Choice of Sian Chay is a Choice of Compassion
Choice of Sian Chay is a Choice of Compassion
——Chairman of Sian Chay Medical Institution, Mr. Toh Soon Huat BBM PVPA
In 2014, patient visits and prescription dosages at Sian Chay Medical Institution were increasing rapidly , adding to the financial constraints to meet the needs of the public. Lee Foundation made a timely donation of $1 million , thus giving a great relief to Chairman Toh Soon Huat and the Board of Directors. This helps to overcome the difficulties and enable the delivery of the charity causes .
Toh Soon Huat said with great gratitude, “Lee Foundation’s huge donation greatly motivated us in our toughest days when we were at a loss for the future. We finally received the acknowledgement and appreciation from the largest grant maker in Singapore after so many years of quiet, selfless and wholehearted contributions to charity sector. Our excitement and gratitude are beyond what words can represent.”
In the next two years, Lee Foundation made another two donations of $1 million each to support the waiver of the medical expenses for Pioneer Generation patients who seek treatments at Sian Chay . The total collective donation of $3 million benefited 300,000 PG patients; and Lee Foundation was the single largest donor organization since Sian Chay’s founding in 1901. Lee Foundation hopes to make give back to PGs through the TCM services of Sian Chay.
Sian Chay has been upholding its core values of “Forgiveness, Universal Love, Compassion, Gratitude and Blessing” to provide the community regardless of race, religion or social status, with free TCM consultation, subsidized medication and treatment for over a century . Chairman Toh Soon Huat and the Directors were committed to the development and innovation of Sian Chay and progressed with the times by opening branches in the HDB heartlands. By the end of this year, a new branch will be opened in Moulmein-Cairnhill , bringing the total number of branches to 15.
Currently, the daily patient visits at Sian Chay have exceeded 1,000, and would reach 1,500 by the end of this year with two new branches in full service. Sian Chay provides free Traditional Chinese Medicine consultation and the medication fee is $3 daily, while seniors from ages 60 years to 65 years pay only half . Sian Chay also provides highly subsidized acupuncture and tuina therapy . (Those who hold the PG cards enjoy fully-waiver and those needy patients can apply for waiver as well.)
What is even more gratifying was the significant upward trend of growth in the non-Chinese visitors in recent years; especially at Marsiling branch where non-Chinese patients accounted for 40% of the total number of patient visits.
In Chairman Toh’s five-year plan (2018 to 2022) , Sian Chay’s 15 branches will serve an aggregate of 2.5 million patient visits, and the number of prescription dosages dispensed will also increase to 4.8 million dosages.
He said with confidence: “When kindness gather together, it generates bright and positive energy. A universal selfless world is peace, prosperity, and harmony.
During its establishment, we started from a group of benevolent friends who contributed and struggled together to build a solid foundation for the future growth and breakthrough. Subsequently , the close cooperation and acceptance and recognition from the public are crucial. The strong support from Lee Foundation is a significant motivation and positive energy for Sian Chay .
On 14th May 2017, the “Sian Chay Thanksgiving on Mother’s Day” sponsored by Neo Group was jointly organized by Citizens’ Consultative Committees of Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West SMC and Sian Chay Medical Institution. The Guest of Honour is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The mega event celebrations on Mother’s Day was organised to promote the great maternal love, filial piety, respect and giving back. Over 2,000 volunteers distributed a total of 210,000 love carnations to the public island-wide on that day to pay tribute to our great mothers. The event also created a World Guinness Record.
On July 2017, Sian Chay organised a 1,000 guests “Love from Sian Chay” Charity Gala Dinner and Concert. Mr. Toh Soon Huat and the Directors reached out to all friends and raised over $10 million . Together 3,500 people gathered for charity fund-raising, breaking the record in the history of charity fund-raising .
