Special Interview with Chairman Toh of Sian Chay Medical Institution
Special Interview with Chairman Toh of Sian Chay Medical Institution
Sian Chay Medical Institution has a century long history since its founding in 1901 in Singapore. Up till 2008, Sian Chay was just a small clinic, with only 2 physicians and 2 TCM staff, serving only 20-30 patients daily. A centennial heritage charity medical institution in Singapore would have been a historical memory recorded in the thick history books forever if no miracle happened.
At this life-or-death moment of Sian Chay, Mr. Toh Soon Huat showed up and thus made a turnaround of the fate of Sian Chay.
Following its core values of “Forgiveness, Universal Love, Compassion, Gratitude and Blessing”, it has been providing the public with TCM consultation, subsidized medication and treatment for over 100 years, regardless of race, religion or nationality.
Eversince Mr. Toh Soon Huat, in response to the invitation of his friend Mr. Teo Kim Chuan, joined Sian Chay as Chairman in 2008, the century-old Sian Chay Medical Institution rejuvenated with new vitality through the support from society and the efforts of Directors and team, developing within a few years into a charity organization with a network of 15 branches and serving over 1,200 patients daily. The 4 wellness centers supported by Sian Chay provide physical and mental wellness activities to 10,000 residents; and gained widespread acknowledgement and appreciation from patients and benevolent people in the society.
Sian Chay provides free Chinese medicine consultation to the public. The daily medication fee is only $3, and half for seniors aged 60-65. It provides patients with acupuncture and tuina therapy with high subsidy. (PG seniors enjoyed full waiver of medical charges. Those needy patients can also apply for fee waiver.)
In the past 4 years (2014-2017), Sian chay has served a total of 980,000 patients with 1.81 million dosage of prescriptions. In the next 5 years (2018-2022), the patient visit number is estimated to increase up to 2.5 million, with 4.8 million dosages of prescriptions.
It was not a smooth journey for Sian Chay’s development. In 2014, patient visits and prescriptions of Sian Chay Medical Institution were growing rapidly, making its financial situation increasingly difficult to meet the needs of the public. Lee Foundation made a timely donation of $1 million , much to the relief for Chairman Toh Soon Huat and the Board of directors; and the charity was able to roll out its services step by step. 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 got acknowledgement and appreciation from the largest charity grantmaker in Singapore after so many years of quiet, selfless and wholehearted contributions to charity landscape. Our excitement and gratitude are beyond words can describe.”
In the next two years, Lee Foundation made another two donations, $1 million each, to support the medical expenses for Pioneer Generations who visit Sian Chay for treatment. Lee Foundation was the single largest corporate donor since Sian Chay’s founding in 1901. Lee Foundation hoped to make returns to Pioneer Generation through the TCM services of Sian Chay.
What is even more gratifying is the significant upward trending of the ratio of non-Chinese patients in the recent years, especially at Marsiling branch where non-Chinese patients accounted for 20% of the total number of patient visits.
On August 5, 2017 at 1pm, the Sian Chay Marsiling branch was officially opened by Dr. Halimah Yacob, then Speaker of Parliament and MP for Mariling-Yew Tee GRC as well as Patron of Sian Chay Medical Institution.
President Halimah Yacob, former Speaker of Parliament, Patron of Sian Chay Medical Institution, highly commended Mr. Toh for his contributions. She said, “Mr. Toh is an outstanding man who is full of enthusiasm and vitality, with extraordinary energy and compassion. We talked about setting up a branch in Marsiling and he made it within only one year. He is a passionate, devoted, and dedicated person. It is hard to find such kind of person nowadays. I hope he will continue to contribute to Sian Chay and make the best job for this community. What he does is not only just raising funds, but personally visiting branches to supervise the renovation works as well. Mr. Toh Soon Huat is definitely a conscientious, compassionate and dedicated leader.”
As old saying “ Good deed gains strong support” means, Mr. Toh’s charity cause was even supported by PM Lee Hsien Loong despite his tight schedule.
He said with confidence: “When kindness gather together, it’s bright, it’s positive energy. A universal selfless world is peaceful, prosperous, and harmonious. At the early stage, we started from a group of like-minded friends coming to contribute and build together a solid foundation for future expansion and breakthrough. At the later stage, close cooperation and acknowledgement and support from the public are critical. The strong support from Lee Foundation sets a significant positive energy as a role model.”
For a better future of Sian Chay and charity cause in Singapore, Mr. Toh initiated the cultural spirit of Sian Chay based on the integration of Sian chay’s century-long spirit and his life experience, which is to support the nation building and foster a harmonious society. Sian Chay actively promotes the belief of “Nation Progresses, Family Prospers; Family Harmony, Successful Endeavours. Forward with the Nation, Bonding with the People.” It strongly support the welfare cause and give back to the society by active participation in activities organized by community organisations, civic groups and community centres.
