It is easy to spot John-Son Oei in a crowd, thanks to his towering frame, booming voice and friendly smile. It is his wide smile that I notice first as we exchange greetings.
He certainly has many reasons to smile at this point in time. Life has been kind to the founder of Extraordinary People Impacting Community (EPIC).
In a span of seven years, John-Son scaled a pilot project into a social powerhouse impacting thousands of lives. He chose the social entrepreneurship path at a time when it was unheard of to do so.
Here are 5 fast facts about the dynamic young man and his thriving social enterprise:
- He went from being a model to building modular homes
Did you know that John-Son used to work as a model for extra income during his student days? “Nowadays, the only ‘modelling’ work I do is our modular homes for EPIC Homes,” he jokes.
- It all started with toilets
In 2010, John-Son and three friends travelled to a Batang Kali orang asli settlement to volunteer for a house-painting project. “When we realised that the village had no toilets when we arrived, we took it upon ourselves to build the facilities for them. We blasted out a request on social media and were blown away when 64 committed individuals turned up,” he reflects.
- He’s laidback most of the time, except when he is pursuing his goals
Those closest to John-Son can attest that people gravitate towards him because he is a likable person by nature. “I am laidback and relaxed most of the time but I am focused and firm about achieving my goals when I want things done,” he divulges.
- Faith in humanity’s goodness keeps him going
According to John-Son, most home build volunteers emerge from the experience with their lives and worldview changed. "When you build a home together with other human beings, you share real moments and memories together. That’s when real humanity shines through,” John-Son says passionately.
- He wants to build communities next
EPIC Homes is just the beginning—John-Son and his team are addressing other community problems. EPIC recently prototyped Millenium Park in SS13 to great success through engaging the neighbourhood and its government. “We want to empower the people to get involved in their public spaces and communities,” he explains.
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Photography: Allan Casal and Shaffiq Farhan
Hair: Kay Tuan from Centro Hair Salon
Makeup: Jean Cheah and Fibiee Liew using Decorté
Location: Hotel Stripes Kuala Lumpur
MORE GENERATION T: Lights, camera and action with John-Son and five Generation Listers