PETALING JAYA: Unless you’re good with tools or do a lot of repair work in your own home, most people’s last memories of holding a hammer or saw was probably during Kemahiran Hidup classes in school.
If you ask Kevin Yeoh, he’ll probably say he was busy hammering or sawing until you walked in.
Yeoh spends a lot of his time conducting workshops teaching kids and adults the ins and outs of woodworking, from how to hold a hammer correctly to making a three-tier shoe rack.
He learnt the skills needed to be a woodworker fairly early in life, having been exposed to it by a grandfather who used to make furniture at home.
“I remember growing up playing with wooden toys instead of plastic ones like other kids,” he told FMT Lifestyle.
Yeoh’s background is in IT and he used to work in digital content creation for a few big corporations. But he found himself yearning to create more tangible things. So, he quit his job and started a co-working space with a partner.
What he didn’t expect was that the furniture he helped make for that space gained the attention of one woman.
“She approached me and asked if I could teach her kid woodworking since she thought our furniture looked rustic and custom made.”
After some deliberation, Yeoh decided to accept the task and his first woodworking workshop for kids was conducted right at the car porch of the co-working space. This was in 2016.
He then started to learn more about how to work and connect with children and soon realised this was something he wanted to commit fulltime to.
“I learn as much from them as they learn from me,” he said, adding that the way the children’s faces would light up after completing their projects reminded him of how much he enjoyed himself too.
“At the same time, I conducted classes for adults, which needs an approach that’s more on the technical side.”
In fact, he has classes catering to students ranging in age from six to 86.
Since late last year, he has taken up a new challenge: teaching woodwork to children with special needs.
“I promised myself to dedicate my time and effort to children when I first started,” he said. “So, when this request presented itself, I found myself thinking, ‘Why should I exclude or ignore this particular group of kids?’”
He said that working with these children in his classes was both a challenging and humbling experience for him. And he had a lot of respect for families who took care of them around the clock.
But he said he’s proud of himself for accepting the challenge.
“When I was in my corporate job,” he said, “I always felt like something was missing. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I realised that it was fulfilment. I could easily get replaced in my previous jobs, but what I’m doing now has an effect on these kids’ lives and that makes me happy.”
Apparently, it’s also a more relaxing way to live for the 46-year-old. He said he had to put on a professional or formal front in his corporate jobs. But now he’s “just Kevin”.
Yeoh’s goal is to encourage people to do some hands-on work instead of being on their digital gadgets all day. Being able to build or fix your own things “is a very useful skill”, he said.
As for the future, it is his dream to open his own school one day and work with educators like himself.