Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Philanthropy is not about being Santa

Source Website: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/lien-foundations-lee-poh-wah-philanthrophy-not-about-being-santa
By Foo Jie Ying, Reporter, The New Paper, 15 January 2018 at 06:00 am


Lien Foundation chief Lee Poh Wah on philanthropy and how cancer changed him
PHOTO: Lien Foundation chief Lee Poh Wah on philanthropy and how cancer changed him
TNP PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Picture posted by Foo Jie Ying, Reporter, The New Paper on 15 January 2018 at 06:00 am

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http://www.tnp.sg/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/articles/2018/01/15/NP_20180115_JILIEN12-EM5_1692486.jpg?itok=vLHmehpo
http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/lien-foundations-lee-poh-wah-philanthrophy-not-about-being-santa



In a field that prides itself on giving, Mr Lee Poh Wah does not see himself as a modern-day Santa Claus.

Instead, the chief executive of philanthropic house Lien Foundation is keen to separate charity from what he thinks philanthropy should be.

"Charity is like food for the human soul. It is acts of kindness. Philanthropy, as I define it, is more about problem-solving than playing Santa Claus.



Philanthropic contributions by way of money and time help us serve more patients, turn our research into new treatments and educate more specialists and physicians.
PHOTO: Philanthropic contributions by way of money and time help us serve more patients, turn our research into new treatments and educate more specialists and physicians.”, said Dr. Seyed Mohammad Hadi Ayazi, deputy health minister for social affairs.
Picture posted by People on Saturday, 12 November 2016 - Philanthropy in Healthcare 

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https://financialtribune.com/sites/default/files/field/image/november/12_healthcare.png
https://financialtribune.com/articles/people/53335/philanthropy-in-healthcare



"If you do philanthropy right, you actually reduce the need for charity," he said.

It is a rule of thumb the 47-year-old frequently returns to throughout the interview, and one that he finds is missing in the philanthropy scene today.

Since 2005, when Mr Lee started out, interest in the field has grown, with more foundations, more philanthropic advisers and events, and business schools teaching related modules.

But the potential of philanthropy has yet to be fulfilled partly because most foundations stick to grant-making.

The scene remains largely "pompous", said Mr Lee, where participants are "flattered and charmed".

Quoting US civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr, he said: "Philanthropy is commendable, but we must not overlook the circumstances of (economic) injustice which make philanthropy necessary.



Martin Luther King Jr, he said: 'Philanthropy is commendable, but we must not overlook the circumstances of (economic) injustice which make philanthropy necessary.'
PHOTO: Martin Luther King Jr, he said: "Philanthropy is commendable, but we must not overlook the circumstances of (economic) injustice which make philanthropy necessary.
Picture posted by iz Quotes

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http://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-philanthropy-is-commendable-but-it-must-not-cause-the-philanthropist-to-overlook-the-circumstances-martin-luther-king-jr-102504.jpg
http://izquotes.com/quote/102504



"So tackle the root cause of the problem."

But Mr Lee acknowledged the difficulty for foundations to take that leap of faith - Lien Foundation itself took 25 years to do so.

Founded in 1980 by Dr Lien Ying Chow, the foundation restricted its activities to making grants.




Lien Foundation, founded in 1980 by Dr. George Lien Ying Chow
PHOTO: Lien Foundation, founded in 1980 by Dr. George Lien Ying Chow
George is the given name for the founder of Lien Foundation, Dr Lien Ying Chow. The musings of George bring out the foundation's approach to radical philantrophy that goes beyond simply doling out the cash to tackling the root of problems through innovative solutions. [2]
Picture fron The Straits Times on 6th August 2016, Page C8.

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https://death.sg/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/08/dr-george-lien-ying-chow-5985.png
https://death.sg/name/dr-george-lien-ying-chow/



This changed in 2005, after he died.

The foundation hired Mr Lee as a senior programme manager "to challenge the status quo".

"The family wanted to try and change things, so they plonked an alien in there," said Mr Lee, with self-deprecating humour.

"I viewed (the job) as a start-up where you can challenge conformity and deference to dogma," he added.

The opportunity came at a time when Mr Lee had spent two years as a "disobedient civil servant" running a social enterprise fund.



