More peo­ple are start­ing to think about phi­lan­thropy and giv­ing back, in­stead of leav­ing it as a post-re­tire­ment con­sid­er­a­tion. Thio Shen Yi and Ste­fanie Yuen Thio, and Adrian and Su­san Peh tell Hashirin Nurin Hashimi how they are mak­ing a more strate­gic

Singapore Tatler - - CONTENTS -

Lawyers Thio Shen Yi, Ste­fanie Yuen Thio, as well as Adrian and Su­san Peh are not wait­ing till re­tire­ment to start think­ing about phi­lan­thropy and giv­ing back

Ev­ery donor has a dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tion for his or her giv­ing. Some want to pay it for­ward; oth­ers want to fol­low in their par­ents’ foot­steps, or set good ex­am­ples for their chil­dren; while there are those who sim­ply want to share their fi­nan­cial suc­cess with oth­ers. But what­ever the rea­sons, “we can help our donors trans­late their mo­ti­va­tions into con­crete acts of sup­port that makes a dif­fer­ence to the lives of those in need”, says Cather­ine Loh, CEO of Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion of Sin­ga­pore (CFS). The non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion matches donors’ in­ter­ests with causes and of­fers them ways to make a greater im­pact through their own pri­vate char­ity funds. From seven donor funds since its in­cep­tion in 2008, CFS man­ages more than 110 to­day, hav­ing dis­bursed over $60m in grants to over 400 char­ity part­ners. Each char­ity fund re­quires a min­i­mum pledge of $200,000 over five years. It is heart­en­ing to know that “donors are not wait­ing till re­tire­ment age to start think­ing about phi­lan­thropy and giv­ing back”. The age pro­file of donors who set up in­di­vid­ual funds with CFS is evolv­ing, with those un­der the age of 50 mak­ing up 40 per cent of its donors, up from 14 per cent since 2008. Loh ex­plains, “Many of our next gen­er­a­tion donors have a strong so­cial con­scious­ness and feel that they don’t need to wait un­til they are richer, older and re­tired to start think­ing about giv­ing back. They are shap­ing their own phil­an­thropic iden­ti­ties, re­flect­ing their own val­ues and those of their fam­i­lies, and try­ing to bal­ance be­tween hon­our­ing fam­ily legacy and as­sess­ing what they are in­ter­ested in with the needs of so­ci­ety to­day.” Lawyers Thio Shen Yi and Ste­fanie Yuen Thio, and Adrian and Su­san Peh share with us their phi­lan­throphic jour­ney, and how CFS helps guide them in the most strate­gic and ef­fec­tive way pos­si­ble.


When it comes to char­ity work, Thio Shen Yi’s ap­proach is to “help the un­der­dog—the per­son who needs it the most”. For the co-founder and joint man­ag­ing part­ner of TSMP Law Cor­po­ra­tion, his work as a lit­i­ga­tor makes sup­port­ing the Yel­low Rib­bon Fund par­tic­u­larly mean­ing­ful. As a big be­liever in fair play and sec­ond chances, he is es­pe­cially pas­sion­ate about en­abling and equip­ping ex-of­fend­ers to rein­te­grate into so­ci­ety, and sup­port­ing their fam­i­lies. Mean­while, his wife Ste­fanie Yuen Thio, who is also joint man­ag­ing part­ner at the firm, tends to adopt causes that res­onate with her emo­tion­ally. “One day, while in the shower after a long day at work, I thought about how lucky I am to be able to pur­sue my ca­reer goals while hav­ing a fam­ily. The thought popped into my head that the ca­reer and fam­ily suc­cess of Sin­ga­porean women are of­ten gained at the ex­pense of the fam­ily lives of our do­mes­tic helpers.” This got them started in sup­port­ing for­eign work­ers in Sin­ga­pore, both through their law firm’s char­i­ta­ble giv­ing and pro bono le­gal ser­vices, and on the per­sonal front, sup­port­ing the salary of a so­cial worker at a char­ity ded­i­cated to mi­grant work­ers. TSMP Law Cor­po­ra­tion also do­nates 10 per cent of its an­nual part­ner­ship prof­its to char­ity, and as part of its com­mu­nity out­reach pro­gramme, the firm com­mits two work­ing days ev­ery year to pro­vid­ing hands-on aid to the or­gan­i­sa­tions it sup­ports. This year, in a bid to find more struc­ture in its giv­ing, a cor­po­rate fund called the TSMP Law Foun­da­tion was es­tab­lished with CFS to fo­cus on chil­dren, the el­derly and mi­grant work­ers. Shen Yi and Ste­fanie also set up a per­sonal fund, #Giv­ing­back Foun­da­tion, to sup­port a wider range of char­i­ties on their own. The cou­ple holds to the be­lief that “char­ity isn’t some­thing you should do only when you are semi-re­tired and have amassed your nest egg”.

