MALAYSIANS KINI "You are the reason I did not jump last night," is probably what most people who seek to help those who are depressed and suicidal would want to hear.
And sometimes all it takes is just a simple sketch to let a person know that they are not alone.
This was how the journey started for freelance graphic artist Kopi Soh as she followed her desire to help people who are struggling with depression feel less alone.
In an interview with Malaysiakini , Kopi Soh described herself as a “healer of hearts” – channelling the power of arts to heal through changing a person's physiology and attitude towards life.
From a one-woman show, Kopi Soh said her project has now garnered the support of a network of independent artists.
She believes that it does not take a lot of skills to harness the healing power of art, personally admitting to only being able to draw ‘stick figures’.
This was the idea behind 'Stick It To Me' - just one out of the many projects she has been involved with.
Though she prefers to keep her real identity a secret, she has agreed to share her tale. In her own words, this is Kopi Soh’s story:
Made just for all my STICK IT TO ME supporters!!!
I STARTED SIMPLY BECAUSE I WANTED TO MAKE PEOPLE WHO ARE SAD, HAPPY. If you look at my earlier albums, it was for everyone who had depression, feeling lonely, grieving etc.
I also started by writing a book to help people feel less alone and then it evolved into drawing for people to make them feel less alone.
I kept reading about suicide rates in our country and I cannot help but think how lonely these people must be. If only I can do something, so I learned to draw.
Prior to this, I had never drawn and if you checked out my earlier works, it was only stick figures.
Actually, my inspiration was nothing profound. I just wanted to make this world a better place. Make one person feel less alone.
I wanted people to know that suicide is not the way out, there is someone who cares even if he or she is a total stranger.
I have had few people come up to me and say you are the reason I did not jump that night. For me that is the ultimate.
So it started by wanting to help people with depression feel less alone and then it just evolved into making sick kids feel less alone. And then it evolved again into making single parents feel less alone, sick people feel less alone.
AFTER SOME TIME, THE GROUPS APPROACHED ME . It used to be when I first started I approached those in need and I would draw for terminally ill individuals.
Then a children's hospital in Australia approached me to do some art for the kids there. I did it in digital form; they printed, framed and presented the sketches to the kids.
Soon after that my partner in kindness, Jennifer Chua, came into the picture a year later and she had all these projects she think would benefit from my art.
So she and her partner Yeam started coordinating. She did for Bukit Harapan and hospitals. Then I met Dr Azma, who is leader for Rumah Syaffiyah orphanage. She also championed many projects.
Then hospice started approaching me. I used to try and draw all the art myself, but I also worked full time.
So when more projects started coming in, I could not handle it alone and started recruiting fellow compassionate artists.
HALF OF THE PEOPLE I DREW FOR HAVE SINCE PASSED AWAY . I really do not have a favourite art work because when I draw I actually think about sending healing thoughts to the recipient.
So each of the art work is very dear to me. There was one specific art work for a girl who wanted to live to age 13.
She asked for a piece of art, I drew it for her. And then a week later she turned 13 and then she passed on. Her family came to me asking me to draw her as an angel.
She was one of the first few I drew for.
Also, time is of the essence here as these kids are very ill.
Once we had a project for a sick child where we collected over 100 pieces of artwork. He passed away before he got a chance to see them so we bound the artworks and brought them over for the family
Half of the pictures I have drawn I did not share to protect the privacy of the patients
To be honest, I feel anyone can do what I am doing. It does not need any special talent or even money and the sketches can reach all over the world.
There are no barriers.
DRAWING WAS NOT SOMETHING I DO WELL . My relatives and school mates all asked me… you can draw? When did you ever draw?
Because drawing was not something I can do well so they asked why do I draw when it is not my strength? In fact, I suck at it.
But when the need arose and I wanted to do it for a reason, I believe the "gift" came.
I can only draw stick people, to begin with, and I have no technical drawing skills.
I ALWAYS TAKE PRIDE IN MAKING THE MOST IMPACT WITH MINIMAL AMOUNT OF MONEY . If the request for artworks comes from charity organisations, sick people, orphanages or hospitals and hospice, those are all given away for free.
For example, we just completed an order for 50 under-appreciated people and we made the artworks together with gift baskets priced at about RM5 per basket. So we seek sponsors for the RM250.
I have a group of people who are regularly looking to do good and the sum has always been small. To print an art on paper is RM2, for better quality paper is RM2.50.
If there are no sponsors, we will fork out our own money. Many of the volunteers would fork out their own money to print out the artwork to be distributed.
We knew each other through Facebook. I have my doodle team which is ‘Doodle Malaysia’ artists and also there is 'Stick it To Me’ team of artists. The size of the team will depend on the project as no one is obligated to contribute.
For instance, I post a project and you happen to be free, then you can donate artworks. But if you are busy at work, then you just don't donate. And there are always a handful of people who donates.
I also have an Art Donation Bin. Whenever anyone got any art they have done and don't want, they will donate it to the bin.
I DON'T THINK MUCH AND THAT IS MY DOWNSIDE . I want nothing in return when I give. So far, there have been no major challenges. Sorry I am weird.
I hardly find anything challenging. I just do it. So do do do, and there is little thinking involved.
To me I would not consider drawing as work because I love what I do. As long as I can make people smile.
I never considered the requests for artworks as demands from clients but more like opportunities to give and I am privileged to get to do it.
Compared to what they are suffering, it is the least I can do.
So when I am doing something like this even if I have to wake up at 3am to draw, I would do it.
The only downside is I once drew so much that my hand was injured and I could not draw for awhile. My mind wanted to continue but my body cannot take it.
MALAYSIANS KINI is a series on Malaysians you should know.