Letters from Grandpa: Jeffrey and Susan Chan – Here’s Your Rich Heritage

Jeffrey and Susan Chan are both civil servants in their fifties. Jeffrey is the Principal Senior State Counsel at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and Susan is a Deputy Director at the Ministry of Education.  They have one grandson, Christiaan Weiyan Liebenberg aged two. They both believe in lifelong learning.


Dearest Christiaan,jeffrey_chan_Susan275

You stole our hearts the minute we set eyes on you.  Your smile, eyes, touch, laughter, and baby-talk – everything about you was adorable.  We are enjoying once again, the joys of having a little one around the house. As our first grandchild, your arrival signaled the start of a new generation and this makes us very, very happy.

You are blessed with a mixed parentage – Afrikaner from your Dad’s family, and Chinese-Peranakan from your Mum’s. We are sure that your OuMa and OuPa wiill share with you their rich Afrikaner heritage. We hope you will also remember the very strong Chinese (Hainanese) and Peranakan heritage from your Mum’s family.

Our family has called this region our home for a very long time. Ah Koong’s family came from Xiamen, Fukien Province, China as early as the 18th century, in order to make a new life and build a new home. They faced numerous difficulties but they persevered and prospered.  Ah Koong’s Koong Cho (your great grandfather) left Malacca at the age of 17 to come to Singapore. He married Mak Cho (your great grandmother), whose family also came from Malacca but had been in Singapore for many years.  There are roads in Singapore named after your ancestors. Both Koong Cho and Mak Cho worked hard during the time when Singapore was still struggling to become a nation, overcoming many difficulties to provide a stable and comfortable upbringing for Ah Koong and his siblings.

Mama’s father was born on Hainan island. Like all Hainanese, he had a great sense of adventure and was not afraid of risks and hard work.  He left Hainan even before his teens and his many forays took him all over this region. In time, he worked his way up to become a successful entrepreneur in the then Malaya. He married Mama’s mother who came from a wealthy family in Hainan and together, they established themselves in Cameron Highlands where Mama was later born. Mama had an idyllic (your Mummy’s choice of adjective) childhood and came to university in Singapore, where she met Ah Koong.

Ah Koong’s and Mama’s family shared common values, including strong family bonds, respect for elders and a strong sense of responsibility to the community. Ah Koong’s father was a trade unionist, fighting for better conditions for workers in Singapore, while Mama’s father was a respected member of the community in Cameron Highlands.  Both loved their families dearly. But most of all, both families believed that if we gave our children a good education and instilled in them a strong work ethic and an understanding of social responsibility, they would all be good men and women.  We can then contribute in our own way to a better world.

We will delight in seeing you grow up and take your place in this world.  We hope you will value all that has come to you from your families. We love you very, very much and will always be here for you.


Mama and Ah Koong.

This letter is republished with permission from the National Library Board. Letters From Grandma and Grandpa (2008) is an initiative to create opportunities for youth and seniors to strengthen ties, enhance understanding and appreciate each other. Singapore grandpas and grandmas share their stories from the past, their hopes for the future, their love from their hearts, and their values for the soul. The letters capture their thoughts and feelings on important values, such as family and heritage, respect for the elders, generosity, love, courage and responsibility.

First published on 14-02-2011.

Categories: Letters from Grandpa

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