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No. 22 Jul-Aug 2007

For Volunteers, Donors and Non-profits

Perfect Match

Meet the new lifestyle volunteers

Firm Foundation

Benedict Cheong’s plans for Temasek Foundation

Up-size That McDonald’s walks the talk

Fortitude and Grace

Chua Chin Kiat opens up on prisons


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SALT No. 22 Jul-Aug 2007

ON THE COVER Sakinah Manaff meets a new generation of volunteers who are happy to marry their passions and skills with their desire to help others. Page 16

FUELING THE DESIRE

DEPARTMENTS 2

LETTER FROM SALT SALT TIPS

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MAILBAG

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NEWS BRIEFS A wrap-up of events, programmes and activities in the People Sector. PEOPLE MOVEMENTS Appointments and new postings in the People Sector.

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As CEO of what is one of the most important new foundations to be created in recent memory, Benedict Cheong speaks to SALT’s Tan Chee Koon about Temasek Foundation’s plans to fuel and facilitate growth and development across the region.

VOLUNTEER PROFILE CEO-turned-NPO catalyst Norma Sit is firmly in the driver’s seat on a philanthropic journey that has taken her from the boardroom to the classroom. Michelle Bong goes along for the ride.

11 PEOPLE SECTOR PEOPLE He may dedicate his life to rescuing illegally-traded exotic wildlife, but as Michelle Bong discovers, ACRES executive director Louis Ng himself is a modern day Noah who stands out among Singaporeans.

22 SALT SHAKERS AND MOVERS

Having a Little Faith Chua Chin Kiat’s plan to rehabilitate prisoners.

20 WALK THE TALK For most people, McDonald’s is synonymous with burgers, but Reeta Raman discovers there is a big heart beating behind the fast-food giant.

21 NEW SALT By designing beautiful shawls, a clever social enterprise – The Singapore Shawl – is helping underprivileged women and promoting Singapore to the rest of the world.

27 SALT AND PEPPER SALT THOUGHTS

SALT KIT

For Richer or For Poorer?

Keeping the Edge

Few would argue that charity is meant to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. But Willie Cheng believes the dice is still very much loaded in favour of the rich.

To claim a competitive edge, Jack Sim insists it’s important to differentiate between things that are transient and those that are more permanent.

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Andy Fryar, the founder and director of OzVPM says Singapore has tremendous potential to better build the capacity of volunteerism and philanthropy regionally.

29 CALENDAR 30 SCENE AND SEEN 32 A DASH OF SALT

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SALT is a non-profit magazine with a managed circulation for members of non-profit organisations, grantmakers and companies in Singapore. Those interested in receiving a copy, please email salt@nvpc.org.sg. We regret that the print run prevents fulfilling all requests. International readers please email subscriber requests and mailing details. There will be an annual postage and handling charge for all international subscribers.

MANAGING EDITOR Tan Chee Koon

DEPUTY EDITOR Daven Wu

CONTRIBUTORS Michelle Bong Andrew Duffy Sakinah Manaff Reeta Raman

PUBLISHING CONSULTANT AND MEDIA REPRESENTATIVE Epigram SALT is published bi-monthly by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre 7 Maxwell Road #05-01 Annex B, MND Complex Singapore 069111 Tel: 6550 9595 Fax: 6221 0625 Website: www.nvpc.org.sg Email: salt@nvpc.org.sg Copyright is held by the publisher. All rights reserved. Production in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The views and opinions expressed or implied in SALT are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher. Printed by Fabulous Printers MICA (P) 003/11/2006 ISSN No. 17933-4478 Photo courtesy of The Peak, Copyright 2007 SPH Magazines Pte Ltd

To advertise, please call Cynthia Tay at tel: 6292 4456 Email: cynthia@epigram.com.sg

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VPC is in the enviable position of promoting both the giving of time and money. I do not know of any other centre in the world that straddles both the voluntary and philanthropic sectors. It is a privileged position to be in to gain insights into these two different worlds. And different they are. This was brought home to me at an executive programme for philanthropy leaders which I recently attended at Stanford University’s Graduate Business School. Three executive directors of leading non-profit organisations in the Bay Area were invited to speak about the issues they faced when seeking grants. What started off as an earnest sharing of NPO struggles ended with many grant-makers in the room feeling that this was one ungrateful bunch. When both groups are in the business of doing good, one giving money, the other giving service in benefit of the community, it was sad that the two groups should be almost adversarial. The reality is that money does talk louder than anything else, and grant-makers yield inordinately greater influence than volunteers or volunteer administrators. Why is that so when conventional wisdom says it is easier to give money than to give time? Visiting a castle outside Glasgow shortly after Stanford, I was talking to the guide in the drawing room when another guide came over to join us. On discovering they were a husband and wife team, I commented it was great they could be working together when the man quickly said “Oh, we are just volunteers.” As quickly, I replied, “You are not just volunteers. You are volunteers, and precious ones at that!” Should volunteers be any less valued because no money is involved? May it never be so. They may not raise financial capital, but they do raise social capital, and what price for these ties that bind? In this issue, we capture a growing phenomenon that we in NVPC call lifestyle volunteerism: volunteering from a pursuit of one’s lifestyle interests like biking and golfing. As friends, colleagues and relatives get together in support of a common cause, there is capital formation and strengthened community ties. Is that not worth a premium? On the philanthropy side of things, SALT sat down with Temasek Foundation’s CEO Benedict Cheong for an in-depth interview on its grant-making direction. Much as we have seen how grant-makers and grant-seekers can misunderstand and hold differing perceptions of each other, the new CEO’s task is cut out for him as he seeks to make grants to the Asian region sensitively so that the good that the Foundation seeks to do does not turn on itself. May we all persist in doing good, despite all odds. Tan Chee Koon Chief Executive Officer National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre

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“Daddy… why does mummy say your work is more important than us?” While work is a critical part of life, family happiness is something money cannot buy.

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The key lies in planning your work around the family. There’s a need to spend more quality time with your spouse and your children, especially in their vital growing up years. Glean new insights on harmonising work and family life from www.mcys.gov.sg

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MAILBAG The Singaporean Context

Not Such An Easy Ride

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illie Cheng makes more than a few good points in his article (“Heart Work, Less Pay”, May-June 2007), but I offer another perspective. I’ve worked in the non-profit sector for many years; it’s untrue that the work pace is slow or that the work is less stressful. Charity workers too have to struggle with very concrete and measurable outcomes. We often have to work within tight financial constraints whilst finding ways to maximise outcomes. Even the occasional use of a courier service costing less than $10 can be held up to scrutiny. Yes, it’s true I have chosen this field because, among other things, I believe I can be of greater service to society. But, surely, altruism should not be punished by low wages. It’s true that the capitalist model applies even in the hiring of non-profit employees, but I believe that whilst it may not be difficult to hire new staff, it’s very difficult to retain them. Even good staff, and people who are the most well-meaning, will find it difficult to remain in an organisation with low pay. We too have tangible needs – housing, food and families – and all these need money. Mindsets must be changed. As long as charity workers are perceived as having an “easy ride”, there will be very little impetus to raise salaries. In the end, a lot of good people with all the skills and a “heart for the work” will be lost.

read with interest the article ‘Volunteers and Donors: In Perpetual Churn?’ in your March-April issue. After reading it, I looked up NVPC’s research on IPCs on NVPC’s website. I found the information helpful and wish to commend NVPC for conducting this research which helps VWOs to better understand the issues of fundraising and volunteer management in the context of Singapore. Dr Fong Ngan Phoon, Director (Clinical Services and Community Partnerships), St. Luke’s Hospital

It’s Not All that Crazy

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ith ‘Bureau-crazy’ in the May-June issue of Salt, you have created a speakers’ corner for Jack Sim. But surely, bureaucrats have their own legitimate views and reasons for not supporting certain projects? It is for the applicant to prove that his project is worthy. And whether their decision is the right or wrong one, only time will tell. Bureaucrats, like all human beings, make mistakes occasionally. But more importantly, they are open to discussion and negotiation. For instance, the legislation to implement a new tax regime on jackpot revenue last year did not take off when some local country and social clubs appealed to the Ministry of Finance on grounds that it would have a negative financial impact on their business. It was an eye-opener for me to learn that a piece of legislation could actually be postponed in this way. It just goes to show that bureaucrats, far from being inflexible, are open to negotiation if you move the right levers.

Lee Soh Hong, Founder, Cancerstory.com

Taking a Wider View

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read Jack Sim’s article ‘Bureau-crazy’ with a sense of sadness and resignation. Sadness because of the needless delay of much needed help to the needy; resignation because like Jack, I have had my fair share of dealing with the same type of issues with the same type of responses. I would suggest that apart from bureaucracy, one key unresolved issue relates to what philanthropy and social activism really mean. Both Jack and I work primarily to improve the lot of people who live outside of comfortable and safe Singapore, and it would seem that this is where the problem lies. Apparently, many decision-makers seem to believe that we need to help Singaporeans first and foremost. Foreigners and causes that do not benefit Singapore or Singaporeans somehow do not count. This, to put it bluntly, is a violation of the first principle of what charity is all about. In layman’s term, it is simple self-centredness displayed on a national scale. Unless we understand, as the writer John Donne once pointed out, that no man is an island, and that we are all part of humanity, we will continue to face lots of problems proposing projects that mainly benefit non-Singaporeans. And we will continue to wonder why our neighbours often perceive us to be selfish and uncaring.

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Charmaine Tan, Singapore Red Cross

Yong Teck Meng, National Director, Habitat for Humanity Singapore

DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SHARE? We welcome your letters, news of upcoming events and pictures. Please send them to SALT, 7 Maxwell Road, #05-01 Annex B, MND Complex, Singapore 069111; or email salt@nvpc.org.sg. Please include your name, address and daytime phone number. Letters and articles may be edited for space and clarity.

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A WRAP-UP OF HAPPENINGS AROUND SINGAPORE

A Disney staff feeds one of the students from Rainbow Centre Balestier Special School.

LENDING AN EAR

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‘Groovyz’ lead the pack of hip hoppers in the finale at VIBE.

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he Walt Disney Company marked its first annual International VoluntEARS Day with style. In Singapore, nearly 100 employees spent a day hosting and entertaining around 200 special needs students from Rainbow Centre Balestier Special School at a beach picnic on Sentosa Island followed by a visit to Underwater World. The day included many fun-filled activities including face painting, balloon sculpting, games and much more. “We appreciate Disney’s time and resources to host our children to a day outdoors where they can enjoy themselves out in the sun. We hope this event will further encourage volunteers to continue with their good work,” said Ms Fauziah Ahmad, principal of the Rainbow Centre.

t’s not often one gets to party for a good cause. This explains the turn-out at DXO club on 6 May as hip hop groups turned up to support ‘Vibe’, a dance party organised by street-dancers from Raffles Junior College. The occasion was to benefit Very Special Arts – which brings the arts to people with disabilities. The stars of the day were Groovyz, a group of teens from APSN Chaoyang School who electrified the 500-strong crowd with their slick moves. Said VIBE’s project organiser Vanessa Lim, “Dance is our tool to bridge the gap between the able and the disabled.” The evening raised $5,225.

BEAR WITH US

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ssisi Hospice’s goal was simple: adopt a Teddy Bank for just $10 each, with the target of $100 per bear. They didn’t expect the enthusiasm of the corporate fundraisers. By April, within one month of adopting 60 teddy “banks”, City Development’s 300 strong staff had raised $60,000, far exceeding the target. The beauty pageant included a best-dressed CDL staff share a special bears competition where the judges were none other than the moment with the children and staff of Assisi’s Hospice children and adult patients from Assisi Hospice who cast votes for their favourite bears. Funds raised were ear-marked for the palliative care of adults and children suffering from cancer and other life-limiting illnesses at Assisi Hospice.

