Head (Economic Strategy), Ministry of Finance
Who are you? Tell us a bit more about yourself!
I am inspired by learning and awed by passion and resilience. I love
adventuring and exploring vastly different environments – they provide
me with perspective and insight. I’ve been to 65 countries, and each
has taught me something. I need intellectual stimulation but I also
love being on the ground and getting my hands dirty. I love the
outdoors, and a good, hard workout through running, cycling and yoga.
I believe social equity can be improved, and that each of us can use
what we have ( much of it through no merit of our own) to give back in
our own capacity.
What’s your story? Tell us about a life-changing incident.
My life-changing experience took place in 2005 when I embarked on a
documentary project on HIV/AIDS to an AIDS Village in Henan, China. I
was with Students of the World, a student documentary group that
partners the Clinton Global Initiative, documenting social and
development issues abroad to raise awareness for these issues back in
the US. I had by then been involved in development work for a while
and had been to the field in places ranging from Syria to Kenya and
Kosovo, but I had never witnessed such poverty and tragedy. The
average annual income in the AIDS Village was US$60, residents lived
in dilapidated mud huts, and they were surviving with the phenomena of
the ” 3 minus 1 generation” . The working-age generation had died en
masse after selling blood plasma to augment their meagre income. Their
blood was pooled, plasma extracted and pooled blood redistributed back
to donors. As one of the donors had AIDS, every donor was infected
subsequently infected with HIV/AIDS. They left behind the elderly and
children. Being confronted with such acute life, death and poverty
issues fundamentally changed my perspective on life.
Why 50for50 and why now?
Singapore reaching 50 years of independence is a remarkable milestone.
To begin with, survival itself is a feat that many never expected
possible. To have prospered was almost unthinkable. I am proud of
Singapore, and grateful for the sacrifices, gumption and grit that our
pioneer generation put in for the benefit of future generations.
Against considerable odds, uncertainty and fear, they laid the
foundations of our country we are fortunate enough to build on today.
I believe that the ethos of giving back must continue with our
generation – beyond hand-to-mouth concerns, ours is the first that has
some luxury to pursue our passions and interests, to self-actualise.
We should waste this luxury of choice.
What gets you up in the morning?
i’m just grateful for the chance each day to learn and grow, to
experience what the world has to offer, and to do this all over again
every single day.
Why this cause out of so many causes?
O’Joy Care services promotes the psychosocial well-being of the
elderly by providing counselling and psychosocial therapies to the
elderly. Aside from physical deterioration, the loss of independence
and faculties, fear of becoming a burden to their families, financial
and healthcare worries, and facing the end of the road can be very
psychological trying for the elderly. As a result, they often suffer
from anxiety, distress and depression. I chose this charity because
these issues for the elderly are very real, yet little known and get
little support. I feel that their mental well-being is especially
important as these impressions in their twilight years are what they
ultimately take away when they pass. The success of Singapore today
and as we turn 50 next year has been built off the backs of this
pioneer generation, and I wanted to highlight some of the challenges
Any experiences with charity or non-profit work before?
Aside from my documentary work, I was a sexual assault and rape
prevention peer educator in college, co-founded a social enterprise
called DukeDonAid to encourage community contributions to education
funding, and was involved in several HIV/AIDS, women and public health
related initiatives in college in the US. I founded the first overseas
chapter of the Young Women’s Leadership Connection in Beijing in
2010,and helped lead the teaching effort on micro finance to women in
Bangladesh in 2012 for our first overseas community involvement. I
currently mentor two girls from the Salvation Army’s Gracehaven under
the Beautiful People program, and sit on a committee to address
poverty under Caritas. On the side, I’ve held 5 photography
exhibitions in the US, China and Singapore to raise awareness of and
funds for various social issues. I am also a member of a few
What kind of change are you looking to bring about as a changemaker?
To raise awareness that each of us has the capacity to give back and
to catalyse change in our own ways; and that change is ultimately a
choice we can make.
What is your big idea on how to raise funds for 50for50?
The events I have organised—from CruCyle for Charity to Yoga Gives
Back, is driven by the fundamental philosophy of rallying people from
all walks of life in community events where people can bond to give
back for a cause. More than just raising money, I hope these will be
initiatives led by the youth, involving all people of all ages, and
giving to the elderly as we look back at our past 50 years, and as we