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Business Times: Preserving a century-old legacy of giving

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A snapshot of a newspaper Business Times: Preserving a century-old legacy of giving

Following his great-grandmother’s footsteps, Keith Chua set up a charitable fund to carry on his family’s legacy of giving through the generations.

To Keith Chua, the boy, she was the stern matriarch of their large, Peranakan family, to be approached with deference. To the older and bolder teenager, she drew closer – the great-grandmother glad to chat about his day over tea or a shared meal.

But only years after, as an established entrepreneur with a family of his own, did Mr Chua truly feel the impact of her life on his own, thanks to the impact Mrs Lee Choon Guan had had on others.

“It was a rediscovery,” Mr Chua says, about encountering in the pages of a 1920s history book a side to his great-grandmother that he had not known, years after her death in 1978.

Growing up, naturally, he had heard stories from his mother. One of these, about Mrs Lee’s role in raising funds to contribute a fighter plane to the World War 1 effort, made it into a school composition of his on “A Person You Most Admire”.

But it was not till the mid-1980s, after being appointed as a co-trustee to the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund his mother started that Mr Chua read for himself the book she had spoken so much about.

Discovering a legacy of giving

“It became quite clear that she was a pioneer in many ways,” Mr Chua, 65, says.

In One Hundred Years’ History of the Chinese in Singapore, he learnt of how, as one of the few Chinese girls to get an English education and a member of high-society, Mrs Lee sought to open doors for other women in the early 1900s.

Also known as Madam Tan Teck Neo, she was the founding president of the Chinese Ladies Association (now the Chinese Women’s Association), running classes for young women and raising funds for charities.

Women and children, healthcare and education – these were causes Mrs Lee cared deeply for. She gave out numerous scholarships to girls, donated to the building of the St Andrew’s Hospital for Women and Children, and funded the activities of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children. For her volunteer work and giving during the First World War, she was the first Chinese woman to be made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1918.

Moved by the glimpses of her trailblazing giving recorded in the book, Mr Chua has since acquired an autographed edition that is now a treasured possession for what it symbolises – a legacy of giving to be kept alive.

“To me, the process of discovery, rediscovery, has been a continuing one,” says Mr Chua. The family is still adding to what they know of Mrs Lee’s life and legacy, “all these little pockets of seeds that were planted”. Such as the family giving funds in 1924 to start Katong Girls’ School (today’s Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School) – a fact they only recently stumbled upon.

Among other causes, the trust fund supports tertiary-level programmes on philanthropy at the NUS Business School’s Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP).

Down through the generations
In 2011, he set up the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Fund with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) to carry on his family’s legacy of giving through the generations. Managed as an endowment, the fund’s principal amount is invested and income earned is then given to various causes.

The aim is not merely to build historical knowledge, but to perpetuate the legacy of giving. “I have the opportunity, at this point in time, to put some thought and action into encouraging the continuation of her legacy. So that, hopefully, it will continue with some degree of active participation by future generations,” says Mr Chua.

“In continuing the legacy of my great-grandmother, I looked at how she approached philanthropy in her time and tried to include some of her practices in what I’m doing today. It has indeed come full circle.”

Some of the causes the fund supports today bear the mark of Mrs Lee’s charitable interests – education and healthcare initiatives. Others reflect evolving needs in society that Mr Chua himself is passionate about.

Indeed, Mr Chua is known as much these days for his work in philanthropic circles as he is in business ones.

The executive chairman of ABR Holdings, which owns Swensen’s and Chilli Padi among other food and beverage brands, Mr Chua is also managing director of the Alby group of companies in Singapore and Australia. He hails from a line of businessmen too – his grandfather, the late Chua Cheng Liat, is one of the Chua brothers behind car dealership Cycle & Carriage.

Today, actively involved in various community, church and missions agencies, he sits on the boards of the National Council of Social Service and CFS.

“Part of why I’m doing this today, is in the hope that the wider family, beyond just my siblings and children through to my cousins, my nephews and nieces, and their children, will come to appreciate the legacy that my great-grandmother has left for all of us.”

Apart from his great-grandmother, Mr Chua cites the influence of his parents’ generosity and his Christian faith as two other defining forces behind his philanthropy journey.

“[With my parents], it wasn’t so much them saying, ‘This is how you do it.’ It was watching them in action, responding generously to requests for help, seeing how they lived their lives,” says Mr Chua.

And that was the starting point for him and his wife too: sharing with their four children what they do and why, modelling a life of giving in the hope that their children would themselves see the value of giving.