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TNT’s staff volunteers helping out at the event.

A WALK IN THE PARK

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ore than 1000 turned up at Bedok Reservoir Park on 12 May for TNT’s annual charity event ‘Walk the World’. A leading provider of global express services, TNT used the event as a call for an end to child hunger. Thanks to the company’s team efforts with the United Nations World Food Programme and a host of celebrities, employees, partners, family and friends, both the total number of participants and funds raised exceeded TNT’s expectations. More than $50,000 was raised to support the UN World Food Programme. The Singapore leg was part of a larger global initiative as hundreds of thousands of people around the world helped raise awareness and funds to assist the world’s poorest children.


PEOPLE MOVEMENTS

OPEN UP

A Sweet treats for a good cause.

SWEET DREAMS

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t’s every child’s dream: free icecream. But on 17 April, this dream came true for 20,000 people as five Ben & Jerry’s outlets (including Suntec City, Raffles City and United Square) put on Free Cone Day. More than $8,500 was donated to Amazing Kidz’s services to provide much needed services to braininjured children and their families. This was the second year Happy People Co (the local franchisee of Ben & Jerry’s) has supported Amazing Kidz with its Free Cone Day. To date, about $16,000 has been raised through this partnership.

great day was had by all at YMCA’s Open House on 28 April. Members, volunteers, staff, beneficiaries and even casual passers-by attracted by the bright balloon displays at the entrance came together for a colourful day of performances, food, games and bazaar sales. Visitors learnt about the organisation’s humble beginnings and its current programmes, which include local and international community outreach, and volunteer and education services. They were also treated to goodie bags, candy floss, face painting and balloon sculpting; and performances by the Lindy Hop Ensemble, Hollerback Crew, ballet class participants, fencing team and Y STARS. Bhangrarobics demonstration.

Express Delivery T

his was delivery with a difference as FedEx, the world’s largest express transportation company, teamed up with Changi General Hospital this past May to deliver 200 packets of rice to the hospital’s needy patients. “FedEx has always been a firm believer in using our logistical expertise to give back to the community in which we operate. We are happy to work with Changi General Hospital and be a part of this meaningful program to deliver basic necessities,” said Mr Ramesh Kumar Singam, Managing Director for FedEx Express Singapore and Indonesia. “We hope this little act will bring some comfort Changi General Hospital Senior Care Co-ordinator, Tan Kog Kng, and smiles to the beneficiaries.” handing over packets of rice to FedEx courier, Loh Gengqi.

BEAN THERE, DONE THAT

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eading soy bean food and beverage retail chain Mr Bean launched its ‘Adopt-a-Bean’ campaign on 1 June. 20,000 soft and cuddly toys were distributed to all 27 Mr Bean outlets as Singaporeans were invited to adopt one and contribute to a worthy cause, the Autism Resource Centre’s Pathlight School Building Fund. Priced at $3 each, the toys featured the instantly recognisable Mr Bean icon with different jovial facial expressions. Half of all proceeds collected were ear-marked for the Fund. The Pathlight School is the first autism-focused school in Singapore to offer its students a unique blend of mainstream academic curriculum, life readiness and vocational skills. The Fund targets to complete construction of a new $6.7 million building in Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 by 2009.

Ang Bee Lian joins the National Council of Social Service as its CEO. She brings with her 30 years of social service experience ranging from being a social worker, service developer and planner to being a social administrator. She leads the NCSS team with the goal to serve the many VWOs in the social service sector and she will focus on capacity building both in staff and in agencies. Hong Woon Young joined Youth Challenge as executive director in May. A South Korean national and a Singaporean PR, she has extensive experience in international poverty alleviation, institutional capacity building and public sector reform. Through her extensive experience, she has built a strong network with international organisations such as UN agencies, international development banks and regional governments. After 30 years in the banking industry, Ng Sock Kian decided to commit her time to the special needs sector and joined the Autism Resource Centre as its executive director. For a decade before this, she had volunteered with the Centre. As executive director, she will, under the direction of the Management committee, oversee the Centre’s various services. Arthur Lim was elected President of Metropolitan YMCA in March. A Full Life Member from 1985, Mr Lim was inducted into the Board in 1987. He is GM for United Malayan Pineapple Growers & Canners Pte Ltd and is married to Rev Wang Ping. Deeply interested in community work, he is also chairman of Presbyterian Community Services and a member of the Gerontological Society of Singapore. He hopes YMCA will be able to strengthen its community presence and expand welfare services among the needy. Edmund Wan, former executive director of the Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore, joined the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped in July as its new executive director. The former banker is no newcomer to the social service sector. He was, for many years, a board member with the Handicaps Welfare Association.

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A Woman of Substance CEO-turned-NPO catalyst Norma Sit is firmly in the driver’s seat on a philanthropic journey that has taken her from the boardroom to the classroom. By MICHELLE BONG.

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s the former CEO and one of the founding members of private IT company QB, Norma Sit’s long work weeks were all about overseeing 40 staff, implementing projects and attending meetings with potential merchants. Today, she’s no less busy with a different agenda. For a little over a year now, Sit has accumulated several new job designations. On the professional front, she works from home as the founder and managing director of RED ART and Kinderart which cater to adults and children aged two to 16 respectively. RED ART and Kinderart are businesses based on Sit’s belief that art education is a wonderful vehicle through which children can think alternatively and explore their limits while learning to make judgements in the creation of their work. On the volunteer front, she’s the woman behind Liveworks and Youth Life Ownership, for which she only recovers material and administrative costs. Liveworks does training and other programmes for troubled young women. One programme – Cinderella Compass – is used by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in a pilot to

“ I know I’ve come a long way. I can see growth with the success of each project, and I know it’s going to be OK. I’m really enjoying the ride.” review the motivation of disadvantaged women to become employed and to stay employed. Interactive visualisation and goal-setting are some of the tools used to dispel the myth that a Prince Charming

the youthful 46-yearold, who also has two daughters: Sarah, 13, and Elizabeth, 11. Knowing it was virtually impossible to apportion her energies between professional and community work, she decided to focus solely on art, consumer-related Norma (left) seen here with her will appear to take care of their Kinderart Team at a Kids On Holiday businesses and social camp, relishes the happiness and community projects. needs, thus reiterating that smiling faces on the children. “It’s been a hectic women need to be financially year, but a good one,” concedes the winner independent and self-sufficient. Profits of local magazine Singapore Women’s from the programme go towards scholarWeekly’s “Great Women of our Time” ships for young girls. award, adding that she revels in “the smiles Meanwhile, Youth Life Ownership is a on the faces of kids who can’t wait to show social enterprise funded partially by MCYS their artwork to their parents, or the that imparts life skills such as financial hugs and happy tears of 37 young women management and decision-making to youth who tell me they wish their mothers had at secondary schools like Yuan Ching and shown them direction in life like I did. Jurong, to encourage them to set higher The best part of it all is the fact that if goals in life and learn to take responsiI had changed their lives, I had also done bility for their futures. Profits are given the same for their children’s lives.” back to the youths by way of scholarships. While pleased with her efforts, Sit On top of all this, Sit also manages to find says she’s blessed to have a supportive time to contribute to initiatives such as husband and three independent children Women’s Business Organisation, EDB who have given her the freedom to do Society and the National Committee for what she wants. “It’s heartening to see my Social Enterprise, where she chairs the own children following their own paths, Strategic Planning sub-committee under accountable for their own meaningful Philip Yeo. lives. I can focus on my projects with peace Her life’s turning point had come in of mind. I used to think I gave my 110% late 2005, four years after she co-founded in my previous job, but today, I somehow QB. New shareholders were introduced, and for Sit, it signalled a time to move on. manage to squeeze out another 40% or so! And while I used to be anxious and It was also the same year her son Brian, nervous at the start, I know I’ve come a now 18, had passed his GCE “O” Level long way. I can see growth with the success examinations with flying colours. “Brian’s of each project, and I know it’s going to success was my seal of approval to pursue be OK. I’m really enjoying the ride.” ✩ my own interests and passions,” explains

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Modern Day Noah He may dedicate his life to rescuing illegally-traded exotic wildlife, but, as MICHELLE BONG discovers, ACRES executive director Louis Ng is himself a rare breed who stands out among Singaporeans.

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hile his peers are high-flying bankers, doctors and lawyers, 29-year-old Louis Ng spends his work week championing the welfare of primates and reptiles in a spartan office in sleepy Mandai. The holder of a degree in Biology and a Masters degree in primate conservation takes home $1,400 a month, but he is proud to say he works six days a week to make a difference in society. He laughs when he says, “In Singapore, parents tell their children to study hard for good grades to earn a degree and make a lot of money for a comfortable life. I have to say I followed similar advice, but for completely opposite reasons!” As part of the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), Ng and his team of five full-time team members (including his English wife of one year, Amy Corrigan) lead the crusade against the illegal import of wildlife and the education of animal and environmentfriendly lifestyle choices. The registered charity operates out of a storage warehouse that is kindly sponsored by one of ACRES’ volunteers, who also pays the utilities bills and rent each

“ I know that in this lifetime, I will never be a millionaire. But to me, helping animals is like winning the milliondollar lottery.” month. A quarter of the floor space is taken up by six desk areas while the other three quarters house a mountain of furniture, animal cages, cabinets and even bedding, stacked higgledy-piggledy and waiting to

fight which involves educational roadshows, school talks and a 24-hour whistle-blowing hotline that has saved over 170 animals to date. Ng has mobilised tremendous volunteer support in the form of over 3,000 ACRES members who help out physically and financially, and another 700 students from various secondary schools and junior colleges who have been involved in preparing AWRC for its opening. They are a valuable part of a growing movement to thwart, in whatever way possible, Louis cradling an orphaned the irresponsible practices of the be moved to Singapore’s gibbon, one of the hundreds of wildlife saved by ACRES. billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade. first wildlife rescue centre. To potential Louis Ngs out there, he To be called ACRES Wildlife Rescue has this to say: “In Singapore, many of us Centre (AWRC), the centre has been chamdo not have to worry about our three pioned tirelessly by Ng and is scheduled to square meals, and have the luxury of open its doors any day now. A two-hectare doing good for others. So why not do what facility at Sungei Tengah Agrotech Park, you can?” He adds that he is spurred on it will contain enclosures for gibbons, daily by the support of his wife (“What macaques and star tortoises, along with a can be stronger than a husband and wife little store, quarters for weekend campers, team?”) and the message he always has a quarantine centre, an education room and an office. To date, about $528,000 has for the school children he meets: “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?” been raised for the centre, a little over He adds: “The animals I help cannot half the targeted $1 million. But Ng’s talk, but I know deep down that they are excitement about continuing his six-yearthankful. Before we repatriated Blue, long effort in this field is evident. a vervet monkey, to an animal sanctuary “My love for animals keeps me going,” he smiles. “People may ask me why I help in Zambia, he silently groomed me for several minutes. It represented an act of animals instead of my fellow man. I’ll love for his ‘brother’. I know that in this simply tell them there is room for both lifetime, I will never be a millionaire. animals and men in Singapore, and that the abuse of animals can lead to the abuse But to me, helping Blue and many others before and after him will be like winning of people. I have a strong belief in ACRES; the million-dollar lottery.” ✩ in the short term, we help animals and ACRES is a recipient of NVPC’s the environment, but in the long term, New Initiative Grant. For information on we are helping mankind.” The team is not alone in its courageous the grant, please visit www.nvpc.org.sg.

