Debbie Yap
Business Manager / Westpac Banking Corporation
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Who are you? Tell us a bit more about yourself!

I often describe myself as the typical middle child who has a bit of an adventurous and daring
streak. Growing up in a relatively large family with 3 other siblings who are all high-achievers in their own right means that I constantly have to work hard on differentiating myself. I have a bit of an obsession with coffee, wine and whisky and combined with my inability to stay in a place for a long time, has seen me on quite a few travel adventures in the past year to learn more about my drinks of choice. I’m still dreaming of the wine I savoured in Stellenbosch – South Africa, whisky flights in Tasmania which produced the world’s best whisky in 2014 and cafe hunting in nearly every city I visit.

What’s your story? Tell us about a life-changing incident.

It’s tough to tell my story in a short paragraph and thus it’s quite difficult to pick one incident/experience to talk about. I guess the latest ‘life-changing’ incident that has probably put fire in my belly would be attending the One Young World summit last year. The summit brings together about 1200 delegates from 190 countries and invites keynote speakers like Kofi Annan, Mohammad Yunus, Arianna Huffington and Richard Branson who come to share their experiences. While that seems to be the largest draw of the conference, the real inspiration comes from the delegate speakers who come from all corners of the world and who are all below 30 but have achieved so much. We heard from a 17 year old about how he started a movement in Kazakhstan to drive female education, a guy who is championing the production of eco-friendly sanitary pads in Rwanda so girls wouldn’t have to stop going to school etc. While I have attended a few similar conferences, none has had the same reach and impact as this particular summit. The 13 of us who went from Westpac, came back very inspired to drive change in our organisation and have now more than doubled the membership of our Youth Network (under 30s) across the group. We seek to empower them to make a difference both within the organisation and in the communities in which we operate.

Why 50for50 and why now?

Since attending One Young World in Johannesburg last year, I have been motivated to make a difference in whatever small way I can. The other big takeaway I had from attending that global summit was the fact that we should never feel daunted with the limitations of what an individual can drive but rather believe that you can inspire others to follow on the same journey as long as you are passionate about it. As such, while some people find the task of raising $25k impossible for an individual, I believe that it can be done and thus would really like to support the 50for50 initiative. It also comes at an opportune time as I’ve just established an employee action group for the employees under 30 in our Asia offices and everyone is as excited as I am to get behind this good cause.

What gets you up in the morning?

The short answer is a strong cup of coffee – and preferably a single origin Gibraltar or a strong piccolo latte. Other than the physical wake-up shot, I look forward to heading to work as nearly every day brings a new and different challenge which constantly keeps me on my toes. In addition to the actual work, I have become fast friends with many of my colleagues which create a work environment that almost doesn’t feel like work.

Why this cause out of so many causes?

I like the idea of ’50 for 50’ for how it looks to bring together the individual, corporate and government in a simple and effective manner. It has a simple premise but will likely have a powerful effect in the community which I hope would spark a nationwide movement.

Any experiences with charity or non-profit work before?

I’ve had quite a couple of interesting experiences with various sorts of Charity work. The ones that have made a lasting impression on me include a day shadowing one of the ‘mobile nurses’ that work for the Home Nursing Foundation, spending a week and a half in a rural town in Chiangmai Thailand teaching mathematics and lastly teaching English to migrant children in Beijing weekly for 4 months while I was on a student exchange. The key takeaway I’ve got from all the different experiences is the realisation that something simple to us can mean a lot to someone from a less privileged background. This keeps me motivated to get involved with any type of charity or non-profit work when I have the chance to.

What kind of change are you looking to bring about as a changemaker?

This may sound quite clichéd but I hope people would realise that when there’s a will, there’s
always a way. Most people stop themselves from being a change maker because they often feel that as one person the change they can make is marginal and thus not worth the effort.
The key thing is to realise that even if they think that the impact they have is small, it still means something to someone which could eventually have a ripple effect. Thus with a bit of effort and targeted marketing, I hope to spread the message of ’50 for 50’ enough so more people will get behind it.

What is your big idea on how to raise funds for 50for50?

I plan to raise funds for 50for50 in a fun and creative way which are also quite linked to some of my passions. The biggest event I would plan is a fun auction where we would auction off some skills as well as some prized possessions that some people in our branch have. For example, we would be auctioning a ‘take home chef’/private dining package where one of our employees would go to the highest bidder’s home to cook a meal for 4 pax. Other possible events include a Jazz night or even a bake-off with gourmet coffee on site from one of the famous cafes in Singapore. The thinking is to make fundraising a fun activity while at the same time showcasing some of our talented colleagues who may have very interesting hobbies/passion.