Among the philanthropists in Singapore, Chairman Toh Soon Huat is regarded as the most legendary. He started from scratch, founded a listed company, and then devoted himself to charity, turning the century-old medical institution on the verge of bankruptcy into a well-known charitable organization. He is a Justice of Peace with many honours, such as the Public Service Medal conferred by the President of Singapore, charitable personality by China International Philanthropy Forum, etc. He raised S$10 million for the Wenchuan earthquake disaster zone and established seven “China-Singapore Friendship Primary Schools. Sian Chay Medical Institution provides free medication for low-income families, serving 1.18 million patients visits during 2014 to 2018.
We met Chairman Toh at Sian Chay Headquarters. The renowned Sian Chay headquarters, managing 15 branches throughout Singapore, looked austere and crowded compared to many other charitable organizations. Without high-standard decorations or bright and spacious spaces, the place was only packed with packed brochures and meeting records, and on the wall hanged the large plaque of Guangxu’s reign and the photos of various fundraising projects.
When we arrived, Chairman Toh was sitting at a writing desk and surrounded by his staff. Unlike traditional philanthropists, he looked more like a warrior, sharp, quick, concise, energetic, and with a sense of urgency.
When he met us, I felt his strength. He told me directly, without any formality, “I am working here full-time! Do you understand? I will always remain here regardless success or failure because this is a responsibility.” – Just like his book, his words are always simple and worth pondering. I didn’t even have time to ask him why he is devoted to charity because he had already started to autograph the book for me. Then he said, “Books are for the sake of kindness. We distribute the books to people so that they will know about Sian Chay and understand charity.”
He said, “Everyone is from living to life and then from life to living. You will know what you should do when you understand life.” – Indeed, the power radiated from him makes me feel that it is a kind of willingness. As teacher Jiabao said, “The willingness is to know who you are and the power that comes forth naturally.” – Chairman Toh knows the meaning of his life and knows what he should do. Hence, he has the power, passion, courage and wisdom. This is very hard to come by.
His life experience also reflects the process from living to life and then from life to living. His ancestral home was in Fujian, China, and he was born in an impoverished family. He had 12 brothers and sisters. He ranked seventh and worked as a child to supplement his family income. Years later, he founded a listed company through his personal efforts. And then he sold the company and plunged into charity. With this power, he successfully turned the century-old medical institution on the verge of financial crisis into a famous medical service charity.
Many people don’t understand him for selling his sports cars to support charity instead of leaving the fortune to his children, for keeping himself busy every day without pay. I thought that such a person might be seeking reputation, but when I suggested that I would write a news report about him, he stumbled and said, “I am already very well known. It is all for Sian Chay. Many people donated to Sian Chay because they know me well. It will be more difficult to raise money in the name of Sian Chay alone. I was not pursuing fame for myself because I am already very famous.” As frankly as he spoke, I saw sincerity in his eyes – sharing sincerely. He wrote in his book, “There is no right or wrong, kind or evil in life, but only sharing and learning.” I even started to think he is very adorable because he has found the meaning of his life – from living to life, and from life to living.
If a person finds the meaning of his life and begins to fulfill it, everything he is moving forward toward this goal will be full of passion and strength. He may not tell us the sorrow in his heart, but he will certainly care if he is responsible.
I see true compassion in him, perhaps just because compassion is a pure love or responsibility without demand or desire. When you give, you have already gained it. Because you have found yourself from it – helping others and loving others. Isn’t that the meaning of life?
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to meet Chairman Toh. Although it was not a formal interview, I saw a real him during the talk lasting only a few minutes, full of responsibility and passion, and loving the world with deep affection. A person like him deserves to be called a real full-time philanthropist.