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THE NEW TEMASEK FOUNDATION –CONNECTING ASIA

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As CEO of what is one of the most important new foundations to be created, the effervescent Benedict Cheong speaks to SALT’s Managing Editor Tan Chee Koon about Temasek Foundation’s plans to be a catalyst among many to help growth and development across the region. Additional reporting by LEELA SCHELLENBERGER.

as clear-cut as one would think because there are many good players out there. We are in the process of working out how and when to partner others, and how to bring long-term value to projects in view of our own specific objectives, as well as those of the partners that we hope to do philanthropic work with.

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Which brings me to a burning question: Do you see yourself partnering local or locally-based non-profit organisations that have a regional focus?

he first CEO of the newlyestablished Temasek Foundation, Benedict Cheong brings with him a wealth of experience garnered during his time as CEO of the National Council of Social Service as well as his various positions in the Singapore Police Force. From the passionate and lively discussion held at the Foundation’s office, it is clear that the man’s vision and sense of purpose suit what the organisation is setting out to accomplish. SALT: Temasek Foundation’s every move will be followed with great interest by the philanthropic sector here in Singapore. Please reiterate for us first the key underpinnings of the Foundation.

Cheong: The main thrust of the Foundation’s giving is about developing or enhancing capabilities and building bridges and networks (see sidebar overleaf), which has two key assumptions supporting it. First, people in Asia will continue to work and learn with each other to grow in a highly interconnected Asia. Secondly, if we have a prosperous Asia, we will have prosperous communities working with each other and this, in turn, will lead to even more growth. When we carved out a mandate for the Foundation, it was very much about investing in Asia’s future generations through healthcare, education, knowledge and research, and in building bridges amongst people of diverse races. Promoting better governance through strengthened regulatory frameworks and tools for, say, banks and financial institutions, is also important to us. Why is this business regulatory focus so important to a not-for-profit foundation?

In the earlier days of development in Singapore, we needed all these rules to help in the economic growth and

development. Without proper framework and structure, investor confidence would not be forthcoming. Singapore has done a good job of putting into place solid frameworks, just as Japan and South Korea have also done. They too have successful regulatory frameworks in other sectors such as community development, hospital management, and running educational facilities. Perhaps other countries have also developed and implemented good practices, and it would be good if we can all share our respective expertise through seminars and workshops, or even have cross-Asian country exchanges, where one country shows the way or helps out other countries. Different countries have different strengths in different areas. We are looking to facilitate this kind of knowledge exchange and assistance. It is all very ambitious. How do you plan to meet these objectives with your lean team?

We are going to look for partners – which can include other foundations, government and non-government institutions and corporates – that offer complementary resources and facilities. People think that we want to partner with organisations that do the same things as we do, but we also want to partner with institutions and foundations that do different things. For example, one could work on water sanitation to meet basic needs first, which would then give us the opportunity to discover what else may be needed in that community or area. How about basic nursing care? We could provide a nurse training centre that will complement the water sanitation work, giving the project width and depth. Has a protocol for such joint projects already been established?

Not exactly. We have to think through these things over a period of time. It’s not

That’s for sure. Foundations like the Lien Foundation that has the Lien Aid programme, for example, would make a logical partner. What we need are good programme ideas or proposals that gel with our four pillars that we can go out with to the region, assuming that our partners, in turn, have strong local partners out there that they can work with. Any pressure to make local grants, and what’s your take on that? After all, your mission statement does talk of contributing to Asian communities, including Singapore.

The mandate of the Foundation is Asia and this includes Singapore. Indeed, the first programme we have provided a grant to is a student leadership programme and our partner is the Nanyang Technological University. So while there may be pressure to provide local grants, the important question is not where in Asia the grants benefit but whether the programmes are consistent with our four pillars. How about working with other governments?

Certainly, we could partner government agencies as well especially since we would like to get involved in teacher-training and training of nurses. We would need at least a local government – if not national – with which to work through systems for teachertraining. For example, if a country wants to upgrade its curriculum, the current practice is to send one or two of its teachers to another country for a seminar or workshop; but that may not make an impact that is sustainable. It’s much more effective to help set up a teacher-training centre and systems over there to train as many teachers as possible, ideally first with a Jul-Aug 2007 S A LT •

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basic programme, and eventually with refresher courses every few years. More importantly, we would hope that the communities take ownership and run the programmes themselves. Indeed, for any of our programmes to make an impact, the local community needs to be a partner and possibly be involved in the process of developing and implementing the programme. So for the transfer of skills and capabilities, it’s really a question of finding the demand and supply for this kind of expertise. We will work hard to bring everyone to the table to get things going. Tell us more about the grantmaking aspect of the Foundation’s work as it relates to these partnerships.

Let’s take, for example, China. The coastal regions there are quite developed in terms of capability, so they could easily share their skills and strengths in the area of education, with the inner regions. The issue then becomes, where can they get money from? If they can’t get enough funding from other sources, maybe there is a way for the Foundation to get involved. Singapore is small, and our resources are limited. Clearly, we need to look around the region and elsewhere to find the kind of help in transferring skills and capabilities that could be beneficial across Asia. Which brings me to your initial endowment of $500m under the stewardship of the Temasek Trust which gives you a ballpark annual grantmaking budget of some $25m. It is no small beer, but it is not big bucks either especially when your grantmaking backyard is the whole of Asia. I hear there is a unique aspect by which the Temasek Trust fund is grown. Can you elaborate?

Well, it actually comes across as a form of corporate philanthropy; something that we picked up. Basically, the harder the Temasek Holdings staff work, the bigger their investment portfolio, and as more wealth is added, the bigger the sum available in the endowment of the Trust. There is a direct correlation between valueadd to the investments and the endowment of the Trust itself. You could say, it’s a performance-based trust. The performance of Temasek Holdings itself and its staff

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THE TEMASEK TRUST Founded in 2007 and helmed by four Asian leaders – Lee Seng Wee and Sim Kee Boon (Singapore), Ratan Tata (India) and Professor Xu Kuangdi (China), the Temasek Trust is a commitment by Temasek Holdings to provide focus to invest in the future generations of Asia, to further knowledge and capabilities and to build bridges among people of diverse races, languages, religions and culture. Its income goes to four of its initiatives, of which Temasek Foundation is one. In May 2007, the Trust received an initial gift of $500 million from Temasek Holdings which it will exercise stewardship over, and the Trust will continue to receive additional funds from Temasek Holdings for each year of positive wealth added. The Temasek Foundation is a non-profit philanthropic organisation established by Temasek Holdings to contribute to communities in Asia, including Singapore, in the following areas: • investing in future generations through education, healthcare, knowledge and research; • building bridges among people of diverse races, languages, religions and cultures; • promoting better governance and regulatory capabilities; and • supporting disaster emergency relief and recovery assistance. With a modest staff, the Foundation works with like-minded partners from the various sectors to bring about improvements in the lives of people and support the development of the region’s human capital.

will affect the well-being of the Trust which in turn feeds into the Foundation. The for-profit staff can also enjoy the ‘feel-good factor’ of what they accomplish through the Foundation’s growth.

With partnerships a defining modus operandus for the Foundation, how would you describe your partnership philosophy?

Seems to me, when you describe your strategies, a few Cs come up.

Often, when we come across certain ideas, we realise that some parts may not gel with our corporate objectives, while others may fit perfectly. We then explore how we could potentially work out a partial involvement and/or sponsorship. We make it a point to be very careful; we don’t want to cramp the mission, vision and values of the partner organisation. We don’t say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this money, and we want to do things a certain way’. That would be the wrong approach, and we are careful we don’t fall into that mindset. We want to emphasise that our partners are the owners of the programme, so we look for common denominators that are consistent with both sets of objectives. But we do look out for indicators that help us gauge the impact of programmes, and we know that our partners will be very active in helping us define these.

Yes, certainly one is connecting – and as mentioned earlier, not just in bilateral but also multilateral relationships across the different stakeholder groups. There is consulting, which we achieve through our development and implementation of systems; and there’s also as a catalystfacilitating development and growth.

And in this very area of performance measurement which you pushed very hard for in the social service sector, how would you measure your own and the Foundation’s success? How would you hold yourself accountable to your primary funder?

Given the number of solicitations you will receive, how will you determine the programmes you will partner?

Though we prefer not to receive applications from individual persons or from entities, these requests have been a source by which we have been able to hear about interesting programmes for potential involvement. As you can imagine, we are still relatively new to the philanthropic space, and as international and regional partners approach us, we learn a lot, and in turn are introduced to more partners that are complementary.


It’s a little simplistic for now, as we are still in the early stages and we will refine the guidelines as we go along. Initially, we may have to make some good subjective judgment calls. For example, when it comes to teacher-training programmes, gauging the outcomes can be tricky, as it would take from three to five years to see how the students of the programme have fared and applied their skills for the impact to be evident. Rather, in the initial period, we can gauge the teachers’ responses and feedback to see how the programme is working and adjust it along the way if necessary. The key is to connect with the right partner. A good fit means good programmes, good implementation and mutual objectives met. This is just as important as accountability of specific programmes. And what might be the immediate targets that you have set for yourself as the Foundation’s first CEO?

If the first few programmes show movement towards the four elements that underpin the Foundation, this will be the first measure of whether we are doing the right things. These programmes may not show immediate impact, but we can extrapolate the outcomes. The other measure is really the people and organisations that we are in dialogue with. That credible organisations are working with us is an indicator of our relevance to the potential projects out there. Stakeholders should not be impatient for results, as they will be visible only in the medium to long term. It is clear that we are investing in the future generation, but of course, we don’t expect to wait 35 years to see results. Instead we will set up milestones along the way as indicators that we are on the right path to success, adhering to our vision and goals. With the backlash we encounter from some of our economic investments in the region, would political or socio-economic sensitivities or developments influence you in your decision-making regarding programmes?

Not really We should not be guided by prevailing political or social situations. We need to objectively look at the merits and feasibility of the programme in the

community, and the capability of the partner organisations. This strategy is partner and programme-driven, and definitely not country-driven.

If we focus on getting the right help to people, they will naturally appreciate the efforts. That will be enough. Would the Foundation be looking for any form of public acknowledgement for the programmes it funds so as to underline its good work, and, by extension, Singapore’s humanitarian face?

That’s an interesting question. Right now, our feeling is let the work speak for itself. I also think it’s natural for the programme partners to want to recognise the partnerships – but we certainly won’t insist!

“...We should not be guided by prevailing political or social situations. We need to objectively look at the merits and feasibility of the programme in the community, and the capability of the partner organisations. This strategy is partner and programme-driven, and definitely not country-driven.” Do you think the Temasek name is a boon or a bane?

There was no lengthy debate when we were trying to choose the name. At the end of the day, the Foundation is funded by Temasek, so we decided that Temasek Foundation is the appropriate name. It is what it is. I think we should let the work and the results speak for themselves. It’s definitely not about buying goodwill! My personal philosophy about this is simple: don’t seek happiness, just try to do good work, and happiness will come. It should be about doing the right thing. In the same way, we cannot try to ‘achieve’ goodwill.

What is your reaction to naysayers who wonder what the point of all this is, as the benefiting parties may not thank you in the short or long run, and may well indeed make political currency of our social investments in the region?

