Article Link: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/four-from-singapore-featured-in-book-about-asean-philanthropists
Four from Singapore featured in book about ASEAN philanthropists who made an impact
Senior Social Affairs Correspondent
SINGAPORE – Businessman Keith Chua, 64, is a trustee of a fund which has given away millions to causes in education, healthcare and heritage.
The executive chairman of ABR Holdings, the food and beverage firm that owns Swensen’s in Singapore, credits his family and his Christian faith for inspiring him to be a philanthropist.
There was his great-grandmother, Mrs Lee Choon Guan (also known as Madam Tan Teck Neo). The founding president of the Chinese Womens’ Association gave generously to promote education for girls and to protect women and children.
She was one of 12 women inducted into the Hall of Fame last Saturday (March 24), an initiative by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations to honour outstanding women.
Mr Keith Chua said: “My parents were also very generous individuals and their generosity caught my attention. The simple act of being able to help someone else gives me a sense of meaning.”
His grandfather is the late Chua Cheng Liat, one of the Chua brothers who founded car dealership Cycle & Carriage. His late father, Boon Yew, worked in the family business.
Today, Mr Keith Chua is a trustee of the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, which his great-grandmother started in 1974 with a $1 million donation.
In 2011, Mr Keith Chua, a father of four children, set up the SymAsia Nehemiah Foundation with an initial $1 million pledge. Named after the biblical character Nehemiah, the foundation supports social entrepreneurship, mental health initiatives and other causes.
Mr Keith Chua is one of 25 philanthropists featured in a book released last week (March 21) by the Asia Philanthropy Circle, a charity which brings together donors to collaborate and address social problems.
Its director Stacey Choe told The Straits Times that it hopes to inspire others to give by showcasing the impact philanthropists in the region have in effecting large scale changes.
Indonesian billionaire and founder of the Mayapada Group Dr Tahir, and the Philippines’ Grace Tan Caktiong, who co-founded fast-food chain Jollibee with her husband Tony, are among the philanthropists featured in the “Asean Impact 25” book.
The Tahir Foundation has pledged $100 million to fund healthcare programmes in Indonesia, besides supporting education, refugees and other causes.
The Jollibee Group Foundation has a programme to feed malnourished schoolchildren in the Philippines, among other help initiatives.
Other philanthropists from Singapore featured are Mr Laurence Lien, Dr Mary Ann Tsao and Mr Teng Ngiek Lian.
Mr Lien, grandson of the late banker Lien Ying Chow, is the chairman of the Lien Foundation, which has spearheaded innovation in early childhood education and boosted palliative care. He is also one of the founders of the Asia Philanthropy Circle, which has 32 members, including 13 from Singapore.
About half of these local philanthropists inherited their wealth, and the other half made their own pot of gold, Mr Lien said, although he declined to reveal the identities of the other local members.
Dr Tsao is the chairman of the Tsao Foundation, a pioneer in eldercare services and funding research on ageing issues.
As for Mr Teng, he gave $50 million to the endowment fund of the Silent Foundation, which he set up to help those without a voice like foreign workers and other marginalised groups. He runs his own investment firm, Target Asset Management.
Mr Keith Chua, who is a member of the Asia Philanthropy Circle, is a keen supporter of social entrepreneurship. He believes that these entrepreneurs, whose businesses set out to achieve a social mission, can be powerful agents of change in society.
Another area close to his heart is supporting research, which he believes will drive understanding and progress. For example, Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund has donated over $2 million to the National University of Singapore (NUS) Arts and Social Sciences faculty to promote research which can improve the provision of social services.
The fund has also given close to $4 million to fund research and programmes on philanthropy and social entrepreneurship at the NUS’ Business School’s Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy.
Mr Chua said it is not true that one needs deep pockets to do good.
“The conventional thinking is you need significant resources to be a philanthropist,” said Mr Chua, who serves on the boards of non-profit groups like the Singapore Anglican Community Services and the National Council of Social Service.
“But I think anyone can make a difference. It’s not just about giving money, but you can also give your time, skills or other resources.”