On 14th May 2017, the “Sian Chay Thanksgiving 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 was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The grand celebration on Mother’s Day was organised to advocate the great mother love, filial piety, respect and give back to society. Over 2,000 volunteers distributed a total of 210,000 love carnations to the public island-wide on that same day to pay tribute to great mothers. The event also created a World Guinness record.
On July 2017, Sian Chay held a thousand-guest “Love from Sian Chay” charity dinner at Expo. Mr. Toh Soon Huat and directors and all friends rallied to raise $10.24 million . Around 3,600 people gathered together for charity fund-raising, breaking record in the history of charity fund-raising.
On that night, 10 artworks and gifts were auctioned to raise $632,443. Among which, the Limited Edition Automatic Steel watch donated by Superstar Jackie Chan was bidded at the price of $133,333, which was the highest hammer price among all items auctioned that night.
The wonderful performance by artistes, including Idol Stefanie Sun, Taiwan famous singer Vivian Hsu, Hokkien Song Idol Cai Xiao-hu, famous singer Mr. Samuel Tai, and famous songwriter Mr. Roy Li, etc raised quite a fair sum through telepoll hotlines.
Prior to the event, six benevolent sponsors and directors of Sian Chay pledged to donate $1,000,000 each to Sian Chay. They are Dato’ Seri Dr. Derek Goh Bak Heng, Executive Chairman and CEO of Serial Group, Datuk Wira Eric Tan, Chairman of Hatten Group, Dato’ Seri Dr. Peter Lim Yong Guan, Chairman of SooKee Group, Dato’ Sri Ricky Kok, Chaiman of Chang Cheng Group, Dato’ Seri Jackson Teo Ngiang Heng, Managing Director of TeoHeng Trading, and Ms. Michelle Lu, Managing Director of Trans-wind Travel. In addition, Mr. Anthony Aiw, Chariman of CityWash pledged to donate $500,000.
In his speech at the event, Mr. Toh Soon Huat shared, “After all, one million dollars or half million dollars is not a small amount. It could be a property or more than that. However, they gave that up and donated to help the poor in the society.”
On 28th July 2017, BSFit organised a charity dinner at Resorts World Sentosa. The guests included Mr. Lim Swee Say, Minister of MANPOWER, Mr. Wang Jiarong, Counselor and Consul General of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Singapore， Mr. Roland Ng BBM, Chairman of Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chairman Toh Soon Huat, BBM, PVPA, of Sian Chay, Mr. Yang Donghai, GM of BSFIT Singapore Holdings and Directors Ms. Cindy Ong and Mr. Francis Phun.
Chairman Toh shared his fund-raising experience in 2008 for Wenchuan earthquake. “In 2008, right after the earthquake, I organized the TV charity Show ‘Borderless Warmth, Endless Love’ with several good friends in just 7 days after Sichuan Earthquake. It was co-organized by Singapore Press Holdings. That event raised around $10 million, which were all deposited into the designated bank account of Embassy of China in Singapore to transfer to Sichuan designated organization for children education and welfare facility construction fund. Meanwhile, we worked closely with Sichuan provincial government and built 7 Singapore-China friendship primary schools and a bridge. All funds were spent according to the budget and accounted for. All other expenses were paid by committee member themselves. In the 4 years, the committee members took nothing, no personal reimbursement.
This “Let Love Flow” TV Charity Show was listed highest viewership in Singapore and the highest record for fund-raising. It was the first Chinese Charity Show held overseas, in which JJ, Gary Chaw, Quan Yi Fong and other Singapore artistes participated.
At the life-and-death moment, Singapore people were united for disaster relief and helped each other with universal love, in which the love, blessing and moving of overseas Chinese were united.
His speech deeply touched everyone present. One guest, Mr. Hu En Ci, was deeply moved and donated $50,000 right away. A total of $586,336 was raised that night. More than 400 friends from China also participated to practice the good deeds of love.
Mr. Toh Soon Huat was awarded the “President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Award” for his philanthropic deeds the past twenty years and his leadership at Sian Chay’s contributions. It is one of the top awards in Singapore philanthropy. In face of this highest honour, he said humbly, “Award is just a link or custom with social environment. The society gave me the honour which was an encouragement. With such honour, I should be more cultivated, humble and progressive and help more people. That is the way to be in accordance with the honour given by the society.”