I think that as a company, it’s only decent and right for Temasek Holdings to want to help Asia and its communities, when it has made money from Asia. It’s not really about giving back to Asia; rather, it’s about continuing to help the parts of Asia that do need and want help. That’s why our objectives are very focused. Medium and long-term plans for growth and development are testament to what will best assist Asia for the future. We hope that the naysayers will see the results and outcomes for the programmes and we also hope at some point they will share our journey with us. Let the feedback and comments from the communities speak for the programmes’ success. And finally, having served NCSS for close to 10 years, how are you taking to the work you’re doing on the other side of the philanthropic fence?

It is actually very exciting, yet draining! There are so many meetings with potential partners, full of exciting ideas and thoughts – I wish I had a spare tube of adrenalin by my side! I do need time to assimilate and sift through the various bits and chunks of information that come my way. I work late to sort through all this and catch up on my reports so that I can have my weekends to unwind. It’s all very dynamic, and the key is to have fun while working hard. ✩ Jul-Aug 2007 S A LT •

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A Perfect Match Volunteer work has long suffered from a misconception that it has to be structured or regular to be meaningful. SAKINAH MANAFF meets a new generation of volunteers who are happy to marry their passion and skills with their desire to help others in creative ways. The result is a win-win situation for everyone.

hen he was younger, investment banker Desmond Koh was a national competitive swimmer, so when he decided to volunteer his time, he opted to contribute to a new vision of sports in Singapore. Kavita Krishnan is a trained occupational therapist who volunteers her professional skills as a dance therapist at an elderly nursing home on weekends. And when it comes to charity balls and gala events, socialite Olga Iserlis enjoys attending them as much as organising and helping to raise funds for the various causes. Meet the new lifestyle volunteers: a new breed of volunteers who are parlaying their different passions or professional skills into volunteer work. They not only prefer to volunteer beyond the traditional framework of a nonprofit organisation, but choose causes and charities that are close to their hearts and ideals. And because they are working towards a cause they strongly believe in or are doing something they enjoy, they are passionate, more involved and wedded to the success of their voluntary enterprise. There was a time when volunteer work meant having to do anything that the voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) required – be it fundraising on flag days, visiting an old folks’ home or repainting a room. But increasingly, as society becomes more affluent and its understanding of volunteer work grows more sophisticated, people are keener to do the kinds of volunteer work that they enjoy and draw meaning from. And just as they do in their full-time jobs – or in their lives, for that matter – these ‘new’ volunteers want to derive

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personal fulfillment in every endeavour they undertake. So, when it comes to giving back to society, they’ve decided that it’s better to maximise their skills and interests, and contribute in meaningful ways that can make a difference to the non-profit organisations and their clients. “I get a lot of satisfaction seeing children saved by an operation that I helped raise funds for,” says Su Shan Tan, Managing Director, Global Market Manager-Singapore, Citigroup Private Banking. “There’s also a feel-good factor that comes from helping others and

a homeless shelter when she’s better off raising money for it.” For Iserlis who’s a regular fixture on the social scene here, it makes sense for her to use her organisational skills and tap into her Blackberry of high net-worth friends and contacts to raise funds for the charity gala dinners that she also manages. She does not make any excuses for enjoying the balls and socialising with friends, especially when it supports a cause that’s close to her heart. “Seeing people happy at these events, and knowing that by the end of the night, I would have helped raise money and awareness for a special cause – these are the things that keep me going,” Iserlis explains.

Cause Celeb

“ THERE’S NO POINT ASKING A SOCIALITE TO HELP REFURBISH A HOMELESS SHELTER WHEN SHE’S BETTER OFF RAISING MONEY FOR IT.” — Industry Observer Olga Iserlis (second from left) and guests at this year’s Passion Ball which she organised for Food from the Heart.

camaraderie with a group of friends or colleagues that you’ve worked with on a particular fundraising project.” Indeed, many volunteers cite this deep sense of satisfaction of being able to help others in need, especially when it’s within their ability to do so. But if you could do that and also combine your passion at the same time, wouldn’t that just be grand? As one industry observer puts it, “There’s no point asking a socialite to help refurbish

One of the important factors that motivates lifestyle volunteers like Iserlis are the causes they align themselves with. While many support specific charities that speak to them, they also support non-VWOs like the arts, theatre and cultural groups, international groups like the World Wildlife Fund to protect Singapore’s endangered marine life, as well as grassroots group activities. Iserlis, for one, champions the arts and has tirelessly raised funds for the Singapore Repertory Theatre. Having lived in New York for many years, where it is not uncommon for people to volunteer their time to organisations that are in line with their interests, she believes that helping to increase awareness of the arts is as important as helping the underprivileged. Iserlis has even managed to combine both her ‘causes’ by injecting a cultural element


in the various charity events she organises. For Koh, his first love has always been sports. When he was invited to sit on the Committee on Sporting Singapore (COSS), he “jumped at the opportunity” because he had gained so much from participating in competitive swimming, and wanted to share the benefit of his experience and insights. “Not only did swimming take me around the world as I represented Singapore at various international competitions, it also enabled me to get an overseas education,” he says. For Koh, his voluntary stint at COSS has allowed him to spread the goodwill message of sports, and more importantly, help establish the Singapore Sports School in 2004 – a dream come true for him. Beyond that, his travel schedule for work meant that it was difficult for him to take on voluntary projects that required a sustained commitment. While he no longer sits on non-profit boards and committees, deciding that he would be able to “contribute best within my constraints and capacity”, he recently thought of a personal way to continue contributing to his causes – one that works around his passion for endurance sports and desire to help others. His formula is simple really: he enters a sporting event like a marathon or triathalon, and sends emails to all his friends and contacts to get them to sponsor the charities that he has selected for the race. The donors then mail the cheques directly to his chosen charities. “I am so fortunate to be able to leverage on my passion for sports in giving back to society,” he says. Indeed, volunteer work does not have to be structured. In fact, you don’t necessarily have to join a VWO or NPO to make a difference. As these lifestyle volunteers have demonstrated, the key to doing volunteer work is to find a cause or charity that you can relate to. A good way to make your volunteer effort sustainable and enjoyable is to find charity groups that are aligned with your personal goals and interests. One person who has done this is brain scientist, Dr William Tan. His involve-

ment with the Free Wheelchair Mission in California stems from his childhood years spent crawling around because his parents could not afford leg braces, crutches or a wheelchair for him. Today, he helps raise money to purchase wheelchairs for the disabled in under-developed countries. The consensus among the lifestyle volunteers is that it’s important to feel strongly about a certain issue – whether it’s adults with learning disabilities or the welfare of migrant workers in Singapore – and then it’s just a matter of contacting the relevant agencies and finding out how you can help. Or if there are no organisations that cater to your interest, gather likeminded people and start your own. With technology like the internet and mobile communications, conviction and a desire to make a difference go a long way.

Doing What Comes Naturally The flexibility of lifestyle volunteering means that its practitioners can pick and choose from a smorgasbord of VWOs,

“ ALL FORMS OF VOLUNTEERING ARE COMMENDABLE. IT IS ABOUT LIVING LIFE BEYOND OURSELVES AND DOING IT WITHIN OUR MEANS.” — Dr William Tan Dr William Tan after he achieved his dream for Singapore to become the first person in the world to accomplish a marathon in the North Pole on a wheelchair.

causes, movements, NGOs and special interest groups – and there are plenty out there – to match their skills, hobbies, schedule and commitment level. The obvious upside of this kind of lifestyle volunteering is that it is often an extension of what the volunteer already does, either for work or pleasure. As Sidney Lim, General Manager of Avanade Asia, discovered, he didn’t really have to go out of his way to raise funds for charity.

A cycling enthusiast, he cycles regularly with his friends to Malaysia. Then, in 2005, while planning one such trip, one of his friends, a board member of St Andrew’s Mission Hospital, suggested they organise the ride to raise funds for the construction of the mission’s new hospital. Lim roped in another friend, an ardent in-line skater, and one thing led to another. A few months later, the Charity Bike ‘n’ Blade fundraising event was born. Now into its third year, the event has raised $400,000 for the St Andrew’s Mission Hospital and has expanded its scope this year with a bigger fundraising target to support the cause of disadvantaged youths. Lim says, “I felt that it was one thing to go around asking for donations, but getting people to pledge money in support of hard labour is respectable and more gratifying. Cycling and blading 400 kilometres along undulating terrain is really quite hard labour.” The motivation and success of the Charity Bike ‘n’ Blade (this September, participants will bike and blade up to Mersing-Desaru and back over a weekend) clearly stems from Lim’s and his friends’ passion for their sport, but they have cleverly channeled it towards a good cause. “We were able to combine our love for the sport and raise funds through hard work, while rallying likeminded individuals to give back to the community. This gave us a sense of purpose and great satisfaction. Moreover, individuals from all walks of life joined the event as participants, and volunteers, and I personally gained from the fellowship and friendships formed,” Lim elaborates. Fitting volunteer work within one’s lifestyle can also extend to the job. When Citigroup’s Tan and her friends noticed that there were no organisations in Singapore that brought women from the financial industry together, they started the Financial Women’s Association. But what began as a networking group has evolved to include opportunities for members to get involved with mentoring programmes, charity work and fundraising activities, amongst others. Jul-Aug 2007 S A LT •

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Get Creative One of the benefits of this type of volunteerism is that you can be as innovative as your imagination will allow. Volunteers like Krishnan have not only discovered novel ways of combining their passions and professional skills, but are also using them to fill a gap in the VWO landscape. A few years ago, Krishnan, who is also a classically-trained Indian dancer, explored the idea of combining her interest and professional qualifications to provide dance therapy to schools and organisations with special needs. “When I started, there were very few people doing dance therapy, and given my training and passion for both dance and therapy, I thought it would be a good way to help people with special needs,” she reveals. Since then, she has gone on to choreograph performances for several VWOs. Getting creative about volunteer work also means that anyone and everyone can participate – even those with disabilities. A great example is Dr Tan, who feels that “being wheelchair-bound is no excuse for me not to serve others.” Every year, the accomplished wheelchair marathon athlete undertakes three to four fundraising races, and to date, has raised more than $18 million for charities in Singapore and around the world. Dr Tan is a big believer that volunteerism can be inspired and imaginative. This year, he will undertake marathons on all seven continents to raise monies for charities in these regions. Apart from his fundraising efforts, he also gives inspirational talks. For people like Dr Tan, Iserlis and Krishnan, lifestyle volunteerism can be as simple as organising a bake sale or vintage designer apparel sale amongst friends. In sports, golfing enthusiasts organise games in support of their favourite charities, with no less than Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong himself a lead driver. At the opening of the refurbished Cricket Club this February, he announced that he had started his own charity golf game called the GCT ChariTee Invitational, bringing together 13 close

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friends as founder members. With each one inviting a guest, and each donating $5,000 to play, they raise $140,000 in an afternoon of golf. “Our golf games are simple, friendly matches”, he said. “The only takeaways are a challenge trophy,.. a good game with friends and the warm satisfaction of having done something for charity”. It does not get any easier than that. And the reason he mentioned it in his speech was to encourage others to do likewise. “Whether it is golf, tennis or even cricket, as we enjoy our sports, we can at the same time do something for those who are struggling to make ends meet.” It is a sentiment that the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s CEO Tan Chee Koon endorses heartily. “SM Goh was talking to a crowd of sportsloving people on this occasion. The same could be said of people who pursue other lifestyle interests. Art and watch collectors, jewellery makers and other artisans can Sidney Lim at the Charity Bike ‘n’ Blade event last year, which he helped to launch and organise.

