Superstar Samaritans

Charitable work is something we all know we should do more of. But the list of excuses never grows any shorter; if it’s not work getting in the way, it’s the feeling that one person on their own can’t really make much of a difference. Which is why we rounded up some of the city’s busiest folk and asked them about their own charitable activities. Sure, it suits people in the public eye to say they do good work for the community; but when you read their stories you’ll see that charity is more than just a soundbite for them—they’re out there volunteering for things they believe in. And if their inspiring examples aren’t enough to get you going, webbbb’ve listed out practical ways you too can get involved, whatever your chosen cause.
, Superstar SamaritansThe charismatic Sulian Tan-Wijaya not only holds a prominent position at global property firm Savills, she’s also a regular fixture at some of Singapore’s biggest A-list events. Always the high achiever, Tan-Wijaya also sets aside time to maintain an active presence in the local charity circuit. She talks to us about volunteering not just money and time but also her presentation skills for the greater good.
What are the causes you’re most passionate about?
I usually choose children and the sick and elderly to support and help. I love to assist kids because they are so innocent and helpless, and the elderly and sick because they may feel very lonely and abandoned. They also often suffer in silence.
How do you get yourself involved?
I’ve always been a silent donor but from this year on, I intend to organize specific events for a CARITAS (The Catholic Social and Community Council) chosen charity, whether it’s a day out, lunch or just an excursion to cheer the kids or old folks up. I also make yearly donations not just to CARITAS but also to our Church’s (Catholic Church of St Ingatius) Jesuit priests, who work tirelessly to help the less fortunate in countries in need. I like CARITAS because they are very transparent; every donation and source is reflected in their annual report. They also support many secular or non-Christian charities, many of them for children and the elderly.
In what other ways do you spread your good cheer besides donating money?
I have guest DJ-ed for charity awareness events too, such as Saving Gaia organized by MediaCorp, events at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute organized by Il Lido and Club Rainbow shows for kids organized by Muse. I also sang at one of CARITAS’ fund-raising dinners.
What’s your take on the spirit of community service in Singapore?
Sometimes I feel the message gets lost when a fundraising exercise get overshadowed by a greater event; be it a grand gala dinner or a TV variety show where stars perform to raise funds. While they also support good causes, it’s important for a charity donor to be clear about what he or she is contributing to. Other than that, I think more can be done to create awareness of the importance of community service in Singapore; on both educational and corporate levels.For example, the international schools reading the IB Diploma curriculum have made community work compulsory and part of the syllabus. The students are required to choose their own project and complete it.
Any community heroes you admire?
I’m hugely impressed by Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as Warren Buffett for pledging to give away the bulk of their wealth to various causes. The last I heard even the founder of Facebook has been inspired by them to do likewise. I admire any charitable person who makes his donations and contributions quietly and without any fanfare, because I don’t see a need to show–off such good deeds.
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