While we were all up in arms about panic-buying and the coronavirus earlier this month, the Edwards siblings had something else on their minds. Zach, seven, and his sister Sara, six, were wondering how they could help the Very Special Choir (VSC) in Singapore to raise funds. The choir, formed in September 2017, is a parent-led initiative which includes children with special needs like Downs Syndrome, Autism, Global Development Delay, and ADHD. Zach came up with the idea of printing his and Sara’s paintings on notebook covers to sell, with proceeds from the sales going to the VSC. (buy the notebooks here)


“Initially when Zach brought up this idea, we were not sure how serious he was. However he was very persistent, pestering daddy three times after his first mention. That’s when we realised it was not a passing thought,” said their mother Mavis, 42.

“As Zach and Sara have been volunteering with VSC for over two years now, this is close to their hearts. Some of the special needs kids are now their friends, so they can actually put a face to who they will be helping,” Mavis shared.

“VSC was trying to raise money to print their brochures, badges and T-shirts. So we thought we could try to help them,” added Zach, who started primary school this year.

The final name, logo design, tag line, and notebook design names were chosen by Zach and Sara. We asked Zach and Sara more about Lil Brushes. Read on to find out what they had to say.

(See also: How to Volunteer with your Kids in Singapore)

How did Lil Brushes start? Who chose the name?

Z: At first, I wanted to sell my paintings to mummy and daddy, then we had the idea of printing our paintings on notebook covers, which would be more saleable. My family thought up many names. We took a vote and we eliminated the names that we didn’t like. 
S: My brother and I chose the name. 

When did you first start to paint?

Z: I first started painting three years ago and I really love it; it’s so fun! The first picture I painted was a zebra.
S: I started to paint when I was in Nursery Two, and I enjoy it very much! My first painting was a pink elephant drinking water from a river. 

Why did you choose to paint that?

Z: Because zebra starts with the letter ‘Z’, and my name starts with the letter ‘Z’ too!
S: Because I like elephants and they can splash water to shower themselves. 

How did you choose the art pieces to put on the notebooks?

Z: My family chose the paintings that we like. 
S: The whole family chose the paintings together. 

Was it hard to select just six designs?

Z: Yes, my sister and I disagreed on many of the choices.
S: Yes, it was difficult because there were so many but we could only choose six.

Which is your favourite?

Z: My favourite is Enchanted Paris. I like it because it is a popular tourist destination and I think it will sell very well.
S: My favourite one is Teeny the Tiger because it is super cute! 

Tell me, why should we buy these notebooks?

Z: You should buy these notebooks because the proceeds will go to Very Special Choir, which is made up of special needs children, and I really want to help them.
S: So we can help the Very Special Choir.

What do you like about being in VSC?

Z: I like being in VSC because I can make new friends. I enjoy playing with them and they are very nice to me. 
S: I like the people because they play with me, and rehearsals are fun!

(See also: Coping with your Child’s Special Needs diagnosis)

What’s your favourite song that you have sung with the VSC?

Z: My favourite is the National Day Theme Song for 2019. We sang this at the Bicentennial National Bears 2019 Show at Wisma Atria. 
S: My favourite is ‘小人物的心声’.

How many notebooks do you hope to sell?

Z: I hope to sell 200 notebooks!
S: I hope to sell 400 notebooks!

Apart from art, you have many other hobbies. Which is your favourite?

Z: I like performing best because I am very good at it and I have been doing it for three years. I recently performed in ChildAid 2019. I sang a song called ‘Where is love’, and I was also chosen to meet the president of Singapore before the final show. 
S: Taekwondo is my favourite hobby! Because if anybody bullies me, I can defend myself. I have a red tip belt already!

We also asked Zach and Sara’s mum, Mavis, the crucial question: what did she do to raise thoughtful, giving, and generous kids?

M: Our kids aren’t angels, trust me, they drive us up the wall sometimes! But my husband (Graham Edwards, 52, a Regional Sales & Learning Director) and I try to guide them and bring them up to be kind and empathetic well-rounded individuals. 

Academic ability is important but doesn’t build character so we expose Zach and Sara to different challenging experiences and activities like swimming, taekwondo, rock climbing, performing arts (singing and hosting), piano, and art. 

We also started exposing them to charity work two years ago. Other than VSC, we have also volunteered with ‘A Packet of Rice’ to distribute meals to the elderly.

When Zach and Sara were younger, our family lived in Makati City in the Philippines due to my husband’s job posting. There, we celebrated all their birthdays at an orphanage, where they would share their special day with the orphaned children instead of having a fancy birthday party. 

Volunteering with VSC, which is an inclusive choir, has taught Zach and Sara so much. They were initially a little afraid of some of these special needs kids as they are quite ‘different’. But over time, they started bonding with them and realised that these children are actually no different from themselves. It is really heartwarming to see the children interacting and playing together.

Buy Zach and Sara’s self-designed notebooks and support the Very Special Choir though Lil Brushes on Facebook and Instagram

All images: Lil Brushes

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