“WE WERE ABLE TO COMBINE OUR LOVE FOR THE SPORT AND RAISE FUNDS THROUGH HARD WORK.” — Sidney Lim

all pitch in with their skills and knowhow to benefit the less endowed, so too can musicians with their gifting. The possibilities are endless,” she says. The beauty of it is that it can be easily done through one’s network of friends, relatives and colleagues. For those who are game to raise funds or awareness through their interests, but are not quite sure which causes or agencies to support, Tan says NVPC will happily surface areas of need for the interested groups to consider.

Ad-hoc Approach But amidst this kind of freedom, within non-profit circles, there is some debate about whether this kind of ad hoc sporadic commitment works best for them. Krishnan strongly feels that volunteering is a major responsibility. “Imagine if you had been spending every weekend for the past few months at a hospice and then, decided not to go for a while for whatever reason. This upsets the system as the hospice will need to get a replacement, not to mention the effect on the emotional stability of the clients that you’ve developed a bond with.” Whilst Dr Tan too prefers to serve on a sustained basis because “I have the opportunity to see the fruits of my labour”, yet he also acknowledges, “All forms of volunteering are commendable. It is about living life beyond ourselves and doing it within our means.”

To Each His Own So you can choose to make a one-off contribution through volunteering from your lifestyle pursuit, which is a good way to embark on a journey of volunteering. Or you can adopt a charity to volunteer at on an ongoing basis, in terms of your lifestyle, the way Krishnan has done. Tan says that lifestyle volunteerism has its place in the volunteering landscape in a busy place like Singapore where people work hard and play hard. It really is a case of “if you were going to pursue an interest anyway, why not do it for charity too?” as Koh asks. Lifestyle volunteering gives people from all walks of life the opportunity to help the wider community. Because people can choose to participate in causes that are in line with their interests and ideals, their motivations and desire to achieve success are high. In addition, its flexible and informal nature makes it easy for people to contribute at their own time, pace and comfort level. As Iserlis aptly puts it, “Find a charity or cause that you can identify with, be open-minded, be driven, be passionate, and most importantly, enjoy yourself.” ✩


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Double Serve of Heart For most people, McDonald’s is synonymous with burgers, but REETA RAMAN discovers there is a big heart beating behind the fast-food giant.

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ack in 1989, five-year-old Jane Lee was critically ill. She required a major heart surgery, but without financial assistance, Lee recalls, there was not much hope for her. Then, in stepped an unexpected knight in shining armour – fast-food giant, McDonald’s. While the ubiquitous golden arches have long been synonymous with the burgers and fries they serve, not many are as aware of the company’s philanthropic side – a serving of good heart that goes back to 1984. In that year, McDonald’s set up the Ronald McDonald House Charity, in memory of the company’s founder, Ray Kroc and his belief in contributing back to the communities McDonald’s operated in. To date, the charity has a network of local charities in 49 countries, and has awarded more than US$440 million in grants and programme services globally towards helping children’s causes.

“ The charity has helped more than 700 sick children from financially distressed families with grants amounting to $3.3 million.” In Singapore, McDonald’s set up the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charity (RMCC) in 1989. Lee was its first beneficiary when she was given funding for her post operative treatments following her heart surgery at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. At the time, pediatric surgery was unavailable locally. “I had a new lease of life,” Lee says simply. To date, Ms Linda Ming, secretary of the RMCC says the charity has helped more than 700 sick children from financially distressed families with grants

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Room in one of the hospital’s closed wards in the Women’s Wing. Worldwide, the family rooms are an extension of the Ronald McDonald House programme which aims to provide a nurturing and recuperative environment within the hospital for families of children undergoing treatment. Says Associate Professor Ronald McDonald cheering up Ivy Ng, Chief Executive Officer amounting to $3.3 young patients at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital on at the KKH. “We understand that million. Most of the World Children’s Day in 2002. comfort will go a long way in financial assistance helping families cope in difficult times,” rendered by the charity goes towards she says. The rooms have proven to be helping these families purchase medical consumables, nutritional supplements and quite a hit among families, boasting an average occupancy rate of 60 per cent handicap aids, and pay for their children’s since the start of the year. leukemia treatments and surgery. Having stayed in hospitals for most The mainstay of the charity’s funding of her childhood, Lee knows better than comes from a commitment by McDonald’s most what a difference the right environSingapore to pledge a five-cent donation ment can make. Six years ago, Lee went for every Happy Meal sold. Other donaoverseas for an investigative procedure. tions, explains Ming, are obtained from “During my stay in the hospital there, contributions collected through the I saw a nurse coaxing a pre-teen patient RMCC donation boxes in all McDonald’s into taking her medicines. Her patience restaurants, fundraising activities such and innovation caught my attention and as McDonald’s annual World Children’s I thought, ‘I want to be just like her!’” Day and donations from the company’s Now, Lee is working towards becoming employees and business associates. a nurse. Ming attributes the generosity of their Not content with realising her ambidonors to the charity’s cause which aims to help needy, sick children. For instance, tion, Lee, like many others, continues to be inspired to help the RMCC’s cause. in November 2003, through McDonald’s Most recently, she was heavily involved World Children’s Day, the RMCC raised $80,000 for premature babies that required in the charity’s Shrek Ears fundraiser to help sick children. Lee’s story is very neonatal care and surgical treatment. much a testimony of how the charity The following year, through its World has been able to inspire its beneficiaries Children’s Day, the charity went on to to pay it forward and help others. From raise $50,000 for Singaporean children receiving hope to passing on hope, with infected with the HIV virus. the RMCC’s help, Lee can now say that This year, KK Women’s and Children’s life has indeed come full circle for her. Hospital (KKH) partnered with the RMCC Let’s upsize that example. ✩ to open up the Ronald McDonald Family


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It’s a Wrap!

By designing beautiful shawls, a clever social enterprise, The Singapore Shawl, is helping underprivileged women and promoting Singapore to the rest of the world. By SAKINAH MANAFF.

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hen Shelley Siu decided to start a business to help disadvantaged women, little did she realise that she would be creating an iconic memento of Singapore that would end up being gifted to foreign dignitaries and visitors to Singapore. The Singapore Shawl – with quintessentially local design elements – was initially created as a social enterprise to provide employment for women hit by the economic downturn in 2003. At the time, Siu was training retrenched executives at the Singapore Human Resources Institute. She recalls those early days: “After training for 14 days, the executives came back to me and said, ‘You know, Shelley, we are middle-aged and we can’t find jobs out there.’ So I designed another programme for them and taught them, free of charge, how to run a little business. When they could not think of a product to sell, I suggested shawls because I love them very much, and feel that shawls always enhance a woman’s image and her outfit.”

“ The Singapore Shawl gives women in difficult circumstances a place to learn new skills and gain confidence.” In October 2003, the Singapore Shawl was born. The shawls come in a variety of designs that reflect life in the Garden City – from its flora and fauna to local cultures and orchids. Each shawl, made in a variety of fabrics, is hand-made with embellishments like crystals, jade, embroidery, and Chinese knots. Siu says, “As a retail product, The Singapore Shawl is unique because it not only promotes Singapore as a Garden

“to convince our suppliers.” The company has since expanded the scope of its vision to help women earn additional income; promote local orchid hybrids as designs on its shawls; provide practical experience for business school undergrads, as well as raise funds The Singapore Shawl’s 2nd anniversary City, but also acts and fundraising event for the Society for local charities. As part of its for the Physically Disabled. fundraising activities, it is involved as an identity for in fashion shows at galas for various Singaporeans abroad.” At last year’s IMF/ charities like the Society for the Physically World Bank meetings in Singapore, the Disabled, Singapore Heart Foundation, Red wife of each delegate was presented with Cross and the Breast Cancer Foundation a Singapore Shawl. where shawls are donated for auction. This Today, the company has two directors and 15 full-time staff. As the founder and September, it is sponsoring and designing pareos and bandanas for a team of paddlers one of its directors, Siu is very hands-on from the Breast Cancer Foundation for and involved in all aspects of the business – from design to retail. While the company their meet in Australia. In the past year alone, it has donated funds or sponsored is run like a regular company, the main shawls worth more than $10,000. difference is that Siu makes it a point to But most importantly, despite its small hire disadvantaged women, particularly set-up, The Singapore Shawl has plugged single mothers, divorcees and those sidea gap in the VWO landscape by providing lined by illness, disability, or who take a living for those often overlooked by care of the elderly and disabled children. government agencies and welfare groups. One of these women is the company’s Beyond just a social enterprise, The business manager Jean Leng. Five years Singapore Shawl gives women in difficult ago, Leng was laid off her corporate job circumstances a place to learn new skills while undergoing treatment for breast and gain confidence. cancer. She lost not just her job, but also Women like Linda Leong, the compaher confidence in her ability to return to ny’s operations manager, for example, who the work force. But just when she least became the sole breadwinner of her family expected it, help came along. “Shelley when her husband developed cancer and gave me this opportunity to try my hand had to wind up his construction business. at business development, learning and She says, “The Singapore Shawl has working with The Singapore Shawl team.” given me an opportunity to widen my Leng never looked back. knowledge and gain self-confidence.” One of Siu’s earliest challenges was Which just goes to show that all you to teach the women to sew as most had need to start a successful social enterprise little or no experience at all. Then, factois great material. ✩ ries did not want to take orders from them For more information, log on to as the volume was too small, but through perseverance and over time, she managed www.thesingaporeshawl.com.

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Fortitude and Grace

One of the things that Chua Chin Kiat wants us to know is that, in many cases, prisoners are no different from other members of the community: they made mistakes. The director of Prisons and Deputy Commissioner of Police tells ANDREW DUFFY why rehabilitation, and a little faith, is key.

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t can be surprisingly easy and swift to get into prison in Singapore. By appointment, of course. The headquarters at Changi look more like a faded holiday village than a high-tech, highsecurity prison building, with low-rise huts overlooking stone tables and seats under palm trees and umbrellas. Exchange your I/C for a pass, hand in any firearms you have on you (a large sign insists on this) and in you go to prison. The arrival in 1998 of the Director of Prisons, Deputy Commissioner of Police Chua Chin Kiat at the Singapore Prisons

“ One of the first things people have to realise is that inmates do have to be released one day, so you might as well do something to reduce their chance of re-offending or you’ll have the crime rate spiralling upwards.” Service (SPS) was just as swift. After a lifetime in the police force where he rose to the rank of Director of Criminal Investigations, Mr Chua says he was “parachuted” into the SPS’s top job. “I didn’t come in with any preconceived notions,” he says, though he adds that the one lesson he drew from his previous job “is that criminals are very much like you and me. They make the wrong choices and they are unlucky.

