Tan Jia Yee
Junior Health Strategist, Ogilvy & Mather
Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities
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Who are you? Tell us a bit more about yourself!

I’m weird in my own little ways. Unfortunately or fortunately, I unleash my weirdness by engaging in theatre and am part of Teater Ekamatra’s youth wing. Through theatre, I have found a way to not only use my quirkiness and curiosity in a creative manner but also to explore the human condition in a meaningful way.

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

The most recent life-changing incident has been the passing of my mother. She battled cancer for three and a half years. The past few months have been extremely difficult as I have had to deal with a myriad of emotions – grief, confusion and guilt. The reason I feel guilty is because I feel that I could have been more understanding towards her because no one, except for herself, truly understood the kind of physical and emotional stress she was going through.

A week after she completed her final cycle of chemotherapy, she collapsed at home and was hospitalized. She had lost so much weight by then. I looked at my mum’s arms and all I could see were bruises and tiny blood clots. Because of all the bruising and clotting, they had to insert a catheter somewhere near her shoulder blade and I had to sign my consent for this procedure to take place. I remembered having to control my hand from shaking as I signed that consent form.

Her condition took a turn for the worse. And there I was, looking at her, feeling absolutely helpless.

Everything after that has been a blur.

Why 50for50 and why now?

Rebekah came down to our office (Ogilvy & Mather) and presented this initiative to our team. I feel really strongly about this project and volunteered myself immediately.

What gets you up in the morning?

The alarm.

Why this cause out of so many causes?

When I was volunteering with Lions Befrienders, we made weekly visits to seniors in the York Hill area. There, I used to notice Thye Hua Kwan (THK) stickers on the gates of these seniors’ homes. THK, as I understand, delivers meals twice a day to these seniors. This is an extremely valuable service as most of their beneficiaries are either unable to afford food, are immobile, or both. I strongly believe that this is a cause that deserves more funding and I would like to do my best to help in this area. It is my chance to give back to society, particularly to these vulnerable individuals who lack the support system of a family unit.

I feel a lot for the elderly and I don’t really know why. Perhaps it was because when I was young, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. In fact, I was pretty much raised by them. I grew to understand their little quirks – that despite their old age, they were children at heart. Like children, they were temperamental but this was only because they wanted attention from their loved ones. All they longed for in their twilight years was the knowledge that their children and grandchildren would love and accept them for who they were.

The beneficiaries of THK must certainly feel the same way.

Unfortunately, my time with my grandparents was short-lived as they too passed away when I was young. However, my memories of them are what drive me to contribute in whichever way I can to benefit the lives of other elderly people.

Any experiences with charity or non-profit work before?

I was a volunteer with All Saints Home (2 years), the Singapore Association for the Deaf (2 years) and Lions Befrienders (1 year).

Furthermore, I do have other ad-hoc volunteering experiences such as charity performances for the elderly and for children with chronic illnesses.

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

Firstly, I hope to raise awareness for THK. I want to do so by profiling their beneficiaries and featuring some of their stories. The reason behind this is because back in our school days, when we did fundraising – it was more about wanting to win (i.e. raising the most money, having the heaviest donation tin) than anything else. But now, I want people to see whom they really are helping, because even the smallest contribution can make a world of difference.

This really struck me when I used to accompany my mum for her blood transfusions. At the end of the day, it is just a bag of blood. But I used to think about how my mum would not have been able to receive that blood transfusion without that bag of blood. To the person who donated the blood, it might have seemed like a small contribution. But to us, it meant everything.

Likewise, featuring the stories of beneficiaries helps people realise that it is never just about the money, time or in my mother’s case, the blood that they have given. Their kindness extends far beyond that.

Secondly, I want to ensure sustainability of the campaign by attracting more volunteers for my charity so that the initiatives that I put in place will extend beyond my efforts.

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

To rally the people I know and to spread the word.