Introducing the Humans of UWCSEA Dover series and getting to know Sinnathamby Mathyvanan
Sarah Song, MS English and Humanities Teacher, Dover Campus
Cultural diversity is one of UWCSEA’s many charms. Kurt Hahn envisioned a classroom where students from all over the world could learn from each other. The Humans of UWCSEA Dover project expands on this idea and extends the learning opportunities available to us throughout the larger campus and community. Our aim is to provide an opportunity for each of us to better connect and relate to some of the many faces we see on campus on a daily basis. We will start by interviewing various members of the community (teachers, support staff, administration, students, NC scholars, etc) to learn about their personal history, thoughts and perspectives and (with their permission) showcase their stories. We hope to encourage our broader community to learn more about each other outside the classroom and engender a heightened awareness of the vibrant, diverse backgrounds present on our campus. Shared stories bring people together as it fosters more engagement, understanding and a common ground on which to build relationships. We hope this project will strengthen the ties of our community, promote inquiry and empathy, and ultimately further the mission of our school by providing another lens through which to view ourselves and each other.
Below is an interview with Sinnathamby Mathyvanan, or as we know him, Vanan. Take a stroll around our campus and you will inevitably see him greeting students and staff, stopping to pick up a dish that has been left behind, checking in on his team, and of course, making sure the food is ready for the day. He walks briskly with purpose and never without a warm smile. Vanan has worked at the Dover campus for four years as the Unit Manager of Sodexo. During this time he has shared many creative ideas involving food as a cultural and community bridge, much to the benefit of our campus. Vanan will be moving on to work at INSEAD. There is no doubt that his energy and care for people will be missed. On May 16 2018, project members of Humans of UWCSEA reached out to Vanan to hear his story. Although he was the one who gave up his time, in his usual generous style, he bought the group lunch.
I don’t go to work at all. That is a saying. I am in love with my job. I like to feed all of you with love. My objective is to give back, what I have earned throughout the years. I like to serve the food with care, concern, lots of love and I always tell kids that if you have an issue with the food, tell me. If the kids don’t have any money, I will not refuse them. I will take down their name and they always return to pay back. I talk to a lot of the Grade 12 students and they tell me how busy and hard their life is. But I tell them to study hard and do their best. I enjoy watching the kids grow and excel in their studies. When Grade 12 students return, I buy them a meal.
I like taking care of my team. They work hard for me and I work hard for them. My job officially starts at 9am but I get here by 7am. There are so many unexpected things that can happen. A supplier may not show up. A staff member could be on MC. If we are short on staff and I need to be the cook, cashier or dishwasher, I will do whatever it takes to make sure the food gets to the students on time. If I need to fix something or climb up on the ladder, I will do it. I know that as a leader I need to work hard alongside my staff to motivate them, and their commitment motivates me. I know my team member families and I look out for their welfare.
I also enjoy the creative and fun side of my job. I used to work in the hotel industry for more than 20 years and also had a job organising golf exhibitions. So I’ve tried to bring that experience here through the different meal events and decorations throughout the school year. Remember the large gingerbread house in the tent plaza? Or the Christmas cake mixing ceremony? The global chef promotion La Mien noodle? I try to bring in the fun and creativity to the members of the community.
I am 100% Singaporean - born, brought up, studied here, working here and will die here. In fact, my role model is Lee Kuan Yew. The photo here is a poem that I wrote about him. There are only two in the world: one in my house and one at the Istana. In fact, I personally delivered it to the Istana; it required me to get through three security checkpoints, but I did it!