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We all make the wrong choices and are not caught, and we turn away in time. People who do not turn away in time are caught and labelled criminals.” He doesn’t sympathise so much as empathise with criminals, and says he understands rather than condones their actions. Here, Mr Chua is unambiguous about where he stands on the custody/ rehabilitation debate: “One of the first things people have to realise is that inmates do have to be released one day, so you might as well do something to reduce their chance of re-offending or you’ll have the crime rate spiralling upwards,” he says. “It’s a logical thing.” The number of inmates has dropped recently, from 17,300 in 2003 to 14,400 in 2005, while the re-offending rate halved between 1995 and 2005. Barely one in four ex-inmates goes back to jail, in part thanks to the Yellow Ribbon Project –

set up by SCORE (Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises) and CARE (Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders) – which continues to grow as it approaches its third year. The number of employers taking ex-offenders, for example, went up from 120 to 202 in 2006. It’s harder to prove that there is a kind of peace dividend, that it saves money to reintegrate rather than re-arrest. “Intuitively we know that it’s cheaper, but it is difficult to prove,” agrees Mr Chua. “We have attempted a few times to come up with facts and figures, costs and benefits, but it’s very difficult. We haven’t managed to make a convincing case in terms of hard data.” He concedes that there are still a few people in authority who maintain that the main role of a prison is to keep people off the streets. Even so, rehabilitation has always been part of the prison’s mission. “Look at our cap badge, it has a triangle and it says Security, Humanity, Rehabilitation, so it’s as old as the SPS itself.” But as Mr Chua admits, there was a time when “a lot of attention then was devoted to treating drug addicts rather than dealing with why people offend. Drug addicts are not necessarily criminals, so the attention shifted to drug treatment rather than criminal behaviour treatment.” It took a change in attitudes in society, personnel and government to rehabilitate the very idea of rehabilitation. In the early 90s especially, the government brought


pay and conditions in the SPS in line with the other uniformed services, and “overnight there were quite a lot of bright young men and women joining, attracted by the new conditions and terms of service,” recalls Mr Chua. “These were also the people who believed they were in here to help people; so by the time I came onto the scene, there were quite a few of such people around.” Mr Chua’s first aim was to find out what they wanted the SPS to be – and to deliver it if possible. “What was important was to lead an organisation with a sense of vision, a focal point to rally people around, to make their work happier. To me the most important job of a leader is to deliver happiness to his followers.” There is some evidence that this approach works: In a recent survey, SPS was one of the top 10 employers in Singapore. “The others were all hotels! I was a bit surprised, but it was an affirmation of what I’ve been trying to do for all these years.” Mr Chua leads his team from a comfortable office with large blue leather sofas and display cabinets filled with awards and decorations. Most of them have ended up here by accident, such as the dreamcatcher on the wall, a present from a Canadian colleague rather than a sign of a man who seizes his dreams. A lone golf club stands in the corner – injury has forced him to give up the game. He will retire in three years, but cannot say what he will go on to do. But his books speak volumes about the man. A couple by American management guru and GE boss Jack Welch, as well as ‘New Jack – Guarding Sing Sing’ by Ted Conover, a journalist who went undercover in New York’s most notorious prison. Mr Chua, who received the Public Service Administration gold medal in 2005, has taken pains to draw out the undercover feelings in his own prison staff. Many of the ideas on rehabilitation came from the bright and ambitious officers who joined after the change in rules of the

early 90s. They helped forge the Vision Statement, unveiled on 31 December 1999, which guides the SPS to this day:

“ Volunteers introduce a breath of fresh air into the system. A lot of prisoners are more likely to open up to volunteers than to people who have authority over them on a daily basis.” “We aspire to be captains in the lives of offenders committed to our custody. We will be instrumental in steering them towards being responsible citizens with the help of their families and the community. We will thus build a secure and exemplary prison system.” Volunteers are an essential part of the rehabilitation mix, along with the 1,500 volunteer counsellors who work in the prisons. “One thing I can safely say is you can’t do without volunteers,” says Mr Chua. “They introduce a breath of fresh air into the system. A lot of prisoners are more likely to open up to volunteers than to people who have authority over them on a daily basis.” His two daughters, Grace and Eunice, have both volunteered in prisons as teachers. But he adds that anyone with a skill can benefit by sharing it. “The important thing is they role-model what is possible, whether playing basketball or music or art. They model commitment, determination, the will to succeed. And those are the things in various shapes and forms the prisoners will learn from.” Religion plays a large part in the rehabilitation process, and it is no surprise that Mr Chua is a regular at Elim Church. It has a long heritage: “From the early days the people who ran prisons saw the value of faith,” he says. More than faith, though, Mr Chua believes that families are central to

the rehabilitation process for the 11,000 offenders who are released each year. “People become criminals because of lifestyle factors – it’s like trying to deal with obesity,” Mr Chua says. “Getting them to make up their minds to change is half the battle. We have tried many things and concluded that the best thing is to get them to think about the fundamentals: What are they trying to achieve in life, what is dear to their heart? For most prisoners, that is family.” Hence the recent advertising campaigns which show the price a prisoner’s family pays. “What works for us works for them – they are no different from you or me,” he repeats. The changes at SPS have also coincided with a general shift in society towards a liberal stance and greater public sympathy for reforming criminals. This accounts for the success of the Yellow Ribbon Project. Equally, the publicity generated by the project has attracted volunteers and helped change mindsets, too. “It’s a convergence of factors, so they are probably mutually reinforcing. We have been lucky; to try to have done this even 10 years ago would have been more difficult.” While, it may be still early to judge the success of the Yellow Ribbon Project, in 2006, CARE’s research showed that 75% of 1,000 people polled knew about the Project, with a positive trend towards accepting ex-offenders. And around half the former inmates helped by CARE found employment. “A proxy indicator is the recidivism rate, and that has been coming down,” points out Mr Chua. “But actually human endeavour is such a multi-faceted phenomenon that it is very hard to isolate a single factor and say that it contributes x per cent. Usually there is an interplay of factors, so to say which one delivered which part of the result is hard.” But with so many factors working to keep ex-inmates on the straight and narrow, it now seems that it is also surprisingly easy to stay out of prison in Singapore. ✩

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For Richer or For Poorer?

Few would argue that charity is meant to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. But, observes WILLIE CHENG, it looks like the dice is still very much loaded in favour of the rich.

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he rich get richer, the poor get poorer. It’s a hard reality of our capitalist world, but in an increasingly globalised world, the gulf is widening. In fact, in recent years, the Gini co-efficient – a measure of income equality – has been slowly rising (meaning widening gap) in countries like the United States and Singapore. Charity is meant to help rebalance this uneven status between rich and poor. Yet, it seems that even in the charity world across the globe, there are similar forces that favour the better-heeled over those less so. And this theme applies to both the supply (donors) and demand (charities and their beneficiaries) side of the charity equation. The Supply Side Let’s start with donors – the funders of charity. It should be apparent that the rich get better treatment from charities compared to those less well off. They are showered with attention because they have more to give. They get recognised when they give because they tend to give more in absolute terms. Most tax systems favour the rich when it comes to charity. In Singapore, there is a generous double income tax deduction for charitable donations. The wealthier the individual, the greater the tax benefit. Take the example of a taxpayer in the top income bracket of 20%. For every $100 donation he makes, he actually pays only $60. However, a wage earner who does not earn enough to have any chargeable income (more than two thirds of Singapore’s working population fall into this category) has to fork out the full $100 donation i.e. $100 donation costs him $100. The same situation is repeated in most countries where income tax systems are progressive in nature and donations

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are tax deductible. The difference for Singapore is that our income tax rates are generally lower (hence comparatively lower tax benefit of donations) but the tax deduction is doubled (hence comparatively higher tax benefit of donations). So, who makes up for the $40 benefit that the wealthy taxpayer gets? Assuming that the total tax revenues need is a constant number, the differential has to come from other taxation sources. If it is income tax, it would most likely come from widening the income tax net to catch and thus penalise those earning less.

“ From the donors’ standpoint, the better-off give proportionately less than those who are less well-off, and yet are better treated by charities and the government.” Alternatively, it could come from raising consumption tax (such as sales tax, value added tax and GST) revenue, as it is the current trend to replace income tax revenue with consumption tax. Where this is done, the greater tax burden falls again on the poor. Consumption tax is known as a regressive tax because the percentage of income paid out for such taxes increases the lower the income of the individuals. Of course, the rich can make up for this greater benefit by simply donating more. Yes, they do give more – but in terms of absolute and not relative dollars. NVPC’s Individual Giving Survey 2006 suggests that the lower income earners give more as a proportion of their income compared to the higher income earners although the data is not conclusive at the higher end because of the smallness of the sample size (see chart). Studies in other countries show similar results. A UK study by Banks

and Tanner found that the richest 20% of households give less than 1% of their household expenditure to charities, while the poorest 10% gave 3%. Therefore, from the donors’ standpoint, the better-off give proportionately less than those who are less well-off, and yet are better treated by charities and the government. The Demand Side Let’s move to the demand side – the charities and their beneficiaries. Not unlike commercial organisations, charitable organisations compete for resources. It should therefore not be a surprise that the larger players within the charity sector are richer and better off than the smaller ones simply because they have more resources and reserves, attract funding more easily and enjoy economies of scale in their activities. So you could say that among charity organisations, there are rich and poor ones, and the rich ones generally have the benefit of scale, branding and resources to grow richer. Size aside, charities serve a broad spectrum of beneficiaries. Those that serve the poor and the needy are classified under the social service sector. The other charity sectors – arts, education, environment, sports, religious, etc – may have their share of poor beneficiaries but their focus is on promoting their respective sectoral needs rather than alleviating poverty. According to NVPC’s State of Giving study, in 2003, donations by institutions and individuals to Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) by sector were: social service 24%, education 39%, and health 20%. For donations by individuals, about half went to religious causes. So, the majority of charitable giving does not go towards benefiting the poor but


DONORS: PERCENTAGE OF ANNUAL INCOME Donations as % of Annual Income

0.65%

0.43%

0.39%

0.35%

0.34%

0.32% 0.27% 0.14%

0.12% 0.04%

Monthly Income

<$1,000

$1,000 $2,000 $3,000 $4,000 $5,000 $6,000 $7,000 $8,000 $9,000 –$1,999 –$2,999 –$3,999 –$4,999 –$5,999 –$6,999 –$7,999 –$8,999 –$9,999

Source: NVPC’s Individual Giving Survey 2006. Sample size small within each income band from $6,000 onwards.

