A Large Box of Toys
Recently someone came up to Mr Gerard Ee, 62, Chairman of National Kidney Foundation, saying that as a child, she looked forward to visiting his home at Christmas. That was over 50 years ago when Gerard and his family lived at Geylang Lorong 13, in a poor neighborhood that was nevertheless full of life and welcome.
Gerard’s father, Dr Ee Peng Liang, who would come to be known as Singapore’s Father of Charity, had noticed that neighbourhood kids gathered at the five-foot-way in front of their house each day. One December, he decided to load a large box with toys for them. Gerard, who was nine years old, packed the gifts with his older siblings.
Then, opening the front and back doors of their home, the Ee family invited the children to troop through. Each child received a simple but precious toy. Gerard remembers this went on for several Christmases.
Besides the opportunity to give at his doorstep, Gerard often followed his father to fun fairs which were fundraisers. “I enjoyed going because I got to play games,” says Gerard. At the same time, the events were where he became familiar with various charities in Singapore.
Giving Flows Naturally
There does not seem to be anything dramatic when Gerard talks about kindness, volunteerism or philanthropy. Rather, Gerard suggests that giving flows naturally from one’s everyday life. For instance, when a child offers his seat on a train to someone who needs it more, or a neighbour pops by to find out if he can help run an errand –both are everyday pictures of giving.
For those who golf, Gerard encourages them to participate in tournaments that raise funds for charities. Gerard believes that people possess innate goodness. Within every group are those who are motivated to contribute in some way. “People thrive through networking,” Gerard points out,
“If everyone helps one other person, you have a wonderful society,” says the former Nominated Member of Parliament.
Make Giving Meaningful
When it comes to his children, Gerard has allowed Sylvester, 19, and Marianne, 16, to explore what giving means for them, whether it is through Community Involvement Programmes at school or other activities.
He observes that there is greater likelihood for anyone to take part in altruistic activities in the long term when giving merges with interests. It is the confluence of the cause or charity with what is meaningful to the giver that creates a sustainable momentum.
Ultimately, for Gerard, one’s willingness to give stems from the values that a person carries within. Gerard relates that his father transmitted good values through word and action. But it was Gerard himself who came to embrace working with charities as his own cause and course in life.
“My parents were getting along in years by the time I came back from my studies in England. Therefore, I helped drive them to the events or committee meetings they attended,” says Gerard. The little boy who many years before followed Dad to fun fairs, was now a young adult gaining knowledge about voluntary welfare organisations; getting incrementally involved in their work; as well as naturally and gradually earning their trust.
Plant an Idea, Let it Grow
Similarly, as a dad, Gerard simply does what he can to “plant an idea” in his children, and let it grow.
When Sylvester was eight years old, Gerard got him to gather the books no longer wanted at home and set up stall at a community centre’s flea market event. Asking the ladies in the next stall to keep a lookout for his young son, Gerard left him to tend the stall alone. He was pleasantly surprised that Sylvester could hold the fort and worked out a way to increase sales. Now a teen, the entrepreneurial streak is still evident in Sylvester.
Whether it is about giving, encouraging others to give, being a dad, or nurturing his children’s involvement in charity and their attitudes to entrepreneurship, Gerard’s approach seems to carry a consistent theme: There is no need to dictate or determine how it looks.
Rather, offer flexibility and allow space for one’s potential to come forth.
Each Child is Unique
Gerard recognises that “no two children are the same.” Dads today, who grew up in a climate that called for them to conform, would inadvertently find that children can no longer be treated as a homogenous group.
Therefore he puts in effort to “get under their skin” and know what his children think. Gerard quips that dads do not want to go the way of, “dinosaurs.” Therefore it is vital stay relevant.
Gerard is a dad who continues to discover and, “learn their language.”
1. Ee-Chooi, Theresa (1997) Father of Charity…and My Father Ee Peng Liang, Raffles Editions, SNP Publishing Pte Ltd, Singapore.
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 04-05-2012
Categories: Dads' Stories