Ste­fanie, who is on the CFS board of di­rec­tors, shares, “Phi­lan­thropy is a long-term com­mit­ment for us. Set­ting up a fund with CFS is the next log­i­cal step in struc­tur­ing and evolv­ing our phil­an­thropic ac­tiv­i­ties. This helps us be more dis­ci­plined in think­ing about what causes to sup­port, be­ing more open to un­der-re­sourced needs that we may not be aware of, and hav­ing a struc­ture to in­volve our son Jonathan.” Shen Yi likens CFS as “the strate­gic arm of any foun­da­tion, which pro­vides in­for­ma­tion you need; con­nects you with the right peo­ple; helps you strate­gise so you can make bet­ter de­ci­sions and chan­nel money where it’s sup­posed to go”. “Sim­ply put, work­ing with and through CFS makes us bet­ter givers,” Ste­fanie says. “CFS helps us un­der­stand the needs land­scape in Sin­ga­pore and the re­gion, so that we can make bet­ter de­ci­sions. I’ve also had dif­fi­cul­ties in the past when a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis has oc­curred and we wanted to send aid but don’t know which agen­cies are best placed to help the vic­tims most di­rectly and quickly. Work­ing with a well-con­nected agency like CFS will help you with that.”


As a teenager, Su­san Peh as­pired to be a con­cert pi­anist. In fact, she got a place at the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic in London to pur­sue her pas­sion, but due to a lack of fund­ing sup­port, as well as a less than con­ducive arts en­vi­ron­ment in Sin­ga­pore back then, “I had to give up my dream”. On a hap­pier note, she went to law school at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore where she met her fu­ture hus­band Adrian Peh, and they have been mar­ried for 31 years and are co-own­ers of the law cor­po­ra­tion Yeo-leong & Peh. Per­haps, it was be­cause of Su­san’s lost dream that the two have be­come strong sup­port­ers of the arts through the Adrian and Su­san Peh Com­mu­nity Fund, which they set up in 2014 with CFS to give to the dis­ad­van­taged, ed­u­ca­tion and the arts. Adrian says, “Char­ity isn’t just about ad­dress­ing so­cial needs. It can also be about or­ches­tras, the­atres and art gal­leries, or bring­ing the dis­ad­van­taged to en­joy and en­gage with the arts. The arts up­lifts our spir­its and en­riches our lives, in­spires the in­di­vid­ual and strength­ens a sense of com­mu­nity.” Through their char­ity fund, the cou­ple has sup­ported the Sin­ga­pore Chi­nese Orches­tra, Jazz As­so­ci­a­tion (Sin­ga­pore), Food from the Heart, Na­tional Gallery Sin­ga­pore, Sin­ga­pore Na­tional Eye Cen­tre, Sin­ga­pore Eye Re­search In­sti­tute, as well as a Jeremy Mon­teiro con­cert at the Es­planade – The­atres on the Bay, among oth­ers. They also sit on the boards of var­i­ous char­i­ties, whose causes they ad­vo­cate and sup­port. Su­san is a board mem­ber of the Jazz As­so­ci­a­tion (Sin­ga­pore), while Adrian is on the CFS board. “We have been giv­ing di­rectly to var­i­ous char­i­ties for sev­eral years, and we could have con­tin­ued in this way. But CFS pro­vides a good struc­ture for giv­ing in a more mean­ing­ful and sus­tained way. As busy pro­fes­sion­als, it saves us the work and re­sources needed to set up a pri­vate foun­da­tion. CFS pro­vides us with phi­lan­thropy man­age­ment and grant­mak­ing ex­per­tise, en­sur­ing that our grants are ef­fec­tive and mean­ing­ful,” Adrian ex­plains. “It’s also im­por­tant that we con­tinue our legacy of giv­ing through our three chil­dren. Hav­ing a char­i­ta­ble fund with CFS en­ables us to do just that—by set­ting things in place, we can get Melissa, Ber­trand and De­siree in­volved, and will hand the char­ity fund over to them when it’s time.” Su­san stresses that their char­ity fund is a hum­ble set-up. “Any­one who’s worked for a while, and saved some­thing would be able to do the same. It’s re­ally our small ges­ture, and it’s re­ward­ing to know that what­ever small con­tri­bu­tion you make, you can see the im­pact through the years. I think that’s an ev­er­last­ing legacy.”

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