to other causes that improve the community. The experience is similar elsewhere. According to a recent study conducted by the Indiana University Centre on Philanthropy, less than one-third of all charitable giving in the United States is directed towards the poor and others in need. Defining Charity A key reason for this state of affairs lies in the definition of charity. The dictionary definition of charity refers to the voluntary giving of money to those in need, harking back to the Christian tradition of alms-giving. Ask the man in the street and he will likely define charity in similar terms: helping the poor and the needy of society. In charity industry parlance, this is known as giving to the social service sector. That’s why the National Council of Social Service (the umbrella body for the social service sector) and the Community Chest (which raises funds for NCSS members) is top of mind to many people for charitable giving. However, the industry and legal definition of charity is broader than that. In law, charitable purposes cover four areas: relief of poverty, advancement of education, advancement of religion and “other purposes beneficial to the community”. Over time, this fourth catch-all clause has been interpreted to include areas such as health, arts, heritage, environment and animal welfare. The stretching of the meaning of charity from alms-giving to community good can produce quirky outcomes with respect to the precept of closing the gap between rich and poor. For example, the

biggest donor in the country is the Singapore Totalisator Board. Annually, it gives out more than $300 million (based on 2004 data), representing a third of total philanthropic giving in Singapore. It also provided most of the $600 million funding needed to build the Esplanade, Singapore’s iconic centre for the performing arts. Now, the Board’s income comes from the very legitimate gambling operations of Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club. The large proportion of gamblers is working class people, many looking for the windfall that can lift them from a mundane life or poverty. The arts, on the other hand, are associated with the higher end of the population. Surely unintended, but this looks like it could be a case of the lesser-off helping to fund the more well-off. To its credit, however, the Esplanade has worked hard to make the arts more accessible with a multitude of programmes that reaches out to the masses. And to be also fair, the Tote Board does channel a significant proportion of its giving towards social services. Singapore is not alone in its use of gambling proceeds to fund programmes of national interest. The UK government is seeking to fund part of the 2012 Olympic Games through its National Lottery. With recent estimates in the increased cost of the Games and fearing that charities and community groups would lose out, the UK National Council of Voluntary Organisations is leading a campaign to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer: “Don’t raid the Lottery to fund the Olympics”. The question of whether charity should be about narrowly helping the poor and needy or should be broadly for the

community good, goes beyond one of definition. By putting them under the same umbrella of tax breaks and government support, charitable giving to the poor competes evenly with community programs instead of being given a leg up. The other implication is the level of accountability expected under the two approaches. The basis of charitable giving is, fundamentally, generosity. Despite the recent calls for greater accountability of charities, the allocation of resources in the charity “marketplace” will continue to be less driven by economic value than by relationships between donors and beneficiaries – and their fundraisers. The basis of government programmes on the other hand is rigorous cost-benefit analysis and public accountability. Having broad-based community programmes funded under the aegis of charity reduces that level of public accountability. In sectors such as education and healthcare, some have questioned whether some of the programmes funded through donations should not be funded by, and remain the responsibility of, government. Education, in particular, gets an extra boost for donations. In addition to tax benefits and the intrinsic appeal of education, there are opportunities for naming rights and the government’s encouragement through matching grants for donations (sometimes as much as 3:1 in Singapore). Consequently, many universities around the world have amassed staggering endowments and other donations from loyal alumni and philanthropists that will provide for their current and far future needs to no end. For example, Harvard University, which has close to a breakeven net operating budget, has more than US$35 billion in its investment portfolio. In summary, it seems that the well-off are usually favoured in life, as well as in the charity space. To be true to the spirit of charity as providing for the poor and needy, we need to be vigilant of the gravitational forces that favour the well-off over those who are less so. Reviewing what constitutes charity and who is more deserving of the charity support mechanisms could be one big step towards this objective. ✩

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Family Ties

How do we build the capacity of volunteerism and philanthropy regionally? ANDY FRYAR, the founder and director of OzVPM thinks Asia, Singapore in particular, has tremendous potential. BY

ANDY FRYAR FOUNDER & DIRECTOR O Z VPM

Salt and pepper shakers from a private collection.

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still recall being very excited when I was told, some years back, that the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) was preparing to produce SALT as a regular publication for the non-profit sector in Singapore. My enthusiasm stemmed from the fact that this new initiative indicated that both NVPC and the voluntary movement in Singapore were moving from strength to strength. I still consider the launch of the ‘Australian Journal on Volunteering’ as a landmark occasion in the development of volunteering in Australia, and I believe SALT has had a similar impact in Singapore. As a distant observer, ‘looking in’ at the efforts of NVPC over the years, I have always been impressed by both the quality of work being conducted in Singapore and the level of support given to NVPC by both the Singaporean government and corporate sector. Indeed, my observations are that Singapore has emerged as a ‘hotbed’ of voluntary activity within an Asia-Pacific region that is already ‘bubbling’ with many really great initiatives. Like most countries in the process of building and developing a more ‘formal’ volunteerism movement, I am sure Singapore has looked often to North America for guidance and answers on how to develop a stronger sector. And why not? Both volunteerism and philanthropy have been strong movements in that part of the world for a lot longer than they have in this region. I wonder, though, if by doing so, we aren’t overlooking some of the really great strengths of the volunteering movement in our own backyard.

I am definitely not trying to devalue the information and expertise found in North America: I have personally gained a significant amount of my own knowledge in this field from colleagues there, many of whom have become close personal friends and mentors. Rather, the point I’m making is that we must be careful not to assume that the North American model is the only one that works. In fact, it is my experience that visitors from these very same countries are often quite envious of the initiatives and developments taking place in our corner of the world – often seeing us as leaders in particular elements of volunteer development.

“ Indeed, my observations are that Singapore has emerged as a ‘hotbed’ of voluntary activity within an Asia-Pacific region that is already ‘bubbling’ with many really great initiatives.” So what might we have to offer our colleagues in other parts of the world? Well, first of all, while there has long been all manner of volunteer activity in Singapore and Australia, volunteerism as a formal movement is still relatively young in the Asia-Pacific region. While this is often the very reason why we search for answers from elsewhere, it is also something we should see as a considerable strength. It has allowed us to learn from the mistakes of others and to develop our volunteering infrastructure in an era when there is greater social and political interest and attention being paid to volunteerism than ever before. Secondly, we also live in a part of the

world that is incredibly diverse. Culturally, geographically, socially, politically and historically, we are as different as we can be from one another. I believe that the growth of volunteering in countries like Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, where such a richness of diversity exists, has allowed volunteerism to evolve in ways that are unique to our cultures and circumstances. We need to be diligent in identifying these differences and then be generous in sharing our experiences. So how do we go about building a better appreciation of the great work that occurs in Singapore and surrounding countries? On one hand, I think the solution is long term. It’s about us needing to continue to grow and mature – and for the Asia Pacific volunteerism sector to find its place in the international scene. More practically, however, I believe we can make small inroads through developing better communication links at all levels with colleagues in our own region. For example, maybe we could explore ways to better ‘cross-promote’ regional events such as our respective national volunteer conferences. We should also be investigating opportunities to share access to national publications such as SALT and the Australian Journal on Volunteering with neighbouring countries. The Asia-Pacific region has a great deal to offer the rest of the world in terms of our ways of approaching volunteerism and philanthropy, and NVPC is certainly leading the way on many fronts. ✩ OzVPM is a specialist resource, training and consultancy company dealing with volunteerism in the Australasian region (www.ozvpm.com). Andy Fryar is also the immediate past president of Volunteering Australia.

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Keeping the Edge

Competition is intense in today’s knowledge-based global economy. But JACK SIM thinks he has the answer to help find your competitive edge.

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o claim a competitive edge, it’s important to differentiate between things that are transient and those that are more permanent. If you have a successful business model, you will soon be joined by competitors. Prices may be slashed, products become obsolete as demand evolves, technologies can be copied and even improved, staff can change jobs or even join the competition for higher pay, trade secrets become open secrets as knowledge is shared. All conspire to create more or less a level playing field. So organisations need to determine what their unique selling propositions are, things that cannot be copied. Such as your personal spirit: This is key as it cannot be copied. You are essentially your own strength. Another is your brand/reputation. If you’ve consistently behaved well, your brand/reputation becomes a symbol of trust and this cannot be stolen from you unless you make some serious blunder. All things being equal, sustainable competitiveness is about virtues. You can fool some

“ But ultimately, you are not competing with anyone but yourself. So, don’t spend too much time thinking about the competition.” people some of the time but not all the people all of the time. The corollary is that even an honest mistake can be forgiven if you’ve a strong reputation that spans a long time. This year, I was finding it very hard to find the right staff at World Toilet Organisation when suddenly I received separate unsolicited applications from three NUS masters degree graduates. They had exactly

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the profiles I needed. Later, I discovered that the God-sent applicants had applied after their professor whom I’d never met gave a passionate talk about WTO at a graduates’ career talk. They were inspired to join us. I took on all three even though I’d funds for only two. I knew it was easier to raise more funds than to try to find this kind of spirited staff. At Davos earlier this year, I was surprised that at least half of the world leaders I met already knew about World Toilet Organisation before I even introduced myself. Larry Page, the founder of Google, said he thought our acronym, WTO, was inspired. He introduced me to Larry Brilliant, CEO of Google Foundation who, in turn, introduced his wife as “WTO’s Greatest Fan”. We are now discussing ideas of working together on some projects. Another unique feature is your corporate culture. If you are a one-man show, you are the corporate culture and it is easy to maintain it. But if you have staff, you want them to behave in a manner consistent with your organisation’s image. The truth is, you cannot fake it for long. It has to be genuinely a belief system. If your entire organisation believes in its mission, it will show. Such corporate culture can be so deeply entrenched that it cannot be copied even if your staff leave.

In fact, it is often a magnet for people to join you, even if the pay may not be as high as your competitors. Remember too that relationships take time to nurture. Trust takes time to establish. But if maintained continuously, relationships become a very powerful force in your corporate journey. Relationships are so unique, they cannot be copied. I am always astonished when people build relationships only with those who instantly offer some potential benefits. They discriminate against what they consider “waste my time” types of relationships. My rule is this: The relationships you have now are often more valuable than the relationships you hope to cultivate. If you strengthen existing friendships, you build a strong and safe home base, from which you can expand your contacts. Also, never ignore your creativity – work on it. Everyday, ideas are born in convention centres, in classrooms, in coffee-shops, on MRT rides, and even on toilet seats! The truth is, few of these ideas are actually acted upon. In other words, turn the ideas into reality. There is, in fact, an oversupply of thinkers and a shortage of doers. And the successful organisations are the doers who make an art of what they do. Lastly, remember your family is your bed-rock for success. No one can duplicate your family support. If you have a strong family, you’ll have no internal discord and you will, in fact, become empowered to greatness from the love and spiritual peace provided by them. But ultimately, you are not competing with anyone but yourself. So, don’t spend too much time thinking about the competition. Be at a level all of your own. ✩


CALENDAR D A T E S

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DO YOU HAVE AN EVENT YOU WOULD LIKE TO PUBLICISE? We welcome your news of upcoming events and pictures. Please send them to SALT, 7 Maxwell Road, #05-01 Annex B MND Complex, Singapore 069111; or email salt@nvpc.org.sg. Please include your name, the name of your organisation, address and telephone number. SALT reserves the right to edit submissions for space and clarity.

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Till 15 September ‘Best Buddies’ Photo Competition

7-9 September Charity Bike ‘n’ Blade 2007

Whether furry, feathery or scaly, everyone loves looking at photos of the wonderful animals that we keep as companions. Proud pet owners are invited to submit their photos to the SPCA for its photo competition. There are lots of great prizes. Each entry costs $10 and all funds raised will go towards the SPCA’s animal welfare services. For more information, contact Deirdre Moss on 62875355.

Venue: Malaysia-Singapore Leg: Singapore – Mersing (Johor) – Desaru (Johor); Singapore-only Leg: Changi Ferry Terminal – Sentosa – HarbourFront Time: Flag-off at 7am The event is a combined extreme challenge, fundraiser and volunteer programme. Open to the public and organised by global technology integrator Avanade Asia, the event aims to raise $500,000 for three beneficiary organisations working with disadvantaged youth – The Salvation Army, Pertapis Centre for Women and Girls and Ling Kwang Youth Centre. Organisers hope to attract 60 cyclists and 20 inline skaters for its 400km MalaysiaSingapore circuit. For its Singapore-only leg of 40km, its target is to attract more than 200 other cyclists and inline skaters. This is the first major project to be launched under NVPC’s ComCare Connection programme.

15 September Christian Outreach to the Handicapped Flag Day 2007 Volunteers are required to help out as street collectors for an island-wide Flag Day. Volunteers are encouraged to help at least four hours between 9.00am to 6.00pm. The collection stations are YMCA (Orchard), Jurong East MRT, Simei MRT, Outram MRT and Lavender MRT. For more information please contact Jenn Chong at 64409740/ 64409744/64409745 or email jenn@coh.org.sg.

