After watching this clip, Hubby Ro and I suddenly thought of a dear friend of ours Vadivu who runs JOY WORKS a company that helps people find happiness through empathy. We met in the coolest way at an art therapy workshop. After introduction and exchanging what we do, we found out that she bought a dress I designed which she wore to a Channel NewsAsia debate “Should Happiness be the national target”.vadivudebate

Vadivu has been a vegetarian for many years and a lady of smiles.We thought it will be great for her to share some insights to her cool job, her life as a vegetarian and what we can do to live a really happy life (Is that possible?)

(Big Hugs first) Hi Vadivu, How are you? Last we met where you met my husband for the first time and we had such a great conversation. Since then, what’s your latest happenings?

Vadivu- Thank you, Priscilla. I am feeling balanced and well. But I wish to say that it’s not because everything is going well in life. For example, as you know, my beloved dog, Max has become disabled and has cancer. I allowed myself to go through stages of grieving. But I am learning to be at peace with all that happens and learn from it. And that brings a special joy.


Well, I’ve decided to focus on doing servant leadership training for my start-up, Joy Works. This decision has made me feel like I’ve come “home”. If we had more servant leaders, we would be living in a more compassionate and happier world. Where possible, I’d love to support the healthcare sector in becoming more healing and humane to patients and staff. If we want excellent patient-care that comes from the heart, we need to ensure that healthcare staff are treated with love and dignity too.


Servant as Leader by Robert Greenleaf – what I recommend for all leaders.

That is real cool! I always love hearing happy news from you. On the note of your work, do you hold workshops or how exactly do you help people find happiness?

Vadivu- Most of all, by striving to be in a space of love and joy myself… We can only share with others what we have.

Yes, I run workshops. Hope to reach more organisations with them. I also do one-to-one work such as strengths profiling and run the Transformation Game. The Game is a unique personal growth tool in the form of a board game.


I blog at

We know through sharing that you’re a lady with a big heart for animals and you became vegetarian because of that. How and when did it start for you?

Vadivu-I grew up eating meat. A meal without meat was incomplete. Then when I was ordering my favourite chicken rice in junior college in 1990, I looked up at one of the ducks they had hung up by the meat hook. In that one moment, the suffering of that duck hit me. I felt my heart open up. I felt responsible for that duck’s suffering. I felt called to stop eating meat that day. And from then on, I became more sensitive to all kinds of suffering – both human and animal. This changed my life direction. I was originally intending to become a writer or lawyer, but I chose the path of social change.


Do you cook or have a favourite vegetarian meal or dish you absolutely must eat weekly or monthly?

Vadivu- Not really…I hope to eat healthier. I hope to learn more about the medicinal value of foods and herbs.

I also am more keen on how we approach food. I am grateful for every meal – and before I eat, I ask that all who helped grow the ingredients and make the meal are blessed, that the food nourishes me and that we will find sustainable ways for fewer people to go hungry in our world.

However I do like a fruit called “chempedak”! J

What is the biggest hurdle you have in being vegetarian and any tips for people who are starting on this new journey?

Vadivu- When I started, I did miss the taste of meat in the beginning but I also realised a lot of it was the seasoning.

Tips for those starting out:

  • Remind yourself of your motivation. Appreciate the benefits of less/no meat on the animals, the environment and your health.
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself. Change at a pace that works for you.
  • Eat healthy. We can end up eating unhealthy food even if we’re vegetarian.
  • Ensure your nutritional requirements are met. I don’t just mean this for vegetarians but for  all – go for health checks, blood tests, etc. Early detection can save your life and prevent illness.
  • Be kind to others who may not be vegetarian and make negative remarks.   Just carry on on your path (ensuring you’re healthy) with quiet confidence, and share your reasons with love and compassion. If we are defensive and negative in our approach, we put off people. When we emanate love and joy, we draw more people towards us. See this useful list of how we can be changemakers.

Do you have any videos, links or books you will like to share on how to lead a happier life?

Vadivu- Thank you for this question, Priscilla. We do need to actively learn to be happy.

I love resources and I list them below.  But at some point in time we need to pause on learning, reflect and start practising what we learn. Then continue learning again. And practising.  And reflecting. It took me a long time to learn this. We can become addicted to learning. Knowing in our minds is not the same as knowing in our hearts and souls and practising what we know. The true test is how we show up in real life – at the workplace, on the roads, at home, when crisis strikes, when someone hurts us.

Resources – books, movies, shopping lists, for healthcare staff, for educators, etc etc.


Cover of one of my favourite picture books – “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulus, which I highly recommend for those seeking transformation.

This is a great summary of what the science says on happiness.

Watch “Happy”.

Check out my blog, It is not very “how to” in its approach because I think there is great “how to” literature out there already. It’s a rojak of my stories, observations, some interviews.

Stay in touch with me via facebook.

And there are many other ways to learn.

Spend time with people who are truly happy. To me, those people tend to be compassionate to others and themselves. Observe them; ask questions; be in their Presence. Soak it in. Practise what you learn.

Learn empathy and gratitude from experiences such as Dialogue in the Dark. Learn humility and beauty from nature. Learn balance from illness. Learn forgiveness and self-reflection from heartbreak. Learn from those you love you and those you hurt you. Learn about what truly matters by reflecting on your death.

Learn so you become wiser, more loving, more courageous and more balanced….and joy will emerge …sometimes very quietly.  And you will feel like a light has been switched inside. If you keep practising love, wisdom and truth, it will stay on, even when dark times come by.

Last question, any new or upcoming eateries you want to visit soon or will strongly recommend to us?

Vadivu- I hear that Veganburg will be in Orchard in the second quarter of 2013.  To have a veg burger  joint right in the heart of town – that would be a historic moment for vegetarianism in Singapore. I really commend Veganburg for achieving this. So bring friends and support them!

Also, I am amazed by vegetarian options available now at non-vegetarian places. The more we patronise these, the more easily we can enjoy meals with our non-vegetarian friends, and create more demand for veg food in diverse places.

5 thoughts on “In conversation: Miss Happy Vadivu of Joy Works

    • Hey Luke,

      Oh my what a lovely comment to receive on easter morning! Thank you for your kind words. Both of you made my day:) Hope I get a chance to meet you both in person soon!


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