ACSEP Chairman Mr Keith Chua’s Closing Speech on the Singapore Early Women Philanthropists Research Seminar

closing speech photoA warm thank you to ACSEP Chairman Mr Keith Chua for gracing our Singapore’s Early Women Philanthropists (1900-1945) Research Seminar on Friday, 10 June 2016. Below is his closing speech.

Ladies and gentlemen. A very good afternoon to everyone and thank you for joining us today at the launch of the ACSEP paper entitled ‘Singapore’s Early Women Philanthropists 1900 – 1945’.

I have found it a truly commendable work of research by Ms Ooi Yu Lin. It provides us with valuable historical information and documentation – much of which I believe has not been previously collated and presented in the context of a study of philanthropy.

The study of Women in philanthropy is unique given that today the more common gender associated with philanthropy in Singapore seems to be with Men. Look around you at the buildings and halls around us in NUS and the names that are on them. Most of these names are male philanthropists.

In building our continuing research on philanthropy in Singapore this paper will be an important study.

Yu Lin has documented within the limits of archival and other means how Women at the turn of the last Century contributed in pioneering ways toward the development of Singapore philanthropy – and looking back it would seem to have had some degree of lasting impact. The Chinese Women’s Association which started as the Chinese Ladies Association celebrated her 100th Anniversary in 2015.

Women in Singapore philanthropy has been an unspoken but important segment of philanthropic history. It becomes even more amazing when we have this with understanding of the social, political and economic trends of that period. The place of the woman in 1900 is not easy to fully grasp for those of us brought up in modern Singapore.  Yu Lin’s paper also affirms that the practice of philanthropy cuts across race and religion, across all social and economic strata.

I first approached Yu Lin to join ACSEP research with a much wider ask. I had known of her interest in some areas of philanthropy and her work researching the Peranakan culture and history. In further discussion I then realized the extent of work that she had been progressively researching for many years. The project I had in mind was 200 years of philanthropy in Singapore’s history. The dates would be 1819 to 2019 which would imply that we would be actively engaging this for a few more years before the grand masterpiece is completed.

She eventually chose a bite size part of this story that has remained unwritten until today. This paper and another ACSEP paper that we released at the end of 2015 entitled ‘Philanthropy on the Road to Nationhood in Singapore’ will form key portions of this larger research project. I welcome all of you to partner us at ACSEP as we continue research and documenting 200 years of philanthropy in Singapore.

Let me mention a couple of more recent philanthropic models that Yu Lin’s paper documents has already been in practice 100 years ago. One is the concept of Giving Circles. In the past 10 years there has been an increase in many creative and impactful initiatives through the formation of active giving circles. Giving circles is a helpful framework for persons with interest in a particular area to pool resources for greater impact. The Women 100 years ago had already seen this as they launched appeals and pooled resources.

Secondly, I continue to carry the hope that ACSEP will be able to help shape and develop in a meaningful way the proposition that everyone in Singapore can give. This was one of the intentions when we launched a subject in the Business School that promoted the practice of philanthropy. A course that would engage students in learning by giving. Yu Lin has very helpfully featured the practice of giving by the Majie in our community. Again 100 years ago we discover that it did not matter which economic strata you were in – you could still embrace and practice philanthropy.

Philanthropy is indeed a practice that all of us can engage in. Whether we are giving time or resources, we can all be actively engaged in love for others driven by human compassion and care.

I look forward to seeing you at our next ACSEP gathering. Once again join me in congratulating Yu Lin for an excellent paper and also in thanking the team at ACSEP for keeping up the good work toward a better and more caring society.

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