Before the event, six benevolent sponsors and directors of Sian Chay committed to donate $1,000,000 each to Sian Chay. They are Dato’ Seri Dr. Derek Goh Bak Heng BBM, Executive Chairman and CEO of Serial Group, Datuk Wira Eric Tan, Chairman of Hatten Group, Dato’ Seri Dr. Lim Yong Guan PBM , Chairman of SooKee Group, Dato’ Sri Ricky Kok, Chairman of Chang Cheng Group, Dato’ Seri Jackson Teo Ngiang Heng PBM, Managing Director of TeoHeng Trading, and Ms. Michelle Lu, Managing Director of Trans-wind Travel. In addition, Mr. Anthony Aiw, CEO of CityWash committed to donate $500,000.
In his speech at the event, Mr. Toh Soon Huat shared, “After all, one million or half million dollars is not a small amount. It could purchase value of a property or more than that. However, they gave that up and donated to help the poor in the society.”
In fact, Sian Chay was in its financial crisis in 2008. It was just a small clinic at that time, with only four physicians and TCM staff in total, serving 20-30 patients daily. This century-old medical institution was on the verge of relegating into the memory of history before the miracle happened with the emergence of Mr. Toh Soon Huat as a turnaround person at that critical moment. The number of patient visits soared from only thousands in 2008 to 333,136 last year (2016); and is estimated to grow up to over 400,000 this year. The total expenditure of Sian Chay also increased to nearly $6 million dollars each year. In the past three and a half years (June 2014 – June 2017), Sian Chay served a total of 730,000 visits, and dispensed 1.56 million dosages of prescriptions. By helping one patient to be relieved from pain and to live longer, Sian Chay is also helping all family members to foster a blissful life.
Mr. Ton Soon Huat was awarded the President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Award (PVPA) for his over 20 years of compassion and charity deeds; and his contribution in leading Sian Chay in the charity work. PVPA is one of the top Singapore’s charity honours. He said modestly, “The award is just a recognition in the community, which is an encouragement. With these honours, one should be more confident, more modest, and more enterprising. Helping more people is the correct way for giving back for the honour conferred by the society.”
Toh Soon Huat, originally from Fujian, China, was born in 1960 in a poor family living in Jurong . Toh’s family had 12 children in all and Toh Soon Huat is the 7th. His father was a driver and her mother sold eggs in market to raise the 12 children. Their routine diet was porridge with canned food and salted eggs. Very often, his mother only had half piece of fermented bean curd with porridge. It would be considered as a very rich dinner if the whole family could get together and have fried pig trotter with vermicelli and curry chicken.
Toh Soon Huat was enrolled into Hwa Chong Institution after graduation from Zhenghua Primary School, which was not easy. However, tuition and book fees were not affordable. He couldn’t focus on study since his parents were struggling to make a living. In 1975, at his secondary three he dropped out from school at age of 15. After that, he did odd jobs for three years, as construction worker, renovation worker, or egg-picker in farm, to earn one or two hundred dollars to support the family, yet never left a penny to himself.
With his honesty and excellent vision in business, he created a high-quality furniture brand, Novena, which was listed in the Singapore Exchange in 2000 and gradually developed into a comprehensive retail, beauty and fashion consumer brand, with its commercial expansion from Singapore to Vietnam, Malaysia, China and other places. However, on his rapid development to the peak of his business, Toh Soon Huat made a sharp turn when he was 49 years old. He left from the position of CEO of Novena Holding. He sold all his 31% shares for $10 million and set up the Novena Foundation with $3 million. With the power of mission, he progressed rapidly on the journey of charity and beyond.
Since his election as Chairman of the Board of 78th term in 2008 till now, he fulfilled his mission and achieved new accomplishments of Sian Chay.
He shared his philosophy, “The gratitude and consciousness from the public shall make the world peaceful and in harmony. Sharing happiness is more joyful than keeping it to one shelf. The universal happiness is even more joyful than just sharing. Happiness lies in contentment. One’s contentment brings happiness to all. I believe that dreams change with time and experience. One can have different dreams at different stages of life. When I dropped out of school, my biggest dream is to make money, to reduce the burden of my parents, and let the family live a good life. I never expect myself to be a philanthropist though I thought about giving back to the society. Now, my greatest dream is to help many vulnerable groups in the society with my experience, my knowledge, my personal connections. I want to save lives, the more the better, the sooner the better.”
