Giving back to the game: National paddler promotes healthy living

2023 has just begun, but it is already shaping up to be a busy year for first-year undergraduate from NUS Business School and national table tennis player Pearlyn Koh.  

Besides juggling full-time studies and a rigorous training schedule, Pearlyn just wrapped up the inaugural run of Healthy Body, Healthy Me! – a one-day programme that aims to raise awareness of table tennis and provide opportunities for more people to play the sport and lead an active lifestyle.

Taking place on 5 February, the programme saw Pearlyn and 18 athletes from the national table tennis team share their skills and love for the game with some 60 children and parents, many of whom are from low-income families or have special needs. Participants gleaned insights into the local table tennis scene through an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session with the national paddlers, and also got to practice basic footwork and table tennis strokes through interactive games.

A resounding success, the event generated plenty of positive feedback from both her teammates and beneficiaries. “A parent approached me after the event and thanked me for giving them the opportunity to learn from Singapore’s best players. Many children also asked when the next event would be. This was a huge encouragement to me,” said Pearlyn, who hopes to make Healthy Body, Healthy Me! a yearly initiative.

Indeed, the 21-year-old, who majors in Business Administration, is no stranger to the world of community work. She has been volunteering at her constituency’s Meet-the-People sessions since she was 17 years old, and since 2019, has organised at least one community initiative each year for different beneficiary groups including low-income families, hospital housekeeping staff and migrant workers.

“What got me started was wanting to give back to the community, in return for all the support I had received previously… Apart from being able to help others, I think [getting involved in community work] is also a great platform to meet people and learn new things,” Pearlyn reflected.

And while it seems that Pearlyn’s plate is full, the indefatigable athlete intends to keep going, even though balancing all her commitments can be challenging. Pearlyn’s secret to avoiding burnout – keeping her mind focused on one task at a time.

She said, “I see these activities as a form of distraction and rest from each other. For example, when I am training, I take it as a break from studying, and when I am studying, I see it as a rest for my body and mind from training. This helps me to enjoy what I do more.”

Pearlyn further asserts that it is a common misconception that community work is time-consuming, and that you must do something big to change the world.

“Even though our individual efforts may seem insignificant, it could mean the world to someone else. Start small, find out which causes motivate you, and go deeper from there,” she added.