Mr Lee had once spent two years as a 'disobedient civil servant' running a social enterprise fund.
PHOTO: Mr Lee had once spent two years as a "disobedient civil servant" running a social enterprise fund.
Creative directors of graphic design studio Couple Kelvin Lok (left) and Zann Wan (right) and Lien Foundation's CEO Lee Poh Wah (centre), with some of the quirky annual reports that the foundation has published over the years. Mr Lee is holding the 2011-2012 annual report, which came in the form of a gongfu manual inspired by famed martial artist Bruce Lee. [2]
ST PHOTOS: MARCUS TAN
Picture posted by Janice Tai, Social Affairs Correspondent, The Straits Times on 02 May 2016 at 5:00 am SGT

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https://static.straitstimes.com.sg/sites/default/files/styles/x_large/public/articles/2016/05/02/ST_20160502_JTPEOPLE02_2259519.jpg?itok=8N2THB9c
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/creative-annual-reports-reflect-radical-philanthropy



By then, the mechanical engineering graduate had two years of experience in property investment and a Master of Business Administration.

He also joked that he went from "the height of hubris to eating humble pie" after his technology start-up folded during the dot-com boom and bust.

Some of Mr Lee's early projects with the Lien Foundation included breaking the silence around end-of-life issues.

It was a taboo subject Mr Lee felt deserved more attention.

"Most of these causes, we pick them because they are all big intractable problems that are neglected, shunned, but we feel that we can make some difference," he said.

And sometimes, a billion-dollar problem waiting to be solved can be underlying the taboo subject.

With half of our seniors here aged 65 and above identified as frail and pre-frail, frailty in the elderly is another overlooked issue that Mr Lee hopes to tackle with Gym Tonic initiative.



Gym Tonic initiative
PHOTO: Gym Tonic initiative
With half of our seniors here aged 65 and above identified as frail and pre-frail, frailty in the elderly is another overlooked issue that Mr Lee hopes to tackle with Gym Tonic initiative.
Picture posted by Janice Tai, Social Affairs Correspondent, The Straits Times, on Saturday, 17 April 2015 - Lien Foundation’s Gym Tonic initiative for seniors

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http://ifonlysingaporeans.blogspot.sg/2015/04/lien-foundations-gym-tonic-initiative.html



Launched in 2015 in nursing homes and senior care centres, it uses exercise as medicine for frail or pre-frail seniors through strength-training.

By next year, it will be extended to more than 32 locations in the community, nursing homes and eldercare facilities.

Mr Lee explained: "Frailty is linked to a higher risk of falls, fractures, frequent hospitalisation, disability, admission to nursing homes and even mortality.

 
"All these translate to higher caregiving burden and healthcare cost. It is important."

Mr Lee's fierce passion is something Peacehaven nursing home executive director Low Mui Lang can attest to.

Since 2006, the pair have been working on several eldercare initiatives, including Gym Tonic and the Jade Circle nursing home project.



Jade Circle, a $15 million extension to the Salvation Army's Peacehaven home at Changi, will offer a cosier set-up than the typical ward setting.
PHOTO: Jade Circle, a $15 million extension to the Salvation Army's Peacehaven home at Changi, will offer a cosier set-up than the typical ward setting. Peacehaven director Low Mui Lang believes this will allow patients to
prompt one another to take up activities. [4]
Picture posted by  Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times on 13 February 2015

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https://ifonlysingaporeans.blogspot.sg/2015/02/new-home-offers-dignity-and-comfort-to.html?m=0



Madam Low told TNP: "He is very proactive. He is not a man who says 'this is a good idea' and just dreams and hopes it will come about.

 
"He goes to the ground and looks at what the needs are."

For someone who used to be "bo chup" (Hokkien for couldn't-care-less) about such causes, Mr Lee's passion now may come as a surprise to some.

"When you encounter deaths, diseases or discontinuities in life, it will trigger you to contemplate life... I subscribe to post-traumatic growth.

"Maybe if you have the right kind of mindset, you will use trauma as an opportunity to reflect and search for meaning in life and hopefully become a better version of yourself," he said.



Jade Circle will house a two-storey day-activity centre and lifestyle club, with a hydrotherapy pool, cafe, hair salon and a gym equipped with elder-friendly, strength-training machines.
PHOTO: Jade Circle will house a two-storey day-activity centre and lifestyle club, with a hydrotherapy pool, cafe, hair salon and a gym equipped with elder-friendly, strength-training machines.
Picture posted by Toh Ee Ming, Today on 07 July, 2017

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http://www.todayonline.com/sites/default/files/styles/new_app_article_detail/public/photos/43_images/30156490.JPG?itok=jjaj6HiM
http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/jade-circle-nursing-home-project-revived



The former national dragon boater was referring to his Stage 3C colon cancer.

He was only 35 when diagnosed, and had just joined the Lien Foundation.