On 28th December 2017, the 11th International Philanthropy Forum cum the 5th Livelihood Development Forum was held in Beijing. Jiang Zhenghua, Vice Chairman of the 10th NPC Standing Committee, Bai Lichen, the Vice Chairman of the 11th CPPCC National Committee, Zhang Jianxing, Vice President of People’s Daily, and over 800 people including movie stars, benevolent entrepreneurs and media reporters attended the event.
The theme of this bi-forum was “Happy Livelihood”. It was aimed at raising widespread awareness of charity in public and to promote the charity experience exchange and cooperation globally, to push forward the innovation of system and the development of China’s charity cause.
During the event, Chairman Toh Soon Huat was awarded 2017 China Charity Personality Award by the Organizing Committee of China International Philanthropy Forum. It’s acknowledgement and affirmation. Moreover, it’s encouragement and expectation.
Toh Soon Huat, a descent from Fujian, China, was born in 1960 in a poor family in Jurong area. Toh’s family had 12 children in all and Toh Soon Huat is the 7th child . His father was a driver and his 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 sumptuous dinner if the whole family could get together and have fried pig trotter with rice noodles and curry chicken.
Toh Soon Huat was admitted to Hwa Chong Institution after graduation from Zhenghua Primary School, which was not easy. However, tuition and book fees were hard to afford. He couldn’t focus on study since his parents were having difficulty making a living. In 1975, at his 3rd year in secondary, 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 Stock Exchange in 2000 and gradually developed into a comprehensive retail, beauty and fashion consumer brands , with its commercial expansion from Singapore to Vietnam, Malaysia, China and other places. However, on rapid development to the peak of his business, Toh Soon Huat made a sharp turn at 49 years old. He resigned from the post of CEO of Novena Holding in 2009. He sold all his 31% shares for $10 million and set up Novena Foundation with $3 million. With the power of mission, he accelerated on the charity work and even further. Since his appointment as Chairman of the Board at the launch of 78th term in 2008 till now, he fulfilled his mission and achieved new accomplishments at Sian Chay.
He shared his philosophy, “The gratitude and public consciousness shall make the world peaceful and harmonious. Sharing happiness is more joyful than keeping it to yourself. 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 day. 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 give back to the society or the country with part of its profits. The philosophy is simple. It’s the society and country which provides a platform for making money. No profit could be earned without it.”
Mr. Toh believes that philanthropy should be operated as a enterprise. As a business, it should follow the rules of financial management. The financial procedures and statements shall be strict, and never disappoint the trust and expectation of the society.
For over a decade, Mr. Toh Soon Huat donated his efforts and wealth, and countless donations. He said, “Making money is a capability. It’s natural to help those who is lack of 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 has been helped and fate changed. Choosing Sian Chay out of for compassion, choosing acceptance out of relief, choosing responsibility out of karma, and choosing devotion out of gratitude, and choosing universal love out of respect for life. By helping one patient to relieve from pain and live longer life, we also help all the family members to live a happy 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 contribution to the community.”
At present, Mr. Toh spent over 70% of his time on Sian Chay. He said: “It’s worthy. One cannot do everything just for oneself throughout the life. My first-half lifespan belongs to myself. So the second-half lifespan shall be for others to appreciate the existence of life. I visit branches every day to check if there is any problem. I also talk to physicians and patients. During night, I meet with friends to share feelings, 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 form the integrity and virtues of the charity work.”
He often says, “Individual’s power in charity is limited. Only the participation from a group can benefit more people. I will continue with entrepreneurs with similar wishes to encourage more capable people to contribute their loving hearts and to take more social responsibilities to help more needy people .”
Sian Chay’s story is continuing, so does Chairman Toh’s charity story. Let us bless Sian Chay together, appreciate Mr. Toh’s devotion and wish Sian Chay a better future and benefit more public.
We expect more benevolent people to join us in our charity cause. Your $10 donation can benefit one patient from low-income family to have free consultation and medication at Sian Chay. Helping an individual means helping the whole family. Any family member’s sickness will surely affect the mood of all family members. Our mission is to help patients get relieved from pain and foster a blissful family life and social harmony, which is in accordance with Sian Chay’s charity spirit, “Trust, Action , Attitude, Conduct”.
Core Values of Sian Chay
- Universal Love
Sian Chay’s Beliefs:
Nation Progresses, Family Propers
Family Harmony, Successful Endeavours
Forward with the Nation, Bonding with the People
Sian Chay’s spirits
Trust, Action, Attitude and Conduct form the integrity and virtues of charity work.
Singapore Sian Chay Medical Institution
Donation website: donation.sianchay.org.sg
Facebook: Sian Chay Medical Institution
WeChat Subscription Account: 善济医社
Headquarter:610B Geylang Road (Off Lorong 36), Singapore 389549