One reason Mr Chua decided to set up the fund with CFS was to ensure that future generations would be able to continue the family’s philanthropic work. He says, “The objective of CFS flowed nicely with ours of wanting to continue the legacy of giving. It allows family members to be involved and ensure that funds for the community will carry on.”

Taking it a step further, he has been intentional about involving his children, whose ages now range between 22 and 32, in his philanthropic engagements. In recent years, this has included trips across Southeast Asia to learn from and explore partnerships with non-profits, charities and social entrepreneurs.

Having sown those seeds, he has since had the satisfaction of watching each child “doing something in their own way”, whether via professional or personal pursuits, to give to the community.

An evolving philosophy of giving
Mr Chua says his own approach to philanthropy has evolved over the years.

From viewing philanthropy primarily as responding to appeals for monetary gifts, he began getting involved with charities and volunteering his time. That involvement got him thinking about how he could make a difference with his own skills.

“Coming from a business, finance background, I felt I was able to bring that to the area of social entrepreneurship to encourage entrepreneurship, and help to share business models, my personal experiences,” says Mr Chua.

Asked what he has gained from years of intentional giving, Mr Chua is first introspective: “I would like to think that the engagement in all these years of philanthropy has gradually moved me from thinking more of myself, to thinking more of others.”

“Along with that, of course, is that it brings a wonderful feeling if you can bring joy and help someone else,” he adds.

“I believe everyone can give. Whether in terms of resources, time or talent… I would embrace all forms of participation. The most important thing for me is to encourage others to take that first step, whatever that first step is.”

Looking forward, Mr Chua says, “The seed of philanthropy was planted by the generations before me. Now, with the structure of CFS, the funds will carry on past my lifetime. Once you’ve set certain things in place, you can bring the next generation along for the ride, and trust them with the responsibility when it’s their turn.”

After all, Mrs Lee Choon Guan’s first steps into philanthropy led to her leaving a century-old legacy of giving that has spanned four generations and, if Mr Chua has his wish, countless more to come.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Stories Of Impact

UBS Diversity in Abilities Concert – Celebrating the talents of children with special needs

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Children dressed in bright costumes holding props while performing on stage

A joint initiative by UBS AG and the Community Foundation of Singapore, Diversity in Abilities is a stage production and art exhibition showcase to bring performing and visual arts lessons to special education schools in Singapore.

The aim was to motivate and inspire children with special needs to learn new skills and inculcate new hobbies through the arts. With the help of trained artists, students took a 16-week journey of learning and discovery of talents and achievements in film, music, dance, drama and visual arts.

These kids were then invited to showcase their talents at an exhibition and concert, performing together with children of UBS employees. At the event, UBS employees also got involved as make-up artists, receptionists, ushers and auctioneers.

“UBS has been in Singapore for nearly 40 years and our community investments focus on education and entrepreneurship. The Diversity in Abilities arts programme is one such initiative. We hope that through our investment in these various initiatives, we can make a contribution to the success of Singapore as a community.” said Edmund Koh, Singapore Country Head and Asia Pacific Head of Wealth Management, UBS.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

News

Indonesia’s Karim Family Foundation raises S$200,000 to support badminton world champion Loh Kean Yew

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picture of loh kean yew holding his medal

An Indonesian tycoon’s family foundation, the Karim Family Foundation, has raised S$200,000 to support badminton player Loh Kean Yew, the first Singaporean to win the Badminton World Federation World Championships.  

The Karim Family Foundation – set up by the family of Indonesian tycoon Bachtiar Karim and his wife Dewi Sukwanto – wanted to congratulate Loh for his win at the championships in December 2021, according to Zaobao. 

Previously, a crowdfunding initiative Ray of Hope as well as donations from 5 business leaders in Singapore also raised over S$158,000 for the badminton player. 

Bachtiar Karim is the executive chairman of Singapore-headquartered oil conglomerate Musim Mas. In 2021, the Karim family had a net worth of around US$3.5 billion, making it the 10th richest in Indonesia, according to Forbes. 

Cindy Karim, principal at the Karim Family Foundation, said the family was “inspired” by Loh’s perseverance and humility “even after such an amazing feat”. 

Noting that the foundation has had a focus on sports development, art and culture, mental health and education, she added: “We hope to inspire future Loh Kean Yews in Singapore.” 

The donation is being made through a donor-advised fund with The Community Foundation of Singapore. 

If you too, would like to support a cause of your choice, please click here. 