28 September Swing for Charity 2007 Venue: Laguna National Golf and Country Club (Masters Course) The event, organised by TOUCH Community Services hopes to raise at least $150,000 for more than 7,000 children from single-parent and/or low-income families under the care of TOUCH. Purchase a corporate flight at $2,500 or individual flight at $1,800 to help the disadvantaged children. For more information, contact Ruth Ng at 63770122 or email ruth.ng @touch.org.sg.

28-29 September Caregivers Day Venue: Toa Payoh HDB Hub This year, the AWWA Centre for Caregivers is organising a Caregivers Fair to promote the services and support network for the caregivers. The Centre will also be honouring the model caregiver in Singapore. With this award, the Centre hopes to pay tribute to those who have been caring for the disabled, elderly or chronically-ill family member or friend. For more information, contact 1800-2992992.

29 September Pink Ribbon Drive Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) will be organising a Treasure Hunt Race as part of the Pink Ribbon Drive to launch Breast Cancer Awareness Month and raise funds in support of its mission. Consisting of a Q&A session, games and challenges,

the 3.5-hour long race will bring participants to four checkpoints located in various parts of Singapore. All participants will receive a goodie bag worth at least $200. To register, at a minimum of $100, call now on 62352591 or log on to www.wheelsforfun.com.sg. Registrations close on 14 September.

29-30 September Heart Fair 2007 Venue: VivoCity Time: 11am-8pm To celebrate National Heart Week/ World Heart Day, the Singapore Heart Foundation, Singapore’s leading heart health charity, is organising its 36th annual Heart Fair. Open to the public, the fair will be filled with fun-filled activities. This year’s theme, ‘Team Up for Healthy Hearts!’ encourages children, parents and grandparents to team up and work towards maintaining a heart-healthy life as a family.

31 October Volunteers’ Orientation Venue: Volunteers’ Lounge, YMCA For those who have the desire to serve the less privileged, such as physically, mentally, and intellectuallychallenged children, elderly or youth, join YMCA of Singapore for its Volunteers’ Orientation on 31 October 2007 from 7.30pm to 8.30pm to find out more about the various exciting volunteering opportunities. Admission is free. To register, call Juliana Heng on 64302227 or email julianaheng@ ymca.org.sg.

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Life Savers

SingHealth Foundation’s Savemoney Savelives Campaign 2007, 4 May, Chevron House

Picture Perfect

(From left) Mr Raphael Lim, CCF’s Executive Director, Ms Lim Shini, Manager, Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Professor Howard Hunter, President, SMU.

With Mr Heng Chee How, Minister of State for Health looking on, SingHealth Foundation launched its Savemoney Savelives campaign to raise funds for medical research in the fields of cancer, childhood disorders, eye diseases and neurosciences and stem cell research. One of the major partners was Keppel Offshore & Marine donating a generous $50,000. All money raised went to SingHealth healthcare institutions such as the National Cancer Centre, National Heart Centre, Singapore National Eye Centre, National Neuroscience Institute, Singapore General Hospital and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

‘A Window to Our Soul’ – A community service project

Proof that great things can come out of simple ideas, SMU’s ‘A Window to Our Soul’ project has grown into a significant community service project. The project, an 18-month calendar, is a series of striking black and white portraits of SMU students, parents, faculty, staff and senior administrators by well-known photographer Russel Wong. Priced at $15 per copy, 3,527 calendars were sold in less than three months. At a grand sum of just over $50,000, this was the single largest amount raised by SMU for the Children’s Cancer Foundation. Professor Howard Hunter, SMU’s president hailed the project as “an extension of SMU’s philosophy in inculcating a sense of social responsibility, in giving back to the society and the on-going efforts our students have put in to touch the lives of children in need.”

Realising Potential Charity Gala Dinner, 22 May, Ritz Carlton Millenia

At a charity gala dinner to benefit the Society for the Physically Disabled as part of the President’s Challenge, Microsoft Singapore traded software for heartware when it pledged more than $470,000 to the Society. The From left : Barney Lau, Managing Director – Microsoft Singapore; Micro- glittering dinner was attended soft CEO Steve Ballmer; His Excellency by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, President S R Nathan; Dr Ow Chee Chung, SPD’s Executive Director. with guests-of-honour, President S R Nathan and Mrs Nathan, and 400 other dignitaries, media, corporate and individual donors. The guests were serenaded by delightful jazz performances by home-grown song mavens, Clarissa Monteiro, Eunice Olsen and Vocaluptous.

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Photo credit: Marcus Fintan Chung Zhi Hao

A Soft Touch

Launching the Savemoney Savelives 2007 Campaign From left to right: Dr Kwa Chong Teck, Director of SingHealth Foundation; Minister of State for Health Mr Heng Chee How and Prof Tan Ser Kiat, Chairman of SingHealth Foundation & Group CEO of SingHealth.

Rise and Shine Launch of ‘Wake Up Call’, 1 April, Borders

A rebellious rock musician and drug addict over-comes his personal demons to become a respected youth counselor and ambassador. No, it’s not a movie. Rather, they are the gripping episodes in Glenn Lim’s life and on 1 April, a hundred-odd fans turned up at Borders to celebrate the launch of his autobiography ‘Wake Up Call’. Among the guests was guest-of-honour, Guest of Honour, Mr Teo Ser Luck, Mr Teo Ser Luck, Parliamentary Parliamentary Secretary, MCYS, receiving a token of appreciation Secretary for Ministry of Community from Glenn. Development, Youth and Sports. To the delight of the crowd, Glenn performed two guitar solos on his electric guitar. ‘Wake Up Call’ is available at major bookstores.


Caring and Sharing LTA Cares Launch, 15 June, Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre

Pioneer Junior College students who participated in the 2006 Metro for Children Fundraising with Patron of SIF, His Excellency President S R Nathan.

Thanks for the Memories

Singapore International Foundation Appreciation Ceremony, 23 March, NTUC Auditorium

More than 300 volunteers and donors gathered at an appreciation ceremony graced by President S R Nathan for SIF to express appreciation to its volunteers and corporate donors and partners. The ceremony was attended by SIF friends and supporters including UBS AG, Metro, Neptune Orient Lines, Pioneer Junior College, Raffles Girls’ Sec School, Singapore Airlines and Venture Corporation. Ms Peggy Kek, SIF’s acting executive director, said earlier that “together, SIF corporate donors, partners and volunteers prove that public-private-people sector partnerships for civic action can work.” We second that!

‘LTA Cares’ was launched by LTA’s Chief Executive BG (NS) Yam Ah Mee, NCSS’ Chief Executive Officer Ms Ang Bee Lian, and Metta Welfare Association’s Mr Ee Tiang Hwee, Deputy Executive Director of Deputy Executive Director Mr Ee Tiang Hwee. Metta Welfare Association, presenting a handdrawn batik drawing to BG (NS) Yam Ah Mee, The project is a three-year commitment by LTA’s CEO of LTA, in appreciation of LTA’s commitment. management and staff to the community that caters to the transport needs and lifeskill development of working adults and students who are financially and physically disadvantaged. These include taking public transport and performing simple chores like grocery shopping, and buying food. LTA’s partnership with Metta School was facilitated by the ComCare Connection, a community-giving initiative by NVPC that matches corporations with non-profit organisations on a term basis.

Single File

Volunteer e-Filing Service Appreciation Ceremony 2007, 14 June, IRAS Auditorium, Revenue House

3 Volunteer e-Filing Service (VES) Centres received awards for achieving the highest number of volunteer e-filers in the recent Volunteer e-Filing Service exercise, a community service programme Mr Tommy Tng, GM, Sales & Operations, SPD initiated by IRAS in partnership with PA, IDA and Ability Enterprise, receiving the award from Mr Moses Lee, Commissioner of IRAS. NVPC earlier this year. Society for the Physically Disabled, CitizenConnect Centre @ Gek Poh Ville and @ Zhenghua were right on top among 40 VES Centres receiving a total of 700 volunteers from all walks of life. The occasion also saw 25 deserving volunteers receiving outstanding and commendation awards for their work from NVPC’s CEO Tan Chee Koon.

Cue The Orchestra

SSO Benefit Dinner, 28 April, The Shangri-La’s Island Ballroom

It was an evening of music and dancing as Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Mrs Goh joined some 600 guests at the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s annual Benefit Dinner at The Shangri-La’s Island Ballroom. Sponsored by Swarovski, the black-tie evening raised $778,000 for the orchestra. Organised by the SSO Ladies League which is chaired by Mrs Odile Benjamin, the evening’s programme included dancers from the Sunny Low Dance Studio, and two international ballroom dancing champions. Highlights included guests taking to the dance floor during the SSO’s performances of Johann Strauss’ waltzes. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong with SSO Chairman Prof Cham Tao Soon (left), Mrs Odile Benjamin, Chairlady of SSO Ladies’ League and Mr Goh Yew Lin, Deputy Chairman of SSO.

Border Patrol

Beyond Borders – P&G and World Vision Singapore’s community programme

It’s a heartwarming statistic to learn that over 35,000 Singaporean students have reached out to help over 72,500 Asian children. The community Joining hands and hearts on Interprogramme, Reach Out to Children national Youth Day: Students from Chiau Primary School join forces Beyond Borders, which was launched Nan with Victoria Great from P&G and Olsen, World Vision’s Goodwill last August, is led by Procter & Gamble Eunice Ambassador, in the Beyond Borders community project to help Singa(P&G) and World Vision Singapore to porean children reach out to needy improve the lives of underprivileged children in the region. children in the region through the provision of basic needs like safe drinking water, sanitation, food, shelter and education. One of the projects involved Singaporean school children collecting old newspapers and used clothing. In all, 34,620 kg of newspapers, 7,337kg of old clothes and 18,450 kg of cardboard were collected from 25 schools and P&G offices, with $47,829 raised in total. Proceeds went to children in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

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“One thing I hope more people learn is that giving, meeting smart people, and thinking through these problems can be immensely fun. It’s a lot like running a successful company, and it draws on some of the same skills.”

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“For me, money is only something external. Traditional Confucianism always calls for us to help others. Giving a hand to the people who need it is a source of happiness.” Yu Pengnian, Entrepreneur, top of Hurun Report’s China Philanthropy List for the second year running Photograph by courtesy of SPH – The Straits Times

Bill Gates on The Way We Give, Fortune Magazine, Volume 155, Issue 1

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“A person’s life doesn’t just comprise family, but also the larger community. And the question is: What difference can you make as a person?” Ms Tan, a retiree and formal divisional manager in a bank, in a Straits Times article on her bequest to the Asian Civilisations Museum.

“Ultimately, the quality of the human heart is still the best foundation for governance for the social service sector. And that is where the search must begin.” President of the Singapore Association of Social Workers, Fong Hoe Fang in a Straits Times article on Social Workers being Charity Bosses.

“Social entrepreneurs have a love to create wealth in order to provide sustainable solutions to social challenges and yet have no love for money itself.” Ms Areena Ng, Executive Director and founder of Bridge Learning, on winning the DHL Young Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (YES) Award in Singapore.

“Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”

Trainer (who herself is a Canadian):

“In USA, if there is a community problem that needs fixing, the Martin Luther King, Jr. people get together to attack the problem. In Canada, they say, “Ridiculous yachts and private planes ‘Let’s write a grant proposal to and big limousines won’t make people enjoy life more, and it sends out terrible the government.’” messages to the people who work for them. It would be so much better if that money was spent in Africa – and it’s about getting a balance.”

Richard Branson

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Participant:

“In Singapore, we ask what the government is going to do about it!” From an NVPC workshop by Linda Graff on risk management.


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