Message From Toh Soon Huat, JP
“It’s a long way to go. I’ll look up and down.” This is a quote from the poem “Li Sao” by ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan. It means the road ahead is very long, but I will spare no effort to continue to discover. When I wrote about this “road”, I was thinking about the road of my life, the road of my dreams, and the road to the future of Sian Chay.
Looking back on my past, the road has been rugged. I have been in a daze at midnight looking at my future, resentful over why life must present me so much suffering? Come to think, this confirms Meng Zi’s words on me: “Before heaven places great responsibilities on someone, he must first suffer mentally and physically, withstand hunger and poverty and face problems in life. After going through all these, he will be sober-minded, determined in his character and increase the capabilities he did not possess”. It is precisely these hardships that made me realize more and more the difficulties of life and have a perspective change to pursue true happiness in my soul – to help those in need obtain simple happiness. These were what I once longed for most but could not get. These are also the wishes in my heart. Hence, the road for me is charity, and now I am on the road of Sian Chay.
When I left the executive chairman post of the Novena Holding Ltd, which is the company I built from scratch and subsequently listed, I sold 31% of the shares and set up Novena Foundation, many people did not understand me. They questioned me “why?” , “Am I crazy?”. Yes, at that time, Novena was listed and was very profitable for the foreseeable future. So why should I do this and engage in philanthropy which I haven’t had experience before? In many people’s eyes, to be in business is to make money but philanthropy means to spend money. This is simply too incomprehensible for many. At that time, I was 49 years old and entering middle age. So why this sudden turn?
The road I am travelling now is a new road in my life, a road that is connected to my heart and peaceful. I had seen enough luxury and dissipation, and experienced untrusting and intrigues during my decades in my business career, but what was the real pursuit deep in my heart? Many people realize in the end that what they seek is true peace of mind. What they seek is a peaceful road. What is my road of peace? Looking back on my past, I would like to give “all myself” another chance. When I dropped out of school as a young man, my biggest dream was to make money, lighten the burden of my parents, and let my family live a good life. Now, my biggest wish is to use my experience gained, the knowledge I learned and my personal network to help the many vulnerable groups in society and save lives; the more, the better; the sooner, the better. This is my road from now on. This is my own road of discovery.
On this road, I got acquainted with Sian Chay by a very special fate. Sian Chay, founded in 1901, has a history of 118 years here. Through the efforts of many generations of those in Sian Chay, it has brought happiness and health to millions of families. In 2008, at the invitation of my good friend Mr. Teo Kim Chuan, I joined Sian Chay. At that time, Sian Chay had only one small clinic, four employees serving 26 patients every day. If no one stepped forward, it will be the end for Sian Chay. Hence, I decided to join Sian Chay, not only to discover its future, but also for the endless road of philanthropy in my heart.
What is this road of philanthropy? How can I give charity to more people? This is the first and also the biggest problem I encountered when I took over Sian Chay. When everyone knows their gratitude, and when everyone is self-conscious, the world is at peace. With one’s happiness, why not group happiness? With group happiness, why not world happiness. Be content with yourself, sharing happiness with others.The problem facing Sian Chay is to magnify this love and gratitude.
Later, I changed perspective. Combining my best experience in running a company, I realized that an enterprise must be vibrant and have the spirit of enterprise. Isn’t this the same with Sian Chay as a charitable organisation? So, after thoroughly understanding the history of Sian Chay for one hundred years and combining with my personal experience, I crystallized the cultural values of Sian Chay into: “Forgiveness, Universal Love, Compassion, Gratitude and Blessing”. To support the building of our country and create a harmonious society, Sian Chay Medical Institution actively promotes the beliefs of “Nation Progresses. Family Harmony, Successful Endeavours. Forward with the Nation, Bonding with the People.We support charitable causes by actively participating in activities organized by communities, groups and community centres to contribute back to society.
At present, Sian Chay has 15 branches serving more than 1400 patient visits per day. Sian Chay also supports 4 wellness centres drawing tens of thousands of residents every year for all kinds of healthy activities for the body and mind. Many patients and kindhearted people widely endorsed and praised this initiative.
In the past four years (from 2014 to 2018), Sian Chay has served a total of approximately 1.42 million patient visits and dispensed 2.65 million dosages of prescriptions. In the next five years (2019-2023), the estimated number of patient visits will reach 2.5 million and the number of dosages of prescriptions dispensed will be estimated at 4.8 million.
Moving ahead on this road of charity, we have received the support of our Patron, President Halimah Yacob, our advisers, senior government officials, the general public, government agencies (Housing Development Board, Ministry of Health and People’s Association), citizens’ consultative committees, town councils, the media, various civic groups, entrepreneurs, benevolent individuals, performing artistes, volunteers, directors and colleagues. I would like to express my sincere respect and gratitude to them. For me and my stakeholders, the road travelled has only been a short journey so far. We will continue to travel persistently to let this road of love make inroads into the deeper hearts of more people and brighten their way forward.