This article was originally published in Business Times here. Source: Business Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.  

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Stories Of Impact

International Women’s Forum Singapore: Guiding Young Women towards Achieving their Dreams

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A woman joyfully laughs while carrying a backpack and holding a phone in her hand.

Education is a powerful social leveller, and the youngest Nobel Peace laureate in the world Malala Yousafzai will readily attest to that. In fact, it is her life’s mission to make sure young girls and women all over the world are lifted out of poverty through receiving equal access to an education. For women all over the world, Malala is celebrated as a champion of women’s rights and is recognised for her immense achievements in the face of overwhelming adversity.

The International Women’s Forum (IWF) Singapore Education Grant took a feather out of Malala’s hat when it was established in 2014 – to support women of all backgrounds to receive proper education and mentorship.

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) supports this ideal through managing the IWF Education Grant, as it makes a difference by providing upward social mobility for young women who possess grit, empathy and a strong determination to excel in their field of study.

Like Malala, the IWF believes in nurturing the next generation of women through providing education and mentorship. Since the Education Grant’s inception in 2014, IWF Singapore has awarded grants to 68 young women from 13 tertiary institutions in Singapore. These young women are usually students between the ages of 17 to 35 who are applying for a diploma or degree to local polytechnics or universities, and are at risk of dropping out of school due to financial constraints.

So far, it has been a humbling experience for the IWF to support such young women from financially-challenged backgrounds in their quest for higher education and to achieve their dreams. Like a proud parent, the IWF marvels at how far they have come in their journey to find passion and confidence in spite of their considerable personal challenges.

Providing a Guiding Hand

However, it is not all about providing good education through financial support. The IWF Education Grant seeks also to equip these young women with life skills and guidance on career choices, in hopes that they will broaden their horizons and become emboldened to soar in their endeavours.

Through collaboration with the Young Women’s Leadership Connection (YWLC), a mentorship programme was formed under the leadership of Mrs Arfat Selvam, Managing Director of law firm Duane Morris and Selvam LLP.

Although IWF Singapore expects that the students they support have reasonable academic results, there is a far greater emphasis on young women with a strong track record of voluntary social contributions and a high degree of social empathy.

Many of these young women have expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the support from the grant towards their tenuous financial circumstances and want to do their best to contribute back to society. At the same time, they harbour hopes to pursue a better future for themselves and to create a lasting impact with the choices they make. Perhaps one day, these young women will be able to rise up and achieve their dreams, just like Malala Yousafzai.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

Picture of admin bluecube
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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

Events

International Women’s Forum Singapore: Empowering young women for a better future

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They may come from disadvantaged families, juggling work with school, but that has not stopped them from pursuing their dreams or even helping others. For this, ten young women were presented with the 2016 International Women’s Forum (IWF)’s Education Grants on 30 September.

Managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore, the IWF Education Grants support young women who are currently pursuing a diploma or degree in local polytechnics or universities but face challenges in continuing their studies due to financial difficulties. Many come from low income families and need to work to pay school fees or supplement their household income.

Recipients are selected for their academic performance, as well as resilience and aspirations. During the selection process, the Education Grants Committee also highlighted that despite their difficult circumstances, many of the recipients still found time to give back to the community by taking part in voluntary work such as befriending the elderly and mentoring young children and teens.

At the dinner reception held at CapitaGreen and hosted by IWF Singapore leaders including Dr Aline Wong, Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Arfat Selvam, Saw Phaik Hwa, Chong Siak Ching, Carmee Lim, Goh Swee Chen and Doreen Liu, recipients and mentors mingled and exchanged anecdotes and advice. The young ladies also took to the floor to share their struggles with work and studies, for some the responsibility of caring for ill or unemployed parents and above all their unwavering quest for further education.

The IWF women leaders applauded the strength and determination shown by the recipients and invited them to be ambassadors at the IWF Singapore 20th Anniversary Conference in 2017 so that they can continue to be an inspiration to others. As part of the mentoring programme, IWF leaders will impart guidance, career counselling and life skills to empower these young ladies for the future.

At the 20th Anniversary Conference, the organisation hopes to raise $250,000 to enable and empower even more young women to change the outcomes of their lives as well as their families’.

About the International Women’s Forum

The International Women’s Forum is a singularly unique organisation comprised of more than 6,400 dynamic women leaders in 34 countries and 75 forums around the world. IWF members span careers, cultures and continents, however, they are wholly aligned in their commitment to building better global leadership.

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