Barely three years before that, his younger brother, aged 30, had died of a sudden unexplained cardiac arrest while watching TV at home.

"In some ways, cancer cured my blindness because I became more focused with a new vision for the future," said Mr Lee, who is free from cancer now.

"Sometimes, I joke that my cancer experience is the second best thing that happened to me....

 
"It was liberating to see the hanging sword of Damocles and accept that somebody must be on the left side of the longevity bell curve," he added, referring to the Greek tale which imparts the moral that danger is ever-present, especially in positions of power.



The hanging sword of Damocles is the Greek tale which imparts the moral that danger is ever-present, especially in positions of power.
PHOTO: The hanging sword of Damocles is the Greek tale which imparts the moral that danger is ever-present, especially in positions of power.
This is a very old story and it refers to an old king called Dionysius and one of his subjects, Damocles, was always saying how great it must be to have so much power and control and Dionysius got bored of hearing Damocles say these things about how good it was to have so much control and so much power, so one day he invited Damocles to sit in his seat. Damocles was very excited about this, but then he looked up and he saw that there was a big sword hanging over his head and it was hanging by one thin hair. Dionysius told him that this is what power was like. You could lose power at any time and having power and control and influence was a great risk.So this is where we get the expression from, ‘to have the sword of Damocles hanging over your head’.
Picture posted by Angiopod (Learn English idioms) on 14 November 2015
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https://anglopod.com/blog/learn-english-idioms-the-sword-of-damocles



The best thing, he added with a smile, was becoming dad to daughter Xeloda - named after his cancer drug - four years after his cancer diagnosis.

GOOD DEATH
Work and life converged again in 2013 when his father, a retired tyre salesman, had a near-fatal infection of the aorta.

Drawing lessons from the dying well campaigns he had run, he made it a point to communicate with his dad and housewife mum.

The difficult conversations paid off when his dad died in 2016.

"It was a good death - calm and considerate. There was sadness but no grief or guilt in the family. Our relationships were resolved and completed," said Mr Lee.



A good death is calm and considerate.
PHOTO: A good death is calm and considerate. There is sadness but no grief or guilt in the family.
Picture posted by media.mehrnews.com on Saturday, 24 November 2014

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http://media.mehrnews.com/d/2014/11/15/4/701518.jpg
http://www.aftabir.com/news/article/view/2014/11/15/579368



"I thought it was partly because of the knowledge and experience that I had dealing with my work. So whatever I do in terms of eldercare, my thinking is always: Is it good enough for my mum and me?"

Now, he lives life "more intensely, purposefully and spontaneously", as if he will not be around a year from now.

Mr Lee said with a laugh: "I sleep well, my bowels are moving, the ideas are flowing...

"I have energy in terms of learning and playing a role; I find joy in creating, joy in living. I laugh a lot with my daughter, who adores her dad.

"I am grateful to be alive, so what more can a man ask for? In hindsight, all this is good, all the trauma that happens to you... It is character building."



Charity is like food for the human soul. It is acts of kindness.
PHOTO: Charity is like food for the human soul. It is acts of kindness. Philanthropy is more about problem-solving than playing Santa Claus.
Picture posted by World Through My Eyes, My ideas about the world - Success and Humbleness

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https://worldthroughkoshaleeseyes.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/yyjcxkjhyk6nvhoo6ytm.jpg
https://worldthroughkoshaleeseyes.wordpress.com/tag/success-and-humbleness/


By Foo Jie Ying, Reporter, The New Paper, 15 January 2018 at 06:00 am

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Reference
[1] Foo Jie Ying, Reporter, The New Paper, Lien Foundation's Lee Poh Wah: Philanthropy is not about being Santa, posted on 15 January 2018 at 06:00 am, http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/lien-foundations-lee-poh-wah-philanthrophy-not-about-being-santa

[2] Janice Tai, Social Affairs Correspondent, The Straits Times, Creative annual reports reflect 'radical philanthropy', posted on 02 May 2016 at 5:00 am SGT, http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/creative-annual-reports-reflect-radical-philanthropy

[3] Janice Tai, Social Affairs Correspondent, The Straits Times, Lien Foundation’s Gym Tonic initiative for seniors, posted on Saturday, 17 April 2015, http://ifonlysingaporeans.blogspot.sg/2015/04/lien-foundations-gym-tonic-initiative.html

[4] Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, New home offers dignity and comfort to the elderly, posted on 13 February 2015, https://ifonlysingaporeans.blogspot.sg/2015/02/new-home-offers-dignity-and-comfort-to.html?m=0


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