Spaceships, glowworms and YOLO with Ethan Chua

It has been a while since I have had a conversation - like a real conversation - with a child.  So when I set off to interview and photograph YOLO’s Keep the Dream Alive Children’s Category 1 Winner, Ethan Chua, I had no idea what to expect.

Stepping into Ethan’s world for the first time, his parents, Elizabeth and Alvin, both teachers, greeted me warmly as I took in the dazzling display of artworks lovingly tacked to the walls.

There in the middle of the living room, was Ethan and mini-Ethan (I find out later that his younger brother’s name is Jozef), both furiously doodling away on recycled paper, refusing to look up.  The slim-built boy in his Doraemon t-shirt was at first painfully shy, and didn’t even want to say hello.

I’m no Rembrandt, but I knew that to gain Ethan’s trust, I would have to speak his language. So I put aside the DLSR and sat down with them and starting sketching as well, finally being rewarded with Ethan’s voice (when I started generously praising his younger brother’s work instead of his, that is). 

“Look at THIS!” Ethan exclaimed and whisked out a clean sheet of paper. He then began drawing a giant YOLO spaceship with his 2B pencil. 

To my amazement, the articulate boy started narrating everything he drew.

“This is my spaceship for YOLO and it will travel through space and this is the extra engine and now the rocket blaster BOOM full speed ahead into the planets and this is Saturn and Earth but Earth is in my safety net…” 

The child’s stream of consciousness was astounding!

I felt privileged to follow him through the adventure of his imagination that was remarkably richer than the 2D lines being whipped into frenzy on the piece of paper.

In between his story telling, I managed to find out that his dream to travel (as shared in his winning KTDA piece) was coming true. His family was going to be visiting New Zealand during the December holidays.

“We’re going to see glowworm caves,” he shared with an excited smile on his face and promptly started drawing his version of what glowworms looked like.

When asked if he liked drawing and enjoyed the YOLO contest, Ethan nodded with another cheeky grin, “Drawing is fun!” and told me all the artwork around the apartment, was done by him.

On his winning piece and what YOLO means to him, the little boy thought for a while then said, “Keep the dream alive means being creative... and sharing your dreams.”

He then shared another piece of craft he had done for an IKEA competition that dealt with recycling materials, and it was obvious the child took a lot of pride and attention to detail for each of his delightful creations.

Once that was done, the boys bolted off again with Ethan showing off his piano playing skills as his brother, Jozef, challenged him to an archery battle while simultaneously trying to get me to photograph the family’s pet hamsters.  

Their spontaneity and endless energy made Elizabeth, Alvin and I laugh out loud. It was such a positive experience.

If this is what a ‘real’ conversation with a 6-year-old is like, I must say that it is loads more interesting than what we adults usually share.

Hope this YOLO encounter has put a smile on your face and will encourage us to never lose the childlike wonder and enthusiasm that makes life fun.

Let’s YOLO! 


Ethan’s winning piece as well as over 50 other winning entries are now on display at the Keep the Dream Alive: Showcase of Winning Entries, held at The Art’s House, Gallery, until the 16th of November 2009.

Written by Clare Lee