy, refers to the use of guided interaction with animals to aid in recovery from or to help cope with mental or physical health issues. Research has suggested it can help reduce blood pressure, release endorphins and alleviate loneliness, pain and stress. It has also been found to encourage socialisation and empathy.

“Our nursing home residents have shown to be more alert and smile more often during and after the cat therapy,” says Ding Xin Yi, an executive in Ren Ci’s administration department. “During the visit by the volunteers and their cats, our residents are more relaxed. They also have the chance to speak to the volunteers who accompany the cats.”

A resident named Valli cracks a wide grin when asked about these monthly sessions. “I like cats,” says the 69-year-old. “I’m happy [when they are here].”

Pets can help to alleviate loneliness and calm fears and anxieties. People who own pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and risk for heart disease

For 80-year-old Mainam Binte Mahmood, the therapy cats trigger memories of a time long gone. “I’m happy because it reminds me of the old days when I had cats in the kampong,” she says in Malay, referring to the days of her youth, when Singapore still had village communities where cats roamed with abandon. “[It makes me] reminisce about the time when I would boil fish for the community cats.”

The Love Kuching Project also brings therapy cats to special-needs schools and care centres. But it’s not just about the elderly or people with disabilities – pet therapy and animal companionship could be helpful to many of Singapore’s residents.

The wealthy city-state is replete with the creature comforts available to developed countries: air conditioning to cope with the tropical climate, high-speed internet connectivity, shiny malls packed with products and cuisines from around the world and a reliable electricity grid to support it all.

But those comforts come at a price: living costs in Singapore are far higher than those of its neighbours, and much is demanded of young and old alike. A 2016 report by recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley found that although Singapore’s employers are offering more flexible work arrangements, the majority of working professionals said they felt obliged to work beyond their contracted hours. Meanwhile, the rigour of the education system puts pressure on parents and children; tuition centres even offer preparatory classes for six-year-olds fresh out of kindergarten simply to get them ready for the demands of primary school.

“In my line of work, I see a lot of individuals who are struggling with depression, stress and anxiety, from school-aged children to working adults,” says clinical psychologist Marlene Lee of Solutions 4 Life psychological services in Singapore. “I would attribute this to the fast-paced, competitive society that we live in, where material success is emphasised, at times, at the expense of mental and emotional wellbeing.”

A furry feline therapist hard at work at Singapore’s Ren Ci Nursing Home

Despite these stresses, seeking help can be difficult. According to a study spearheaded by the city-state’s Institute of Mental Health in 2010, major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder were the most common mental illnesses in Singapore. The study also found “a large gap in help-seeking behaviour”, meaning that the majority of Singaporeans struggling with mental illness were not seeking professional help.

Pet therapy isn’t a cure-all, of course, but having some animal companionship could be helpful for many stressed-out city dwellers. “Pets can help to alleviate loneliness and calm fears and anxieties. Studies also show that people who own pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and risk for heart disease,” says Lee.

Owning a pet isn’t always easy when one works long hours or lives with family members who might not want an animal in the house. This is where cat cafés come in, which first appeared in Singapore in 2013. The idea is incredibly simple: customers pay to spend time with cats while enjoying coffee and snacks.

Neko No Niwa, the country’s first cat café, is next to the Central Business District, on the top floor of a shophouse by the River. Towering skyscrapers housing banks and offices surround it. Inside, 13 cats – all of them adopted rescue animals – lounge, play, doze and cuddle in a calm environment that emphasises their wellbeing above all else.

Tan Sue-Lynn, the café’s owner and founder, says many of their regular customers are locals who can’t keep cats at home or expatriates who miss the pets they’ve left behind. For such people, a trip to Neko No Niwa is a chance for some animal fun and companionship, a break from the non-stop demands of the city.

The café also holds cat care workshops every quarter, providing cat owners (or potential cat owners) a crash course in how to evaluate the nutritional content of cat food, understand cat behaviours and provide cats with the best home possible. “By doing so, we hope to encourage cat ownership, especially through adoption, and also improve the knowledge and quality of cat care,” Tan says.

Cats and games are on the table at Ren Ci nursing home

Back at Ren Ci Nursing Home, a cat named Mickey, a long-haired 14-year-old, lies flat with his head on his paws. He’s unfazed as people take photos, scratch behind his ears and stroke him. Although the volunteers admit he’s not always so well behaved, they say his mostly relaxed nature makes him a good therapy cat.

“They don’t need training, they just have to be well socialised with humans… Kittens are easier [to introduce to therapy sessions] but when it comes to adult cats, you have to observe how they are beyond their comfort zone,” says Fizah Ishak, a volunteer with the Love Kuching Project. It’s also up to the coordinators of the therapy sessions to understand each cat’s personality – some who might be comfortable around sedate seniors might not take so well to sessions with children.

But even the most placid cat has its limits. Gizmo, a handsome brown-haired boy, sits calmly as residents in Ren Ci’s dementia ward stroke him, but suddenly hisses when someone tugs his fur the wrong way. He’s been on duty for more than an hour by that point and is finally getting weary. A little later, even tiny Russ is done; he’s curled up in his fosterer’s arms, hugging a soft toy, all tuckered out.

It’s a sign for the volunteers to herd their precious cargo back into their respective carriers and head home, where all the cats will be rewarded for their service with a delicious, well-earned meal.

This article was published in the May edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.