MyGivingJourney is a series by CFS to celebrate women and their work in philanthropy. This story features Hauw Soo Hoon, Programme Director at Ulu Pandan Stars and a member of CFS’s Programmes & Grants Committee.
Hauw Soo Hoon has always loved mathematics. So when she discovered some students in her estate were struggling with the subject, getting just 15 marks out of 100, her heart plummeted. She wanted to help them and even get them to love numbers. An opportunity came through her grassroots contacts who were looking for someone to helm a programme to tutor children from rental flats and troubled families.
That was in 2008 and the qualified actuary had just retired after a 30-year career in the insurance industry, which included senior roles at the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Great Eastern Life Assurance. Together with five volunteers, Soo Hoon started up Ulu Pandan Stars (UP Stars), an initiative of the PAP Community Foundation and Ulu Pandan Citizen Consultative Committee.
UP Stars began with maths tuition but classes have since expanded to reading, phonics, science and computer applications. It also runs non-academic activities such as sports, social-emotional learning and digital literacy. Every year, UP Stars have about 60 students and its pool of volunteers has swelled to 110. Most are youths from tertiary institutions.
Soo Hoon was blown away by the commitment and big-heartedness of these young Singaporeans. “But having a good heart is not enough. You need to equip them with skills or you will have volunteer fatigue,” she says. She brings her wealth of public and corporate sector experience of managing teams, developing talent and running an organisation to UP Stars. Volunteers, meanwhile, come away learning about project management, human resources, leadership – as well as empathy.
“Our youth volunteers truly understand what poverty means and how education is no longer a social leveller,” says Soo Hoon. Her fervent hope is that her volunteers become future leaders who are compassionate and that the ones who choose public service roles will create sound policies that benefit the vulnerable in society.
Aside from UP Stars, Soo Hoon is on the board of the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC), a charity that provides affordable trust services for people with special needs. She also serves on the Medishield Life Council and the CPF Advisory Panel, besides being a partner at iGlobe Partners, a venture capital company. For her services with SNTC, Soo Hoon received the 2019 MSF Outstanding Volunteer Award.
Soo Hoon and her husband also give back regularly with the help of CFS. The couple decided to donate via CFS as it can pinpoint causes that best fit a donor’s area of interest. “CFS can also identify charities which are under-resourced as they will check on reserves and funding and do the necessary due diligence,” she adds. “When there is proper matching, giving back becomes more fulfilling and effective.” While education is the focus of their giving, they have also donated generously to support needy families.
Begin your own journey of giving with CFS. Read more stories about the #MyGivingJourney series here.
This article was written by Sunita Sue Leng, a former financial analyst and journalist, who believes that the written word can be a force for good. She hopes to someday write something worth plagiarising.