“A man’s success is not about his wealth or his power, but rather about what he has done for the society, how many people he has helped, changed and how many people have gained happiness because of him. Therefore, anyone or company who has earned money should payback to the society and country with part of its profits. The philosophy is simple. It’s the society and country that provides a platform for making money. No profit could be earned without it.”
Mr. Toh believes that philanthropy should be operated as a business enterprise. As a business, it should follow the rules of financial management. The financial procedures and documentations shall be strict, and never disappoint the trust and expectations of the society.
For the sake of Sian Chay’s development and a better future for Singapore charity causes, Mr. Toh Soon Huat promotes Sian Chay’s core culture values and spirit based on the charity spirit of Sian Chay and his personal experience, which is to provide support nation building and foster social harmony . Sian Chay actively promotes its beliefs that, “Nation Progresses, Family Prospers; Family Harmony, Successful Endeavours”, and that “Forward with the Nation, Bonding with the People”. At the meantime, Sian Chay strongly supports charity causes by actively participating in activities organized by community organisations, civic groups and community centres to payback to the society.
For ovr a decade, Mr. Toh Soon Huat donated his efforts and wealth, and made countless donations. He said, “Making money is a capability. It’s natural to help those who is lacking such capability. While charity needs a wholehearted focus, with compassion. The mindset determines one’s performance. The success of a businessman is not about his wealth or power, but rather how much he has done for the society, how many people he has helped and fate changed.”
“Choice of Sian Chay is for compassion, choice of acceptance is for relief, choice of bearing is for karma, and choice of devotion is for gratitude, and choice of universal love is for life. By helping one patient to relief from pain and live longer life, we also help all the family members to live a blissful life.”
“When you have capability, helping others is a wisdom and a wise behavior. An entrepreneur without giving back to the society is merely a businessman. Entrepreneurs should make contributions to the community.”
Currently , Mr. Toh spent over 70% of his time on Sian Chay. He said: “It’s worthwhile. One cannot do everything just for oneself throughout the life. First-half of my lifespan belongs to myself. So the second-half of my lifespan shall be devoted for others to appreciate the existence of life. I visit the branches daily to check if there is any problem. I also talk to the physicians and patients. During night, I meet with friends to share thoughts, and share about Sian Chay’s services.”
Mr. Toh often says: ” Doing good deeds and charity are two different behaviors. With different levels and realms. Good deeds follow one’s heart and are random and dispensable. One can easily switch between donating or not donating, which is called good deeds, with a casual nature. However, charity is a commitment, responsibility , compassion and empathy. There is no choice for taking or not taking the responsibility, liking or not liking. It’s only about more and more devotion, more and more gratitude. And trust, action, attitude and conduct are the honourable and respectable virtues for charity work .”
- Photo illustration：
- Toh Soon Huat Special Edition 1 & 2
Toh Soon Huat said, “Lee Foundation’s huge donation greatly encouraged us in our toughest days when we were at a loss for the future. We finally got acknowledgement and appreciation from the largest grantmaker in Singapore after so many years of quiet, selfless and wholehearted contributions to charity. Our excitement and gratitude are beyond what words can describe.”
- Toh Soon Huat Special Edition 3
President Dr. Halimah Yacob , who is Patron of Sian Chay and former Speaker of Parliament, highly commended Mr. Toh Soon Huat for his contributions. She said, “Mr. Toh is an outstanding man who is full of enthusiasm and vitality, with extraordinary energy and compassion. We once talked about setting up a new branch in Marsiling and it was successfully set up within one year under his leadership. He is a passionate, devoted, and dedicated person. It is hard to find such kind of person nowadays. I hope that he will continue to make contributions to Sian Chay and deliver the most excellent work to this community. What he did is not just raising funds, he visited the branches and ensured the renovation project go well. Mr. Toh is indeed a responsible, compassionate and devoted leader.”